And Then I Read: THE ROBERT HEINLEIN INTERVIEW

heinleininterview

© J. Neil Schulman.

This self-published on-demand book approaches Heinlein, one of my favorite authors, from a Libertarian point of view. The author is a well known writer in that arena who met Heinlein in his youth (as seen in the cover photo) and landed a lengthy interview with him, most of which was never used at the time. Heinlein seems to have warmed to the young man, and answered questions in this interview which he usually avoided. Perhaps their shared interest in Libertarianism helped with that. The interview is the selling point of this book (which can also be read online, apparently), though it’s filled out with other reviews and writing on Heinlein (and himself) by Schulman.

Libertarianism is a broad term which covers lots of political/ethical points of view as you can see in the wikipedia link above, from a simple belief in personal freedom to all-out anarchy. Sort of reminds me of a herd of cats, actually. Heinlein comments in the interview, “How do anarchists spend their time? Why, they spend it fighting with other anarchists.” Given that wide umbrella, and our American heritage, I think many of us can find some common ground with Heinlein’s views on that and many other subjects covered in the interview. The author/interviewer is more radical and provocative in his comments and questions, but then he was young at the time, too. The dialogue between the two is entertaining, though Heinlein is clearly the one with the more reasoned opinions. And that makes for good reading. You have to admire a man who is willing to tackle a question like “is there life after death?” though he mainly does so by saying, “I have little or no objective data.”

Heinlein also talks quite a bit about his own writing here, something he rarely did, though in this case it’s usually with an Libertarian slant of some kind, as that’s what Schulman was most interested in. Still, quite a few insightful comments in that area.

The rest of the book did little for me. Schulman seems impressed with himself, but I can’t say I found good reason for it in his writing. The physical book itself looks like a substantial trade paperback of 200 pages, but the type is very large, and at normal book size would probably run only about 100 pages. At $19.95 I felt ripped off by that, but on the other hand, I did enjoy the interview, which fills about half the pages. I can’t recommend it to the casual Heinlein fan, but if, like me, you’ve read everything in print that the man wrote, you will probably enjoy this interview.

6 thoughts on “And Then I Read: THE ROBERT HEINLEIN INTERVIEW

  1. Christian Berntsen

    Hi Todd,

    I’ve only read a little of Heinlein myself, and plan to check out more in the future. I’ve heard of this interview and always been curious about it, so I may track it down online if it’s available. Thanks for the overview.

    It’s probably already been recommended to you (or maybe you’ve already read it), but John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series might be of interest. It has a Heinlein influence, because he was a strong influence on Scalzi as a reader. I read the first three in quick succession, and am waiting for an open time to read the fourth one.

  2. Jon M

    I have a copy of this book, Todd, and the only thing I took away from it was that Schulman was more interested in expressing his opinions on Libertarianism to Heinlein than he was in getting RAH’s opinions.

  3. Todd Post author

    Yes, there’s a lot of that, but it’s kind of a gentle swordfight. Heinlein didn’t let anyone put words in his mouth or ideas in his mind.

  4. J. Neil Schulman

    Todd,

    Thanks for the nice review!

    A couple of updates and corrections.

    First, the Pulpless.Com edition of The Robert Heinlein Interview and Other Heinleiniana wasn’t self-published; in 1999 Pulpless.Com was a corporation with a staff of six that published not only my books but also books by around twenty-five other authors.

    Second, only a short excerpt from the interview is available on the web; and the never-before-released original audio of my interview with Mr. Heinlein will be released (this year I expect) by The Sound of Liberty project, associated with the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company.

    Third, the interview is to be included in the The Virginia Edition’s complete reissue of all Heinlein books.

    Cheers!

    Neil

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