Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial day weekend note and a thought on Heinlein (feh!)

Just got back from a weekend in Tacoma that was very nice. I'll put something down about that shortly, but first, I want to take a hot bath and finish the last few pages of a high-tech thriller with an admittedly very contrived deus ex machina that's going to clean up most of the details at the end. Meanwhile, here's something I wrote a few days ago that I wanted to share with people.

I find it interesting that whenever I run into a Heinlein quote these days that I skip it. For the last 15-20 years, I've found his stuff mawkish, juvenile, and irritating. (Reading "The Number of the Beast" shortly after it came out really frosted the cake; I was so strongly disgusted that I haven't read any of his stuff since.) I’m strongly reminded of a comment a German professor at Reed made to me when I was 18 that I only came to appreciate 20 years later: "One’s distaste for Herman Hesse as an adult is directly proportional to the esteem one held him in as an adolescent."

Several years ago, I scored a few boxes of old Analog and F&SF magazines and one of them had a speech Heinlein made in 1972 to the graduating class of midshipmen at the Naval Academy, in which he first pitched writing as a profession to be had on the side, after which, he drubbed his political ding for a while. He damned the protesters of the Vietnam War as completely uninformed, as cowards not having the courage of their convictions, as hypocrites and liberals, and generally as a blight on a free society of Men Who Fought For What They Believed. (Never mind that even Robert McNamara has admitted that the war was a Stupid Idea we shouldn't have gotten into and that we should have actively gotten out of and stayed in only for swank--something that it seemed a lot of the rest of us were able to correctly identify at the time--Heinlein felt that the Vietnam War was a Great Idea that shouldn't be undercut.)

He also had a lot to say about the need for an atomic space fleet—it was going to happen, he assured everyone, and Americans should get there first and have lots of atomic warships in space. What was particularly interesting about this is that he said the reason we should hurry towards this end was not that there was anyone else in the world then [or now] who remotely stood a chance to do such a thing before us; it was that we could get these atomic warships up there and then (this is more-or-less a direct quote) "enforce a 'Pax Americana' on the rest of the world." Shoot, don't we have a name for people like that, like... uh... 'neo-cons'? No, wait, wait, just a moment... oh, yeah, that's right, 'Effing fascists!'

Understand that this was not the basic male-chauvinist-pig dribble of Heinlein's that we’ve all read, nor the "Live Free and Screw a Lot!" stuff of Heinlein’s later years; this was real militaristic fascism at its best. I’ve still got the issue of Analog lying around that the transcript appeared in if you care to read it. It was pretty repugnant stuff. I don't think there's a lot of point to this except to remind everyone that we need to know the fascists and the liars wherever and whenever they appear.


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