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In Other Entertainment News…

…unlike the probable desecration of Atlas Shrugged, we don’t have to wait to find out how Spider Robinson’s vandalization of Heinlein has turned out.

This hyperbolic review is particularly delicious:

Well, it did fail miserably and while no doubt done with the best of intentions, this thing, I don’t know what it is — it is most certainly not a novel — titled “Variable Star” is an express bus to literary hell and has single handedly set back SF three-quarters of a century. I have no idea what its author was trying to accomplish here, nor do I care. The result has entered whole new dimensions of awfulness hitherto unexplored, a parallel universe of grossness where intelligent life can never hope to arise. I wish I could close my eyes and make it go away, but it will not.

Why am I not surprised to find that, in writing a “Heinlein book”, Robinson injected his own hobbyhorses and political slant?

Having referenced Atlas Shrugged in the previous post, I’m reminded of the scene in which Dagny, at a party, hears on the radio what sounds like Halley’s Fourth, but which she quickly realizes is a “reinterpretation” of the composer’s farewell masterpiece by a lesser artist…one whose evident aim is to make a name for himself by defacing a work whose greatness he knows he can never match. It’s sad to think of what a wasted opportunity this project was, and what a decent SF writer might have made of it — ideally setting it entirely within the canonical Future History, and exploring themes and events in that fictional universe that Heinlein himself only hinted at, instead of turning it into an incongruous soapbox for his or her own contemporary politics, an exhibition of puerile humor, and (in spite of Heinlein’s famous attitudes on the subject) a cameo for his or her own religion?

Thinking of what SF writers I respect — such as Niven, Pournelle, Akin, or Card — might have done with the same source material makes me wonder: what might other writers do with a Future History bible? That is, what sort of entirely original stories (i.e. not from Heinlein outlines and notes) might other writers produce if the Future History universe were opened to them, as Niven has opened the “Man-Kzin Wars” period of the Known Space universe to other writers? Various authors could be tasked to write their own stories in their own styles, not claiming to be “new Heinlein works” but simply based in the Future History timeline, using the same events and technologies, and reflecting a similar worldview. That would make for writing worth reading…which, unfortunately, this less-than-a-pastiche from Spider Robinson evidently is not.

3 comments to In Other Entertainment News…

  • Aaron_J

    That review was a hoot! How did you resist quoting more than one paragraph?

    Almost makes me want to read it, though I’ll take the advice of the reviewer and wait to pick up a copy in a thrift store.

  • John C. Wright had a great review also – ‘Variable Stinks’. I’m unable to provide the exact link, but here’s his blog:

  • Tim Kyger

    I just wanted to mention that at least one reader of your blog — I check it everyday — is a major RAH fan.

    I refer to the fact that I’m involved with the Heinlein Centennial.

    See for more information.

    Hey, we’ve got Mike Griffin hisself speaking there! As well as Peter Diamandis, and Arthur Clarke, and Brian Binnie, and…