Friday, March 17, 2006

When you're strange

Thanks to the newly released "lost" first book of Robert Heinlein, there is some good discussion of the merits of Heinlein and Asimov and whether the preference says something about your politics. Many of the comments are silly and along the lines of "You liberals suck cuz you don't like good sci-fi" "oh yeah? Well I bet you are religous and that is lame." Ah, prejudice, it warms the heart. Such is the level of discourse when it comes to politics. Others comments are good if you can stomach the rest.

Anyway, the notion that you can pigeon hole someone's politics based on one particular aspect of a writer is silly on the face. When you consider who Heinlein hopped all over the place politically with some hyper-libertarianism in The Moon is A Harsh Mistress (always a fave of mine), the authoritarian message of Starship Troopers and the hippie can't-we-all-get-along aspects of Stranger in A Strange Land. It's not as if political philosophy is the only thing that attracts a reader to a given writer. Often I like a book despite intense disagreements with the political undertones.

One of the things that always appealed to me was Heinlein's construction of a Future History. Many of his short stories and novels fit into a future timeline and either referenced each other or similar background information. While this seems minor, if you read enough of his works you can take pleasure in recognizing this organization and person and having a better understanding of what the author is saying. A lot of sci-fi authors do this these days, like Iain M Banks with the Culture and CJ Cherryh with her Alliance/Union and other sagas. Take a look at Cherryh's Intro to Sci-fi which gives you her must read books.

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