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Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better

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Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with his Century: 1948-1988 The Man Who Learned Better: The real-life story of Robert A. Heinlein in the second volume of the authorized biography by William H. Patterson!

Robert A. Heinlein (1907–1988) is generally considered the greatest American science fiction writer of the twentieth century. His most famous and widely influential works include the Future History series (stories and novels collected in The Past Through Tomorrow and continued in later novels), Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress—all published in the years covered by this volume. He was a friend of admirals, bestselling writers, and artists; became committed to defending the United States during the Cold War; and was on the advisory committee that helped Ronald Reagan create the Star Wars Strategic Defense Initiative in the 1980s.

Heinlein was also devoted to space flight and humanity's future in space, and he was a commanding presence to all around him in his lifetime. Given his desire for privacy in the later decades of his life, the revelations in this biography make for riveting reading.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

672 pages, Hardcover

First published June 3, 2014

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About the author

William H. Patterson Jr.

9 books5 followers


William Patterson lived in San Francisco, California. He published numerous articles and two books on the works of Robert A. Heinlein, and he was a frequent public speaker on Heinlein and his works.

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Profile Image for Forrest Carr.
Author 4 books10 followers
August 31, 2014
(This is a personal essay but it also serves as an introduction to Robert Heinlein and as a mini-review of “Robert A Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century” by William H. Patterson, Jr. Volume Two of which was just recently published.)

I want to tell you about something that won’t mean much to you or anyone else, but it knocked me off my feet. So I’m sharing it here in the belief that if it’s so important to me, then maybe my friends, blog readers and radio listeners might also find it interesting.

As all of my close friends know, throughout my life I have only had a few idols. The biggest one is Robert A. Heinlein. Many consider him to be the most important American science fiction author of all time. I also like the other two of the “Big Three”—Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke—and have been reading them since I was a boy. But for me Heinlein is the undisputed master. He’s more than just a writer. His book Space Cadet was the first novel I ever read. It fired up my young imagination in a major way, and put me on the path for a lifelong love of sci-fi, space exploration, and scientific progress.

I was sort of a wimpy, non-athletic kid, so while my friends were out playing softball or whatnot, I tended to be reading. Eventually my literary world expanded to take in authors of all kinds, but Heinlein remained my favorite. I loved his “voice,” which always radiated core values of love, patriotism, and personal responsibility, while spinning a good yarn. He’s best known for Stranger in a Strange Land, which wound up being a cornerstone of the Free Love movement back in the 60’s—to Heinlein’s immense surprise (he was not of that generation and had no intention of being anyone’s “guru”). But Heinlein is more enjoyable, and understandable, if you don’t start with that book. I was fortunate to be able to read Heinlein’s works more or less “in order,” from his early juveniles (which hold up as adult novels) forward to his more experimental adult work. So I was able to watch his philosophy and world view evolve in real time, in parallel with my own. I have a copy of absolutely every book and compilation he published, and each volume is well worn. The man probably had more influence on me than any other human being aside from my parents.

I never had a chance to meet Heinlein, but in 1982, when I was 25 years old and just starting out as a television news producer, I wrote him a letter—the one and only true fan letter I’ve ever written to anyone. I poured out my heart to him, letting him know how important his works had been to me. I did not expect a reply, and didn’t include a stamped, self-addressed envelope. But I got a reply anyway. His wife Virginia composed it, but Heinlein signed it. The letter stated that while Virginia composed all of his correspondence so as to allow him time to write, he did read every letter. The two of them said that I was receiving a reply precisely because I had asked for nothing. With so many people in his life demanding slices of his time (which, I would later learn, was a sore subject for him) the fact that I had asked for nothing apparently impressed him and Virginia. They said they appreciated my comments and were touched by them.

In 2010 William H. Patterson, Jr. published the first of a two-volume authorized biography of Heinlein. I snapped it up and read it with great interest. Afterwards, I sent the author a quick email containing two or three lines letting him know how much I had enjoyed learning more about my idol. I must have given a quick summary of who I was—I was news director at KGUN-TV in Tucson at the time. Patterson wrote back thanking me for my comments and asking me whether I would do him a favor. It seems Heinlein had given an interview to KGUN9 in the late 70’s, during a sci-fi convention. He asked me to see whether that interview still existed.

I agreed to check. This required a quick trip to the Arizona Historical Society, which maintains the old KGUN archives. Alas, nothing was there. I wrote him back with the news. Patterson asked me to write up a quick article for his journal, which I did. Afterwards, we maintained a correspondence. I was eagerly looking forward to the second volume of the biography, and by the end of 2013 Patterson told me he was scrambling to meet his deadlines with the publisher for a book due out that summer. He completed the work, but alas, he died just before the book came out. I was very sad to hear that.

I bought the book, of course. It’s taken me longer this time to get through it, because I have a lot of things going on in my life (starting a new blog and radio show while also trying my hand at writing sci-fi, something I’ve always wanted to do). When I got to the passage where Patterson mentions Heinlein’s trip to Tucson, I saw that he had referenced a footnote. So, out of curiosity, I looked it up.

And there was my name. Patterson had credited me for the tiny bit of regrettably unsuccessful research I’d done trying to track down the Heinlein interview.

Yes, it is a tiny, tiny, tiny thing. But words really fail to express its effect on me. There will be only one authorized biography of Robert Heinlein. This one is it. And my name is in it. Yes, yes, it’s only in a footnote that absolutely no one but the most rigorous scholar or researcher will ever see. But it’s there, just the same. My name. In Heinlein’s official biography.

You may think it is the rankest exercise of ego to crow about this. I can’t say you’re wrong. But this is not about showing how important I am. This incident is marvelous precisely because I am so unimportant. The miracle is that a nobody like me could wind up being named in book about his personal idol, a man who happens to be one of the most influential writers of our age.

So that this can serve as a review of the Patterson books, let me also say that if you are a scholar or a die-hard Heinlein fan, as I am, these works are fabulous and indispensible to an understanding of the man, his life, and his works. Parenthetically, one of the things I learned was that my favorite Heinlein short story, The Man Who Traveled in Elephants, was also his favorite. And one of his hardest to sell. The book is filled gems of that nature that will be important to the true fans and to researchers.

The experience and thrill of seeing my name in that tiny, inconsequential little footnote has left me feeling as if I’ve experienced real magic. It’s impossible to explain, really, why I would feel that way. But I’ve spent my entire life admiring this person. If there has been a steady guiding star in my life, Heinlein is it. And once again, I find that my orbit has intersected—briefly, admittedly insignificantly, but definitely—with a major public figure who has been so important to me, and to the lives of countless others.

It reinforces, once again, what a wonderfully interconnected and mysterious place our universe really is.
Forrest Carr
Host/journalist
Tucson’s PowerTalk 1210
Profile Image for Mark.
536 reviews154 followers
December 23, 2014
Back in 2011, I reviewed the first volume of William H. Patterson, Jr.’s biography, Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948).

It’s been a while getting here, but now, over three years later, we have the second (and final) volume. In this volume we look at Heinlein’s reaction to mounting celebrity and fame, his progressively more conservative political views, his increasingly confounding (and increasingly weighty) novels.

Whereas Volume One explained Heinlein’s life up to his forties, we begin Volume Two on October 21st 1948, when Heinlein begins his third marriage, this time to Virginia/Ginny Gerstenfeld. In terms of publication, things were also in the ascendant. Space Cadet had just been published in August, and Robert had also begun to move away from the juvenile SF market, which he had dominated, to a more mainstream and more popular adult market. New markets were opening too, and Heinlein had just spent the summer working on his Destination Moon screenplay.

This is probably the volume most fans have been waiting for, as it deals with the time when Heinlein was at his most popular and famous, until his death in 1988.

So at the end of this enormous, small printed tome, what do I know now that I didn’t at the beginning? Quite a lot, actually, although much is covered in less detail in the Introductions to the Virginia Editions that I am currently rereading. Like the first Volume, the second is lengthy, detailed and readable. I read more than half in one sitting.

Whilst the second volume does still, like the first, occasionally veer into hagiography or, at its simplest, give glib over-statement as fact, it is still a major achievement, even more so when you consider how private Robert Heinlein was in his lifetime. Much of this is not only based on RAH’s own correspondence, but also personal comments made to Patterson through unprecedented access to the Heinlein Archives and phone calls, letters, emails and interviews gleaned over years of research, as shown in the 150+ pages of footnotes at the back of this book. There’s enough here to keep even the knowledgeable fan interested, even if at the end I can’t help feel that, whilst I know more, I’m no closer to understanding the man.

So: Does this biography tell me about the writing process of some of my favourite (and not so favourite) Heinlein work? Yes. We have here points that have not been made before. Writing Red Planet was, for example, ‘dull’, the excitement for Heinlein seemingly being excised from the outline draft. RAH knew that Starship Troopers was ‘likely to displease quite a few people’. Ginny thought that Farnham’s Freehold was better than Glory Road.

And whilst we’re writing on such matters, the debacle of the Destination Moon movie, for which Heinlein wrote an outline script, is jaw-dropping. It is small wonder that Heinlein soon became dissatisfied with the Hollywood machine process. Whilst the end product is not perfect, by any means, the point that it was seriously being considered as a musical comedy at one point tells us that it could have been much, much worse! The productions of the television series Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (where he was anonymously involved) and Project Moonbase, aborted after a poorly-received Pilot episode, as well as various other aborted projects, did little to improve RAH’s view on the visual media business, although (a point Patterson fails to expand on) with Tom Corbett he was happy to grit his teeth and accept the cheques as they came in.

Also of importance, and explained in more detail here than ever before, is RAH’s varying relationships with his peers. What is noticeable is that as the book progresses, Heinlein, through increasing age or bad health, becomes increasingly irascible. It is clear that Heinlein is rather judgemental. Many of these disagreements are fascinating, although we are often only given Heinlein’s (or Patterson’s) perspective on such matters.

Examples here are many. Forrest J. Ackerman he saw as a likeable fellow yet ‘increasingly irritating’. More famously, Alexei Panshin’s fan letters and rather infamous criticism of Heinlein’s work (Heinlein in Dimension) is also mentioned here, if rather one-sidedly. David Gerrold’s Tribbles in Star Trek were nothing more than a rip-off of Heinlein’s own Martian ‘flat cats’ from The Space Family Stone, which Heinlein regretted allowing without some sort of compensation.

Interestingly, this book shows an age-old conflict in the world of publishing – namely, how difficult it can be for a writer to balance his personal integrity against populist revision and marketing. The well-known and seemingly constant difficulties between RAH’s juvenile librarian editor (in the 1950’s the library market was seen as much more important (read bigger) than the domestic sales), Alice Dalgliesh, and Heinlein are documented here, but so too an increasingly fractious relationship between RAH and Horace Gold, Galaxy Magazine’s editor, who edited The Puppet Masters and other prose for his publication without telling RAH. Shasta Press, under Erle Korshak, also get short thrift here too.

Patterson’s book works best when describing directly from Heinlein’s own notes and correspondence (which Patterson had unlimited access to). However counterviews to the points made here are often uncommon, even when those who made such comments would be available (ie: still living) to clarify such points.

Personally, I was most interested to read of Heinlein’s relationship with Arthur C. Clarke, another of the Big Three I am interested of, and one who Heinlein famously fell out with towards the end of his life when discussing Ronald Reagan’s missile defence program (SDI). Such events are often put forward without critical analysis or thorough checking. As critic Jeet Heer points out in his review of this book,

“Patterson conveys the false impression that Clarke came to accept Heinlein’s arguments (“He ceased speaking out against SDI.” Volume 2, 446). Yet if we look up Clarke’s essay on Heinlein in the volume Requiem (edited by Yoji Kondo, 1990), we’ll see that Clarke maintained the same position as always, that parts of SDI might be needed but the program as a whole was being oversold by Heinlein and his allies (Kondo, p. 264).”

Clarke’s own view, as I understand it, was that he was deeply upset by RAH’s reaction to his point of view, but that fences were being mended up to the point when Heinlein died. In 1990, in Requiem, Sir Arthur said “I realised that Bob was ailing and his behaviour was not typical of one of the most courteous people I have ever known.” Whilst Patterson does not skip over these spats, this example is typical of the book in that Patterson is rather restrained and uncritical towards RAH in his judgements.

Some of the issues mentioned in the review of the previous volume become bigger (or at least more noticeable) in this volume. It is clear that Pattinson is a fan of Heinlein, and a rather uncritical one at that, which is presumably why this is an authorised biography. I can see the point made by some reviewers that Patterson is perhaps too close to the subject to give a critical view of Heinlein and his work. It is, at best, an imbalanced view, although this was evident to me from the first page of the first book (as mentioned in my first review) when Patterson claimed that the death of Heinlein was akin to the event of landing on the moon in 1969 and the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Troublingly, when Patterson is given a free rein, some comments are purported to be facts, without any evidence or supporting substantiation. One of the more frustrating and intriguing elements of Heinlein’s life here is the role played throughout of Leslyn Heinlein, Robert’s second wife, who spends most of the book dealing with alcoholism and writing poison pen letters to Heinlein’s friends and colleagues. There is no counterview given here – indeed, Heinlein reportedly destroyed most of Leslyn’s correspondence to him – so we are left with details based on things predominantly from Robert and presumably Ginny’s view. As you might expect, this does not show Leslyn in a positive light, yet we are unable to see events from a different perspective.

The Appendices and the back of the book and the 150 pages of footnotes are very useful in filling in the gaps, because if nothing else they clarify some of the points made in the main text. Really these need to be integrated with the main prose, simply because some of the details given in the footnotes can give a different slant on what is being said by Patterson in his text. I spent a lot of time flicking between the front and the back of the book to compare the different points made.

With a book of this size and complexity it is not uncommon for key ideas to be lost in the mass. What is a surprise here is that elements which have been seen as quite important are not always given in detail. One of the key aspects of the biography is Heinlein’s various flirtations with politics, initially to the political left, but after travelling around the world, seeing Communism at work in the USSR and marrying Ginny, increasingly right-wing. Patterson’s take on this is interesting in that certain aspects are given in detail, such as his interest in Goldwater, and his view on the Kennedys and the Cuban Missile Crisis, whilst others are not. Heinlein’s flirtation with The John Birch Society, a rather radical right-wing group, for example, is a point made without detailed analysis. Heinlein is quoted as saying that he felt that they were a “fascist organization” and so he soon lost interest, but it is also stated that even though he thought this, Heinlein also thought they were far preferable to liberals or moderate conservatives.

How much such views were integrated in his later writing is an always-ongoing point of debate amongst Heinlein-fans, but not really addressed by Patterson here. It is clear that, for good or bad, Ginny was a major guide in Robert’s writing, and that she is, in part, the reason for Heinlein’s continued writing in SF (there are many times in this book where RAH looks towards writing outside SF) as well as his evolution into what we generally now see as Heinlein, the later writer. Patterson, deliberately or not, shows a growing influence of Ginny on Robert’s work as it progresses, and as RAH’s health deteriorates badly towards the end it is often Ginny that keeps him going. It is Ginny in the end that is left to maintain Heinlein’s legacy after his death.

This last volume of the biography shows how both Heinleins suffered with deteriorating health towards the end of their lives, Robert in particular almost dying whilst writing I Will Fear No Evil in the 1970’s. It is frankly amazing that RAH continued to write, to continue to strive to write the best he possibly could, right up to his death, even when many of those around him were confused and disappointed by what he produced.

The amount of information given in these books, about someone who would treat with derision anyone outside his close circle of friends who attempted to understand him, is unprecedented. It is what Patterson has done with the quantity of material that may be an issue. Like Volume One there are comments made by Patterson (and again often presented as if they were Heinlein’s own views) that are stunning in their naivety and inanity.

Take this one, for example, from Robert and Ginny’s global travels:

“…what the Heinleins did not realize they were overlooking, Rio’s favelas, some of the worst slums in the world, so legendary in their poverty, violence, and crime that they are still being used as the setting for many ‘shooter’ video games.” (page 105)

It is breath-taking in its clumsiness.

Reflecting on what I have read here, it is clear that RAH was a complex and, at times, contradictory person. There are times in this book where I admired him for his loyalty, his tenacity and sticking to what he believed in, but then I would find that only a few pages later that there are aspects of the man I really didn’t like. Fiercely loyal to those he trusted, most of the time, decidedly brusque to those who he felt had betrayed him, my overriding opinion of Robert Heinlein in the end, despite the positive spin given here, is one that is uncomfortably rather unpleasant. Whatever the quality of the actual writing, for what it is worth, I don’t think, as people, Heinlein and I would get on.

When I was a teenager, based on my feverish reading of as many of his books as I could get my hands on, I hoped that one day it would happen and I would meet my hero. When he died I was 24, and was sad to think that it would never happen. Now aged 50, and based upon the information here, I have the horrible feeling that if it had happened it would have been a meeting doomed to disappointment, with the author I had looked up to in my teens coming across as an aggressively belligerent, hectoring old man, who would shout down anyone who dared to disagree with him. Such is the way of one’s dreams, I guess.

In the end, I suspect that this is as close to a biography of Heinlein as we’re going to get. Whilst my inner imp mischievously makes me wonder how critical an ‘unauthorised’ biography would be like, I have to admit that it is most unlikely that we will get a more thorough one, although it would perhaps be nice to have a more critical one. It’s not perfect, but there’s a lot here to enjoy reading about. Even when I didn’t like what I was reading, I kept reading.

Heinlein, for good or ill, was one of the iconic SF writers of the 20th century. To paraphrase the title, Heinlein clearly learned better, although the finished product is not always something that is clearly understood nor liked. The legacy of his writing is there forever, whatever his personal views and attitudes. This is an intriguing epitaph, to both its subject and its biographer.
Author 6 books9 followers
August 22, 2014
I've seen some comments to the effect that this is not a literary biography, which is puzzling -- how can a writer's biography not be literary?

What the reviewers mean, of course, is that there is no extended discussion of Heinlein's works in the book. Patterson sticks to the events, people and things in Heinlein's life, and that's quite all right. Heinlein incorporated all those elements into his writing, and you can see the steady ripple of experiences into his work a year or two later. That kind of chronicle is invaluable to anyone who wants a sense of what was on Heinlein's mind as he wrote. It's also leaves more room for charming anecdotes and personality sketches, of which the more the better.

That said, this book should be approached with caution. Patterson is an honest biographer who carefully sources most of his text, but he is also a fan portraying his subject in the best light possible. From his viewpoint, Heinlein wins all the arguments, and the sometimes imperious personality described by his contemporaries is glossed over or dismissed.

There are many insights into what Heinlein's thought process here, but as Heinlein himself would have said -- usually sincerely, and far better than I can -- read with care. Pay attention to who's selling what idea, and why.

(By the way, it's oddly reassuring to see that the science fiction community of the sixties was just as riven with ego and umbrage as it was in the eighties, nineties, and today. The genre may be about the change, but the human element is a constant.)
7 reviews3 followers
June 26, 2014
I'm a fan of Heinlein's books and I have been long fascinated by the man himself, but this hagiography of the man and his wife does not serve his legacy well. It also completely misses the context and influence of his work, with long detailed passages about the Heinleins' every illness, and blow-by-blow descriptions of every time someone offended them, however minor or petty the insult. A more appropriate title would be "Robert A. Heinlein, The People Who Offended Him and How He Showed Them". The author's flattery and adulation of Heinlein is so over-the-top, I went from being annoyed to incredulous to amused. I'd recommend the Wikipedia article about Heinlein to this boot-licking tedium.
Profile Image for Craig.
4,802 reviews103 followers
July 4, 2018
This is the conclusion of Patterson's Heinlein biography, picking up with his third marriage in 1948 and continuing for the duration of his life. It's a bit longer than the initial volume, but it held my interest better, perhaps because I was more familiar with the works and events. It's a really massive work, with hundreds of pages of footnotes and appendixes that are frequently as entertaining as the main text. (I kept two bookmarks in place, one for where I was in the text and one in the corresponding point in the footnotes.) I think Patterson abandoned any pretense of impartiality as he went along, and tended to present everything in a very pro-Heinlein light. I was surprised to learn how much difficulty Heinlein had in getting along with some people: fans, contractors, politicians, editors, etc., etc. I was also amazed that he spent so little time actually writing, taking years off to pursue other interests and dealing with medical problems and travelling. He was a fascinating figure, and this book was filled with insights into his beliefs and actions. For example, one thing I found interesting was that he bought a typewriter for Philip K. Dick. I can't think of any writer of the time that was further from Heinlein's character than Dick, but perhaps due to that kindness Dick went on to have incredible success with film adaptations... something that always eluded Heinlein. He didn't seem to have much interaction with organized fandom; the book states that he was unaware his work had been nominated for a couple of his Hugo Awards. His marriage to Virginia is also interesting; she was apparently responsible for much of his success. Also, obviously, it's a good picture of life in the U.S. in much of our recent history, and makes one think how modern technology and social conventions might have affected Heinlein. All in all it's a fascinating book, a good portrayal of the man who is arguably the most important figure in the history off the sf field. I was sad to read that Patterson died just days before this volume was published.
Profile Image for Steve.
542 reviews19 followers
June 27, 2014
If you are into Heinlein and have read most everything he wrote (some several times), you'll probably want to read this. Otherwise, you won't.

If you're looking for insights into the books themselves, you won't find them here. This is not a literary biography, along the lines of Brian Boyd's bio of Nabokov, or Edel on Joyce or James. But then again, Heinlein was no Nabokov or Joyce. Still, Patterson never really gives you an idea of why Heinlein is worth the biography. Oh, he does tell us about the effect many of the books had, but he doesn't really delve into their details. If you haven't read every specific book, you won't learn much about them here.

Rather, the book is a wealth of details about Heinlein's life. The details are good and important, and this will be fodder for more biographies, and more literary criticism. I did get a bit tired of some of the score-settling that went on, towards Alexei Panshin and Sam Moskowitz, and Heinlein's second wife, who was a sad character and who tormented Heinlein long after the divorce. It's worth noting that you should at least skim the Notes section of the book, wherein he sometimes fleshes out some events, and even gives their other sides.

Alexei Panshin kind of sums up my feelings about this book in his review of Heinlein's Expanded Universe: "If you grew up on Heinlein, if the Future History or the Scribner juveniles or even Stranger in a Strange Land was your basic education, if you are one of those who have followed Heinlein through his entire career, marveling, if you really care about Heinlein, then Expanded Universe is a book that you might save pennies from your lunch money in order to buy." He goes on to say what an unhappy book that one was. I don't remember that book well, but I did feel this way about the biography. You'll also learn more about Heinlein's juveniles (my favorite of his works) from Jo Walton (such as at http://www.tor.com/blogs/2011/06/chil...) than you will in this book.

So: a very good biography, and maybe the one Heinlein and his wife wanted (it is authorized), and it'll stand as a reference for biographical facts, but as a source of insight about Heinlein's books, you should look elsewhere.




44 reviews
July 8, 2014
I much preferred the first volume, but this one's definitely worth a read too.

As the reviews say, it is indeed fun to read through and find out "oh, so that's where he got ________." It's also worth reading if you plan to write; there is actually a surprising amount in there about Heinlein's writing process.

However, I just didn't learn much. If you've read the stuff published after Heinlein's death (Tramp Royale, Take Back Your Government, Grumbles from the Grave, Requiem) and Fred Pohl's reminisces at "The Way the Future Blogs," you probably won't find out much that you didn't already know.

I understand that this volume required four years of cutting (http://www.whpattersonjr.com/blog/), and was originally much longer. Unfortunately, the cutting left me with the feeling that I was being raced through a travelogue. I frequently found myself realizing that a single paragraph was actually covering more than one event, or wondering "why didn't the author dig deeper into this issue?"

It also left me hoping that I will live long enough to see the day when his "protected papers" are opened up (I think the book said 50 years after his death). Heinlein was famously private about his personal life, and I rather suspect that Heinlein's friends, out of loyalty to him, never mentioned a lot of things that would have made for deeper understanding of the man and the work. As a result, this biography suffers from the same issues as "Grumbles from the Grave". As Fred Pohl* said with respect to that book, "somebody...had washed his face and combed his hair and turned whatever it was that Robert might have wanted to say into the equivalent of thank-you notes for a respectable English tea." I felt the same way about the biography--no fault of Patterson's, but still a disappointment.

* http://www.thewaythefutureblogs.com/2...
Profile Image for Joshua Buhs.
647 reviews103 followers
January 21, 2016
Only for those who want to know every time that Robert Heinlein farted, and that each bit of flatulence smelled like roses.

This is a very bad book. It is also very long, but I don't want to spend much time on the review. The only thing that kept it from getting a single star was that Patterson clearly did a lot of research. He was diligent going through Heinlein's archives, and knows everything that Heinlein ever wrote down.

Unfortunately, all that work is marred by a lack of curiosity, a terrible writing style, and all kinds of special pleadings.

As Jeet Heer already made clear in his review of the book for the New Republic, Patterson is extremely naive about Heinlein's political development. Rather then seeing that he indeed moved rightward in his views--the man who ran for office int he 1930s on Upton Sinclair's ticket became associated with the Birch Society, for goodness sake--Patterson insists that Heinlein had not changed any of his principles, but the country, all of it, had moved so far left that Heinlein just ended up on the right. And all the people who saw the changes in him, and often broke with him--or didn't champion his causes strongly enough--were weak. (Pinkos, as RAH called them in letters: definitely the word of choice for liberals.)

What is clear is that RAH developed a common affliction among older white men: know-everything-itis. He spent 11 days in New Zealand, which proved to him that socialism could not work. He went to a magazine stand and so it only stocked three copies of Scientific American (or Popular Science, I don't remember which), and decided that meant the next generation was going to hell in a hand basket.

Patterson's credulity exposes an incredible lack of curiosity of things beyond what Heinlein thought. There are all the things he hated, all the people who did him wrong--everyone did him wrong--and Patterson is not interested in any of their motivations. The clearest example of this is also silly. When Heinlein moved to an area near Watsonville, California, he supposedly saw a wolf near his home. Patterson reports this as interesting, but nothing more. Never mind that the last confirmed wolf sighting in California occurred in the 1920s. (Probably he saw a coyote.)

The book is overly long--near a thousand pages, if you include the first volume--and Patterson leaves no detail unrecorded. But the style is frustrating no end. He'll hit on a topic, build a little steam, and then drop it as he takes up the next event in RAH's daily life, a cold or a dentist appointment or what have you, then come back to it pages and pages later. He barely touches on the stories Heinlein put out, often not even recapitulating his novels. (Which were, of course, masterpieces to the very end. Even though they weren't properly recognized. As evidence of this, Patterson points out that one of RAH's novels was only nominated for a Nebula aware, but didn't win.)

Reading a book, one gets a sense of the author--not who they are really, but their persona. Paterson's persona is unfortunate. One gets the overwhelming sense of a teenage boy furiously tucking in his shirt, shouting "Well, actually !" He spits in the eye of author biographers--smearing them as Marxists or Maoists, and inconsiderate. Nobody in the book does right by Heinlein all the time--though he is right all the time--and even his beloved wife Ginny forces on him some indulgences. No one has ever loved--is capable of loving--Robert Heinlein as much as William H. Patterson, Jr.
Profile Image for Dan'l Danehy-Oakes.
518 reviews11 followers
February 13, 2016
[b]Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century; Volume II: The Man Who Learned Better[/b] by William H. Patterson, Jr.

This (naturally enough) takes up where the first half, [B]Learning Curve[/B] ended: exactly half-way through Heinlein's eighty-year life, just married to his third wife, Virginia (nee Gerstenfeld).

These are the years of Heinlein's gradual triumph, encompassing (arguably) his most influential books, the juveniles; [B]Destination Moon[/B] (a strange mixture of triumph and disappointment); his four Hugo-winners ([b]Double Star[/b], [b]Starship Troopers[/b], [b]Stranger in a Strange Land[/b], and [b]The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress[/b]); and the late, World-As-Myth books that many readers dismiss as self-indulgent or senile ramblings. (To be quite clear: I do not; though they are self-indulgent in the sense that Heinlein was writing what he damn well pleased and let editors go hang.)

But they are also the years of his, and Mrs Heinlein's, gradual physical decay. It is sad and at times painful to read about this man, a father-figure to many, gradually declining to his death. The facts about his various illnesses make clear that he was lucid through the writing of his last books - though some of them (notably [B]I Will Fear No Evil[/B]) were rushed into print with insufficient rewriting and cutting due to health problems.

The book is also a paean to the love of Robert and Virginia Heinlein, a couple who claimed to have limited telepathy to each other, and who completed each other in a way that is rare even among happily married couples. The first Appendix contains a letter Mrs. Heinlein wrote to her husband eight weeks after his death, which I found beautiful and heartbreaking.

Patterson writes clearly and well. The biography is fearsomely complete in its annotations. And the subject is fascinating.

I am grateful to Mr. Patterson, and to whoever "authorized" this biography (presumably Mrs. Heinlein).
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,821 reviews78 followers
September 5, 2020
This book should never have been this long. In fact, this biography should and could have been written in one volume instead of two, but the author seems to have no concept of what is relevant and what is interesting. I almost gave up on it on several occasions, and I basically wound up grudge reading the last several chapters because I'd already spent so much time on it.
Profile Image for Eamonn Murphy.
Author 23 books8 followers
June 22, 2020
Here, at last, is the long-awaited second volume of the authorised biography of Robert A. Heinlein. ‘Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, Volume 1: 1907-1948: Learning Curve’ told the story of his boyhood, his time in the navy and the beginnings of his writing career. ‘Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, Volume 2: 1948-1988: The Man Who Learned Better’ starts in 1948, by which time he was selling short stories to high paying magazines like the ‘Saturday Evening Post’ and had an arrangement with the publisher Scribner to write one juvenile novel a year, timed for the Christmas trade. Soon, he was working on the screenplay for ‘Destination Moon, the film version of ‘Rocketship Galileo’ and also got a job as a technical advisor on the production.

‘Volume 1’ also covered his personal life: the first brief marriage, the second longer one to Leslyn and the advent of Virginia, who became his third wife. Ginny moved in with Robert and Leslyn under their open marriage arrangement and ‘when the Snow Maiden got her skate in the door, things were different’ according to one correspondent. ‘Leslyn slept in the studio whilst Bob and the femme fatale cavorted in the master bedroom.’ Later, Ginny casually mentioned to Bob’s old friend, Cal Lanning, that they had lived together before they were married. Heinlein was furious. He was always very keen on keeping his private life private.

As well as being a private man, Heinlein was also rather madly patriotic and could not abide with anyone speaking against his country, even natives. He told Asimov off for complaining about the food when they worked in the Navy shipyards and, much later, he fell out badly with Arthur C. Clark when that worthy opined that the so-called ‘Star Wars’ missile defence system might not be a good idea. When I read ‘Grumbles From The Grave’, the posthumous collection of Heinlein’s grumpy letters, I had the impression that he had cut off all contact with John W. Campbell, Jr., following criticisms of the navy by Campbell during World War II. In fact, contact with the editor of ‘Astounding Science Fiction’ continued, usually in letters about L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics system, something Heinlein wisely avoided. No one was messing with his brain. He needed it. However, he certainly counted Hubbard as a good friend in 1948 because he loaned him $50 at a time when the Heinleins were pretty hard up themselves.

Many examples of his generosity are cited in the book. He gave money to Theodore Sturgeon when he was broke and also handed him a few plot ideas. He was generous to Sturgeon’s widow when she was in financial difficulties. He bought an electric typewriter for Philip K. Dick and loaned him money. He quietly supported the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) through hard times, even though a few of the other authors were highly critical of his political views. He really didn’t seem to care about money for its own sake. As soon as it was earned, he and Ginny would go off and spend it, usually on travelling around the world if they weren’t building a house. Later, a lot of it went on medical expenses.

The above examples of how nice Heinlein was highlighted the main enigma about him. He didn’t practice what he preached. The latter books seem to advocate selfishness, greed, looking after number one, etc and to sneer at altruism as pure foolishness. Lazarus Long regards lesser mortals – nearly everyone – as stupid and deserving of their Darwinian fate: poverty, famine or death. But Robert A. Heinlein wasn’t Lazarus Long or Jubal Harshaw or even Valentine Michael Smith. He spent a lot of time and money on recruiting blood donors. He went out and campaigned for political causes he believed in, though they were usually right wing. As mentioned above, he was generous with his money. In real life, he was more like the teenage idealist in a Heinlein juvenile than he was like the sour old heroes of the later novels. That is to his credit.

Heinlein always wanted his works to speak for him and avoided as much as possible any delving into his private life. That was quite interesting in ‘Volume 1’: political campaigns, marriage and breaking into the Science Fiction field and rising to the top. In ‘Volume 2’, the life is really a bit boring. Many squabbles with Shasta Publishing and Hollywood finance men over his share of the loot for the products. There’s a lot about house-building and trouble with contractors. There are family visits, family squabbles and loads of world travel. ‘Volume 1’ concentrated more on Science Fiction writing as he was learning his trade and to an extent on the Science Fiction fraternity of the time. As he became popular in the slicks and book publishing, Heinlein largely left hard-core SF fandom behind. Forrest Ackerman played a large part in this by being a pain in the neck, acting as ‘agent’ for Heinlein properties when he had no right to do so, this despite repeated attempts to make him stop. By this stage, Lurton Blassingame was the agent for virtually everything and was doing a very good job of making his client richer, obtaining foreign sales for the Scribner’s juveniles and getting good rates for serialisations of them in ‘Boy’s Life’ magazine. These had to be cut considerably and slightly amended to make the instalments more fitting but getting paid twice for the same novel was a good gimmick. The adult novels were usually serialised in the top SF magazines of the day so they also paid off twice.

Heinlein’s fame comes from his work as a Science Fiction writer. This biography reveals that he didn’t spend a whole lot of time writing. The very successful run of ‘juveniles’ for Scribner, one a year, were usually knocked out in a month. For example, he started writing ‘Star Beast’ on August 26th 1953 and had it finished by September 26th. The adult books didn’t take much longer. He wrote ‘The Puppet Masters’ in about five weeks beginning October 1, 1950. ‘Glory Road’ took three weeks. However, the time spent bashing out the first draft isn’t the whole story. Heinlein kept a large file of index cards on which he constantly made notes when he had an idea. Furthermore, he seems to have spent almost as much time cutting the first draft for publication as he did writing it. Certainly, this was the case with ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’. He also spent a lot of time and emotional energy arguing with Scribner’s editor Alice Dalgiesh about her ‘censorship’ of his work, though it seems to me that she knew the restrictions of the time and her cuts were designed to get the book safely past spinster librarians and other guardians of public morals in fifties America.

Of course, the time taken to write a work is no reflection of quality, for by now he had become a master of his art. All of Heinlein’s juveniles are intelligent, exciting adventure stories, easy to read and still popular today. The literati may criticise the lack of similes, metaphors and deep Freudian meaning but that stuff isn’t necessary to the average reader. The adult books of the fifties still had to be mostly about plot and characters. By 1960, Heinlein was fairly secure financially and ventured to include a bit more lecturing in ‘Starship Troopers’. That won a Hugo and his course was set. Thereafter, the books were more about his views than about plots and character. There were honourable exceptions, notably ‘The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress’ but, in general, the adult novels from ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ onwards are the thoughts of Chairman Heinlein.

It should be noted that as Heinlein is an intelligent, witty writer and the books are very charming and readable. I like them all, even though I don‘t agree with his politics. It’s worth pointing out, though, that his reputation was mostly built on the fifties work and I believe that is what will stand the test of time. ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ remains a classic and marks his zenith, the equivalent of ‘Sergeant Pepper’ for The Beatles. After the fact, people may argue about its worth but no one doubts its importance. The comparison is apt, too, because, like that popular beat combo, Heinlein was at the top of the field and had sufficient clout with the men in suits to experiment. They could be sure that any Heinlein book would sell. It was also like ‘Lord Of The Rings’, very much a part of sixties pop culture.

There is a theory, backed up by information here, that with the later works, especially the very latest, he was not interested in melodrama and the usual stuff of adventure but more in ideas and social satire. That being so, criticism of ‘I Will Fear No Evil’ or ‘The Cat Who Walks Through Walls’ for not being like ‘Starman Jones’ is futile. They weren’t meant to be. Heinlein knew what he was doing and if some people in the so-called SF community didn’t like it, he didn’t give a damn.

The main thing lacking in this authorised biography is any definite opinion by the author about his subject. The general tone is reverent, which is okay, but many biographies are extended essays which put forward a particular point of view. Sometimes the biographer may not like his subject. That’s okay, too. Patterson has done wonderful research as evidenced by the extensive notes accompanying each chapter but doesn’t have a conclusion or any analysis of what Heinlein was about. The two books might be called ‘What Heinlein Did’ and ‘What Heinlein Did Next’. On the other hand, there are plenty of opinions about Heinlein and his work out there and the facts assembled here are useful in their own right. ‘Volume 2’ contains some interesting stuff but, probably because the life of a struggling artist is more precarious than that of a successful rich one, the first book was better.

Eamonn Murphy
This review first appeared at https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/
Profile Image for Chris.
429 reviews5 followers
October 31, 2014
This one has less editorial about how heroic Heinlein was. Patterson still explains several times that Heinlein's almost unique perspective was right, and people who disagreed with him were wrong or incapable of understanding reality. There is at least a (very) little much-needed perspective on Heinlein's faults. There is also some appreciation for Virginia's largely unheralded contribution to the canon.

Next I need to read the criticism of Patterson's criticism -- which is remarkably uncritical of Heinlein, but sharply critical of his critics (as Heinlein was).

Unfortunately much of the detail in the book is buried in the footnotes, among thousands of notes which only point researchers to the sources of various comments. I wanted to read all the detail, but never are which interview tape with Virginia Heinlein any fact was mentioned on. Additionally the footnotes worked very badly in both the Kindle and iBooks editions -- even worse in the Kindle edition, so I got a credit for the first book and rebought from the iBookstore, because Apple's footnotes were less broken. So I kept jumping back to the footnotes, reading a bunch of commentary on text I hadn't ready yet, making a mental note of how far I had gotten, then jumping back into the maintext and trying to remember how far I'd gotten in the footnotes while continuing. Unfortunately tapping the footnotes often paged forward or backward rather than jumping into the footnotes section, and tapping to return to the maintext was even worse. I averaged about 4 taps to return to the maintext, and several times slid off the page and had to return to the correct footnote page, only to retry (that's 10 failed taps, 10 recovery taps, and 1 eventual successful tap, just to get back out of the freaking footnotes). And the links near the top and bottom of the page were more problematic, so I often jumped around a bit to find a footnote/maintext link in a place that would be more likely to work. This is a problem with an electronic edition, but if I were reading on paper I would have needed to keep 2 bookmarks in the book and still flip back and forth frequently.
Profile Image for Jerry-Book.
276 reviews6 followers
February 13, 2016
Finished Robert Heinlein, The Man Who Learned Better, 1948-1988 by William H. Patterson, Jr. This book is the second volume of Patterson's biography of Heinlein. He certainly presents every detail about Heinlein's life. The book is ultimately disappointing since like the first volume it lacks any critical analysis of Heinlein or his work. Why did Heinlein the early left leaning libertarian politician end up as a member of the John Birch Society and a backer of Barry Goldwater? Was it the influence of his Republican third wife? After winning Hugoes for Double Star, Star Ship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress why did Heinlein lose his way with I Will Fear No Evil, Time Enough For Love, The Number of the Beast, Job, The Cat Who Walked Through Walls, and I Will Sail Beyond the Sunset. The author does no more than recite the book sales of these later books and provides no analysis. The author does explain why Heinlein was a backer of Ronald Reagon's Star Wars defense plan and why that led to a conflict with Arthur C. Clarke. Like Asimov's autobiography which I compare this to one certainly learns a lot about publishing short stories and novels. There is some detail about his friendships with other writers such as E E Doc Smith, Theodore Sturgeon, Asimov, Clarke, Jack Williamson, L. Sprague De Camp, Poul Anderson, Fred Pohl, and Jerry Pournelle. There was an interesting note about Heinlein's help in critiquing Pournelle's and Niven's The Mote in God's Eye which turned the book into a success.
Profile Image for John Cooper.
208 reviews10 followers
May 10, 2020
Because the two volumes of William Patterson's biography of Robert Heinlein make up a single work, and because most readers who finish the first volume will want to proceed to the second, this is a combined review of both volumes.

Patterson has poured as much time and research into this big biography of Heinlein as typically goes into a life of a major historical figure, and the result is engrossing, especially the first volume. Heinlein overcame a childhood of emotional neglect, a lack of financial resources, and a highly sensitive nature to enter the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, where he withstood harsh conditions and (especially in the first year) brutal hazing, and achieved what could have been expected to be a secure, lifetime career as a naval officer, only to be permanently retired in his 20s by ill health. Recovering, he entered politics as a socialist candidate for the California Assembly, knocking on every door in his district--no easy task for a man on the introverted side of the spectrum--only to be defeated by a few hundred votes. When the Japanese attacked in 1941, he applied immediately to be returned to active duty, but was denied due to his authorship of a bitter public letter protesting police brutality almost eight years previous. Undefeated, he relocated to Philadelphia to work in a civilian defense plant, where his coworkers included fellow writers Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp. As the war ended, his marriage of 15 years broke up as he fell in love with the woman with whom he would spend the rest of his life. The first volume ends there; the second details his life with Virginia (Ginny) Gerstenfeld Heinlein, and covers the period during which he was most famous and productive.

Patterson covers all this in great detail--no small feat after most of the major players have died and the traces of some, including his former wife Leslyn, have been largely obliterated. At times the detail is a bit more than necessary, but usually the picture is vivid and illuminating, and judiciously rendered. (The habit some 20th century people had of keeping carbon copies of their correspondence is a biographers' godsend.) The exception, and it's a big one, is in his treatment of Leslyn, an intelligent and vivacious woman who could hardly have been more important to the first half of Heinlein's life, but of whom few historical traces remain, since she had little public life, and the bulk of her letters were destroyed. Patterson's main source and patron for this biography wsa Ginny, Leslyn's successor wife, whose disdain for Leslyn appears to have been boundless. Carol McGuirk of SF Studies points out that "Leslyn’s index entries (“affairs,” “alcoholic deterioration,” “badmouthing of Heinlein,” “bouts of rage,” etc.) speak volumes about the biographer’s special pleading for Virginia Heinlein’s version of this part of Heinlein’s story....When Leslyn discovered that her brother-in-law had been shot and then burned alive in a Philippine prison after months of torture, her depression deepened further. Stress and grief surely had their part in wrecking the marriage, yet Leslyn bears all responsibility. Another index entry on Leslyn includes four references to “psychotic episodes”; yet going back to the pages, one finds passages that fail to document any such thing: “she just locked herself in an enraged frame of mind” (221), “the psychotic episodes went away” (350), “Leslyn was confined to bed in a state of mind that could only be called psychotic” (415), and she was showing “flashes of temper” (537 n24). Only in a grudging footnote does Patterson concede that in 1950 Leslyn joined Alcoholics Anonymous and that she remarried twice, dying in 1981."

Otherwise, where gaps need to be filled in and conjecture must be resorted to, Patterson is for the most part reasonable and open about how he reached his conclusions. His adulation of his subject goes over the top mostly in the endnotes, where he can't resist explaining what makes a particular story so ahead of its time, and advocates for Heinlein's views of religion or politics too defensively. Patterson really gets up on a soapbox as he repeatedly lectures the reader about classical versus modern liberalism, by way of arguing that Heinlein's essential politics never changed. It's not a convincing argument, given that the one-time socialist candidate became an intense supporter of presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, and dropped friends with more nuanced views of the Communist threat to America.

Patterson was not the first writer authorized to write Heinlein's biography. Dr. Leon Stover, an anthropologist, first worked on it before his access to Heinlein's papers and archives was revoked by Ginny. Patterson says that this was due to her "concern at the amount of rumor Stover was soliciting and not fact-checking with her"--in other words, at his widening his sources and attempting to paint a balanced portrait. Her action apparently succeeded, in that getting any sense of Heinlein's flaws as a writer, husband, or friend requires an extremely careful reading between the lines combined with considerable informed speculation.

Overall, however, the picture is of a talented and admirable man who would not have succeeded were it not for many times the usual measure of self-discipline, resilience, and the confidence that comes as a result of both. Heinlein was in many ways more interesting than one might have guessed from reading his novels and stories. I'm grateful to William Patterson for preserving this rich record, however incomplete, of an unusual and fascinating human being.
Profile Image for Al Lock.
680 reviews21 followers
February 10, 2017
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has read any of Robert A. Heinlein's work. The author has done a fantastic job in capturing this strong willed individual in all his strengths and flaws.
Profile Image for Ken Richards.
690 reviews3 followers
October 3, 2019
3.5 Stars
The success of William Patterson's meticulous biography of one of the giants of Science Fiction is that is elicits in the reader a desire to revisit the work of the master, and evaluate how well it has fared against the depredations of the Suck Fairy.

These volumes are authorised by Heinlein's widow Virginia, and so have a tendency to toe the party line, particularly as it concerns some problematic relationships with some folk in fandom Heinlein came to dislike. Whilst the earlier volume 'Learning Curve' was concerned with the author's early life and naval career, his first two marriages, his progression through politics, and his development as a creator of short stories and later short novels, 'The Man Who Learned Better' brings the reader up to date with the events of the writer's pomp, and the defining love of his life, Virginia. It is probably true to say that it is unlikely that any one writer should have such universal influence as did Heinlein had in the 1960s to 1980s, given the vast expansion and atomisation of the field.

It is fascinating to read of the struggles writers had with the propensity of publishing houses to cheat and gyp writers by failure to pay contracts, or to respect royalty payments and copyright. Eternal vigilance and attention to detail was an essential for survival in the industry.

It is also quite fascinating to observe Heinlein's struggle to write what he wished to write, against the strictures of the 'market', which pressed him into a straitjacket to comply with the 'nuggetty nuggets' demanded, if not by the readers, by those who purported to know what readers wanted (more of what we sold last time). It was only when he was able to break those chains with controversial novels including 'Starship Troopers', 'Stranger in a Strange Land' and 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress', that his sales became so stratospheric as to give him Carte Blanche in future endeavours. This might have been the prime reason that 'I Will Fear No Evil' and 'Time Enough For Love' and their successors were able to bloom!

Patterson maintains the quaint fiction that Heinlein's politics remained static whilst the world moved ever more leftward. I guess from Heinlein's frame of reference, that is what happened, though his progression from Democrat to Republican over the years gives the rest of us a different perspective. I do though wish I could hear what he would have thought of the Christian Right. I cannot think he would have approved! In general though, his political evolution and attitude to geopolitics, defence and taxes are not unusual for a man of his experience and background. Once a naval officer, always a naval officer. Though one might have expected to find some yearning for the sanity of socialised medicine as the massive expenses of the US excuse for a health system impinged on the fortunes of the Heinlein's in his declining years.

A worthy read, and a fine reminder of a giant of the field.
Profile Image for Carmen.
622 reviews12 followers
January 3, 2021
After slogging through Volume I, I was afraid this one would be boring as well. But Robert Heinlein's life was far more interesting as an adult. I didn't need to learn about every single person he met but of course the people we meet and exchange ideas with are what helps define us and gives us food for thought.
I felt badly for him about his second wife, Leslyn. She was so used to treating him badly whenever she felt like it, it took meeting a balanced woman, Ginny, for him to realize how he deserved to be treated.
Leslyn went so far as to try to get his sympathy by telling him she tried to commit suicide. That manipulation woke him up at last and he insisted on divorce after that.

She wrote a lot of poison letters to his friends and colleagues while sending him sweet letters looking to reconcile. His friends sent him the letters so he knew what he was dealing with.
(I had a sister like that so get that he needed to get away)
He gave her the house, leaving him broke and homeless, while she squandered the proceeds on booze and a piano player she later married.
I am so impressed with his growth and thoughts a
nd with Ginny for making their life work.
I've highlighted a lot here. I kept worrying about all their travel seeing as they both had so many health issues. I guess back then they had no idea of the harm they were doing to themselves with smoking.
The part about traveling the arctic circle had me pulling out my Globe to trace their route!
So he coined "pay it forward". The "Trouble with Tribbles" in Startrek were plagiarized from his "flat cats". He started the first volunteer blood drives.
I wish for his sake he'd stayed out of politics and saved his energies. I don't think he ever worked for a campaign that won.
Profile Image for Miguel Ángel Alonso Pulido.
Author 11 books54 followers
January 6, 2018
Si con el primer volumen disfruté como un enano, este lo he gozado pero bien, disfrutando de la historia de Robert A. Heinlein desde que se casó con Virginia hasta el día de su muerte. Ahí mucho que descubrir en esas cuatro décadas: el método de trabajo de Robert y cómo escribió sus novelas más famosas, como Tropas del espacio, Forastero en tierra extraña o La Luna es una cruel amante; su relación de amor / odio con el fandom; su pasión por el espacio y la carrera espacial, y también por la política y la donación de sangre; o sus viajes a lo largo y ancho de todo el mundo, hasta que llegó el final. Aquí reconozco que se me hizo un nudo en la garganta en esa parte, porque sé de primera mano lo que es ver un ser querido apagarse poco a poco. Heinlein vivió una vida plena y ojalá pudiéramos decir todos lo mismo al final. Totalmente recomendable para profundizar en la vida de uno de los mejores novelistas del siglo XX.
Profile Image for Ari.
702 reviews70 followers
July 22, 2022
This is the second half of the two-volume authorized Heinlein biography. This one covers the successful part of his career: from 1948 through his death. There's a summary of the course through publication of each book, and considerable detail about the business arrangements. A few things I noticed:

- Heinlein's weird late books were very deliberate. When people offhandedly said "oh yeah it's when he stopped getting edited" this is literally true. He put into the contract "no editing" and was very deliberately being weird and unsettling for his own aesthetic reasons.
- He spent several years working hard on blood donation and had a big role in the transition to the current voluntary system.
- He was a big cultural success and cultural figure; more than I had understood.
Profile Image for Richard.
Author 38 books6 followers
May 29, 2020
Patterson continues and completes his well-researched bio of Robert Heinlein with this second volume. In his later years Heinlein's hawkish politics colored his work and fame. This book details the SF writer's evolution in a more nuanced way than I remember during those years. Heinlein comes across as moral and principled, even if you don't agree with him. My one criticism of this work is there is so much detail about Heinlein's day to day life that it overshadows his novels, which I would have liked to have read more about. That said, this is a serious work, and a must read for those interested in this important SF writer.
662 reviews
August 2, 2020
Stumbled on this accidentally when search new ebooks on the library site. I am a fan of Heinlein's writings but didn't know much about him personally so decided to give it a try.

Unfortunately the library didn't have volume 1

Thoroughly researched but written as an almost daily account of his life with little insight into the reasons why he did things. I recognized some of the titles of "boys books" that I had read in junior high - no one told me they were for boys. But little analysis of the works themselves. Found myself skimming hunting for that type of information.

Maybe I'll just go back and read some of the fiction instead.
Profile Image for Fredrick Danysh.
6,844 reviews156 followers
February 21, 2019
This biography of Robert A. Heinlein covers the last forty years of his life and his second marriage. We get a glimpse of both his professional and personal life as well as some background on the stories he wrote during his lifetime. There are over 200 pages of endnotes and appendixes as well as copies of letters by his wife after his death. Heinlein was indeed A Stranger in A Strange Land.
Profile Image for OvercommuniKate.
394 reviews1 follower
February 21, 2022
DNF. As a modern reader, I find Heinlein's break down of a poly relationship and the influence of his medical issues in his books interesting. This book does not really get into that as it's a haigography. Especially because it never critiques Heinlein for being a provocateur. He was a political troll.

https://marissalingen.com/blog/?p=490
Profile Image for Bill Yancey.
Author 16 books78 followers
January 1, 2018
Nice to see how and when Heinlein got some of his ideas. The man was a genius, and misunderstood by the media.
Profile Image for AVANTI KUMAR.
Author 2 books
July 20, 2021
Volume two is as engaging as the first.

Authoritative and well crafted. Highly recommended!
1,083 reviews6 followers
May 15, 2021

[Imported automatically from my blog. Some formatting there may not have translated here.]

Spoiler: he dies at the end.

(Sorry. But I would like to think it's the kind of joke he'd appreciate.)

This is the second volume of the massive "official" biography of Robert A. Heinlein by William H. Patterson. (Sadly, Patterson did not see it in print: he died earlier this year at — gulp! — my own age. I hate it when that happens.) The full title is a mouthful: Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century: Volume 2: 1948-1988: The Man Who Learned Better. My impressions of Volume 1 from back in 2010 are here.

To recap from that post: back when I compiled a list of the ten most personally influential books Heinlein had two entries. And that didn't include Red Planet as the first big-boy book I read, checking it out from the Oakland, Iowa Public Library. So I'm more than a fan; Heinlein nudged my life in significant ways.

The book kicks off with Heinlein's third marriage, to his beloved Virginia ("Ginny"). The third time was definitely the charm, because Ginny became not only his wife, but also an unofficial business partner, secretary, critic, travel companion. And, at the end, caregiver. Their mutual devotion is perhaps the major theme of this volume. (There is a truly touching letter written by Ginny to her late husband in an Appendix at the end.)

The book is (like Volume 1) a little heavy going, with a hodgepodge of details, not all of them of equal interest. Want to know about the construction details of Heinlein's dwellings? Travel itineraries? Health problems (his and Ginny's)? Legal battles over Destination Moon? Squabbles with editors and publishers? It's all here, and much more. Would have much appreciated a "good parts" version.

In addition, Patterson seems to have made a concious decision to leave meaty discussion of Heinlein's writings to the literary critics. Which is (of course) his call, but for those of us who love a lot of his works, it's an absence.

Patterson is an admirer of Heinlein (and Ginny) right down the line. What emerges from the book is an entirely admirable portrait of a complex person. Example: Heinlein's devotion to the socialist Upton Sinclair in the 1930s was transformed into an enthusiasm for Barry Goldwater in the 1960s. (Heinlein himself didn't consider this a major shift, but come on.) He despised Ike. He became an ardent proponent of "Star Wars" (the Strategic Defense Initiative) in the early years of the Reagan Administration.

He was generous to his friends, and also to causes that struck his fancy. For a while he and Ginny were active participants in blood donation campaigns, an effort that the Heinlein Society continues today. Adversaries were seemingly few, but their spats were epic. Alexei Panshin, author of an early book of Heinlein criticism, especially drew his ire; his antagonism toward Panshin ran for a couple decades. American Maoist academic H. Bruce Franklin also comes off poorly here.

Overall, I learned that I was not alone: Heinlein affected a lot of people. I plan to put a few books on by to-be-read (in this case, to-be-re-read) pile, especially the "uncut" versions that have become available since his demise: Stranger in a Strange Land, Red Planet, and The Puppet Masters. (As it turns out, Red Planet was cut back in the 1950s because the publisher thought it was a little too gun-friendly! Plus ça change!

[And thanks once again to the Dimond Library of the University Near Here, who purchased this volume at my request. Even though I was, they admitted, the only person who had ever checked out Volume One.]

Profile Image for Rafeeq O..
Author 8 books4 followers
July 9, 2017
The second volume of William H. Patterson's Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with his Century is an enjoyable and informative read for anyone with an interest in Heinlein, and especially those who have read the first volume. I confess that I probably enjoyed the first volume over this one just a hair more, but I believe this is simply a natural product of the material. The details of Heinlein's early period, after all--his naval career, his marriage to Eleanor Curry and then to Leslyn MacDonald, his early political ideas, his entry into the pulps--are less known to most of us than the later period, and for me, at least, they make perhaps the fractionally better read.


Nevertheless, the second half of Heinlein's life is well worth study, and Patterson's heavily footnoted tome provides details large and small, woven together engagingly. Oh, every now and then we might quibble over a turn of phrase that is not quite as adroit as it could be, and yet while reviewers occasionally comment on Patterson's seeming agreement with, say, Heinlein's distaste of Alexei Panshin or H. Bruce Franklin or his support of Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, I doubt that the same people would fault him for sympathizing with Heinlein's zeal to defeat the Axis in the Second World War--I myself prefer to allow a biographer his opinions, as I would any other human. And of course the final chapters, detailing Heinlein's decline in health, and ultimate death, and painful--and yet they must be read.


In short, Patterson's two-volume biography of Robert A. Heinlein is wide and deep, an invaluable resource to any reader of the most famous and influential name in modern science fiction, and the second half is as grand a treat as the first.

68 reviews29 followers
September 26, 2014
Not as interesting as the first volume, but not as bad as some of the reviews I've read would have you believe. Some of the reviews were critical of how 'worshipful' Patterson is of Heinlein. I saw quite a bit of respect rendered in both volumes, but not a lot of worship. The biggest criticism I would render is most everything is shown from Heinlein's side of the matter and people in opposition to him are default wrong. Relationships are more complicated than that, and they certainly were in Heinlein's life. Robert was a person of strong opinions his whole life and much of what he said went against the grain with many. Most who have an opinion on Heinlein and his life will be very pro or very anti with not many occupying the middle ground. Because I was at least aware of the broad outlines of the last half of his life, this came over more as a recitation of a time line. Oh, he's interested in this or that-Farnham's Freehold or Glory Road are on his agenda now. The most surprising fact I found in this volume was he had been tinkering and doing many new starts of Stranger since 1949. I would call the book worthwhile to read, but I got more bang for my buck with volume one. His life wasn't so settled, and he wasn't such an Icon, so it was more interesting reading.
Profile Image for Stephen.
341 reviews5 followers
August 5, 2014
I'm somewhat torn about giving this book four stars as I gave the same rating to the first volume and this concluding book does not work as well as the initial one. Patterson's unquestioning admiration of Heinlein, and his wife who was a major source for this authorized biography, is much more evident than in the first volume and his seemingly complete inability to acknowledge that Heinlein might have been (gasp!) wrong or at least too quick to judge becomes overwhelming. At times it is impossible to separate the opinions of the author from those of his subject. There is also a strong whiff of stories untold regarding Heinlein's relationships outside of his marriage that would have provided a more well rounded picture of the man as well as informed the quite limited discussions of his work. Ultimately, however, this is an important book, giving us the first thoroughly researched biography of a towering figure in science fiction and the weaknesses of the book are outweighed by the thoroughness of the research and the wealth of detail about his life and times. Like much of Heinlein's own work, whether you end up loving it or hating it, you should still have read it.
Profile Image for Mark Palmer.
9 reviews
October 20, 2014
A life long Heinlein fan, I picked up the second volume of Patterson's biography first. I wasn't sure I wanted to wade through his early years first - rather I wanted to get at him during his prime years.

Patterson's biography is well researched and detailed. This is not light reading and some may be turned off by some of the mundane day to day details of Heinlein's life. But the book gave me some better insight behind the books and RAH's politics of the day.

The downside for me is that Patterson is working almost exclusively off of archival material. Heinlein's contemporaries are gone as well. Most of the interviews came from authors who are still around (Niven, Pournelle for instance)that he came in contact with only later in his career. It's too bad RAH couldn't have been interviewed for this. And it's too bad that there's not more balance to the story - RAH comes under very little criticism here.

Now that I've finished Volume 2 I have to get Volume 1. I missed too many pieces of background.
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