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I googled "Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough For Love sick" and your blog entry was at the top. I am so proud. What a sick, sick man. Lewis Carroll had a thing for photographing young female nudes. In other words, it is certainly going around, isn't it? Don't forget the Old Testament has some father/daughter arrangements that are pretty sick, too.

70's RAH fan

Well I'll admit that you've got me thinking.Been a good 25 years since I read this as a young man and thoroughly enjoyed it.You have a few valid points,if my memory serves,but I think 'sick fuck' is maybe a little reactionary of you.Remember when this was written and what s/f is about.If he had served up ideals that matched completely with 'Mr & Mrs Jones' then would you have paid as much attention?I suspect possibly not.You are correct in so much that he was certainly a chauvanist but if we crucified every on of them,well...You ever seen the end scenes of Spartacus?On the back of what I've said I'm going to read TEFL again but remember,alot of Heinlein's work involved strong relationship themes,sometimes odd ones.Important to focus on something here,all his works are fiction.By your thinking Brett Easton Ellis is a closet psychopathic killer,so on and so forth.I'm sure your experiences throughout life have created a steep and sometimes unpleasant curve and I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and re-read it as I say,but please remember how our experience shapes our reactions to stimuli of all sorts and indeed,how we shape our stories accordingly.

fragile industries

Hi 70’s --

We agree more than we disagree, actually. If you’ll note the title of my next post, I did repent my tone -- I was under the influence of swine flu when I wrote this, and explain there why fever and crankiness sent me over the top. So I full marks to you for recognizing that I could have presented a more moderate critique. But even at lower volume, I still think Heinlein was a bit bent and the book remains disturbing.

I left the more inflammatory phrasing here on my blog partly because I was hoping for a dialogue on this point. (I miss my book club!)

Thank you for explaining your view of TEFL -- I also believe that a book should stand on its own merits and not the author’s weaknesses. (I even defended “A Million Little Pieces” as a wonderfully written and absorbing work, regardless of authorial deception, regardless of classification as memoir or fiction.) However, to me TEFL is lacking in structure, plot development, character … and I just should have put it down once I saw that, I had hundreds of pages ahead of me.

If that were the book’s only failings, it would just be a disappointing and self-indulgent misstep from an otherwise notable and inventive sci-fi author.

I also agree with you that psychoanalysis of an author based only on the text of his work is a dangerous enterprise, a fine line with fallacy on one side and slander on the other. No, the author of “American Psycho” is probably not himself a psychopathic killer in actuality or fantasy. Ellis exercised his skill as a writer to present a fully-formed and frightening character far from his own. Humbert Humbert should not be taken as a template of Nabokov’s own personality or sex life; ultimately Humbert is revealed as a lonely wretch. And so on.

However, as I noted above, in the reading of TEFL it became clear that RAH was speaking through the voice of Lazarus Long. So many of Long’s viewpoints mesh with RAH’s own, and if you are a RAH fan, you know about his personal evolution of divergent political and social beliefs. Long is presented as a loveably cranky superman, and Long is shown as the victor in all the extended passages of debate and pseudo-philosophy on government, family structure and male and female human nature. RAH is not subtle -- ultimately all the sympathetic characters sign on to Long’s worldview, and there is not a whit of irony, no nod or wink to the reader to indicate that Long might have any flaws other than an overweening ego (which is ultimately found to be justified -- he is superman, after all.) It would be a huge departure for RAH to write a central, victorious character who was not, at bottom, a good guy. RAH was not known (as is Ellis and Nabokov) to present fully-fleshed anti-heroes. There are ways to do that as an author, and on the off-chance that he sought this level of gritty realism, this degree of a cautionary tale, he failed spectacularly. No, I believe that RAH found the surface of Long’s character (there is little else) to be noble and true.

Hence my conclusion about the author. It seems inescapable given the book’s primary focus on sex (the title calls it “love,” and love is there, but why does it always depend on sexual completion?) -- and the bombastic repetition of the argument that all’s fair regardless of age and degrees of cosanguity -- combined with Lazarus Long’s clear status as RAH’s alter ego. Frankly, RAH’s imaginary or actual sex life is of no consequence to anyone. But a 800+ page book devoted to the defense of incest, among other things, is disturbing and disappointing from any author. I’m not a book burner, leave it on the shelf, but put it next to other polemics of indefensible positions, like DeSade or The Turner Diaries (the novel beloved by white supremacists).

I will be interested in what you think after a re-reading. If you can find a bright line between RAH and Long in the book, a point where it’s clear that RAH is simply following the “what if” of science fiction to posit a strange future, please let me know.


Discuss Vernon A Rosario's (1997) suggestion that the labeling of any
sexual identity as immoral or criminal is a matter of religious,
cultural and legal convention, not transcendental 'naturalness'.
Answer has to be around 1/2-1 page, not too long though

Fragile Industries

I agree with Rosario with this caveat: he speaks of sexual IDENTITY, not behavior. I think this word begs the question of whether there is identity without behavior. I can claim to be an identified vampire, and without behavior, there is no morality or criminality that can attach judged by any criteria, whether religious, cultural and legal, or the weirdly fuzzy term "transcendental 'naturalness'." I think most rational people would agree. So, Rosario, it's a pretty empty suggestion.

I know there are those who would claim that even without behavior, there are those who would label a sexual identity (alone, without behavior) as immoral or criminal by any standard. Those people are irrational and to be avoided.

The tough nut is behavior. And I'm wildy nonjudgmental there as well. But you didn't ask that question.

Greg Hodgkins

I'm reading TEFL for the first time since 1974--actually re-reading all of RAH's books-- and am appalled by the constant themes of Adult-Child love that appear in Door Into Summer, Farnham's Freehold, To Sail Beyond The Sunset,NUmber of The Beast and TEFL. I agree for the most part in what you have said and really believe that RAH thought of himself as a revolutionary free thinker and free love guru while engendering the typical patriarchal views of sexual relationships. Most of RAH's novels after 1967 seem to be polemics of one sort another with bare bones plotting and character development mainly set up to be soap boxes for his various political and philosophical screeds. However, he is still my favorite SF writer. Thanks for your insights.

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