Time Enough to Blog; sci-fi reflection

I came across this quiz yesterday while on my way to somewhere else and almost passed over it. There was a time in my life – mainly my college days – when I read a lot of science fiction/fantasy books. I had more than a passing familiarity with masters such as Ellison, Zelazny, Herbert, Asimov and Howard. While there was certainly an element of the fantastical to their work, what drew me to them was the commentary and views of reality woven through their works. At the top of my list, however, was Robert Heinlein. Interestingly enough, here’s the results of my “What Science Fiction Author Are You?” quiz:

I am:

Robert A. Heinlein

Beginning with technological action stories and progressing to epics with religious overtones, this take-no-prisoners writer racked up some huge sales numbers.

Which science fiction writer are you?

My first semester in college a friend told me I had to read Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love, which had come out a few year earlier (1973) and was in paperback. Next to Wouk’s The Winds of War I think TEFL was the fattest paperback I’d ever picked up. It was also a tremendous story, telling the tale of Lazarus Long, a man some 2000 years old (not to be confused with the Mel Brooks-Carl Reiner creation). It was thought-provoking, even startling, look at the nature of time and social and sexual mores. The sprawling tale itself featured several other stories within it that could have stood on their own as short stories or novellas. And as an extra treat there were two interludes – squeezed in like frosting between layers of a cake – that were described as excerpts from the notebooks of Lazarus Long: pithy nuggets of wisdom and observations of life. From the obvious and mundane — small change may often be found under seat cushions — to the outlandishly practical — Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect — my friends and I would quote these back and forth to each other and most remain with me to this day.

One of the recurring theme’s in Heinlein’s work is that of the individual vs. the mind-numbing mass and his iconoclastic zeal for creativity and independence appealed to me. I can’t say how much his views shaped my opinions, or if I liked his work because it agreed with my own outlook, but I know that all of us become who we are because of the people we meet and the books we read; at the least Heinlein helped articulate for me what I may already have sensed.

Eventually he and I “parted ways”. His later writings – like those of Ayn Rand – ultimately exalted the individual to the point of nihilism, disregarding responsibility to others (at least in my opinion). His views of religion and the supernatural tickled my agnostic sensibilities for a time, but I ultimately came to see that what he viewed as unreal and intangible could be very real and tangible. Lazarus Long said, “What are the facts? Again and again and again — what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what ‘the stars foretell,’ avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable ‘verdict of history’ — what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!” I found there was truth in between every decimal place of his facts, and this portion of his “gospel” I rejected.

Reviewing the results of this quiz, however, brought back many of those Lazarus Long statements to my memory – along with a smile. Many still do a good job of summarizing some of my beliefs. Here are some I think you’ll enjoy:

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