Letters to the Editor

(January 19, 2004)


Regarding Peter M. Camejo's The Avocado Declaration

To the Editor:

I completeley agree with the Avocado Declaration written by Peter Camejo. This is exactly the type of position that is completeley crucial in the Green Party and around the US. I have sent this article out to a number of listserves. Bravo to Peter, keep up the fight!

Nikki Marterre
Student, Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA - January 9, 2004


To the Editor:

Your e-journal is one I look forward to with great anticipation every two weeks, and even when I might not agree with a particular point of view (I don't think Dean is an enemy), it is always thought provoking.

With that in mind, I wish to share with you, solid Nader/Green supporters that you are, an article, "Super Rallies? No. If Nader Runs, This Will Be the Year of the Elks Club," that was published today on CommonDreams.org by Nader's nephew and chief campaign strategist Tarek Milleron.

The analysis makes for an interesting read: it outlines the strategic case for an independent, as opposed to Green, Nader candidacy for President in 2004.

Faramarz Nabavi
(Nader/LaDuke Southern California Field Organizer in 2000)
Los Angeles, California, USA - January 12, 2004


Regarding Milo Clark's Future History: The Work Of Robert A. Heinlein (January 2003)

To the Editor:

Would you please pass along the following comments to Milo Clark? Thank you.

Dear Mr. Clark, I am the editor/publisher of The Heinlein Journal, founding director of the Heinlein Society, and Virginia Heinlein's selected biographer of her late husband. A link to your "Future History: The Work of Robert A. Heinlein" appeared on alt.fan.heinlein and rec.arts.sf.written today. I enjoyed the piece but found a disturbing number of errors and misleadingly inexact statements, comments about which I pass along to you so that you may update your essay. I am somewhat less concerned with literary critical evaluations than with factual matters here. If you do revise your piece, I would appreciate notice when a new version is published.

Thank you.

Paragraph 1. "Cranking out the pulp stories fast enough to earn a living writing gave him a perceptual acuity which related to science in a human way, awe and annoyance." I am not sure what the last phrase is intended to mean, as I cannot parse the sentence in any way which makes it a part of the sentence. However, it is the main clause that misrepresents what was going on. Heinlein was 31 years old when be began writing commercially, and was already well formed as an individual. His writing honed his expressive skills but I do not believe one can make a colorable case that it made any significant contribution to his "perceptual acuity." Also, although Heinlein did write rapidly, it was not to earn a living, per se; it was often remarked by John Campbell that Heinlein wrote only for projects -- the first project being to retire the mortgage on his Laurel Canyon home. This was possible for him because he had been living already for five years on his Navy medical retirement, supplemented with occasional jobs in other areas, while his main attention was occupied as a political operator for the California Democratic Party and EPIC.

Paragraph 2: RAH had no significant grounding in physics -- something he later regretted. His background was strong in mathematics, astronomy, and marine mechanical and electrical engineering.

Paragraph 3. I am not quite sure what you mean by "starting in the mid-30's," but I cannot construct any framework which makes this a correct statement. The Future History does not appear to have been outlined in any coherent way until summer of 1939, and the chronological start of the Future History in the stories themselves is "Let There Be Light" and "Life-Line," both of which are set in 1939. The Future History chart exists in three or four versions, and you appear to have conflated them all together to arrive at your figure of 35 novels and novellas, leaving out the short stories altogether. The May 1941 publication of the Chart in Astounding has far less than this figure.

Paragraph 6. As before, "The Man Who Sold the Moon" does not begin the Future History; nor was it originally set in the "closing years of the twentieth century." As I recall, it was set in about 1970. There is some confusion between the book and the story (novella) of the same name (as is true later of Revolt in 2100, the third BOOK, not story, of Shasta's projected five volume set of Heinlein's Future History). I don't know where you got a date of 1949 for this collection; it was assembled in 1953 (but "If This Goes On --," the story you are referring to, was originally written in 1939 and extensively revised in 1953, for this publication.

Paragraph 7, last sentence. I believe (and this is off the top of my head) that Heinlein said he found writing about Scudder unpleasant and unattractive, not writing about the themes of theocracy and cessation of space travel.

Paragraph 11 - you have does instead of dose.

Paragraph 14 -- "Heinlein was reputed to write fast and edit little, if at all." This is not quite true. He was reputed to write fast, but he "rewrote" or "revised" little, if at all. He always and without exception edited very extensively, even before the manuscript was given over to his agent for submission. The expression "Stranger was a work out of his pattern" seems ambiguous; It is true that he thought out his material extensively before writing usually, and if you meant that Stranger was not in this pattern, that is not quite clear from the wording. "He resisted the editing but relented rather than lose his intent" is extremely vague. In Grumbles, Mrs. Heinlein printed a letter in which Heinlein has jumped to the conclusion that his editor wanted to water down the sex and the religion, but "relented rather than lose his intent" would be false to fact if this is the incident you are referring to. He insisted on maintaining his intent BY resisting the editing from Putnam's. If this is not what you are referring to, what editing are you referring to that he is resisting? He often (not always) resisted *direct* editing by magazine and publishers' editors, but would edit by himself until the editor was satisfied. See, e.g., the correspondence with Alice Dalgliesh in Grumbles relating to Red Planet.

Paragraph 15 -- I am puzzled by your comment that the as-written version of Stranger is a "very different book" from the 1961 as-published version; most people who have commented on it say it's hard to tell the difference in an analytical way, since the editing is done on such a minute, word-level, scale (though most do have a "favorite" version). You might also mention that Stranger was incorporated into the Future History in Heinlein's last books, by folding Jubal Harshaw into the World As Myth books. Also, that Heinlein specifies Stranger as taking place in our consensus reality timeline, and not the Future History.

Paragraph 16. Not an "error" or "ambiguity," but I don't quite understand what you mean by Heinlein not being "much in favor now." Fifteen years after his death, his sales amount to something like 80,000 copies a year, and his estate, even after a disastrous recession, earns about at much as he earned in his most prosperous years; Stranger, Red Planet, and The Puppet Masters all sell in two editions which compete against each other in the market place, and I can't think of another 20th century author except Hemingway of whom that is true (and there is one of Fitzgerald's novels which is reprinted in a variant edition, though I would have trouble making the case that it competes with the more familiar version. It's true that there are a number of people who feel compelled to piss on his grave -- but that is no less true now than it was during his lifetime and at the height of his reputation. In any case, there seems to be no overall diminution in the amount of Heinlein programming at SF conventions -- which are, at least at worldcons, the only convention for which I have statistics, better attended than all but the most popular tier or programmed events -- i.e., as well as any "literary" subject.

In fact, one can make a case that the opposite is true, that Heinlein's reputation is growing as it starts to become disconnected from the science fiction ghetto. The PCA/ACA conference in San Antonio April is going to have five papers on RAH as a literary and culture figure, plus a roundtable on the future of Heinlein studies. Those facts, it seems to me, argue to the contrary.

Best regards,

Bill Patterson
University of California at Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, California, USA - January 14, 2004

Milo Clark responds:

Whatta ya know? Wonders of Internet processes! Maybe there is hope that theocracy and the security state may not prevail.

I can't qualify as a sci-fi addict so the mags and such are not piled up on my to-read list much less lodged in my ken. Clarke, Heinlein, Dick are my sci-fi tin gods. Speaking of Santa Cruz neighbors, I do Ralph Abrams, too.

I am delighted to learn that Heinlein is selling well and better. Takes a generation as well as a village. Dick is riding high, too, as I understand.

My superficial research was to go to the local library, take out the Heinlein books and track the acquisition dates, numbers and timing of date stamps. I also surveyed the Hawaii State Library System to see which books were still in circulation.

So, I thank you for the detailed corrections, additions and such. Good to know somebody reads Swans critically.

My commentaries are often in the category of polemic or raves, rants and rages. I cannot pretend to be academically rigorous. Of recent, I have been addressing issues of perspective. For these you may see the upcoming issues of SWANS.COM as I am coming off sabbatical.

The "future history" aspects of Heinlein's works long intrigued me. At the time, I was impressed that his future history outline may be useful for more folks to help them gain perspective, i.e., that sci-fi serves a purpose far beyond entertainment, per se. I suspect that many folks who write fiction are telling us some things we need to know which is perhaps not within the purview of non-fiction. See John Toland's Gods of War.

I'll go back and review the commentary to which you refer. Remember, however, that my perspective was to call out perspicacious examples of processes now in process or approaching fruition: namely, the Bush II coup d'etat, containment of Americans and exclusion of others plus ever-stronger emergence of the security state; along with theocratic aspects of "Religious Right" and Neo-Cons thrusts. In this regard, I also cite historian John Lukacs 1984 prediction that the closing years of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st would witness a return to barbarity. Of note, too, are the 1798 Alien and Seditions Acts seen as precursor.

The bigger and fatter Stranger is a delight in so many ways. And, for sooth, I will hold that I remain impressed that the flavor is richer and more appealing in this edition. Having done some editing work from time to time, I often regretted the business need to reduce works to conformity with other demands.

As every decent acknowledgement notes: I alone am responsible for errors of fact and perspective. Fact checker I don't have. Legal staff is non-existing.

And, yes, for stylistic purposes, I often use incomplete sentences.

I'll bet we could have some great times discussing . . . .

My grandson is currently at UCSC. Doing ecological idealist type things.

Milo Clark
From the rainforest of non-tourist Hawaii - January 15, 2004

[Ed. Milo Clark has sent us a revised version of his essay with additional comments to Mr. Patterson's letter. We will publish them in the near future with links to the original essay and to this page (January 18).]


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Published January 19, 2004
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