I wanted a project to keep me busy while recovering from hernia surgery. One I could tackle without physical effort. I decided to start rereading the works of Robert A. Heinlein. I had most of Heinlein’s novels and stories and many books about him on my iPhone, either as a Kindle or Audible edition. Plus, I had access to most of the magazines he originally appeared in on my iPad mini. I figured the project might take years, but I could start while my body healed.

I discovered Heinlein in 1964 and he immediately became my favorite storyteller. However, by the end of the 1960s, I began to rebel against his influence. I considered Heinlein a father figure substitute, but he and my father were staunchly for the Vietnam war, and I was just as adamantly against it. My dad died in May of 1970 when I was 18. We weren’t on good terms. And I was becoming more and more disenchanted with my favorite author too, as I read about him that year in the fanzines. Later in 1970, I read I Will Fear No Evil. It was the first Heinlein book I bought new in hardback. I was hugely disappointed. Heinlein no longer even seemed to be the Heinlein I knew, or thought I knew.

By then my favorite science fiction author became Samuel R. Delany, although Philip K. Dick would soon overtake him. Then I really got into Jack Kerouac and began moving away from science fiction. In 1975 I sold my science fiction collection to pay for travel. In 1977, I started work at the university I’d work at until I retired in 2013. I got married in 1978. As I settled into my new grownup life, I returned to reading science fiction, around the time of Neuromancer. I would reread Heinlein occasionally, usually the juveniles, especially when I got sick. They became my comfort reads.

Checking my reading log, which I’ve kept since 1983, I see 63 Heinlein entries. I’ve never really stopped reading Heinlein I guess, always looking for the Heinlein I loved as a teenager. I resonate with certain aspects of Heinlein, the man, and the writer, but there are other aspects about the man, and his work, that turned me off.

I never knew my father because he seldom talked about himself. Maybe he was waiting for me to grow up but he died before I did. I’ve spent decades trying to figure out who he was from the few clues he left. My feelings for my dad have changed many times over the years. I’ve held certain prejudices against Heinlein I developed in late adolescence concurrent with my rebellion against my father that I want to reevaluate. For the Rereading Heinelin project, I’m going to reread Heinlein’s fiction in the order in which it was written, looking for clues to understand Heinlein better, and hopefully, go beyond those prejudices. And I want to examine the charges that some current readers and critics hold against him too.

Preparation for the Rereading Heinlein Project

Reread and Reviewed So Far

  • For Us, The Living (written 1938-39)
  • Life-Line” (1939)
  • Misfit” (1939)
  • “Requiem” (1940)
  • “If This Goes On —” (1940)
  • Successful Operation” (1940)
  • Let There Be Light” (1940)
  • The Roads Must Roll” (1940)
  • “Coventry” (1940)
  • “Blowups Happen” (1940)
  • “The Devil Makes the Law” later “Magic, Inc.” (1940)
  • Sixth Column (1941)
  • “—And He Built a Crooked House” (1941)
  • “Logic of Empire” (1941)
  • “Beyond Doubt” (1941)
  • “They” (1941)
  • “Solution Unsatisfactory” (1941)
  • “Universe” (1941)
  • “—We Also Walk Dogs” (1941)
  • Methuselah’s Children (1941)
  • “Elsewhen” (1941)
  • “Common Sense” (1941)
  • “Lost Legacy” (1941)
  • “My Object All Sublime” (1942)
  • “Goldfish Bowl” (1942)
  • “Pied Piper” (1942)
  • “Waldo” (1942)
  • “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” (1942)
  • Red Planet (1949)
  • … more to come

Older Essays on Heinlein