Sunday, July 15, 2007

Heinlein Centennial

Saturday July 7 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert Anson Heinlein, the science fiction author whose work I read (and was occasionally troubled by) through my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

I discovered Heinlein's Rocket Ship Galileo on the shelves of the school in Wonowon when I was in Grade 4, and by the time I finished Grade 8 in Fort St. John, I had read all of his juveniles -- the books that he had written for a teen audience. I was thirteen years old when I first read Stranger in A Strange Land -- a book that I would often return to in my teens and early adulthood.

The Heinlein Centennial convention over the weekend in Kansas City would have been a great event to have attended, but to my everlasting regret, it became clear by about May that I wouldn't be able to to go.

The Space Review website has a recent article about a memo which Heinlein wrote in his final days at the Naval Air Materials Center, where he worked during World War Two. This memo, much of which in hindsight is wrong, is still nonetheless inspiring. And it is interesting to consider that 60 years later, private enterprises like SpaceX or Bigelow Aerospace are starting to do some of the things that Heinlein thought should be starting immediately after World War Two.

Through the years, many authors have been hyped by their publishers as being the successor to Robert A. Heinlein. None of these assertions have been true -- even for authors whose talent I respect. More often than not, such a statement on a cover blurb or a review has just been hype, and the author in question has demonstrated very little substance in ideas or writing to justify such a comparison to the Master.

Heinlein remains one of a kind, the quirky, visionary genius and storyteller whose work defined the field of English language science fiction for much of the twentieth century.


pj said...

Heinlein's works were one of the things that first brought me into the realm of Science fiction. Something for which he will always have a soft spot in my heart... I believe that the book was called 'The Currents of Space' and I was, I believe, thirteen.

Do-Ming Lum said...

Thank you for your comment! In fact, The Currents of Space was written by Isaac Asimov -- although, for about two seconds, my heart leapt at the thought of a Heinlein novel that I hadn't read :-)