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:
Beginning with technological action stories and progressing to epics with religious overtones, this take-no-prisoners writer racked up some huge sales numbers.
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:
A poet who reads his verse in public may have other nasty habits.
All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplusage, excrescence, adornment, luxury, or folly which can — and must — be dumped in emergency to preserve this prime function. As racial survival is the only universal morality, no other basic is possible. Attempts to formulate a “perfect society” on any foundation other than “Women and children first!” is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly — and no doubt will keep on trying.
When the need arises — and it does — you must be able to shoot your own dog. Don’t farm it out — that doesn’t make it nicer, it makes it worse.
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck”.
In a mature society, “civil servant” is semantically equal to “civil master”.
The two highest achievements of the human mind are the twin concepts of “loyalty” and “duty”. Whenever these twin concepts fall into disrepute — get out of there fast! You may possibly save yourself, but it is too late to save that society. It is doomed.
The truth of a proposition has nothing to do with its credibility. And vice versa.
Any government will work if authority and responsibility are equal and coordinate. This does not insure “good” government; it simply insures that it will work. But such governments are rare — most people want to run things but want no part of the blame. This used to be called the “backseat-driver syndrome.”
Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed.
When the fox gnaws — smile
Touch is the most fundamental sense. A baby experiences it, all over, before he is born and long before he learns to use sight, hearing, taste, and no human ever ceases to need it. Keep your children short of pocket money — but long on hugs.
Never try to outstubborn a cat.
The correct way to punctuate a sentence that starts: “Of course it is none of my business but –” is to place a period after the word “but.” Don’t use excessive force in supplying such moron with a period. Cutting his throat is only a momentary pleasure and is bound to get you talked about.
A committee is a life form with six or more legs and no brain.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.