4.27.2008

The Doctor Calls, The Gouda Answers

Because of the concern of my friend, Doctor Boogaloo, and because I do realize that I haven't been by here in awhile, I just wanted to alert you all that I am alive and well, but I have been extremely busy of late. We've (almost, keep your fingers crossed) sold our house and are in the process of moving into another one. Packing eight years worth of life into boxes and transporting them five miles up the road is pretty time consuming.

That isn't to say I haven't been writing. I have a site over on Myspace and it's been easier to keep things up over there, and I suppose if you were on Myspace, many of you wouldn't be questioning whether I'm still alive. I guess you can say I've narrowed my focus a little. But there are some new things on the horizon, namely that I am intent on starting a freelance writing/editing business, and I've been devoting a lot more of my writing efforts to fiction.

But once things settle down, I'll be neglecting MoaG a lot less. I want to thank the dear Doctor for his concern and for getting me to come out of my hole for a little bit.

And for a something a little "blog-like," here is a piece I wrote on one of my favorite authors:

To be elevated to "hero" status in my view, you need to do something to change the amperage in it. You have to be that burst of something which moves me to a higher energy level. You have to be the spark the ignites the gasoline running through my veins. Or, to put it in its barest form, you have to make me utterly ecstatic to be alive.

Meet one of my heroes, Robert A. Heinlein:

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Some of you may be familiar with his work, particularly if you read science fiction. He is often rated among the "giants" of the genre alongside Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, and Isaac Asimov. In fact, Clarke, Asimov, and Heinlein were known as "The Big Three" in their time, and their work not only changed the face of science fiction, bringing it out of the realm of pulp and into the mainstream, but it was also prophetic in speculating on technologies in the 40s and 50s that we now take for granted today.

Heinlein's works include Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers, and dozens of others. It isn't merely that the literary quality of his books is top-notch; Heinlein was controversial. His iconoclastic views on the subjects of government, liberty, organized religion, marriage, and non-conformist thought are woven throughout all of his stories and create, through the use of fictional settings and dialog, a most compelling form of self-examination.

The first book of his I read, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, deals with a lunar penal colony who, with the help of a self-aware computer, overthrows the warden and the lunar government, and eventually takes on Earth itself. It took a penetrating view at the importance of self-determinism and liberty and his characters' long discussions on these subjects were like listening in on the debates of people far more insightful and intelligent than myself, and it somehow managed to achieve this feat without sounding pretentious. I found myself connecting with ideals I'd always felt within myself but lacked the ability or the courage to express. The book described what essentially was an anarchist utopia, and I couldn't help but be enthralled. I raced through that book in a day and hungered for more.

Stranger in a Strange Land was almost as inspirational, but dealt more with social issues, such as the role of gender and sexual expression in society. It questioned taboos about polyamorous relationships and delved into a more evolved definition of love and human interaction that many found controversial but I find fascinating and utterly enlightened. The role of women in his novels is viewed by some as chauvinistic and unrealistic, but I find them to be empowering. They are strong, demanding, but they are also sexy. Maybe it's the sexiness part that makes some people view Heinlein as sexist, but I see these female characters as being more in control of their sexuality.

In fact, it is Heinlein's unfettered approach to breaking conventional thought that ranks him high on my list of favorite thinkers. His characters force people out of their comfort zones and make them question the customs we take for granted without even asking why. Even if you don't find yourself agreeing with what is being postulated (polygamy or anarchy, for instance), you are forced to admire how damn convincing he makes it all look.

The best part is, you don't even have to be a fan of science fiction. Before reading Heinlein, I generally avoided the genre. I don't usually get off reading the specs on a spaceship, and I don't find robots and aliens characters I can easily warm up to. That is not the case with this writer, because his books are more about principles and ideas that are always interesting and relevant to almost everyone, even if the settings are on fictional planets.

For doing his part to making the minds of millions not only think about their place and their actions in this universe, but also for daring to question the unquestionable while being a damn fine writer in the process, it is natural that Robert A. Heinlein is among my heroes. If you haven't read any of his novels, I highly recommend them. They will challenge you, but (if you have room for it) they might also just change you.

I will end this with a few of my favorite quotes of his (both said by him personally and by characters in his books that he generally wrote to mirror himself) that will give you more insight into his character.

The whole principle is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak.
On censorship, in The Man Who Sold the Moon (1949)

I also think there are prices too high to pay to save the United States. Conscription is one of them. 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!
Guest of Honor Speech at the 29th World Science Fiction Convention, Seattle, WA (1961)

Correct morality can only be derived from what man is — not from what do-gooders and well-meaning aunt Nellies would like him to be.
Starship Troopers (1959)
Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often confuses one for the other, or assumes the greater the love, the greater the jealousy. In fact they are almost incompatible; both at once produce unbearable turmoil.
Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)

Logic is a feeble reed, friend. "Logic" proved that airplanes can't fly and that H-bombs won't work and that stones don't fall out of the sky. Logic is a way of saying that anything which didn't happen yesterday won't happen tomorrow.
Glory Road (1963)

I will accept the rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966)

You have put your finger on the dilemma of all government— and the reason I am an anarchist. The power to tax, once conceded, has no limits; it contains until it destroys. I was not joking when I told them to dig into their own pouches. It may not be possible to do away with government— sometimes I think that government is an inescapable disease of human beings. But it may be possible to keep it small and starved and inoffensive— and can you think of a better way than by requiring the governors themselves to pay the costs of their antisocial hobby?
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966)

A society that gets rid of all its troublemakers goes downhill.
Time Enough for Love (1971)

Don't ever become a pessimist... a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events.
Time Enough for Love (1971)

It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.
Time Enough for Love (1971)

You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.
Time Enough for Love (1971)