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... is scheduled as the guest speaker for the 156th meeting of the Karl Hess Club, to convene on June 18, 2007.


 

    Bill Patterson on "Robert A. Heinlein: Centennial Man"
 

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Robert Heinlein's birth.  Among libertarians, Heinlein is most honored for his 1966 novel, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, often cited as providing a vision statement for the modern libertarian movement.  No such thing existed when Heinlein wrote the book, only a renewed interest in a long and proud American tradition of cranks and radicals (us, in short).

But Heinlein was larger than the libertarian movement, and we share him with the rest of the world.  He was pivotal to four 20th century cultural developments: science fiction as a vocabulary for coping in an increasingly technological present while we live in the future; the counterculture that renewed the vital American tradition of social experimentation; the libertarian movement, with its strong minority voice in the liberal values that Heinlein carried forward in everything he did; and the space movement -- the Heinlein estate's entire focus is on a cash prize (modeled on the Orteig Prize that galvanized Lindberg in 1927) for commercial space development.

And that doesn't count Heinlein's minor good works: pioneering the all-volunteer blood donor force in the U.S., and his contribution to the articulation of the Strategic Defense Initiative and the end of the Cold War.

Heinlein's commercial reputation remains strong; all his books remain in print, 20 years after his death.  His reputation in academia is flourishing.  And we will be gathering in a few weeks in Kansas City to commemorate Heinlein. 

In this Centennial year, it's appropriate to celebrate Heinlein's legacy.


 

    About Bill Patterson
 

William H. Patterson, Jr. is a science fiction specialist who enjoys the title, The Heinlein Scholar, bestowed by the Heinlein Prize Trust.  He is founding editor & publisher of The Heinlein Journal since 1997, and was chosen by Virginia Heinlein to write the definitive biography, The Man Who Learned Better: Robert A. Heinlein in Dialogue with His Century.

In 2000 Patterson won the James Branch Cabell Prize for The Heir of James Branch Cabell: The Biography of the Biography of the Life of Manual (A Comedy of Inheritances).  He co-authored The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert Heinlein's Stranger In a Strange Land (2001).