Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s Robert A. Heinlein was my favorite Science Fiction writer. I read all of Heinlein’s “Juveniles” and many of his short stories. Farah Mendlesohn’s The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein sums up Heinlein and his work in a detailed, satisfying fashion. I enjoyed Mendlesohn’s analysis of Heinlein’s “Future History” stories. She provides information I wasn’t aware of in her discussions of Heinlein’s novels. Many people think that Heinlein’s “Juveniles” ended with Starship Troopers (1959) but the series really ended in 1963 with Orphans of the Sky (a fix-up novel) and Podkayne of Mars: Her Life and Times.

I confess: my reading relationship with Heinlein soured after I Will Fear No Evil (1970). It was on shaky ground after Glory Road (1963) (I disliked the Second Half). Farnham’s Freehold (1964) and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) posed political positions I was uncomfortable with. I never read the rest of Heinlein’s novels from the 1970s or 1980s despite the fact they were Bestsellers. I found The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein full of information and solid critical perspectives. If you’re a Heinlein fan, this is a must-read! GRADE: A
Preface xi
Introduction 1
Chapter 1: Biography; 13
Chapter 2: Heinlein’s Narrative Arc; 73
Short Stories 74
The Juvenile Novels 87
The Adult Novels 96
Concludsions 104
Chapter 3: Technique; 107
The Cinematic 108
The Sidekick 122
The Engineering Effect 128
Time Tales 136
Chapter 4: Rhetoric; 145
The Sentimental 145
The Rationalized Fantasy 160
The Picaresque 163
Chapter 5: Heinlein and Civic Society; 181
The Structure of Society 182
Family and Childrearing 201
The Making of Society 223
Chapter 6: Heinlein and the Civic Revolution; 229
Revolution 229
Guns: An Aside 237
Disability 258
Chapter 7: Racism, Anti-Racism and the Construction of Civic Society; 263
How Many Non-White Character Does Heinlein Have? 263
Statements of Anti-Racism 281
Farnham’s Freehold 286
Slavery 303
Chapter 8: The Right Ordering of Self; 315
Personal Honour 318
Sexual Integrity 325
Sex and Sexuality 340
Chapter 9: Heinlein’s Gendered Self; 357
Heinlein Masculine Self 357
Heinlein’s Interstitial Self 368
Heinlein’s Female Self 383
The Craving for Family 404
Epilogue: The Cat Who Walked Through Genres; 415
Appendix 1: The Pattern of Publication; 431
Appendix 2: Names from Starship Troopers 432
First Publications of Heinlein’s Fiction (In Chronological Order) 433
Selected Non-Fiction by Robert A. Heinlein; 439
Bibliography; 441
Acknowledgements; 451
A Note on the Author; 453
Index; 455
Supporters 465


  1. Steve Oerkfitz

    I don’t find Heinlein to hold up well over the years. Double Star and Starship Troopers are probably his best. Stranger In a Strange Land is overrated. And his later novels are blotted messes full of creepy sex.
    Out of the big three-Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein I find Clarke to hold up best. His Rendezvous On Rama, The city and the Stars and Childhood’s End are much better than anything Asimov and Heinlein ever wrote.

    1. george Post author

      Steve, I agree with you on Asimov’s work. I reread THE FOUNDATION TRILOGY a few years ago and found it surprisingly chatty. You’re right about Heinlein’s later novels, too. I need to read more Arthur C. Clarke. I’ve had RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA on my shelf for 30 years…waiting to be read.

      1. wolf

        Clarke also was fantastic!
        Did you know that he was among the first to prognosticate geostationary tv satellites?

      2. george Post author

        Wolf, Clarke predicted the geostationary TV satellites and several other pieces of technology. The guy was a visionary!

    2. Todd Mason

      Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein were only a “big three” in goofy fan terms…though I was amused by references similarly to the BACH quartet, including Bradbury, who were the only four sf writers some 1970s-1990s non-readers of the form were likely to have heard of and knew to be sf writers to one degree or another. (Before 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, Clarke’s sales were not at the commercial top level in any way, in fact lagged slightly behind Theodore Sturgeon’s. While the Big Three in the ’60s would’ve included John Wyndham, looked at from a sales perspective and even from a certain degree of influence. And certainly Kurt Vonnegut, unless one chose to take seriously his claims, driven by annoyance with the sf subculture and resentment of critical hostility to sf, that his sf novels weren’t sf novels. Margaret Atwood still playing the same game. )

      I think it’s definitely more the case that Asimov’s shorter work, including some of his novellas, are what he should be judged by more than any of his novels. The first FOUNDATION trilogy was slightly rejiggered from stories he published in his 20s, and no more his best work than, say, TYPEE is Herman Melville’s.

      1. george Post author

        Todd, I read Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein in my youth. But in the 1960s, I liked Clifford Simak, Jack Vance, and Keith Laumer better. Of course, Fritz Leiber was always in the mix.

  2. wolf

    The early Heinlein novels incl the juveniles were available in German so of course I read them – but his later novels I found strange.
    Like George I couldn’t agree with their political (and religious …) views. So I stopped reading him around 1965 – when I became a member of the German Humanist Society and their student group: HSU = Humanist Students Union, which was really progressive.
    Anyway I was rather occupied with studying and “advertising” our humanist views. Like the USA West Germany was rather reactionary still in those days – many Nazi laws were upheld by the Christian Democrats and Heinlein seemed to belong to the same group – we called them “Clerical Fascists”. 🙂 🙂

    1. george Post author

      Wolf, like you I found the later works of Heinlein a weird mix of politics and religion. So I just stopping reading them. It didn’t matter: those late Heinlein novels sold millions of copies.

  3. Michael Padgett

    Heinlein was a big favorite of mine during the time I was discovering SF in the mid-50s , and I read pretty much everything he’d written up to that point. But I didn’t like “Stranger in a Strange Land” at all and read the subsequent books with increasing dismay. The last one I really liked was “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”. I couldn’t get through “Time Enough for Love” and just gave up on him. I hate to be too hard on Heinlein because it was his work that really got me into SF, but I agree with Steve that Clarke was the best of the Big Three. But he wasn’t as much fun to read.

    1. george Post author

      Michael, the early Heinlein works were plenty of fun to read…when I was 12. As you point out, the later Heinlein works mixed politics and religion and sex in a disturbing blend.

  4. Jerry House

    Preaching to the choir here, George, although I stuck with Heinlein much latter than you. I loved his concepts, including the throwaways, but his politics left a sour taste in my mouth. It can be a mistake to judge a writer’s true feelings through his fiction but there was something very off-putting about his later works.

    1. george Post author

      Jerry, “off-putting” describes Heinlein’s later works. I think it first hit me in the Second Part of GLORY ROAD. I thought, “Something weird is going on here.” And I was right. It got worse in the later Heinlein novels.

      1. Todd Mason

        About the second chapter of GLORY ROAD for me. And it got immediately worse, with FARNHAM’S FREEHOLD, and not even as late as iwhen it got racist, but from about the second paragraph. But it was goofily all over STRANGER, already. Masturbation on the page.

      2. Todd Mason

        Well, THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS is a return to good form. I’ve heard that there are redeeming aspects of FRIDAY and a very few others among the later novels , but I haven’t tried them.

  5. Jeff Meyerson

    I did like Stranger in a Strange Land a lot at the time, but would never try to reread it now. I’ve been reading the juveniles I missed the first time around and find they are varying in quality, or at least I like some a lot better than the others. This sounds interesting, I must admit, though the page count would probably put me off.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, THE PLEASANT PROFESSION OF ROBERT A. HEINLEIN was a quick read. Yes, I know it’s over 400 pages, but the last part of the book includes lists of Heinlein’s works in chronological order, an Index, and a bibliography. Farah Mendlesohn’s writing style is engaging and clever.

  6. Patti Abbott

    Pretty sure that I have only read STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, which I remember liking but am sure I did not get the politics of it as I was a teenager.

    1. george Post author

      Rick, you would be interested in what Farah Mendlesohn has to say about Heinlein’s “Juveniles.” You wouldn’t have to read the whole book…unless you wanted to.


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