Heinlein & 100 years

July 7th, 2007

One hundred years ago today (July 7 1907) the greatest science fiction writer of all time was born.

Robert A. Heinlein was a brilliant, controversial and innovative writer. But between 1939 and 1941 he wrote a set of twelve short stories that quickly established him as one of the masters of Science Fiction, with his Future History series (which eventually grew to 23 short stories). This idea, much mimiced since1 still resonates with fans today. To the point where there are still some who hope that some day some of the missing elements in the history will turn up.

Compared to the prolific Asimov, Heinlein’s output was fairly thin: 32 novels (11 of them aimed at young adults) and 59 short stories. This was probably mainly due to WW2, where he lost 5 years out of the most potentially productive part of his career to helping the war effort. But with four Hugo awards for best novel, the quality is clear.

In my opinion, the peak of his career was The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, published in 1966. This tale of lunar revolution is just about my favourite SF novel of all time, and I couldn’t begin to count the number of times that I’ve read it. Unfortunately, shortly after this novel was published Heinlein began to have serious health problems. This trend continued for the rest of his life, and the final two novels he wrote are sadly diminished compared to his peak.

But none of that can take away from the man first called the Grandmaster of Science Fiction. I’m lucky, because there are still a few stories and a couple of novels I’ve never been able to find a copy of (as they’re out of print), so I can still look forward to one or two new stories from Heinlein yet.2

Maybe I can find $US 3,500 for the Virginia Edition: 46 titles spanning the entire works of Heinlein.


  1. For instnace, Stephen Baxter’s Xelee sequence. 

  2. I’m not going to ever read the posthumously published For Us, The Living. I think that if an author puts something in a box and says ‘No’, the rest of us ought to respect it.