I have always been a science fiction and fantasy fan, ever since I started reading. I caught the bug from my father, in whose library depths I have swum most of my life.
Part of the reason why I love this genre (and its close sibling the thriller/horror genre) is that often the GOOD writers make me think. They offer me a different perspective on so many subjects, including (or perhaps, especially) the current psycho-socio-political landscape. And the GENIUSES of the genres do even more, because regardless of when the books were written, they often still offer those important perspectives.
And when two geniuses together create a book (especially after one of them is dead), the resulting book makes you think even more.
I just finished re-reading Variable Star, a book started by Robert A. Heinlein, and completed by Spider Robinson.
While there are infinite lessons that can be learned just from this book alone, the one standing out for me right now is the lecture by a Buddhist in the story, speaking about 9/11 and its aftermath.
It’s a harsh, yet compassionate, view of what happened in the years following that tragedy. The book was released at the end of 2010, so there was time to be able to look back on it compassionately.
I won’t copy it here for you, because I can’t decide where to start quoting. Why? Because the lecture truly requires the context of the whole book to be understood as it is written.
And sadly, it might require reading the works of both writers before you fully understand what is being said.
You couldn’t find two authors so seemingly opposite as Heinlein and Robinson, at least from a shallow view of their respective biographies. Robinson is a true-blue hippie, which you can tell not only from his biography but also from the point of view of many of his books. Heinlein was a Navy man, tried politics, and had some extremely libertarian-type views.
But scratch beneath the surface, and you find two men that view the Universe from distinctly similar perspectives.
I lost any chance at meeting Heinlein when he died in May of 1988. Hell, I’d just turned 19, and barely knew my ass from a hole in the ground. Spider is 66, and not surprisingly, has been very hard to see anywhere since the death of his beloved wife.
I have to be content with knowing these men through the books they’ve written (and the non-fiction pieces they’ve written, although to be honest, Spider’s non-fiction is far more easy to read than R.A.H.’s)
Both have exhibited strong opinions about personal accountability and personal responsibility. Both consider that each human being is responsible for EVERYTHING they do, think and say. And neither has a history of a whole lot of patience with idiots (Spider, again, tends to be more amusing when dealing with idiots).
A lot of my own central principles have been developed after reading one of their books (or reading my 3rd author favorite: Piers Anthony). Why? Because each and every one of the books I’ve read from all three of these authors have made me THINK. They’ve made me LEARN. And they’ve made me PAY ATTENTION.
Most of the complaints about all three authors come from people who have chosen NOT to think or learn or pay attention. RAH is considered by some to be horrendously sexist, yet each and every one of his heroines are fully capable of saving themselves, are responsible for themselves, and are just as strong as his heroes. He’s been accused of being racist, except that if you read his books closely quite a few of his heroes (and heroines) are either minorities, or of mixed race. Yes, he’s got a certain amount of seeming homophobia in the books, but there’s two reasons for that: 1) Look at the time period in which he was writing (both for the adult AND juvenile markets) and explain to me how he could have POSSIBLY given active support to homosexuality in the period he published; and 2) While he may have had issues, there are QUITE a few of his books where not only do men kiss men, but where whatever forms of sexuality people wish to have happen with NO big concern.