Did someone suggest that I buy a book, today? I think they did. Is there a bad excuse–I mean, reason–a bad reason to buy a book? No, I don’t think there is.
First up, Robert A Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1: Learning Curve 1907-1948 by William H Patterson Jr (Tor Books, August 2010). And, wow, is that title long enough? The second volume should have been on the Hugo nomination short list this year, so this is yet another book that is going to cause significant scrutiny of the long list, when that list is released.
I am a huge Heinlein fan. I grew up on his stories. When I look at my bookshelves, the two writers most represented are Robert A Heinlein and William Shakespeare. I have everything extant by both, in multiple editions. I remember when For Us, The Living was finally released, back in 2003–I rushed out to buy it and read it twice. Not his greatest novel, but it was his first, and I’d read several essays by Heinlein discussing his awful (in his own words) first novel.
Heinlein never ceased sprinkling his own brand of messaging throughout his books and stories; as a young woman, I found those messages empowering. I admired Friday Jones and Podkayne of Mars; I found solace in the raucous affection of the Stone family when my own family seemed to be falling apart.
Robert Heinlein was a huge influence on several generations of readers. While not all of his stories have aged well–personally, I think The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Stranger in a Strange Land hold up best–I suspect that they will remain important for several more generations, simply because they influenced so many contemporary writers. One place where “trickle down” works as a theory is in literature: Heinlein’s ideas and tropes continue to “trickle down” through SFF and will for my foreseeable future.
And, as long as I was there, I also purchased the second volume, because why not? Today is pay day! Volume 2 is The Man Who Learned Better 1948-1988 (Tor Books, June 2014). Personally, if Patterson had issued eight volumes, one for each decade, I would be a happy camper, but I guess I can suffer with only two volumes. (RIP, Mr Patterson. You did a great thing and if there is an afterlife, I hope you and Mr Heinlein are hanging out, shootin’ the breeze, and arguing politics.)