Sunday, September 1, 2013

Do As I Say, Not As I Don't

I can see that one major factor in my procrastination is that I start reading something interesting on the Internet, and that leads to another related something interesting, and so on.  If I read print, there's no click-through, so reading a book may fill me with the desire to log into Blogger and start writing a blog post.  I need to make myself go directly from the book to Create Post, but it's often difficult to write a post without links.  I must work on this.

Meanwhile, I'm going to pass along a lovely aside from a 1960 discussion of Robert A. Heinlein's notorious novel Starship Troopers.  It was written by another sf writer, Poul Anderson.  Anderson noted that Heinlein had always been a writer of ideas as much as of science fiction, and indeed wrote a kind of philosophical fiction -- which Anderson (and I) thought was a good thing to do.  He contrasted this aspect of Heinlein with another well-known sf writer of the period.  Playing around with ideas was, Anderson said, a major part of Heinlein's work:
Infinitely more so than, say, Bradbury, who's a nice guy and a talented writer but whose philosophy is epitomized in his belief that the highest foreseeable use for technology is the construction of electric grandmothers.
Did Bradbury ever explicitly declare such a belief?  I don't know.  But Anderson's quip sums up very well, I think, Bradbury's bucolic-nostalgic-Norman-Rockwell-goes-to-Mars aspect.  Bradbury had his virtues, and I liked his work very much for a few years as a kid, but he's not by any means an intellectual writer.  That is one reason why Fahrenheit 451 doesn't work: he couldn't keep his agenda -- and it was a simple one: books good! censorship bad! -- straight for any length of time.  For all my disagreements with it, Heinlein's work continues to give me something to argue with constructively: that is to say, he wrote about things that matter and still matter, which people should try to think about clearly and correctly.  Some of his apologists will try the Limbaugh-esque "Hey, I'm just an entertainer, not a politician" line in his defense, but though Heinlein himself used it sometimes, I can't believe that he didn't agree that these things were important and should be discussed, even in fiction.

I notice, by the way, as I read more of Anderson's piece on Starship Troopers, that I agree with his "politics" -- his views on human nature and society, I mean -- much more than I'd have expected.  He didn't do so well when he confronted feminist sf fans and writers later in the same decade, but he was good here.