For the first time, I’m not going to set up an aside with a favored quote. Oh, I’ll set up one that has pertinent information, but not the quote(s). You’ll have to read (oh, horrors!) the books for yourself.
Now, the problem is, making people think seems to have become a felony. Well, it’s been that way for quite a while, it’s just that we’ve extended Robert Heinlein’s “Crazy Years” by a couple of decades.
Reading either Robinson’s or Heinlein’s books should — in an ideal world — ensure that someone learns how to think just from reading their books. Sadly, as can be found from reading some reviews (and in the case of Heinlein, reading ad nauseum how he is supposedly the anti-thesis of good depending on whatever the critic thinks is important), it is very possible for someone to read their books and still come away as ignorant (AND proud of their ignorance) as they were before they read them.
I could go on forever about the different issues that both authors have talked about that should make someone think. I could talk about the fact that I learned much of what I believe in regards to my feminism from Heinlein’s books, and had it refined by Spider’s works. I could talk about how both writers deal with racism. Heinlein often subtly sneaks how it might look once we stamp out racism, because many of his protagonists are minorities (though, you don’t ever get baldly told it — you have to actually PAY ATTENTION). Spider, on the other hand, has an entire book (“Night of Power”) that discusses racism, taken to an extreme. In fact, he asks a question of how the U.S. can ever actually get past racism, given how destructive it has been — it asks if racism can ever actually be forgiven, and a potential way for it to be dealt with. In fact, this is the only one of his books that makes me sad, because I cherish my friends of color. It makes me sad, because it is possibly the only way we’ll deal with the problem.
What brings this up today?
I was, again, re-reading one of Spider’s books in his Callahan’s series, “Callahan’s Legacy.” This book, like the rest of the series, is about more than just a bar (or a brothel, for that matter). But the subjects he brings up, again, are about the dumbing-down of education (look for the “Tood and Janey effect” which includes a discussion about both the KKK and someone racist about turbans), a discussion of economics and a discussion with a sufferer of Riley-Day Syndrome about the pros and cons of a human’s pain feedback system. And the final discussion that made me want to write this post was a short discussion about what it might be like for an African-American to live in a world without racism or for an Israeli who doesn’t have a family member “who can tell them of his own experience what it is like to be landless, homeless, stateless. Jews like ordinary humans — will this be a wholly good thing? Will they still be proud? After all these weary millennia on the road, will we really be happy with roots — even in the Promised Land?”
Who would simply randomly think about these subjects?
Very few people, let me tell you. But that’s one of the reasons that I prefer books that deal with such issues, even while they entertain me. Same with movies, and most other forms of creative consumption. Hell, it is one of the things that feeds my artistic inspirations.
Read these authors. Then, if you are still looking for books that make you think, try Piers Anthony (yes, even his Xanth books, which most people would call brain candy).