Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Internet is a Harsh Mistress

Wow. I’m watching someone on George Takei’s Facebook page attacking Robert Heinlein. Robert Heinlein, the “Dean of Science Fiction” – the man whose books I devoured as a child – being brutally slandered by a smartass whippersnapper. Comments like: “He's a science fiction writer; not an esteemed philosopher or political ideologist. A science fiction writer; and not a very good one at that.”  …. “Apparently you think that a photo of Heinlein with his opinion scrawled over it somehow gives him more gravitas on this issue when in actual fact he's a literary laughing stock” ….  “His books have a creepy, fascist (yes fascist) vibe to them that's hard to swallow.” 

First of all, I think most writers are inherently philosophers expressing or imparting a philosophy to their readers. Many science fiction writers, such as George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, were also political ideologists. As for the quality of Heinlein’s writing, like the majority of science fiction, especially at that time, none of it was great literature. But it was entertaining, well-written, and imaginative. Heinlein was prolific and groundbreaking in the genre. All writers are products of their times and should be viewed accordingly. Science fiction in Heinlein’s day was spawned in the pulps where most writers were hacks, churning out hackneyed plots and cliché ridden dialogue for three pennies a word. Yet the pulps brought us some of the greatest entertainment characters ever created and served as the foundation for the mainstreaming of genres like science fiction that was to come. Without Heinlein – and Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, Leigh Brackett, Otto Binder, and their ilk – there would be no Star Wars, or Star Trek, or Lost in Space, or Doctor Who, or Red Dwarf, or Continuum.

Heinlein was an award-winning, best-selling author who influenced a generation of writers. It is painful to see an author of Robert Heinlein’s stature derided and vilified by someone who is obviously at best clueless and at worst an arrogant troll. It makes the attacks I’ve endured as a writer pale by comparison. For what it’s worth, Heinlein was also a good man. The one time I met him, he was in the process of donating blood to help others. I’d like to see some of these ultracrepidating criticasters write their own books before being allowed to criticize other writers. It’s easy to criticize others for doing what you cannot do yourself.  (And yes, those are two really neat words you should look up).

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