Post by Quadibloc Post by Quadibloc Post by Lynn McGuire
And yes, every single one of them had an agenda. Especially Heinlein
("Farnham's Freehold" and "Sixth Column" come to mind immediately).
Farnham's Freehold certainly is one of the champions if one were holding a
competition for most politically incorrect work by a major science-fiction
However, if anyone were to seriously suggest that Heinlein had an agenda to
promote the disenfranchisement of blacks, because they were cannibals at heart
and a fifth column for Islam, in my opinion that person would be seriously
wrong. (There's other evidence that Heinlein was strongly opposed to
Post by Quadibloc
is well known here.)
If he ddidn't have _that_ agenda, then there's nothing left except maybe the
non-controversial "nuclear war is a bad thing because it hurts people".
Not...exactly. I find "Farnam's Freehold" to be Heinlein's equivalent
of "Angel One" and "The Outcast", two episodes of Star Trek TNG who
tried to illuminate modern society (at the time) by reversing social
problems. In "Angel One" the crew deal with a world where women are
bigger and stronger than the local men and are alarmed by the arrival of
some giant men from Earth who aren't prepared accept subordinate status
and spark the invention of a "men's liberation" movement. In "The
Outcast" a society that has rejected gender differentiation deals with
people who gender themselves as "male or "female" by brainwashing the
sexual deviance out of them.
And despite the best intentions, the results sucked. In Heinlein's case
the idea was to present the reader with the question "What if you were
in the position of modern day black people in the U.S., as an oppressed
minority." Nice idea in theory. Lousy in execution like the
aforementioned TNG episodes. Just because a story has an agenda
doesn't mean that it will succeed. Other people did it better, although
those other people also did it later.
Anyone remember the title of that novel where Europeans were imported as
slaves in a North America colonized by China, and are now demonstrating
for civil rights. It had this one scene where a young woman was
standing on one leg as a an act of nonviolent protest and had to wait
out an army commander who decided to just stand in front of her on both
of his feet.
_White Lotus_ by John Hersey. I had a copy of that book sitting
around for years. The trouble with it was what is frequently
what's the trouble when somebody who is used to writing literary
fiction tries his hand at a genre: they don't know how the genre
works. One thing that can happen is reinventing the wheel: I'm
sure we can all come up with examples. (Lawrence Block's _Random
Bu in Hersey's case, he is so anxious to say "how would you feel
if it were to happen to you?" that he compresses the entire history
of African-Americans, from being captured, transported to another
continent, enslaved, liberated, living at a disadvantage as a
sharecropper, and finally beginning a civil-rights movement ...
all within a decade or so of the life of one woman.
Basically the same mistake as _Farnham's Freehold,_ only Heinlein
ought to have known better.
Post by Quadibloc
Of course one thing that helped undermine Heinlein's attempt was that he
had that little quirk where almost everything he wrote for adults had to
contain a violation of a social stricture of his time. There had to be
group marriage, or incest, or public nudity, or a romance between a man
and a child, or...in this case...cannibalism.
He had reached the point where anything he wrote would get
published, and I'm not sure whether he was trying to find out
just how far he could push the limits, or whether in his second
childhood we was channeling the little boy who utters the naughty
words at the top of his voice when the bishop and his wife have
come to tea.
Dorothy J. Heydt
djheydt at gmail dot com