|Alexei Panshin's The Abyss of
When I finished writing Heinlein in Dimension in 1965, I believed that I'd had my say on the subject, and turned to other things. With the exception of a review of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, which became part of Heinlein in Dimension when it was published as a book in 1968, I wrote nothing about Robert Heinlein's fiction for almost eight years, from 1965 to 1973.
I wrote three Anthony Villiers novels during that time, as well as a fantasy novel with my wife Cory. I wrote book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and a regular column on science fiction for Fantastic Stories.
I also had a couple of tries at writing books about science fiction. One manuscript was shelved by the publisher after a change in editors and was never heard of again. The other was published in the Fantastic column as I was writing it, and then eventually as a book in Italy under the title Mondi Interiori.
Three things brought me around to writing about Heinlein again.
First was that it seemed to me that a good deal more remained to be said about his fiction. I'd always thought of Heinlein in Dimension as the start of a conversation. The basic work the book did was to set Heinlein's stories in order and present an initial discussion of each of them. Beyond that, it identified some of the continuing issues that might usefully be talked about in his writing such as sex, power relationships and philosophy.
It always seemed appropriate to me that the cover of Heinlein in Dimension should be a swipe from a Clifford Geary illustration in Heinlein's second juvenile novel, Space Cadet. I looked on my book as a first word and not as a final word. I expected other people to move the discussion on farther.
But after eight years, that hadn't begun to happen. And the questions that I'd raised about Heinlein's stories in the course of writing Heinlein in Dimension continued to niggle at me.
Second, in 1968 Heinlein established an archive of his manuscripts and papers at the University of California at Santa Cruz. I first learned of the existence of the collection when a fan named Paul Crawford wrote about his initial visit to the archive in the February 1970 issue of the leading SF fanzine, Science Fiction Review.
Crawford said that Heinlein's manuscripts were accompanied by inventory sheets which had to be "as interesting to any serious Heinlein fan as anything he's written. Besides listing the manuscripts donated, [they contain] comments on many of the works, relating circumstances and anecdotes surrounding their writing, as well as bibliographic information concerning dates of writing and sale, working titles, and the like."
That certainly grabbed my attention. I could only think that if I'd had a resource like that available to me, it would have been a tremendous aid in writing Heinlein in Dimension.
And then, also in 1970, four years after The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein published a new long novel, I Will Fear No Evil -- a story that had multiple persons taking up residence in one body. The book was completely unlike anything he'd written before.
It appeared that James Blish had been right in indicating that Heinlein was a moving target ready to have a laugh at anyone who thought they had a fix on him, and that I'd also been correct to suggest at the conclusion of HiD that Heinlein might still have further changes ahead of him as a storywriter.
Unresolved questions still in need of answer, relevant information available for the first time, and new work to be discussed....
It seemed that there might still be more for me to say about Heinlein.
I was finally moved to try to say it when I saw a publisher's ad early in 1973 proclaiming that a new Heinlein novel was scheduled for publication in May, his longest book yet. It was to span centuries and be called Time Enough for Love.
What would this book be like?
What should it be like?
What would be necessary for this book to be a success, even a masterpiece? And what might prevent it?
I'd always thought that one limitation of Heinlein in Dimension was that it was a look at Heinlein in bits and pieces. If I was going to have another go at writing about Heinlein's fiction, I wanted to try discussing the course and direction of his work as a whole. One way to do it was to treat all the fiction he'd previously written as predicate to this moment and this book -- as it surely was for Heinlein -- and to write the piece as an overview and anticipation.
So in February 1973 -- with Cory's assistance -- I sat down to apply everything I knew about Heinlein, about science fiction, and about storywriting to a speculative essay considering the forthcoming book in light of the stories Heinlein had previously written and the business they'd left unfinished.
The essay was long but came fast. We completed it before the end of the month. It was called "Time Enough for Love," the same as Heinlein's novel.
I thought of it as an experiment in science fiction criticism -- an attempt to produce a thoughtpiece on SF which was itself like a science fiction story in taking into account known facts in order to speculate about the future.
As a further blurring of the boundary between SF stories and SF criticism, while I was in the process of working on "Time Enough for Love," I had a sudden insight into the underlying fictional commonality of three apparently very different Heinlein stories -- "They," "By His Bootstraps" and "Universe." I broke away from the essay and wrote a story overnight about a human foundling raised by giant blue chipmunks in the basement of a lost starship -- which was also a commentary on Heinlein's stories and their significance.
After we'd finished "Time Enough for Love," I sent a copy of the essay to Heinlein.
He never replied.
On the other hand, he did read the essay and make comments on it.
In fact, he made marks all over the manuscript, sometimes contradicting what we said, sometimes correcting facts, frequently addressing remarks to me personally. He even went tsk-tsk over a couple of split infinitives.
I recently saw those annotations for the first time more than thirty-five years after they were made.
Heinlein never addressed the meaning of the essay as a whole. The closest that he came to dealing with what the piece was and did was one remark near the end characterizing it as a book review and calling it into question as premature. Instead, what he wrote had more the nature of a series of instant retorts in a game of Sez You.
There were times when he was almost friendly in a taunting way: "P, for once you almost understand. Keep on trying, mon enfant -- but quit breaking the rules."
He could also be insulting and dismissive. When I said in the essay that it was necessary to understand mysticism in order to understand Heinlein, Heinlein wrote in the margin, "Panshin, you never will. You're a third-rater. A cull."
He had a laugh at my ignorance because my commentary was based on dates of publication, and not date of composition, and that had misled me about a few stories. If I had seen the opus numbers in his archive, I would have known better. But I would never see them: "You don't have the clearance for it." (emphasis his)
What a double-bind -- scorned by Heinlein for lacking information that Heinlein was determined that I shouldn't have access to.
Some of the things he had to say I found provocative.
He surprised me by informing me that "They" and "By His Bootstraps" were not tragic, as they seemed to be, but were actually comedies. In regard to "'All You Zombies,'" which ends with what sounds like a cry of the heart, he wrote, "P, you can't recognize a comedy when you see one. This one is my ultimate jape with pseudo-paradoxes."
He also declared that John W. Campbell "loused up every manuscript he touched."
At one point he got angry and threatened me. In the course of the essay I'd said that in 1942 a magazine editor declared that Heinlein's alter ego Lyle Monroe and his wife believed themselves to have an almost telepathic rapport. Heinlein wrote, "Either he lied or you did." And he also said, "Publish this and I'll see you in court."
In fact I'd done no more than repeat what the editor had printed thirty years before. I don't have the magazine available to check today, but I believe it was the February 1942 issue of Future, edited by Robert Lowndes, which contained the Lyle Monroe story "'My Object All Sublime,'" clumsily illustrated by a young Damon Knight. Perhaps because this was one of his so-called "stinkeroos" -- so bad that he would never allow it to be reprinted -- Heinlein failed to look closely at the magazine when the story was published and missed Lowndes' comment at the time. Why he considered it a "lie" I have no idea.
Despite Heinlein's threat of seeing me in court if I should publish this -- which, of course, I was unaware of -- I did publish it, and once again, as with Heinlein in Dimension, Heinlein apparently thought better of bringing a suit against me for having done it.
The most frequent comment that he made was "not fair use," usually abbreviated as "N.F.U." Time and again Heinlein thought I'd broken the rules by quoting from his stories excessively. And I must admit it's true that I'd never been concerned with keeping an exact count of the number of words I quoted in discussing his stories, but only with trying to represent them accurately.
He also didn't like the fact that endings of stories were given away, which is to say that the endings of his stories were discussed.
One other protest he made more than once was that I wrote overconfidently, as though I'd been able to read his mind. And I can see that if Heinlein was accustomed to work from a hidden hand, so that both he himself and the secrets of his storytelling magic were unknowns -- and that was just the way he wanted it -- then someone writing with apparent confidence about what he'd done and why he'd done it and about what he might have done and why he should or shouldn't have done it could make him feel as though his thoughts were being spied upon.
Strange to hear from a man whose stock in trade was the appearance of confident omniscience.
And then as the essay was nearing its end, Heinlein finally revealed a major beef that he had with me -- even though it had nothing to do with this essay. Three times over he indicated that he felt offended by my having labeled him a fascist.
He referred to Heinlein in Dimension -- which six months later he would declare he had not read -- where I'd said that I used to think he was a fascist but did no longer.
(In fact, what I'd actually written in Heinlein in Dimension was that I used to think Heinlein was an authoritarian but did no longer. To me, "authoritarian" is a much broader and more indefinite category than "fascist," but Heinlein apparently believed that by saying one I really meant the other.)
Heinlein also repeated a story he'd been told by Tom Scortia that at a fan meeting I had read aloud from Starship Troopers -- no less than a quote from "The Star-Spangled Banner," which I'd failed to recognize as such -- and had offered this as evidence that Heinlein was a fascist.
If Heinlein had asked me directly I could have told him that no part of this was true. No fan meeting readings of any kind, let alone from Starship Troopers. No quotation of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and failure to recognize it as such. And no indictment of Heinlein as a fascist.
Quite the opposite, in fact. In the same February 1970 issue of Science Fiction Review in which Paul Crawford's account of the Heinlein Archive appeared, I'd written to defend Heinlein when he was called a fascist by Austrian critic Franz Rottensteiner.
But Heinlein never tested his grievance by sending me the comments he'd addressed to me and allowing me to know that he felt affronted.
When Heinlein finally came to the point in the essay where we had finished going over his past work and were ready to talk about his forthcoming novel, his resistance increased. There he wrote: "From here on to the end, you are merely speculating about a book you have not read. Pee my boy, can't you even wait four months to review a book you have never read?"
Merely speculating! What an odd protest for someone who wanted to change the name "science fiction" to "speculative fiction."
Heinlein might have a point if the essay that he'd been reading and commenting on was in fact a book review, and if everything in the piece was a setup by us so we could then condemn a book we hadn't read before it was even published.
On the other hand, if the essay wasn't a premature book review after all, but rather a meditation on Heinlein's long-standing issues and how they might be resolved, then he wasn't right. He was blocking something.
The answer lies in those final speculative pages.
As things turned out the novel Time Enough for Love wasn't published in May 1973, but in June.
Because of its length, the essay "Time Enough for Love" would not be published for three more years.
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