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The Robert Heinlein Interview and Other Heinleiniana [Paperback]

J. Neil Schulman , Brad Linaweaver
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 1999
In 1975, Robert A. Heinlein was sixty-six, at the height of his literary career; J. Neil Schulman was twenty and hadn't yet started his first novel. Because he was looking for a way to meet his idol, Schulman wangled an assignment from the New York Daily News--at the time the largest circulation newspaper in the U.S.--to interview Heinlein for its Sunday Book Supplement. The resulting taped interview lasted three-and-a-half hours. This turned out to be the longest interview Heinlein ever granted, and the only one in which he talked freely and extensively about his personal philosophy and ideology.

"The Robert Heinlein Interview" contains Heinlein you won't find anywhere else--even in Heinlein's own "Expanded Universe." If you wnat to know what Heinlein had to say about UFO's, life after death, epistemology, or libertarianism, this interview is the only source available.

Also included in this collection are articles, reviews, and letters that J. Neil Schulman wrote about Heinlein, including the original article written for The Daily News, about which the Heinleins wrote Schulman that it was, "The best article--in style, content, and accuracy--of the many, many written about him over the years."

This book is must-reading for any serious student of Heinlein, or any reader seeking to know him better.


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Review

Helps put the great master’s work and life in context, to see the magnitude and beauty of Heinlein’s accomplishments. -- Stephan Kinsella, GEnie Science Fiction and Fantasy RoundTable

The interview with RAH is the crown jewel of the book. Worth reading, worth rereading, worth keeping to read again." -- Darryl Kenning, Reading For Pleasure

This is the longest interview Robert ever gave. Should be on the shelves of everyone interested in science fiction. -- Virginia Heinlein, editor, Grumbles from the Grave

From the Publisher

Our Dutch Uncle

Foreword by Brad Linaweaver

"He is in our heads." So writes J. Neil Schulman about his hero, Robert A. Heinlein. My friend of thirty years, Bill Ritch, has used the same phrase as long as I’ve known him. But just who is the "our?" Do Neil and Bill mean the community of science fiction professionals? Do they mean the fans? I think not.

The "our" refers to an area where two special interests meet: science fiction and libertarianism. For science fiction enthusiasts who are not libertarians (the majority), Heinlein is an important figure in the field and an influence on many writers. For libertarians who are not science fiction readers (the majority), Heinlein is an interesting footnote in the literature of liberty. But for those of us who combine these two passions and have optimism in the future, Robert Anson Heinlein is God.

We have needed this book for a very long time. As Mrs. Heinlein says in her endorsement, this interview will appeal both to readers of science fiction and to libertarians. But for those of us who burn for technological marvels and want freedom to enjoy them instead of being slaves to a technocratic Big Brother, Heinlein created the blueprint that may get us to a better world. Not Utopia, because he taught us that

The Robert A. Heinlein Interview and Other Heinleiniana such a dream truly is nowhere. A better world, on the other hand, is not impossible. It is simply hard to achieve.

When he died, the larger world paid attention to his impact on us; yes, on those of us who take The Moon is a Harsh Mistress seriously! As I wrote in New Libertarian, the Associated Press mentioned his libertarianism.

The science fiction press did its best to ignore the same thing. I was annoyed at the time. Now I see that the SF world was trying to do him a favor by ignoring his politics. They gave him a vacation from their usual slanders and libels.

Now with the Hollywood blockbuster of Starship Troopers, the SF community is back to normal; back to calling Heinlein a fascist. And what of his defenders? They know full well that the limited government model of liberty is every bit as objectionable to today’s totalitarians as is any anarchy. Those who call Heinlein a fascist know that they are lying. Those who deny Heinlein’s libertarianism from the other direction know they are lying, too.

In this, the best interview with Heinlein, Neil Schulman inspired the following comment from his hero: "I would say that my position is not too far from that of Ayn Rand; that I would like to see government reduced to no more than internal police and courts, external armed forces — with the other matters handled otherwise. I’m sick of the way the government sticks its nose into everything, now." Also: "The justification for free enterprise is that it’s free."

There is only one kind of mentality in this sorry world that describes such expressions of American individualism as fascist: the Marxist mind. That this discredited mode of thought dominates science fiction criticism is no surprise. It still holds sway in New York and Hollywood. It may be finished in Moscow but it’s doing fine at Harvard and Yale.

That is why we need this book. Robert A. Heinlein is our Dutch Uncle. Maybe the American family is falling apart for lack of decent father figures but at least we still have the voice of one sane man who tells us to be the best we can be and expects even more than an Army recruitment ad. (Besides, he’s Navy!)

The United States of America beat its greatest enemies of the century. Heinlein was there in the fight against fascism (and its virulent mutant form of Nazism) as well as in the 75-year-long struggle against Soviet Communism. We defeated these monsters and now our reward seems to be domestic tyranny at the hands of our worst elements, true parasites of the soul.

Naturally such people cannot stand the work of Robert A. Heinlein. Naturally they accuse the man of propagating what is actually their own evils.

The trouble for them is that Heinlein won’t go away. They can’t let him go away. The kind of totalitarian who gravitates to the arts needs to steal from somewhere— even from our Dutch Uncle, who was a superb entertainer. But they make sure to leave out his philosophy.

Buy multiple copies! Tell your friends! This one book will answer for all time what Heinlein’s positions really were.

The answers are not good for the enemies of freedom.

December 27, 1998


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Spend your money on RAH's works instead Dec 30 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I consider Robert Heinlein one of the great moral and intellectual guides in my life. His science fiction and essays were guideposts as I grew up. However, I can't recommend J. Neil Schulman's compilation of his interactions with RAH.
The book is rife with typos and is printed in a typeface big enough to qualify for a "Large Print Edition," stamp. ... I should have realized the amateur quality of the publication from the cover photo: a snapshot taken in dim light without a flash. The publisher couldn't even make the effort to color-correct the picture.
Most of the content is Schulman name-dropping and pushing a Libertarian agenda. Not that Libertarianism is a bad thing, it's just Schulman harps on it relentlessly. The foreword by Brad Linaweaver, another flaming Libertarian, intimates that Schulman is a master author, only reined in by Organized Media because of his hard-hitting, challenging, Libertarian-based efforts. If the work in this book is any indication of Schulman's other writing, it isn't a Libertarian stance that's holding him back, it's talent.
The Q&A interview between Schulman and RAH show, to an embarrassingly degree, how shallow Schulman's questions were. Many read like something Comic Book Guy from "The Simpson's" would ask. Granted, Schulman was in his early 20s when he conducted the interview, but most of the interview devolves down to political discussions with a tolerant old man showing a vertically-educated young turk how to think beyond his narrow outlook.
Sadly, you won't get much insight into RAH's thoughts on writing or his creative process; Schulman's too busy asking RAH what he thinks life will be like in a 24th Century inhabited by Lazarus Long.
Spend your money on RAH's own works and you'll get a much better idea of what the man was like and what he thought.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An historical record of an extraordianry writer. May 25 2002
By Paul
Format:Paperback
This book contains an interview with the great American writer Robert A. Heinlein conducted in the early 1970s when Heinlein was under attack by literary acedemia for being a fascist militarist. It's obvious from the interview that Heinlein believed in a strong VOLUNTEER military, but that he was at his very core a constitutionalist who dearly loved freedom and fervently opposed all forms of slavery.
In the decades since, it has become much more common to label Heinlein as a libertarian. But back in that part of the 20th century, Heinlein risked a lot by admitting to being a libertarian (rather than a conservative, which light readers might have assumed). He lost support on the Right and gained little on the Left from the admission. In light of that, The Heinlein Interview is an historical record of a shift -- not only in Heinlein's politics, but that of the American nation.
Heinlein has given interviews before and since on the subject of writing, or what his favorite book is, or whether America should go back to the Moon. But this was the first (and, as far as I've seen, the most in-depth) discussion Heinlein has ever allowed in print concerning his very deeply held political beliefs. This should be a boon to biographers and the curious alike.
The rest of the book consists of miscellaneous exchanges (the "Heinleiniana" of the title) between Heinlein and J. Neil Schulman, an award-winning author in his own right (Alongside Night and The Rainbow Cadenza are two very good novels). It's interesting to read along as the callow Schulman grows into a mature writer and thinker under the tutelage of the patient and understanding Obi-Wan Heinlein.
I liked reading this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential for Heinlein Fans July 20 2003
Format:Paperback
Obviously any Heinlein fanatic like myself should own this book. The interview is very interesting and adds some insight to what Heinlein was really like. The draw back is, in both the filler material and to some extent the interview, Schulman has a political axe to grind. This detracted from the interview and other material in the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable for Heinlein Afficionados May 17 2003
Format:Paperback
The more Heinlein you read, the more you must read. Inevitably, your curiosity about who he was and how he became one of the world's most extraordinary writers begins to eat at your intelligence. Incredibly, J. Neil Schulman, a mere boy at the time, was able to gain Heinlein's complete confidence and trust. This text of the interview Schulman was able to arrange with Heinlein will answer a thousand questions for you. Schulman was as prepared to interview the great man as any person could have possibly been. Any consideration of Heinlein's life and work will be incomplete without including this small in size, but gigantic in significance, look into the mind of Heinlein, whose genius will only be regarded as greater with every passing year. The author, Schulman, went on to become a terrific science fiction writer himself, winning two Prometheus awards of his own.
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