Alongside Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein represents the third of the “Big Three” science fiction authors. While his genre is arguably best known for far-fetched contrivances and other elements that would look right at home in a fantasy novel, Heinlein is revered for pioneering the “hard” science fiction subgenre that puts logic and scientific accuracy in the front seat.
Heinlein was born in Butler, Missouri in 1907. His family took pride in having sent a man to every American war dating right back to the original. While young Heinlein loved astronomy and literature, his aspiration had always been to join the United States Navy. Unfortunately his older brother’s enrollment at the United States Naval Academy prevented Heinlein from attending at the same time, but he was finally admitted in 1925.
Heinlein studied engineering at naval academy, and continued on to work in radio communications aboard the then state-of-the-art aircraft carrier USS Lexington.Afterward he served as a gunnery officer aboard the destroyer USS Roper, another highly technical role that would color his later fictive work.
Pulmonary tuberculosis ended Heinlein’s naval career prematurely in 1934. He proceeded to work in real estate, silver mining, and Upton Sinclair’s socialist End Poverty in California movement. Heinlein finally ran as a Democrat for the California State Assembly. Following his defeat he turned to writing as his main source of income – which proved a wise move.
Heinlein wrote “Life-Line” to enter in a contest held by Astounding Science Fiction, but wound up selling it to the magazine for far more than the grand prize payout. The novelist went on to publish several critically acclaimed best sellers including The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Stranger in a Strange Land, Double Star, and Citizen of the Galaxy, althoughthanks to its 1997 film adaptation his best known work shall always be Starship Troopers. (It is interesting to note that Starship Troopers the novel contained none of the satirical treatment of fascism and war propaganda – these were the filmmakers’ additions.)
Heinlein held a broad range of political and philosophical views. Attempting to glean all of them from his writing is difficult, as his views shifted throughout the course of his lifetime and he contradicted himself on occasion. In his article “Robert Heinlein at 100,” Brian Doherty describes Heinlein’s worldview thusly:
That iconoclastic vision is at the heart of Heinlein, science fiction, libertarianism, and America. Heinlein imagined how everything about the human world, from our sexual mores to our religion to our automobiles to our government to our plans for cultural survival, might be flawed, even fatally so.
While his politics evolved from liberal to increasingly conservative over the course of his lifetime, Heinlein always considered himself a radical libertarian. His futuristic adventures often emphasized the necessity of individualism, and his themes of personal freedom and free thought have found a common audience among hippies and staunch libertarians alike.
We also have Heinlein to thank for the epithet “moonbat.”
Very few writers achieve an image that overshadows their actual body of work, but boy, is Dr. Hunter S. Thompson ever one of them. Hunter S. Thompson quotes are some of the most bizarre (yet insightful) quotes out there. His persona of an acid-soaked degenerate frantically pecking away at the keys of an electric typewriter while surrounded by mounds of rotting, half-eaten grapefruits isn’t entirely spot-on, however.
Who is Ayn Rand? Born to a middle class Russian-Jewish family in 1905, Rand was treated to a front row seat to the wonders of communism in action. Rand fled with her family to the Crimea following the “liberation” of her father’s pharmacy but ultimately returned to Saint Petersburg where she could attend university when she wasn’t busy starving. Due to her life experiences, Ayn Rand quotes are some of the most thought-provoking in the world.