Skip to comments."Robert Heinlein Remembered"
Posted on 10/12/2002 11:20:11 PM PDT by redrock
Robert Heinlein Remembered
by L. Neil Smith
"Take big bites. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing."
Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love
Imagine a lonely kid, undersized and overbright, living on an American air base overseas. Comic books taught him to read years before he started school and he'd tackle anything that fell open under his eyes. Anything about science or space travel leaped off the page as if printed in boldfaced italic. A neighbor's medical texts had such delightfully disgusting diseases you could practice having, and radio magazines ... in those days radios had vacuum-filled glass cylinders, see, and -- radio? You know, TV for blind people?
One day, sent to the library as punishment (so much, he grinned to himself, for the intelligence of authority) he ran across two books he hadn't seen before, Red Planet and Tunnel in the Sky. As would be the case years later with a certain little old Russian lady's name, he didn't know how to pronounce "Heinlein".
But the latter novel, he discovered, was about kids not much older than he was, slung across the galaxy as a graduation exercise to survive or die on a planet not even described to them beforehand. The protagonist's big sister, a tough Marine, gives him her favorite fighting knife to carry as a spare, a gift both practical and sentimental. (In time the reader would learn that Heinlein didn't see much difference between the two.) In the other book, even younger kids, on colonial Mars, rebel because the new headmaster at their company school confiscates the weapons they've always believed it their natural right to carry.
To the Air Force kid, this was powerful stuff which bent his head severely. He's writing this because it never got unbent. As a matter of fact, it got worse. But first he looked for more books by this guy Heinlein. What they were about, he found, besides science and space, was individual competence and the suicidal insanity of weighting it with political chains. What's more, each taught him something about the universe, the culture he lived in, and often, whether he liked it or not, himself.
Without knowing it, Heinlein became the advisor, confidant, sometimes the only friend of his childhood, setting standards against which the boy eventually came to measure all his adult conduct and achievement.
Over the past thirty years, I don't supposed a single day has gone by that I haven't thought about Robert A. Heinlein. The lessons I learned from him were endless, as they were bound to be, coming from a man of his pragmatic wisdom and a body of literature exceeding three million published words.
It's hard to recapitulate the second chance he offered my generation, given the abject failure of public schooling, since most of what he taught I've long since taken as self-evident. It certainly wasn't when I learned it; it was often painful and confusing. But it was needed. 20th Century America's method of rearing its young fails to produce organisms fit for -- or worthy of -- survival.
If I cite different lessons at this moment than I might another time, if I discuss them in a different order than I received them, if I select different items than you might, that's one definition of art, isn't it? It's also a measure of the fact that, above all, Heinlein taught us to accept his wisdom without becoming followers. He taught us to become, and to remain, individuals.
The Green Hills of Earth formed my first coherent vision of the future, establishing the historical context for my own life, convincing me (as kids must be if they're to turn out civilized) that, just as millions of human beings preceded me in past ages, so millions more will follow in ages to come. At the same time, Methuselah's Children revealed to me that, yes, I do want to live forever, and that such a thing, given time and the stubborn application of reason, might just be possible.
Between Planets taught me that a kid never knows when the demands of adulthood will tap him on the shoulder. There are worse things that could happen. Starman Jones taught me that the adult world makes about as much sense as the average train wreck, and that it's the first duty of anyone who aspires to be a whole human being to start re-making the world the way he wants it. Toward that end, Time for the Stars showed me that the universe can be a bizarre, hostile place, but that my feelings about that are irrelevant to dealing with it.
Citizen of the Galaxy showed me that it was possible -- and important -- to stand outside my own culture and try to examine it like an anthropologist or a visiting alien. "If This Goes On ..." from Revolt in 2100 warned me that, in any culture, things are never what they appear on first glance. At the age of twelve, I was just as shocked as the viewpoint character to learn what was going on between the Prophet Incarnate's palace guards and his attendant Virgins.
"Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it."
Robert A. Heinlein, "The Notebooks of Lazarus Long"
Farnham's Freehold asserted that nobody, no race, religion, or ethnic group, has a monopoly on incompetence or cruelty, and The Day After Tomorrow argued back that a conclusion is never foregone, that the struggle is never over as long as one good man or woman is still alive. It also gave me a second lesson (my first was in Double Star) in how to cut up and dispose of a body, a skill I haven't needed yet, but you can never tell.
Beyond This Horizon proved to my satisfaction that "an armed society is a polite society," long before I had a firsthand chance to see it demonstrated over and over again in real life.
Glory Road taught me, as a novelist and a human being, that life goes on after they all live happily ever after. I've never believed love is all you need, or that it'll always find a way, but The Door Into Summer (along with Double Star, my favorite of Heinlein's books) brought me closer to changing my mind about that than any other book I've read, and also taught me that the most brilliant innovation is useless unless it rests of a foundation of necessity and familiarity.
Space Cadet represented another sort of graduation exercise for someone who was slated to become an individualist- anarchist. I often think about writing an entire essay dedicated to comparing it in detail with Arthur C. Clarke's superficially similar Islands in the Sky, in order to demonstrate metaphysical differences in worldview between the productive class and the parasitic over- and underclasses. In case I never get around to it, read both books -- asking the question, "Who or what is responsible, in each instance, for whatever the protagonist achieves?"
In a sense, however, this is a futile exercise, not even scratching the surface of a lifetime's education. Other lessons I learned from Heinlein, I'll talk about another day. Let me dispose of the canard, as anyone could who actually reads his books (as opposed to whatever it is critics do), that he was a militarist, a racist, or a sexist.
Starship Troopers takes the most heat, which is peculiar, since the society it describes is founded by soldiers fed up with war, no conscription is permitted, the franchise won by military service (aggressively coeducational military service) doesn't apply until the service is over with, and the book's hero, like many Heinlein characters, is (unobtrusively) non-white.
Heinlein's alleged sexism amounts to this: he contemplated humanity as a product of billions of years of evolution by natural selection. Successful specimens were accomplished, heroic, individualistic killer-apes, the most dangerous and relentless predators on the planet and, it remains to be hoped, in the galaxy. Half these dangerous, relentless predators were women, whom his male characters valued and desired (incessantly, as what healthy male predator wouldn't?) as sexual partners.
But if that wasn't intolerable enough for the critics, these treacherous, politically unfashionable females like sex (usually with dangerous, relentless male predators) themselves! It appears he was married to such a woman. Because of what he taught me, so am I -- another unpayable debt I owe him. And what more fascinating subject could a man find to write about?
Heinlein's real crime, of course, was the same as Ayn Rand's, and to a certain type with which the Libertarian movement seems particularly burdened, unforgivable. In a universe with few obvious signposts, he set standards which reason and experience suggested to him. It wasn't enough that he lived by them, he assessed others in terms of how well they succeeded -- or failed -- to measure up, calling things by their true names, acting on their real nature, rather than anybody's wishes and fears. (It's most interesting to observe this in his fantasy novel Waldo and Magic, Incorporated.) This always angers and frightens those for whom an excuse is as good as a deed accomplished, for whom a well-chosen euphemism can affect the ethical quality of a deed.
"Freedom begins when you tell Mrs. Grundy to go take a hike."
Robert A. Heinlein, "The Notebooks of Lazarus Long"
One crime, of course, leads to another, as surely as consuming mother's milk leads to heroin abuse. Heinlein's standard, like Rand's, was heroic. If I had a dime for every idiot who claims that real people aren't like that, that the heroes Rand and Heinlein wrote about don't exist, I wouldn't worry about publishers paying me on time. Not only do they exist, but Heinlein did a better job than Rand (who was occupied with other tasks) of teaching us to value the heroic in fiction, in real life, and -- few lessons are as important -- in enemies as well as friends.
Those who know Lazarus Long, Wyoming Knott, and Friday tend to like Han Solo, Marion Ravenwood, and Thomas Sullivan Magnum (an Oscar Gordon who, in a fictional universe less kind than Heinlein's, never found his Star). They have no trouble recognizing real heroes like Alvin York, H. Ross Perot (before he ran for President, when he was personally rescuing his employees from Iran), or Bernie Goetz, nor do they fail to appreciate, from a prudent ethical distance, heroic "villains" like Gordon Liddy and Oliver North. They know that what the Libertarian Party needs is a John Joseph Bonforte and what it always seems to get, in the end, is Nehemiah Scudder.
Some while back, in a local restaurant, my wife and I met an old couple from Carthage, Missouri, not far away mentally or geographically from Butler, where the papers say Heinlein was born. We happened to be the only four patrons in the room, and the old lady was up and examining photos of turn-of-the-century Fort Collins. Her sister, she explained, having looked us over and decided we were safe, had attended college here in Nineteen Ought-Something and wanted to know what had become of her alma mater.
I grew up in Fort Collins as much as my wandering Air Force life allowed, came back to college in 1964, and saw Old Main, subject of the restaurant's largest photo, erected in the 1870s as the first campus building, burn to the ground in that strange violent summer of 1968. I'd stood in the door of a bike shop across the street and felt the intolerable heat of it on my face. Telling the old lady about that started her off on the time her church burned down, what the firechief, the minister, and the insurance adjustor had said, the makeshifts they'd put up with before a new church was raised.
As old folks will, she rambled on about people I didn't know and didn't care about. I had my own preoccupations (I'd just heard that Heinlein had died) and had to exert every ounce of "mercy to the weak and patience with the stupid" his stories ever managed to exhort me to.
She didn't say anything unusually offensive (I admit that if I didn't feel bound by the Non-Aggression Principle, there wouldn't be a church left standing above its own ashes west of the Mississippi) and I even got an impression -- something vague about a nephew who'd just re-enlisted in the Navy, another coincidence -- that she'd pull off one of her arms and hand it to you if you were in need of it. But she reminded me of every tight-mouthed, self-righteous Baptist I'd known in northern Florida where I went to high school; people who assumed, despite a basic ignorance of everything since Copernicus, that where they lived, how they thought and felt, what they were, was exactly where and how and what all human beings ought to live and think and feel and be, in Big G's image, Q.E.D. Anybody who differed, who valued the Bill of Rights, say, was a damnyankee liberal, affectatious and perverse for the sheer pleasure of it.
I was dressed as I usually am, 14-inch boots, faded Levis, loud shirt with pearl snaps, wide belt with nickel-silver buckle embossed with longhorns and ponies. She made an assumption about my attitude toward life and events, that they didn't differ from those of a churchgoing Missouri sodbuster, which I usually enjoy demolishing. Wait until she found out I was an anarchist, an atheist, a connoisseur of pornography, a professional despoiler of American youth!
But for once something restrained me. I remained polite, didn't argue, listened through her whole dissertation, and suddenly understood how remarkably far Heinlein had propelled himself from this "American Gothic" mindset through a lifetime which, however long it had lasted, was far too short, for him and for me.
Centuries hence, when the difficult, dangerous age we're living through is written of, what historians will say about the "Crazy Years" will resemble what was first written about them by a science fiction novelist decades before they began. The Libertarian movement must go far to prove itself, but it may prove to be the one bright spot in an otherwise bleak era. The shadows of two powerful minds cast themselves over everything about that movement, whether we recognize it or not: the minds of Ayn Rand and Robert A. Heinlein.
What's astonishing isn't that Rand and Heinlein differed with one another, but that, coming from such different directions, they agreed so often. Neither of these giants was very happy being called Libertarian, yet the monument Rand left us can't be effaced, no matter how many pests pay pigeon respects to it. She gave Libertarianism a philosophical discipline to serve as its brain and backbone. What Heinlein gave it, no less vital if we're to effect the changes we aspire to, was heart and guts.
Both gifts were needed. As we've had occasion to observe, brain and backbone by themselves produce humorless puppets, wrenching without effect at their own strings. Equally, heart and guts, undisciplined, result in the directionless flailing we're used to seeing among conservatives. Perhaps the idea of Libertarianism, the unique concept of the Non- Aggression Principle, should have been enough, but with origins in this particular culture at this particular time, it was doomed to succumb, sooner or later, to cancerous factionalism among its proponents or a paralysis of liberaloid self-doubt.
Combined, however, the unique idea of Libertarianism, supplemented by suitable amounts of brain, heart, guts, and backbone, may just give us a ten-toe hold on the unstoppable wave of the future.
"Beat the plowshares back into swords.
The other was a maiden aunt's dream."
Robert A. Heinlein, The Puppet Masters
This page has been included in the Robert Heinlein ring of the Free World index.
This essay first appeared in the Fall/Winter 1988 issue of NOMOS. It will appear in this updated form in L. Neil Smith's forthcoming collection of speeches and essays, Lever Action.
L. Neil Smith Author: The Probability Borach, The Crystal Empire, The Lando Calrissian Adventures, Henry Martyn, Pallas and (forthcoming) Lever Action and Bretta Martyn. Mr. Smith's celebrated first novel, The Probability Broach, was be republished, in unexpurgated form, by TOR Books in October, 1996. Publisher: The Libertarian Enterprise Founder & International Coordinator: Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus Secretary & Legislative Director: Weld County Fish & Wildlife Association NRA Life Member
Permission to redistribute this article is herewith granted by the author -- provided that it is reproduced unedited, in its entirety, and appropriate credit given.
Have you read A. E. van Vogt, Clifford Simak or Robert Silverberg?
I would rate these three among the best out there. Actually influenced me more than Heinlein....but that is art for you.
The name of the knife was "Lady MacBeth." I read that book when I was 14. I am 52 now. I have not re-read it since.
Anyone who can make an impression like that is a writer.
It may amuse some to learn that in the original version of Podkayne of Mars, Poddy dies saving the little creature, and the last chapter is written by her little brother, playing with the creature and trying to make sense of it all. The publisher sent it back complaining it was too intense for a youth market. The original ending is to be found in Grumbles from the Grave, and yes, it is very, very intense. It's also a better ending, IMHO.
RAH left behind some very good minds to follow in his footsteps. Perhaps the most closely tied to his legacy are Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, who were his proteges, in a way. He guided a good bit of their early career and, together, they formed a big part of LASFS in it's heyday. RAH even plays a part in a couple of their collaborations, along with themselves, as characters (SF writers, of course).
Niven and Pournelle are both capable of exploring some fantastic hard science in an extremely capable manner and of creating some really fund stories. Even some of their older stuff, where the science has been superseded by things we have learned since, are still great reads.
Unfortunately at least one of them, Larry Niven, has also fallen afoul of RAH's descent into sex obsession in later books. The next to last Ringworld book, Ringworld Throne, had way too much Rishathra in it for me. Same as Heinlein's last couple of books (though I did love Deja Thoris in Number of The Beast. Niven and Pournelle are at their best when they write together, such as Lucifer's Hammer or Footfall.
There are a stable of good SF writers working out of Baen Books as well. My favorites right now are John Ringo (great military SF books) and Eric Flint.
There are still dreamers who dream and warriors who will fight the good fight. Sometimes they are one and the same.
But I might as well add I like practically everything I've read by William Gibson. It's not Heinlein's style, but he weaves a curious, dreamlike atmosphere.
My favorite author, no holds barred. I wish he were alive today, just to see what he'd have to say about our current events. I do believe his death was the only "celebrity" death that ever caused me to weep.
There is no way I could tell you which of his novels is my favorite, but I will say this:
"Time Enough For Love" is worth reading if only for the "Notebook" sections of (now) famous quotations and for "The Tale of the Adopted Daughter," which makes me cry even now, lo these many years later.
I've been going through a Harry Turtledove phase, and one of my favorite stories at the moment is Turtledove's Worldwar series. There are a lot of similarities between Footfall and Turtledove's Worldwar, particularly that the alien invaders in both novels are not quite as skilled at improvisation and deceit as us wiley humans. In the Worldwar series, the invaders are a race of reptilians, with fifty thousand of years of history, most of it under an dynastic imperial system. They are a methodical species, drilled from hatchlinghood to obedience. The Race, as they call themselves, have conquered two other life bearing worlds, both populated by pseudo-reptilian life forms like themselves. The story begins when they send a probe to the earth during the middle ages, where they record pictures of knights on horseback. Easy pickings for soldiers wielding automatic weapons, armored fighting vehicles and fighter aircraft. They'll get around to our world soon enough, after all, how much can a world change in only a thousand years? When they arrive, they are suprised to find us engaged in world war 2. That's the setting: The Nazis have been pushed back from Moscow, the Nipponese are advancing, the Americans have begun the island hopping campaign, when all of a sudden the aliens land and start kicking everybody's butts.
I use MS Reader (which is free, from Microsoft) and keep at least one book on my Pocket PC at all times, usually two or three.
Baen doesn't do this out of the goodness of their hearts. They figure you'll read a few, find the ones you like and then go buy the rest of that author's books. Good old profit motive.
A Hymn Before Battle is the first book in his ACS (Armored Combat Suit) stories, the Legacy of the Aldenata. If you liked the combat suits in Starship Trooper you are gonna LOVE ACS!!!!!!
I'd also recommend 1632 and 1633 by Eric Flint. They are alternate history stories. The first book takes a fantasy like left turn, a town from current rural Pennsylvania, full of United Mine Worker types, is lifted bodily and swapped with a similar sized bit of 1632 Germany, right in the middle of the 30 Years War, Gustavus Adolphus, the Holy Roman Empire, Cardinal Richelieu and all that. Once you get over that little left turn Flint (and his collaborators on later books in the series) have done a fantastic job of accurately setting the historical stage for a little bit of 20th Century meddling in historic affairs. You'll love the Scottish troops reaction to American High School cheerleaders, particularly when they discover one of them was an aspiring Olympic target shooter with her own 308 match grade rifle. "She's a witch, 'a tell ya'! - but look to those legs! Not witch I've ever seen had legs like that!"
Not a Baen book, but in that same vein, is Harry Turtledove's stuff. My favorite is the first of his I read, called The Guns Of The South.
Also in the list is a free book by Niven, Pournelle and another co-author, Fallen Angels, where they skewer every liberal and Luddite sacred cow they can. The premise is that the greenies win power, turn out to be right about global warming and succeed in stopping the evil pollution that causes it. Of course we then discover that global warming was the only think keeping the ice age at bay. The book takes place while the ice bergs are building up around Cleveland.
Wizard's Bane and Wizardry Compiled are by Rick Cook and, yes, they are fantasy. However, the stories are about a computer programmer who falls through a "hole" into a world where magic works. OK, that's fantasy plot number 4. But this guy discovers that he can write a magic compiler. For anyone in the computer business these books are a riot. If nothing else it's worth it for the sayings at the beginnings of each chapter in the second book, Wizardry Compiled. Here's one: "The three most dangerous things in the world are a programmer with a soldering iron, a hardware type with a program patch and a user with an idea."
There's more in the free library, with the ones I've read and can easily recommend marked
Thanks for that. Bookmarked!
It is somewhat dated by the astronomy and satellite technology in the lead up to the comet. Given that we now have confident claims that it is "impossible" for an asteroid or comet to hit the Earth 30, 50 or 100 years out from only a few days observations it is hard to accept that, right up to THE DAY in the book there is still uncertainty.
Once you get past that it really can't be beat.
I particularly love the description the scientists give to the TV crew of the comet as a hot fudge sundae so that people can get an idea of the masses and scale (I'll post it, if you'd like, it's about 5 paragraphs and a hoot).
I read the first 3 of the Worldwar series and just couldn't bring myself to pick up the fourth. They were just unremittingly depressing! Have you read Guns Of The South? I got introduced to that book, and Turtledove, while listening to the NPR program "Radio Reader." I came in during the middle, not knowing anything about the story. I actually recognized the battle being described as a famous battle in the Civil War and was fascinated... right up until they started talking about the banana clips for their AK-47s!!!!! I yelled at the radio "What the hell!!" and was hoooked. Shelby Foote, one of the recognized experts on the Civil War, was so impressed with the research Turtledove had done that the wrote he forward for the book.
Check out my other post just now about the free ebooks on the Baen Free library. If you can stand reading a book as an ebook then you can't beat free!
Yes, I have a copy of Guns of the South. It's his best novel, I think, and certainly his most well known. Besides being an interesting sci-fi concept, it approaches the question of the civil war and slavery from a different angle by contrasting the period characters with the modern racist extremist. My only gripe with Turtledove is a lot of his dialog ends up sounding the same. I've tried some of his other alternative stuff, like the Great War and American Front, but they read too much like Guns of the South and Worldwar. I think maybe he's cranking too much stuff out at the moment. Some of his earlier short stories have excellent mood and dialog. I stumbled across a short story he wrote in 1988 called "Gentlemen of the Shade" about vampires, and didn't even recognize it as being his writing. The dialog in the Worldwar series suffers a little bit from this, but I think it can be forgiven because overall it's a ambitious story with scope dealing with race, international politics, the impersonal brutality of mechanized war, and the personal brutality of the Maoists, Soviets, Nipponese and Nazis. It is a pretty depressing, I'll admit. There's little hope for a victory for the human race, only a stalemate. There's another three books called Colonization which advance the story into the 1960s when the colonization fleet is due to arrive. It's a little bit of an unsatisfying sequel, because there are tantalizing hints that the human race might be able to rid themselves of the Lizards, or at least corrupting them to the point that a distinction would be a moot. There's also the hint of attempting contact with the Lizard homeworld. However, none of these plotlines are developed and are so far off anyway as to be not within the scope of the existing novels. Supposedly, Turtledove has released a fouth and final book in the Colonization series this fall which I haven't read yet.
The one weak point in the Worldwar series I though was the Lizard's supply of nuclear missles. Truly, if they wanted to, they could push an asteroid ala Footfall to compensate for their dwindling supply of nukes. This capability is hinted at as a human tactic in the second series.
The End Of The World Part Two.
...kept me somewhat sane thru my time in Vietnam.
To this day...I re-read it every couple of years.
Something that too many forget...or never realized.
It SHOULD be required reading to graduate High School.
Two excellent books.
Thanks for posting this.
Oh yummy! Thanks for the Heinlein ping!
Hehehe.... some new things to think about starting to read to my Abby you know! :-)
It was required reading for my kids anyway.
Nicely put. Thanks.
There has been one piece of advice that has helped me with great profit and any number of crisis.
It has resulted in a power that has taught the results of power carry responsibility.
The advise: "Rub her feet"
ahh how knowledge truly IS power.
you may also want to check out http://www.blackmask.org for free books.
I keep books on my PDA for those hurry up and wait times.
So much of his should be required reading.
(some of his books are even available in cliffs notes.)
BTTT for later read.
try "Stranger in a Stange Land" its about a Martian name Michael Valentine Smith. (there are even cliff's notes on it!)
Start her off with "The Probability Broach". Still Smith's best.
"Have Space Suit, Will Travel" is the first Heinlein book I did-and-didn't read.
Wait, let me explain...
Like you, I stumbled across it in the school library as a kid, in a fat large-type hardback edition. I started reading it, but didn't really get "into" it because it was just a kid tinkering in his garage on an old suit and stuff, and thus I hadn't gotten too far into it when the book was due to be returned.
*Years* later, when I was eighteen, my girlfriend at the time introduced me to what I thought was my "first" Heinlein book, "Stranger in a Strange Land". Like all of Heinlein's books, it had more mind-stretching ideas than a stack of most lesser works, so I began devouring all his books (I've now read every one of them, and own copies of most).
The last books of his I read were his so-called "juvenile" books (all still imminently readable for adults), and thus I came full circle -- one of the last ones I caught up on was "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel", and as I read the first few chapters it came flooding back to me that I had checked out and read this book *many* years ago as a young child.
The really funny part is that I remembered exactly where I had stopped out of youthful boredom -- it was HALF A PAGE before an alien space ship comes flying out of the sky and grabs the main character from his back yard and all hell breaks loose... (He was already standing in his backyard dressed in the spacesuit at the point I stopped reading.)
If I had read just one more page back when I was a kid, I'd have gotten to "the good parts", and read the rest of the book. Who knows how much sooner I'd have caught up on Heinlein's books at a much younger age, and what effect that might have had on my formative years.
Oh well, better late than never I suppose.
It stands alone, and is without doubt on any "must read" list of Heinlein's books.
Besides just being a wonderful read, it's also a great homage to the American Revolution.
Wow, I just noticed how old the posts are to which I'm responding, LOL! Who resurrected this dusty old thread? ;-)
Seems that a LOT of us have Heinlein somewhere in our background.
I've been going through a Harry Turtledove phase, and one of my favorite stories at the moment is Turtledove's Worldwar series. There are a lot of similarities between Footfall and Turtledove's Worldwar, particularly that the alien invaders in both novels are not quite as skilled at improvisation and deceit as us wiley humans. In the Worldwar series, the invaders are a race of reptilians, with fifty thousand of years of history, most of it under an dynastic imperial system. They are a methodical species, drilled from hatchlinghood to obedience. The Race, as they call themselves, have conquered two other life bearing worlds, both populated by pseudo-reptilian life forms like themselves. The story begins when they send a probe to the earth during the middle ages, where they record pictures of knights on horseback. Easy pickings for soldiers wielding automatic weapons, armored fighting vehicles and fighter aircraft. They'll get around to our world soon enough, after all, how much can a world change in only a thousand years? When they arrive, they are suprised to find us engaged in world war 2. That's the setting: The Nazis have been pushed back from Moscow, the Nipponese are advancing, the Americans have begun the island hopping campaign, when all of a sudden the aliens land and start kicking everybody's buttsThe Worldwar series is excellent, though I am now convinced that Turtledove, a notorious punster, wrote it solely so he could call the last book "Homeward Bound". >:)
His alternate history series with the US and Confederacy at constant war is tremendous as well.
I'd also recommend 1632 and 1633 by Eric Flint. They are alternate history stories. The first book takes a fantasy like left turn, a town from current rural Pennsylvania, full of United Mine Worker types, is lifted bodily and swapped with a similar sized bit of 1632 Germany, right in the middle of the 30 Years War, Gustavus Adolphus, the Holy Roman Empire, Cardinal Richelieu and all that. Once you get over that little left turn Flint (and his collaborators on later books in the series) have done a fantastic job of accurately setting the historical stage for a little bit of 20th Century meddling in historic affairs. You'll love the Scottish troops reaction to American High School cheerleaders, particularly when they discover one of them was an aspiring Olympic target shooter with her own 308 match grade rifle. "She's a witch, 'a tell ya'! - but look to those legs! Not witch I've ever seen had legs like that!"Then of course the King of Sweden meets Julie and decides that there's no way she could be a witch (he hadn't seen her shoot yet). "Ring of Fire" and "1634: The Galileo Affair" and the Grantville Gazette e-books have added a lot of depth to this series.
Grantville is (was) in West Virginia not Pennsylvania though. >:)
Stirling's Nantucket trilogy was a little deeper and a lot darker, but also excellent in this genre.
The Mountains of MourningLois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series is first rate as well. Cordelia Naismith of Beta Colony (think half SoCal, half UK) marries Lord Admiral Aral Vorkosigan and moves to feudalistic Barrayar (which lost touch with the rest of humanity and only got technology back 100 years ago). They have a physically disabled son who is without a doubt one of the greatest characters in modern SF.
I liked How Few Remain, but I kind of lost interest during American Front. The Worldwar series, though, is one of my absolute favorites. Is Homeward Bound out yet? If it is, I can't wait to go pick it up. I read on some fan site that Turtledove had not intended to write a fouth book for the Colonization series, but he did so due to demand from his readers. What I like about both Footfall and the Worldwar series, is the setting with humans as comparitive underdogs who triumph through guile and improvisation. Right now I'm working through David Brin's Uplift novels, which have a similar theme.
It is past time to send a bottle of sea water to the moon.
Is Homeward Bound out yet? If it is, I can't wait to go pick it up.I picked it up a couple weeks ago. >:)
Famous men should always wear tightly-tailored frocks.
...and doing so will be more (MORE) humane.
...which is why you will NEVER find a true Liberal who likes Heinlein.
I believe that God knows and answers our prayers before we ask them. I have prayed for years that Robert Heinlein came to know God and was saved before he died. I'd sure like to meet him someday.
I'm about as fundamentalist as you can find, although some Baptist and Church of Christ members might not agree with me. But, I learned some truths from this man.
I do think his idea of the perfect woman was frozen at about the 14 year old boy stage. But, I could probably get along with most of his male and female protagonists, at least before "Job." From what I've read, they'd accept me and my expressions of my beliefs.
I knew I liked you guys.
Isn't it odd that such a brilliant man saw order, but never the One who created that order?
Or that he could show that love and charity were the greatest acts and goals of mankind, but never wondered whether than might be by some Design? That we value self-determinism and choice, but never saw that we were designed that way?
Or that we might reflect the Image of the Designer by that love, charity and the ability to choose for ourselves the difference between right and wrong?