I’m rereading The World Beyond the Hill (1989) by Alexei and Cory Panshin. It’s a brilliant, Hugo award-winning work (1990), that chronicles the Golden Age of Astounding Science-Fiction by focusing on John W. Campbell, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and A. E. Van Vogt. If that sounds similar to Alec Nevala-Lee’s recent Hugo award-nominated book Astounding you’d be right. But each book tells a very different story covering the same history. Nevala-Lee felt L. Ron Hubbard was the big fourth rather than Van Vogt. The Panshins work to explain science fiction’s literary evolution in a historical context leaving you feeling their book is primary about science fiction. Whereas Nevala-Lee works to describe the psychology of the men who wrote this science fiction, leaving you feeling its a biography of these men. You need to read both books to get the big picture.
I’ve been a Heinlein fan since I was 12, but mostly for the work he wrote in the 1950s. Rereading The World Beyond the Hill inspires me to study Heinlein’s stories from the 1940s. The Panshins often point out there were contextual differences between the magazine publications and book publications, sometimes reflecting changes in Heinlein’s personal philosophy. The Panshins make a great case that Heinlein was doing truly groundbreaking SF writing in the 1940s that reshaped the genre. And they explain how John W. Campbell worked with Heinlein, Asimov, and Van Vogt to push science fiction in new directions.
I worry that the current attacks on Campbell’s many faults forget to consider his virtues. I believe anyone who vilifies Campbell because of the Nevala-Lee’s book should also give Campbell a fair shake by reading The World Beyond the Hill. I’m less concerned with the biographies of these men than how science fiction developed. After I finish rereading The World Beyond the Hill I plan to read The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein by Farah Mendlesohn.
The Panshins made a great case for how exciting science fiction was during the early years of Campbell’s editorship, especially regarding Heinlein. Their descriptions of Heinlein’s early stories reveal far more than I got when I read them. I’ve decided they deserve a close rereading.
The Panshins quote from Heinlein’s July 1941 Guest of Honor speech at the third Worldcon in Denver:
There won’t always be an England—nor a Germany, nor a United States, nor a Baptist Church, nor monogamy, nor the Democratic Party, nor the modesty tabu, nor the superiority of the white race, nor aeroplanes—they will go—nor automobiles—they’ll be gone, we’ll see them go. Any custom, technique, institution, belief, or social structure that we see around us today will change, will pass, and most of them we will see change and pass.
Heinlein worked to illustrate that in his early stories, especially the ones he called Future History stories. Later on Heinlein would admit his particular extrapolations were wrong, but I believe the essence of science fiction is the attempt to imagine such change.
As I read these books about Heinlein I want to study his development by rereading the stories as they were published. I looked around for a convenient list of them in chronological order but didn’t find any that I liked. So I made one.
Just looking at this list shows how productive Heinlein was in the 1940s, especially 1941.
|“If This Goes On –” p1||1940-02||Astounding|
|“If This Goes On –” p2||1940-03||Astounding|
|“Successful Operation”||1940-Spring||Futuria Fantasia as “Heil!”|
|“Let There Be Light”||1940-05||Super Science Stories|
|“The Roads Must Roll”||1940-06||Astounding|
|“Sixth Column” p1||1941-01||Astounding|
|“Sixth Column” p2||1941-02||Astounding|
|“Sixth Column” p3||1941-03||Astounding|
|“–And He Built a Crooked House”||1941-02||Astounding|
|“Logic of Empire”||1941-03||Astounding|
|“Beyond Doubt”||1941-04||Astonishing Stories|
|“–We Also Walk Dogs”||1941-07||Astounding|
|“Methuselah’s Children” p1||1941-07||Astounding|
|“Methuselah’s Children” p2||1941-08||Astounding|
|“Methuselah’s Children” p3||1941-09||Astounding|
|“Lost Legacy” (excerpt)||1941-08||Super Science Novels Magazine|
|“By His Bootstraps”||1941-10||Astounding|
|“Lost Legacy”||1941-11||Super Science Stories|
|“My Object All Sublime”||1942-02||Future combined with Science Fiction|
|“Pied Piper”||1942-03||Astonishing Stories|
|“Beyond This Horizon” p1||1942-04||Astounding|
|“Beyond This Horizon” p2||1942-05||Astounding|
|“The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag||1942-10||Unknown Worlds|
|“The Green Hills of Earth”||1947-02-08||Saturday Evening Post|
|“Space Jockey”||1947-04-26||Saturday Evening Post|
|“Columbus Was a Dope”||1947-05||Startling Stories|
|“It’s Great to Be Back”||1947-07-26||Saturday Evening Post|
|“Jerry Was a Man”||1947-10||Thrilling Wonder Stories|
|“Water is for Washing”||1947-11||Argosy|
|“The Black Pits of Luna”||1948-01-10||Saturday Evening Post|
|“Gentlemen, Be Seated”||1948-05||Argosy Magazine|
|“Ordeal in Space”||1948-05||Town & Country|
|“Our Fair City”||1949-01||Weird Tales|
|“Nothing Ever Happens on the Moon” p1||1949-04||Boy’s Life|
|“Nothing Ever Happens on the Moon” p2||1949-05||Boy’s Life|
|“Delilah and the Space-Rigger”||1949-12||The Blue Book|
|“The Long Watch”||1949-12||The American Legion Magazine|
|“Farmer in the Sky” p1||1950-08||Boy’s Life|
|“Farmer in the Sky” p2||1950-09||Boy’s Life|
|“Farmer in the Sky” p3||1950-10||Boy’s Life|
|“Farmer in the Sky” p4||1950-11||Boy’s Life|
|“Between Planets” p1||1951-09||The Blue Book|
|“Between Planets” p2||1951-10||The Blue Book|
|“The Puppet Masters” p1||1951-09||Galaxy|
|“The Puppet Masters” p2||1951-10||Galaxy|
|“The Puppet Masters” p3||1951-11||Galaxy|
|“The Year of the Jackpot”||1952-03||Galaxy|
|“The Rolling Stones” p1||1952-09||Boy’s Life as “Tramp Space Ship”|
|“The Rolling Stones” p2||1952-10||Boy’s Life as “Tramp Space Ship”|
|“The Rolling Stones” p3||1952-11||Boy’s Life as “Tramp Space Ship”|
|“Project Nightmare”||1953-04/05||Amazing Stories|
|“The Star Beast” p1||1954-05||F&SF|
|“The Star Beast” p2||1954-06||F&SF|
|“The Star Beast” p3||1954-07||F&SF|
|“Double Star” p1||1956-02||Astounding|
|“Double Star” p2||1956-03||Astounding|
|“Double Star” p3||1956-04||Astounding|
|“The Door Into Summer” p1||1956-10||F&SF|
|“The Door Into Summer” p2||1956-11||F&SF|
|“The Door Into Summer” p3||1956-12||F&SF|
|“The Menace from Earth”||1957-08||F&SF|
|“Citizen of the Galaxy” p1||1957-09||Astounding|
|“Citizen of the Galaxy” p2||1957-10||Astounding|
|“Citizen of the Galaxy” p3||1957-11||Astounding|
|“Citizen of the Galaxy” p4||1957-12||Astounding|
|“The Man Who Traveled in Elephants”||1957-10||Saturn|
|“Tenderfoot in Space” p1||1958-05||Boy’s Life|
|“Tenderfoot in Space” p2||1958-06||Boy’s Life|
|“Tenderfoot in Space” p3||1958-07||Boy’s Life|
|“Have Space Suit-Will Travel” p1||1958-08||F&SF|
|“Have Space Suit-Will Travel” p2||1958-09||F&SF|
|“Have Space Suit-Will Travel” p3||1958-10||F&SF|
|“All You Zombies …”||1959-03||F&SF|
|“Starship Troopers” p1||1959-10||F&SF|
|“Starship Troopers” p2||1959-11||F&SF|
|“Podkayne of Mars” p1||1962-11||If|
|“Podkayne of Mars” p2||1963-01||If|
|“Glory Road” p1||1963-07||F&SF|
|“Glory Road” p2||1963-08||F&SF|
|“Farnham’s Freehold” p1||1964-07||If|
|“Farnham’s Freehold” p2||1964-08||If|
|“Farmham’s Freehold” p3||1964-10||If|
|“The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” p1||1965-12||If|
|“The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” p2||1966-01||If|
|“The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” p3||1966-02||If|
|“The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” p4||1966-03||If|
|“The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” p5||1966-04||If|
|“I Will Fear No Evil” p1||1970-07||Galaxy|
|“I Will Fear No Evil” p2||1970-08/09||Galaxy|
|“I Will Fear No Evil” p3||1970-10/11||Galaxy|
|“I Will Fear No Evil” p4||1970-12||Galaxy|
James Wallace Harris, 11/5/19
4 thoughts on “Heinlein’s Magazine Fiction”
I have to admit my experience of Heinlein is his juveniles and his early short fiction. Especially the stories in Astounding with the Hubert Rogers covers. I read the Panshin many years ago but will have to look it again. I an a big Van Vogt fan so I want to see what they say.
Don’t forget Panshin’s earlier “Heinlein in Dimension”, written from a fan’s point of view but notable for offending Heinlein sufficiently that he completely cut Panshin off socially. Although from all accounts once you got on Heinlein’s bad list it was hard to get off it. Been a long time since I read the book, but my impression of the whole affair was that Heinlein just didn’t like being subjected to analysis.
I bought Heinlein in Dimension back in the 1960s when it came out. That’s the kind of Heinlein fan I am. I’ve read it many times. But it’s short and slight compared to the much more ambitious The World Beyond the Hill. By the way, it is available online:
I’ve followed the Heinlein-Panshin feud for decades. It was still going when the internet began and continued on with alt.fan.heinlein. I always felt Heinlein wasn’t the gentleman he claimed to be when handling Panshin’s indiscretion. Heinlein was old enough to have been more patient with an over-enthused fan. And Heinlein’s ardent fans always took sides of the master they worship, so there were a lot of attacks on Panshin and Heinlein in Dimension. I thought the book was an obvious love letter. And I’m not sure if Heinlein has ever received greater insight into his early work than he does with The World Beyond the Hill.
The same is true for Campbell. The Panshins analyze his work with Astounding in a way that I’ve not seen elsewhere. But then I haven’t read any academic works. Nevala-Lee’s book revealed an abundance of biographical details about these men that’s key to understanding the science fiction they wrote but I think the Panshins is more revealing when it comes to the actual stories.
Campbell and Heinlein worked to give science fiction a purpose that I’m not sure modern readers consider anymore. Science fiction is becoming fairy tales for adults. Campbell and Heinlein wanted it to be a cognitive tool for philosophizing about reality.
Great article. Makes me want to track down Panshin’s book and the Heinlein stories.