Heinlein & Stranger In A Strange Land-1961

Religion plays a large part in the lives of most people. What role, if any, does religion play in science fiction?

Moderator: Moderators

Heinlein & Stranger In A Strange Land-1961

Postby RonPrice » Wed Jun 28, 2006 3:32 am

I wrote the following piece to contrast Heinlein's book and beliefs and my own--back in 1961.

During my early and middle childhood(3-12) and my early and middle adolescence(13-17) Robert Heinlein was working on his book Stranger in a Strange Land. In June 1961 it was finally published. It is arguably the most famous science fiction book ever written and the first to be a national best-seller. In 1961 I was just beginning a reading program that would only end with my death or some physical and/or mental incapacity. It was a reading program which, in the next fifty years(1961-2011), from the age of 17 to 67, would keep me busy with some 40,000 books read and partly read and some 100,000 articles read or partly read. This, of course, is a guesstimation. But during those years, that half century, science fiction was hardly touched. Perhaps that was the main reason my own effort to write a sci-fi book was unsuccessful.

Heinlein’s book was a challenge to social mores. While Heinlein was writing his book I became first associated with and then a member of a religion which also challenged social mores. Heinlein’s book is also about a utopia that cannot be achieved. The religion I had joined in 1959 and pioneered for in 1962, was often accused of being utopian, unrealistic or, as the critics of Heinlein’s book put it, “outside the bounds of psychological realism.” This was Heinlein’s first venture into a more highbrow literary landscape and I was beginning my lifelong journey on another highbrow literary landscape in many other genres.

Heinlein had a period from 1939 to 1961 of writing juvenile novels. I had a period from 1961 to 1983 of writing juvenile essays and poems. Heinlein had an obsession with privacy in these years and the topics he wrote about, like a trip to the moon, were often considered surprising if not preposterous. My enthusiasm for privacy came much later, but many of the ideas I hypothesized in my writing were considered unrealistic if not preposterous. These experiences gave me a sense of communion with Heinlein who died in 1988 just as my life as a poet was really beginning for a 25 year hiatus. For both his work and mine there is an extensive self-referentialism; for Heinlein there is an autobiographical, self-parodying element; for me there is self-parody, self-criticism, self-analysis, self-love, person-centred and existential therapy, gestalt therapy and behavioural therapy, among other efforts to heal and endure.

One writer saw Heinlein as a modern pioneer in the Turner tradition. He thought Heinlein would have been comfortable with Turner’s pioneer, frontier, thesis being the pioneer that Heinlein was in so many ways. I have found Turner’s historical pioneering analysis and backdrop to my own experience heuristic.1 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History, 1893.

Only a small fraction went pioneering
even then, Frederick; some thought your
emphasis on the pioneer exaggerated.
Still, Frederick, they were then the genesis
of the American dream like mine, like mine.

Yours, like mine, was a spiritual frontier
as was Heinlein’s, although mine got
little press during these first years of the
last stage of history as we transformed
the wilderness of our world and made
an entirely different creature—a new
race of men—each time we touched
a new locality on this incredible earth.

Ron Price
June 27th 2006
married for 43 years,a teacher for 35, a writer and editor for 10 and a Baha'i for 51(as of 2010)
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Jun 28, 2006 3:23 am
Location: George Town Tasmania Australia

Postby John Thiel » Fri Jun 15, 2007 6:31 pm

That is certainly a fact-conscious appraisal of Heinlein's place in literature and a very good evaluation of the importance of the novel. Are you still around at this forum?
I Test Well--Hearken!
John Thiel
Posts: 63
Joined: Thu Jul 13, 2006 10:43 am
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

Re: Heinlein & Stranger In A Strange Land-1961

Postby RonPrice » Mon Sep 13, 2010 6:54 am

Belated(very belated at more than 3 years!) apologies, John Thiel, for not getting back to you. I don't get to this site(obviously) as often as I'd like.-Ron in Tasmania PS. thanks for your response.
married for 43 years,a teacher for 35, a writer and editor for 10 and a Baha'i for 51(as of 2010)
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Jun 28, 2006 3:23 am
Location: George Town Tasmania Australia

Return to Religion in Science Fiction

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest