Just to double-tap this, along with my writing sister Sarah A. Hoyt: Happy birthday, Grandpa Heinlein!
Few other practitioners of the speculative have had such a profound and lasting impact. My authorial lineage is through Niven and Pournelle, whose own authorial lineage is through Heinlein, and I’ve met countless fans and fellow authors who all point to R.A.H. as being formative (or transformative) on not just their taste in science fiction, but their entire outlook on life. The way they see the world. And how they conceptualize themselves, as well as our (possible?) future.
I am proud to have been compared to him by my editor at Analog, and I am doubly proud to share space with him at Analog’s “Who’s who” in the field.
I like to think I have — so far — lived up to it.
Though, I confess I did not start out with the end in mind. Is it a sin to admit I did not come of age on Starship Troopers and the famous Juveniles? I knew Heinlein as a venerable name only, when I was a teenager reading Star Trek paperbacks and gently exploring the original SF works of men like W. Michael Gear, Allan Cole & Chris Bunch, and then — serendipitously — Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Who each impressed upon me (via Niven’s anecdotes, stories, and novels) how much R.A.H. had impressed them when they were in their beginnings, and continued to impress them right up until the moment Grandpa Heinlein died.
It’s readily obvious how much Heinlein’s so-called Future History charted the landscape for Niven and Pournelle, who each made it their business to build Future Histories of their own. Niven in particular wowed me — and I was 25 years late to the party! — with his interwoven short fiction pieces which all cleverly interlocked to one degree or another, spanning the Known Space continuum which I grew to admire a great deal. And eventually was able to participate in, via the Man-Kzin Wars books.
I wonder at times if R.A.H. understood (before his death) how powerfully he steered the field of speculative storytelling, just through force of vision? It’s been decades, now, and there are hundreds — maybe thousands? — of men and women like me, who can point to their own work and describe the subtle (and not so subtle!) impact Heinlein’s had on ours. Either directly or obliquely. In many respects Heinlein set a standard which has yet to be matched. And while some modern genre sensibilities protest that Heinlein is outdated or, worse yet, merely a dead old white hetero cis man, somehow this guy keeps speaking to people. Generation upon generation.
And that’s a good thing. We need to believe that our destiny is the stars. Having seen the wretchedness that is people attempting to make utopias on Earth, we want something better. Bigger. Bolder. Striding mightily from world to world, sun to sun. Meeting every challenge, and besting it. Never being ashamed of what we are, nor shying from what we might become. That’s the spirit which ruled much of meaningful science fiction for decades, and though the Woke religion has attempting to isolate Campbell’s influence and reduce Heinlein’s footprint, Grandpa’s footprint is so wide and so deep it cannot possibly be filled in, nor paved over.
Much as J.R.R. Tolkien’s can never be diminished, nor erased.
Nor should they ever be.