Robert Heinlein

My Clothes Are a Harsh Mistress


Two footnotes to Brian Doherty's fine piece on the late Robert Heinlein. First: If you want to find the bridge between Heinlein the militant anti-Communist and Heinlein the radical bohemian, you should read his delightfully cracked 1951 novel The Puppet Masters. When an invasion by alien collectivists threatens their freedoms, the brave people of Earth fight back…with nudism. There's a Whittaker Chambers joke in there somewhere, but I haven't quite found it yet.

Second: My first exposure to Heinlein came when Boys' Life serialized a comic-strip version of another 1951 book, Between Planets. The cartoon was completely insane, and it sent me right away to the "H" shelf in my local library. To read a representative sample of the comic, go here.

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  1. Jesse,

    That’s totally an Urkboldian headline.
    Great job!

    I must have just missed that Boys’ Life comic. I probably had my subscription about 80-82.

  2. Oh, but hell yeah! I remember the comic strip and the puzzlement I felt when Between Planets (the book) didn’t have aliens like the comic in BL. Classic weirdness from the Boy Scouts.

    highnumber, I think it ended about the same time my subscription and involvement with scouting did, in ’79?

  3. Jesse, you isn’t old enough to ever have had a subscription to Boys Life.

    BTW, agreed with High, very classic headline. One of the best I’ve seen, definitely in the top 10 or 15 of all time.

  4. Bah! I’m heading off to Boskone to kill some aliens.

  5. I never read Heinlein as a teenager. When I was 28 I read “Stranger In A Strange Land” and thought, “This isn’t that great, but I would have loved it as a teenager.” I had the same experience with “On The Road”. Are there any Heinlein novels that would appeal to adults unfamiliar with his work?

  6. Whittaker Chambers…nude…

    Christ, I’ll be months getting that little image out of my head..

  7. I just read Stranger in a Strange Land (my first Heinlein, I’m 30) and had nearly the same reaction as Puffapadrino had at 28. Mostly I was surprised that I didn’t find him when I was 15 and reading everything Orson Scott Card ever wrote.

    I vaguely remember that my girlfriend in highschool that told me he was a misogynist pig… hard to believe it took me this long to find out for myself that yes, she was arguably right.

  8. Puffopadrino: It’s hard to say, since virtually all the Heinlein I’ve read I read as a teenager myself (or earlier). The one exception is the short-story collection The Unpleasant Occupation of Jonathan Hoag, which I read in my twenties and enjoyed; and which also seems atypical for Heinlein, since it’s more off-kilter fantasy than hard sf. So I guess I could recommend that one.

    Of the books I read as a kid, my favorite was The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: It was as good as the best parts of Stranger, and much better than the way-too-self-indulgent parts of Stranger. So with the understanding that I haven’t looked at it since I was 19, I could recommend that one as well.

  9. Many comments on both threads about SIASL being something less than coherent. You must read the version that was released after his death (around 2000?, both my versions are at the cottage), quite a few more words were included. I believe that his publisher in the 60’s made him jump through a few hoops.


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