From 1947 to 1958, Robert Heinlein wrote a series of science fiction novels aimed at the young men of America. Aided in this effort by editor Alice Dalgliesh, whose efforts to shape Heinlein’s books into something suitable for their intended market Heinlein was not entirely appreciative of, he wrote what are for many people of a certain age one of the great series in science fiction. For many writers it is a model seared into their brains, although not one many authors can successfully emulate1. Indeed, the reasonable reaction to the announcement by a once-favoured author that he (it’s almost always a he, and almost always of a certain age) is going to try his hand at this Heinlein Juvenile thing is lamentation and despair, as the results are hardly ever any good and the effect on the author often corrosive.
I suspect part of the problem is that is not just modern would-be Heinleins are embracing a misguided nostalgia but also that they lack an Alice Dalgliesh to apply the steel-toed boot of editorial guidance to the adam’s apple of authorial ambition. While Dalgliesh had her own issues2, she seems to have been just the right editor for Heinlein. I base this on the fact that Heinlein wrote two more juveniles after he and Scribner’s parted ways and they don’t stand up to the Scribner’s books at all.
Join me as I reread all twelve of the Scribner’s books as well as the lesser Starship Troopers and Podkayne of Mars, one book each Friday.
- And for a very reasonable sum I would be willing to follow this up with a study of the Jupiter (Young Adult Novels) Tor’s failed experiment along these lines.
- For example, her The Courage of Sarah Noble and its depiction of Native Americans has not aged well.