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Thread: Understanding Heinlein

  1. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    You're forgetting the important detail. In Starship Troopers, flogging is a voluntary punishment. Rico had the choice to be uneventfully expelled from the military for his gross negligence, which resulted in a fellow soldier's death (we're not talking about a minor slip-up here), or voluntarily accept the punishment, demonstrating that he has the honor to own up to and suffer for his mistake, and get to stay in the Mobile Infantry.

    .
    That was the film. In the book he makes a poor decision and "cheats" in a war game by using bare eyeballs rather than night vision. IIRC Rico was not offered a choice but instead was charged, convicted and flogged in a very short period of time. Hours or maybe less. The charge was that his decision to cheat MIGHT have caused the death or injury of a comrade.

  2. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    It's voluntary for the military, but in the classroom scene, isn't it also described as a common punishment for civilians?
    Yes. Rico recalls the flogging stake in his home town. Behind the courthouse I think.

  3. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    You're forgetting the important detail. In Starship Troopers, flogging is a voluntary punishment. Rico had the choice to be uneventfully expelled from the military for his gross negligence, which resulted in a fellow soldier's death (we're not talking about a minor slip-up here), or voluntarily accept the punishment, demonstrating that he has the honor to own up to and suffer for his mistake, and get to stay in the Mobile Infantry.
    That turns out not to be the case. I have the book in front of me.
    When he is hauled up for his potentially dangerous carelessness, Rico is offered a court martial rather than summary justice, and he declines the court martial (which he knows could sentence him to hanging). He is then marched over to the Regimental Commander, who asks his Captain, "Is there any possibility of salvaging this man?" When the Captain says, "I believe so, sir," the Major says: "Then we'll try administrative punishment ... Five lashes."
    It seems you can resign from the MI at any point except when you have committed an offence. That's made clear in the case of Hendrick, who punched a sergeant instructor during an exercise. He is sentenced to ten lashes and a Bad Conduct Discharge. He says he wants to resign, and is told that the Court refuses his resignation.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2015-Sep-28 at 10:56 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    It's voluntary for the military, but in the classroom scene, isn't it also described as a common punishment for civilians?
    It is. Hendrick's ten lashes is described as "not even the number of lashes for drunken driving".
    In the classroom scene, when discussing how people could be violently mugged by teenagers in twentieth century parks, one character says, "If a boy in our city had done anything half that bad ... well, he and his father would have been flogged side by side."

    Grant Hutchison

  5. #65
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    Dug out an old copy and found civilian lashes mentioned twice in general dialog (Beginning of chapter 2, and twice just after Hendrick's* court martial); it's said to be a public exhibition. Also Captain Frankel says that ten lashes is "not even the number of lashes for drunken driving." Johnnie says in that same chapter that there are "paddlings in school, of course". In the classroom scene, there is mention of raising kids with spanking, switches, and the strap, both at home and in school, and that judges can sentence civilians to lashes.


    * Who was flogged non-voluntarily before his discharge.

    ADDED: Oops, missed Grant's post.
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  6. #66
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    Wow, I thought my memory was better than that. It has been eight or nine years since I read it, though.

  7. #67
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    And of course, the classroom scene itself is one big clarion cry about how moral lashes/paddlings are, and how they really do work as behavior modification, if done the RIGHT way! (IE, from birth)
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  8. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Well, that exact extension of the survival instinct to involve the defence of one's community is the basis of Starship Troopers - the volunteer military have demonstrated that they are able to make that moral transition, and therefore merit the right to vote. Dawkins would say that works via selfish genes; Heinlein uses corporal punishment to modify the selfish behaviour of children - he draws a strict analogy with house-training puppies.
    The drive to pass on our genes is definitely a powerful force in our actions, but it can play out in some very complex ways. Competition for instance is just one relationship between organisms. Trying to break this down to some simple code is problematic in the extreme, if Heinlein thought he had worked this out then I really question how objective he really was. Even Dawkins seems to have reduced it past the point of any real meaning in some ways for me.

    Comparing humans to puppies seems to ignore the vast difference in status and relationships involved. A puppy is always going to be subservient and to a very real degree property, whereas to teach true citizenship you need to instill values based on respect not fear.

    Nolo contendere. There's no doubt Freehold tended to achieve exactly the opposite of what seems to have been intended. Leon Stover (who was fingered as the authorized Heinlein biographer until some acrimonious falling-out occurred) reported Heinlein as saying (about the novel) "... it does no more than play on Mark Twain's prophecy of 1885, that within a hundred years the formerly enslaved blacks of America would turn things around and 'put whites underfoot,' unless racial attitudes were changed." Heinlein also described it as "... heavily allegorical--and I'm damned if I'll explain the allegories!" (Both quotes come from Patterson's authorized biography.) Twain seemed to be implying some sort of revenge for slavery; it's not clear to me if Heinlein wanted to imply that too, or was trying for some sort of heavy-handed satire in which the racial roles were reversed and the oppression intensified. In Starship Troopers, he produces a specious argument about war being the natural product of the human urge to survive, implying that the natural state of humanity is a struggle for dominance - that would fit with the scenario in Freehold.

    Grant Hutchison
    I can see that now with some perspective, I hadn't really thought about it that way.

  9. #69
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    I've probably read most of Heinlein, although I've not re-read any of his work for at least 30 years. Stranger in a Strange Land was interesting, Starship Troopers was fun, and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress was just very different and, possibly, Heinlein trying to be "experimental." . Double Star was, I think, the best of his books. I didn't, and don't, view any of them as anything more than escape literature.

    I never really figured out Heinlein's philosophy from his books, but then I never tried. Some people do seem to think of him as Ayn Rand lite, which is probably an insult to Heinlein.
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  10. #70
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    Spot on, Swamp. That's about it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    I never really figured out Heinlein's philosophy from his books, but then I never tried. Some people do seem to think of him as Ayn Rand lite, which is probably an insult to Heinlein.
    No, I disagree.

    Heinlein went out of his way to inject his personal philosophies into some of his books. It seems to me that he invited judgment from his readers by doing that. It's not an insult to disagree with an opinion that is presented to me as a parable.

    I think when it comes to hard science fiction, he was a past master. And his characters were colorful and, early on, generally likeable. The Stone family, Podkayne, etc. But IMO, later characters became mouthpieces for his own beliefs and (shifting) political philosophies after a while. Constant hammer-unsubtle preaching and polemics tend to sour good fiction. And his science fantasy works had little in common with the rock-hard science of the early good ones.
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  12. #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    I never really figured out Heinlein's philosophy from his books, but then I never tried. Some people do seem to think of him as Ayn Rand lite, which is probably an insult to Heinlein.
    There's an Ayn Rand interview with Mike Wallace from the late 50s where she basically says that altruism is evil and most people don't deserve love. I'd hope that Heinlein didn't share that kind of contempt for other people, I don't really get that sense from his writing.

  13. #73
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    I didn't, and don't, view any of them as anything more than escape literature.

    I never really figured out Heinlein's philosophy from his books, but then I never tried. Some people do seem to think of him as Ayn Rand lite, which is probably an insult to Heinlein.
    I think he'd have been more insulted by "escape literature".
    From early in his career, he used the word "preach" about what he wanted to do with his storytelling. He was in the business of sending messages to his readers.

    Grant Hutchison

  14. #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    No, I disagree.

    Heinlein went out of his way to inject his personal philosophies into some of his books. It seems to me that he invited judgment from his readers by doing that. It's not an insult to disagree with an opinion that is presented to me as a parable.
    .
    You're disagreeing with my not really figuring out his philosophy? Nice to know I'm wrong about myself. I did, and do, have some rather superficial feelings about the positions he put forth in his books, but I really didn't care -- as I said, I viewed his works as escape literature. I did find one of his books, Farnham's Freehold very appalling in its underlying tone, which I found quite racist.
    Last edited by swampyankee; 2015-Oct-06 at 06:32 PM.
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    Pablo Picasso illustrated war at times. It doesn't mean he glorified it. I think we can agree with that.
    And because Heinlein illustrated a modern and ....perhaps challenging world at times , doesn't mean that he espoused that. I think many writers
    illustrate the frightening image so as to help us consider the consequences and actively work to build a better world for the future .
    Something to think about.

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    Quote Originally Posted by danscope View Post
    Pablo Picasso illustrated war at times. It doesn't mean he glorified it. I think we can agree with that.
    And because Heinlein illustrated a modern and ....perhaps challenging world at times , doesn't mean that he espoused that. I think many writers
    illustrate the frightening image so as to help us consider the consequences and actively work to build a better world for the future .
    Something to think about.
    We know from Heinlein's own words that he wrote Starship Troopers specifically as a message to soldiers.
    And we know that Starship Troopers was adopted as a set text by some military academies.

    So what message for a better world do you think he was sending to soldiers?

    Grant Hutchison

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    One interesting point regarding Heinlein and Starship Troopers is that he was invalided out of the US Navy (I believe it was TB, but may be mis-remembering), so had no exposure to combat; Joe Haldeman, whose Forever War is sometimes viewed as the antithesis of Starship Troopers was conscripted and wounded in combat during the Vietnam War.

    As an aside, I had Leon Stover (mentioned by Grant in post #57) as one of my college professors. At the time, he was collaborating with Harry Harrison on Stonehenge and organizing the first Campbell Award conference at IIT, in Chicago (guests included Ben Bova, Barry Malzberg, and Harry Harrison).
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  18. #78
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    One interesting point regarding Heinlein and Starship Troopers is that he was invalided out of the US Navy (I believe it was TB, but may be mis-remembering), so had no exposure to combat; Joe Haldeman, whose Forever War is sometimes viewed as the antithesis of Starship Troopers was conscripted and wounded in combat during the Vietnam War.
    And, interestingly, Heinlein shook Haldeman by the hand and congratulated him on The Forever War when they met at an SF convention. Given Heinlein's famed intolerance for those who held views different from his own, it seems that Heinlein felt The Forever War and Starship Troopers were saying similar things about the nature of soldiering.

    Grant Hutchison

  19. #79
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    You're disagreeing with my not really figuring out his philosophy? Nice to know I'm wrong about myself.
    No, about your conclusions.
    Some people do seem to think of him as Ayn Rand lite, which is probably an insult to Heinlein.
    I probably should have trimmed that quote better in post 71.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    No, about your conclusions.

    I probably should have trimmed that quote better in post 71.
    No problem. I don't think of Heinlein as Ayn Rand lite; I'm not sure where I'd put his politics, but sometimes it strikes me of a combination of nostalgia for the way things never were, a misreading of modern ideas about child discipline, and a belief in the viability of simple solutions to complex problems. Unlike Rand, he probably did have some idea of how projects actually work, though.
    Last edited by swampyankee; 2015-Oct-07 at 01:37 AM.
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  21. #81
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    One interesting point regarding Heinlein and Starship Troopers is that he was invalided out of the US Navy (I believe it was TB, but may be mis-remembering), so had no exposure to combat; Joe Haldeman, whose Forever War is sometimes viewed as the antithesis of Starship Troopers was conscripted and wounded in combat during the Vietnam War.
    Not uncommon, in my experience, for a lot of the most vocal supporters of war to have no actual experience with combat. When I watched Milius, it included the information that he had argued with a colleague about war. Said colleague was a Vietnam veteran. Milius, the hawk, had been medically discharged after a couple of weeks because he had asthma.
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  22. #82
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    I enjoyed all of them. However the subject matter and language are a bit too "young adult literature" in all of Heinlein's work for my taste. I keep having the creeping suspicion he's trying to educate me, and I never liked books who tried to sneak education into a story on purpose*.

    Of the three you mentioned, I think I like Moon best. Starship Troopers was fun, but tainted by that I had seen the movie first. (I like the movie, it's just very different.) Stranger is a bit weird. Good story, but there are sexist overtones that have always bothered me.



    * (And did it badly. I know Astérix is made to be a somewhat educational comic, but there is never a single purely educational element that detracts from the enjoyment of the stories.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by jokergirl View Post
    Stranger is a bit weird. Good story, but there are sexist overtones that have always bothered me.
    To my reading, Heinlein fully supported intelligent, capable, strong willed women, as long as they were willing to get married and have lots of babies.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    To my reading, Heinlein fully supported intelligent, capable, strong willed women, as long as they were willing to get married and have lots of babies.
    Front!

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    Quote Originally Posted by jokergirl View Post
    Front!
    Hah, I get it now, finally.

    Sort of spurred by this thread, I've read the three books again, or tried, at least.

    Starship Troopers always struck me with the SF warfare descriptions more than the political backgrounds. I like the story, and see the political descriptions more as background for the story to work than as arguing for those views. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress appealed to me also for the technological SF. When I read it first I was too young to understand the political implications. Now I'm older I don't care much for them. Sure, it might be great if it worked out as Heinlein describes it, but somehow I don't think it would. Stranger... I couldn't get through it. Too much magical mindreading stuff I suppose.

    Today I finished Double Star, and recalled it mentioned in this thread. It's a nice book, even if a bit predictable. Fun to see my current King ruling every human in the galaxy, although when this book was written, he wasn't even born yet.
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    I just finished Stranger on the recommendation of my aunt, who has been an avid reader of science fiction for many decades. She bought the book for me and said it was required reading.

    I found the book very preachy, and whereas many people liked Jubal, he came across as pompous. At least his character traits aligned with how many of you have described Heinlein - firm in his beliefs and unwilling to let anyone get a word in. The story wasn't very appealing to me, and the dialog came like water from a fire hose.

    The thing I liked most was the idea that we are all in control of our lives. 'Thou art God' really means that we should take responsibility for what happens to us and around us. Of course this was followed up by creating a church and some form of an afterlife, sort of negating the thesis.



    Given my moderate dislike of Stranger, I'm reluctant to try the other books. However, I'm encouraged by hearing that others also disliked Stranger but found the others more enjoyable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I liked Mistress, I mildly enjoyed Starship Troopers as early military SF but found its politics preachy and implausible, and absolutely hated Stranger.
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    Yes, of the Heinlein's I've read, I like Stranger not at all. I much more enjoyed The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Job: A Comedy of Justice, Friday, Red Star, and Starship Troopers, in roughly that order. I also enjoy half of Time Enough For Love, the half that takes place in the past. I dislike the half written in the present, when Lazarus Long is an old sour cretin that wants to die.

    Curiously, I enjoy Lazarus Long in his own novels, but I don't care for him when he's a minor character in other novels (The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, for instance.)

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    If you want to read a good Heinlein, try Double Star. It entirely lacks (as I recall) the preachiness of his other three Hugo winners (Starship Troopers, Strangers, Harsh Mistress).
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToSeek View Post
    If you want to read a good Heinlein, try Double Star. It entirely lacks (as I recall) the preachiness of his other three Hugo winners (Starship Troopers, Strangers, Harsh Mistress).
    My sentiments exactly.

    As an aside, as somebody who has taught children who were physically "disciplined," they tend to form a quite significant portion of the population of children who physically abuse other children. These same "disciplined" children are also, quite frequently, the most ill-behaved children in a classroom.
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    These same "disciplined" children are also, quite frequently, the most ill-behaved children in a classroom.
    Because they know you aren't going to hit them.
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