Heinlein pic

Robert A. Heinlein

1907–1988
Novels, stories, scripts
Works on Greatest lists
Greatest Literature

Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)

Greatest Novels

Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)

Greatest Novellas

Universe (1941)

Greatest Stories

"The Roads Must Roll" (1940)

Science Fiction

"The Roads Must Roll" (1940)

Universe (1941)

Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966)

Related commentaries
Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange Land may be an old favourite of mine, and apparently of many other readers, but I'm wondering if it's time to drop it from the list of greatest novels. It has.... more

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress has much—maybe too much—to appeal to followers of all Robert Heinlein's diverse interests. For science fiction fans, with an emphasis on science.... more

Robert A. Heinlein

THE AUTHOR | THE WORKS | VIEWS AND QUOTES

On books, writers and writing

1941

I myself have been reading science fiction since Gernsback started putting it out in the Electrical Experimenter. Then I read in Argosy and I dug up all that I could out of the Kansas City Public Library.... I never had any particular notion of writing it until about two years ago when a concatenation of peculiar circumstances started me writing. I happened to hit the jackpot on the first one, so I continued writing. I t amazed me to discover that people gave money away for doing things like that—it sure beats working.

It's likely that I won't be writing very much longer. With the way things are shaping up, I'll probably have other things I'll have to do, as will others, whether we like it or not. But I hope to be fan of science fiction for at least fifty years if I can hold myself together that long and keep from getting my teeth kicked in.

Speech to Third World Science Fiction Convention

1942

I will probably go on writing, at least part time, indefinitely. If you someday find it necessary to start rejecting my stuff, I expect to take a crack at some other forms, slick perhaps, and book-form novels, and in particular a non-fiction book on finance and money theory which I have wanted to do for a long time, also some articles on various economic and social problems. I have an outlet for such things, but it would be largely a labor of love—maybe ten dollars for an article into which has gone a week of research, and slim royalties on books in that field. Howsomever, I might crack the high word rates on general fiction at the same time. One never knows—I never expected to be writing pulp, or fiction of any sort, but it has paid me well...to my surprise!

Letter to John W. Campbell

1947

[Rules for writing:]

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

Essay "On the Writing of Speculative Fiction"

1955

What this job really calls for is a meeting of the defunct Mañana Literary Society. Almost all writers need cross-pollenation—myself most certainly! (I am at present stuck on p.148 of the best set-up for a novel I ever had in my life and I cannot get the Goddam thing to gel!) The M.L.S. used to give ideas such a kicking around that a man went out of there with notes enough for three months; when Jack Williams, Anthony Boucher, Cleve Cartmill, Mick McComas, and several others all got to snarling over the same bone, something had to give.

My only regret at living in this idyllic ivory tower surrounded by snow-covered mountains, deer, Chinese pheasants, tall pine trees, and silence is that while a writer needs a lot of silence, he also needs stimulating talk....

I have had a dirty suspicion since I was about six that all consciousness is one and that all the actors I see around me (including my enemies) are myself, at different points in the record's grooves. I once partly explored this in a story called BY HIS BOOTSTRAPS. I say "partly" because I touched on one point only—and the story was mistaken by the readers (most of them) for a time-travel paradox story...whereas I was investigating whether "the wine we thought we swallered could make us dream of all that follered...but we was only simple seamen so of course we couldn't know."

Letter to Theodore Sturgeon

1978

Any competent fiction writer can assume many roles, many points of view, any age, either sex. If he can't do this he had better get into some other trade.

Letter to John Presser

On politics

1973

Conscription is slavery, and I don't think that any people or nation has a right to save itself at the price of slavery for anyone, no matter what name it is called. We have had the draft for twenty years now; I think this is shameful. If a country can't save itself through the volunteer service of its own free people, then I say : Let the damned thing go down the drain!

Speech at the 29th World Science Fiction Convention

1973

It seems to me that every time we manage to establish one freedom, they take another one away. Maybe two. And that seems to me characteristic of a society as it gets older, and more crowded, and higher taxes, and more laws. I would say that my position is not too far from that of Ayn Rand's; that I would like to see government reduced to no more than internal police and courts, external armed forces—with the other matters handled otherwise. I'm sick of the way government sticks its nose in everything, now.

Interview with J. Neil Schulman

On space and science

1961

This is the great day. This is the greatest event in all the history of the human race, up to this time. That is—today is New Year's Day of the Year One. If we don't change the calendar, historians will do so. The human race—this is our change, our puberty rite, bar mitzvah, confirmation, from the change of our infancy into adulthood for the human race. And we're going to go on out, not only to the Moon, to the stars; we're going to spread. I don't know that the United States is going to do it; I hope so. I have—I'm an American myself; I want it to be done by us. But in any case, the human race is going to do it, it's utterly inevitable: we're going to spread through the entire universe.

Interview with Walter Cronkite of CBS News

1973

In this complex world, science, the scientific method, and the consequences of the scientific method are central to everything the human race is doing and to wherever we are going. If we blow ourselves up we will do it by misapplication of science; if we manage to keep from blowing ourselves up, it will be through intelligent application of science.

Address at U.S. Naval Academy

THE AUTHOR | THE WORKS | VIEWS AND QUOTES