Alexei Panshin's The Abyss of Wonder
|JIM HARMON SAYS:
I was interested in Poul Anderson's remarks on Heinlein's and Campbell's "unpopular" views. I'm glad somebody finally mentioned Campbell. He has been running pieces "advocating" Totalitarianism for years before Heinlein wrote "Starship Soldier." In fact, Heinlein probably learned his ideas from Campbell. Everybody has been fearlessly knocking Heinlein, but how many stories does he buy from us? I resented the same elements in "Starship Soldier" (which Red Boggs advises us to say three times, fast) in ASF by other writers at Campbell's instruction long ago (long before I resented Campbell in Detroit). I don't think this dislike is a sign that I want to repress freedom of speech or expression. It seems Anderson is advocating that in denying us the right to disagree with him, or Campbell, or Heinlein. Disagreement is not suppression, Mr. Anderson. The free society is not the free from contest. Campbell or Heinlein can say whatever they damned well please, but I don't have to like it! And I don't feel that it is evil for me not to buy a book I don't like, and to unrecommend it to anybody who will listen. I did my bit in the good cause by doing my damndest to keep the public library here from buying the book, or at least putting it on the juvenile side of the house. I failed miserably. I was not on the PTA, and another blow against censorship was struck.
Maybe the public library bit was a mistake. I'm not infallible.
Mr. Anderson's theory that no one should object to any projected theory at all is flawed by one point. The originator of any theory -- Heinlein or Campbell, in this instance -- is not an intellectual neuter, an egghead goose-egg, as it were. HE HAS BELIEFS OF HIS OWN THAT WILL COLOR ALL HIS HYPOTHETICAL PROPOSITIONS. If Heinlein is pretending in "Starship Soldier," he is pretending too well -- I believe he believes that. If he is only planning a purely intellectual game, how come he ain't never written a book on how The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth, or Communism Is The Only Way Of Life, or The Only Worthwhile Thing in Life Is Sexual Pleasure. Why does Heinlein -- and Campbell -- keep playing the same game? The one about the advantages and logic of an autocratic system, of the worthiness and necessity of organized violence? Why the same game?
Of course we know Heinlein is above putting personal propaganda into his books. He thinks we should keep exploding H-bombs, because their radiation is good for us. And in S.S., he had a planet that is degenerate because its people haven't had the benefit of radiation on their genes. Why doesn't he in his purely intellectual game flip the coin and do a Thunder and Roses story sometime? (A better question is why if he approves of radiation for the rest of us, Heinlein has his own famous futuristic home shielded and air-filtered against radiation?)
I don't know. Poul Anderson may be playing
games. But I think Heinlein and Campbell are deadly serious.
Originally published in The Proceedings of the Institute
for Twenty-First Century Studies #137, October 1960.