Robert A. Heinlein

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(July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988)

RAH was one of the major writers of John W. Campbell's Golden Age of Astounding. Along with Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke and A. E. van Vogt (pick two), he’s considered one of the Big Three of science fiction writers. For most of his career, he was called the Dean of Science Fiction. He was a Worldcon guest of honor three times in his lifetime and once posthumously.

He wrote under the pseudonyms Caleb Saunders, Lyle Monroe and Anson MacDonald. He used the last in the early 1940s for some of his most well-known stories when they were not in a recognizable Heinlein universe: "Solution Unsatisfactory", "By His Bootstraps", "Sixth Column", "Waldo", "Goldfish Bowl", and "Beyond This Horizon".

Fanspeak terms, fannish catchphrases and concepts Heinlein coined or popularized include: Anywhen, Discorporate, Further Deponent Sayeth Not, Future History, Grok, Half Life, Semantics, Share Water, Speculative Fiction, Tanstaafl, Timebinding, Waldo, Water Brothers and Year of the Jackpot. He is also credited with inventing the water bed, and his works inspired a lot of popular culture from the 1960s onward, including music by Jimmy Webb, David Crosby of The Byrds, Jeff Calvert and Geraint Hughes, Paul Kantner of Jefferson Starship, and Frank Zappa.


The first third of his career (which made his reputation) was focused on short fiction. During the second third, he created the “Heinlein Juveniles,” some of the best YA sf ever written, as well as his best adult novels, such as Double Star and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The last third of his career was a twilight of long books he did not permit to be edited.

It is a measure of the strength of the first two thirds of his career that he is still remembered as one of our greatest authors.

He may have originated the idea of a history of the future in sf. His story “The Green Hills of Earth” is commemorated by the Rhysling Awards.

Heinlein in Dimension by Alexei Panshin (1968) was the first book-length study of an SF author and still one of the best. Heinlein greatly disapproved of it, and attempted to force the publisher, Advent, to suppress the book. His own self-examination resulted in the posthumous autobiographical work, Grumbles from the Grave, which, unfortunately, seems to have been an accurate portrayal of him in later life. His "official" biography, in two volumes (2010, 2014), was written by William H. Patterson, Jr., co-founder of The Heinlein Society.

Personal life[edit]

After being invalided out of the Navy before World War II, he did engineering for the Navy near Philadelphia and after the war lived in Colorado for nearly 20 years before moving back to California where he lived for the rest of his life. While in Colorado, he was a member of the Colorado Fantasy Society.

Austin Carter, one of the characters in Anthony Boucher's Rocket to the Morgue is directly modeled after him in his days in the Manana Literary Society.

He was married three times, to Elinor Curry (1929–1930); Leslyn MacDonald (1932–1947), whom he did not treat well; and Virginia Gerstenfeld (1948–his death).


Awards, Honors and GoHships:[edit]

Major Works[edit]


The “Heinlein juveniles” is the usual name for Heinlein’s novels written for what’s now known as the "young adult" market

The core group are the 12 novels published by Scribner's between 1947 and 1958. The series started with some fairly minor work, but by its end included novels that stand up as well or better than his adult novels.

A thirteenth, Starship Troopers, was submitted to Scribner's but rejected and instead published by Putnam. A fourteenth novel, Podkayne of Mars, is often listed as a "Heinlein juvenile," although Heinlein himself did not consider it to be one.

Many fans consider the Juveniles to be the high point of RAH's writing. While there's no doubt that his earlier incarnation (roughly 1939 to 1950) as a primarily short fiction writer was more influential on the field, the Heinlein Juveniles, and especially the later ones like Citizen of the Galaxy and Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, were the first taste of first-rate SF for a great many fans who came of age in the 1950s and ’60s. These books shaped an entire generation.

Heinlein's Children is an interesting collection of essays about them.

The Green Hills of Earth[edit]

"The Green Hills of Earth" is a short story about "Noisy" Rhysling, a blind spacebum, poet and songwriter, as well as the title of a song featured in the story and mentioned in several of Heinlein's novels. It originally appeared in The Saturday Evening Post (February 8, 1947).

The Rhysling Award for speculative poetry awarded by the Science Fiction Poetry Association is named for the character Rhysling, as is Rhysling crater on the Moon, which was named by Apollo 15 astronauts, who quoted the last verse of the titular song as their third moonwalk was ending.

Stranger in a Strange Land[edit]

Originally published in 1961 by Putnam, this Heinlein novel had several original plot elements, and became something of a cult classic among students in the 1960s.

Stranger came to hold a slightly ambiguous position in the hearts of fans, since it was adopted almost as gospel by some of the odder members of the hippie and counter-culture communities. In later years many fans saw a degree of prefigurement in Stranger of Heinlein's later awful books.

It gave fanspeak (and the counter culture) the term grok and is credited with the invention of the water bed. It popularized the verb discorporate, a word dating to the 16th century, meaning to leave one’s physical body, or die, which musician Frank Zappa used in his satirical anti-hippie song “Absolutely Free,” and introduced the concept of water brothers, mentioned in The Byrds’ “Triad” by David Crosby; “Share Water” became a minor fannish catchphrase. Along with The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Stranger acquainted many fans with polyamory.

Awards and Honors

Podkayne of Mars[edit]

Originally serialised in Worlds of If (November 1962, January, March 1963), and published in hardcover in 1963, this novel features a teenage girl named Podkayne "Poddy" Fries and her younger brother, Clark, who leave their home on Mars to take a trip on a spaceliner to visit Earth, accompanied by their great-uncle.

It’s not considered a Heinlein Juvenile even though it’s a novel about teenagers. Some fans feel that the failings of Heinlein's late writings is foreshadowed in Podkayne. It doesn't help that the YA characters are not very likable.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress[edit]

A 1966 novel by Heinlein about a lunar colony's revolt against rule from Earth, it is respected for its credible presentation of a comprehensively imagined future human society on both the Earth and the moon.

Originally serialized in Worlds of If (December 1965, January, February, March, April 1966), many fans consider it to be the last great novel Heinlein wrote.

It spawned many fannish catchphrases, among them “Tanstaafl,” and, along with Stranger, may have encouraged fan interest in polyamory. Songwriter Jimmy Webb borrowed the title for a much covered song originally recorded by Joe Cocker in 1974.

Awards and Honors

Grumbles from the Grave[edit]

A posthumous collection of autobiographical essays. It is not a complete autobiography.

Many Heinlein fans feel publication of the book did RAH's memory a disservice, as the picture Heinlein paints of himself is not very attractive. Isaac Asimov wrote that he structured his autobiography, I. Asimov, as he did to avoid doing the same to himself.

Awards and Honors


Heinlein wrote to many people. Margaret Trebing found some Heinlein correspondence in her mothers' papers (Allison Phillips).

1946 Letter from Heinlein to John Hardecker (from the collection of Allison Phillips). Photo by Margaret Trebing.
1947 Postcard from Heinlein to Tom (unknown), envelope to John Hardecker (from the collection of Allison Phillips). Photo by Margaret Trebing.

Person 19071988
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