Robert Heinlein

I was thinking about Robert Heinlein earlier today.
Here’s a great quote that put my life in perspective when I heard it:

A human being should be able to:

  1. change a diaper,
  2. plan an invasion,
  3. butcher a hog,
  4. conn a ship,
  5. design a building,
  6. write a sonnet,
  7. balance accounts,
  8. build a wall,
  9. set a bone,
  10. comfort the dying,
  11. take orders,
  12. give orders,
  13. cooperate,
  14. act alone,
  15. solve equations,
  16. analyze a new problem,
  17. pitch manure,
  18. program a computer,
  19. cook a tasty meal,
  20. fight efficiently,
  21. die gallantly.

“Specialization is for insects.” - Robert A. Heinlein

If I were to grade myself by that standard, my score is 17/21
(Plus one point if I can substitute a chicken, fish or rabbit for the hog.)

Note that no living human can earn a perfect score!

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I’ve read about everything that Heinlein wrote…and some that he didn’t (Spider Robinson finished an unwritten novel from notes/outlines that Heinlein left behind).

I think I could do most everything on the list, but have never actually done #2, 4*, 5**, 6, 20*** or 21.

    • I’ve steered and set sails on a 30 ft sailboat, not sure if that counts as a “ship”.
      ** - seems simple enough, being a CAD jockey and all…but never tried to fully navigate the IBC or other standards.
      *** - unless paintball or other sports counts, and debate would ensue over the term “efficiently”.

I didn’t give myself a point for #20 despite all my years in Karate (I have 2 left feet) and once capturing the flag in paintball. I take “efficiently” to mean that you can “live to fight another day”. In all of the above experiences I took too many blows.

No living human can pass #21.

I re-read Time Enough For Love (where that list came from) and all the earlier stuff every year. I can’t handle the multi-verse crap he wrote the last few years of his life. I read it all once and promised myself I’d not do that again. I love the rest of them (even the “kids” books, don’t know what makes “Have Spacesuit Will Travel” or “Starship Troopers” kids books).

I found a new (to me) series from 2018 that purports to have all the Libertarian bent the Heinlein showed in Moon is a Harsh Mistress, just found it an hour ago, I’ll let you know if it lives up to the hype. See it at

MIaHM was a discussion about libertarianism, not just a one-sided exaltation of it. Also, meritocracy and the way charity can be used to apply moral judgement - lots of themes like this in the whole series of books. Make sure to note some places where characters behave much like you would expect the aristocratic southern USA landowners and their purported superiority to others, and who pushes back against that.
Gwen pushed back and at times did not tolerate the more egregious outbursts from Campbell. The “air should be free” debate also comes to mind.
Sorry, Cat Who Walks Through Walls comes to mind more easily. At first, typing I thought Gwen and Campbell were in MIaHM but then realized I had them mixed up. I meant Mike and Hazel. 50% wrong… :slight_smile:

I read the series and prequels by Travis J.I. Corcoran in a couple of days, and while the books have some issues, both full-length books and both short stories were quite good and certainly in the vein of the Heinlein books.

I had never read a Heinlein book before reading this thread, so I got an e-book called “I WILL FEAR NO EVIL” by Robert Heinlein. It is one of the most boring books I think I have ever read. I’m having a hell of a time getting though it. Perhaps it is not one of his best, but I am not encouraged to buy another.


Well somebody liked it - that story may have served as inspiration to John Varley’s Steel Beach.
A far better introduction to Heinlein for many people would be, of course, Stranger in a Strange Land. Sorry you didn’t come across that one, first.

Thanks @SparWeb. I may try another in time, but I’m still struggling to get through this one.

BA Sorry to hear about that. I’m always amazed by this stuff. It’s like professional movie reviews or book reviews, if those clowns think a book or movie are “outstanding” or any other synonym there’s a 96% chance the book or movie is a complete dog, a walk-out looser! Reviewers gush over Heinlein but yuck and meh. His characters are often adolescent brained to the point of painful. Ever tried any OLD Niven. (Avoid the ghost written new stuff like it’s Covid)

Well I guess my literary tastes are not very sophisticated. I like a good mystery story. David Baldacci writes a good story which keeps me glued to the book until it’s finished. I’m not very interested in reading weird stuff, so Margaret Atwood and Robert Heinlein, although held in awe by most critics, are not my favourite authors.