Hero of the Day - Robert A. Heinlein "What are the facts? Again and again and again—what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what 'the stars foretell,' avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable 'verdict of history,'—what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your only clue. Get the facts!"   — Lazarus Long

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988), the science fiction writer who showed all the other science fiction writers How To Do It, was all about competence. Facing reality. Getting things done. Moving ahead. Not moping. Complaining was okay, and Heinlein did his share. He had lots of health problems, for one thing. And he didn't always like how things were going in the world, for another thing. But then came optimism.

Heinlein started publishing science fiction a few years after Rand's We the Living first saw print. He could hardly be called a Randian, yet he did recognize in Ayn Rand at least a partially kindred spirit; his classic The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, published in the late 60s, described a sentient computer as the "John Galt" of a lunar revolution against a tyrannical Earth. And as the above quote from the notebooks of Heinlein character Lazarus Long suggests, he was certainly a friend of objectivity as well as of freedom. His later work provides ample evidence he had nothing against sex either. Lots.

While some in the science fiction world sneered at Bob Heinlein as a "conservative," or even a "fascist" (the catch-all phrase used by some lefties to label anyone who believes in personal responsibility), at core the man was as libertarian as they come.

He painted a "future history" in which roads rolled because capitalists willed it, space travel was a private enterprise, and profitable justice was objective justice. He wrote vivid, conversational, snap-crackle-pop prose that plunked you right smack-dab in the middle of the future the way you knew it had to be; a future fought for and won by strong, friendly, resourceful men and women. About a million later-generation sf scribblers worship at the altar of Heinlein, among them libertarians L. Neil Smith and J. Neil Schulman (and Schulman has even published a book-length interview with the Master).

Want to do what Heinlein did? Here are the rules, as enunciated by RAH himself:

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
  4. You must put the work on the market.
  5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

Heinlein was a military man forced to retire for health reasons. Only then, in his thirties, did he pick up his pen professionally. What a break for the rest of us. When we get to the future, we won't be strangers in a strange land. We'll have been there already.

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14 Jan 2009