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Personal Bias and Heinlein 
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Joined: Sun Oct 25, 2009 11:20 am
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Location: Cloudcroft New Mexico
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Post Personal Bias and Heinlein
Panshin has reared his head again, just before the release of Bill's Volume 2 of the biography. As one who has not participated in the old Panshin flame wars, I ended up putting down my thoughts as an outlier of RAH fandom.

Personal Bias and Heinlein

With the impending publication of Volume 2 of William H. Patterson Jr’s biography of the science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, there has been an emergence of criticism directed towards Heinlein that use the ideas and thoughts developed by Alexei Panshin in his work Heinlein in Dimension. One of the unique features of HiD, was that it attempted to analyze the works of a writer while the writer was still living. Panshin was the first to attempt to apply, in his view, a scholarly and literary lens to the works of Heinlein. What Panshin did was take his thoughts and values and then attempted to make the writings of Heinlein fit the values Panshin was focusing on. An act that readers perform constantly when they pick up a work and read.

The disconnect is that Panshin was and continues to be, unable to admit that the lenses he has chosen are far to often unsuitable for evaluating the writings of Heinlein. The efforts of many individuals, have resulted in an amazing amount of access into the once private world of Heinlein, his archives are available for purchase and aspects of Heinlein’s life that confused people or even angered people now have a context for understanding. Opinions can become informed opinions backed up by primary source documentation that allows for greater understanding.

It is evident by the writings and postings of Panshin that he has developed a belief around his notoriety and filters all discussion he is involved with concerning Heinlein through the lens that he IS the “pre-eminent” scholar on the writings of Heinlein. This is an attitude he presents online and is repeated by many who support and agree with Panshin. He always has to make clear, he was the first! to do a scholarly evaluation of Heinlein’s writing and he won the Hugo to boot for it! Even if Panshin’s writings reveal more about him than anything they have to say about Heinlein.

The Work of Bill Patterson, Robert James, James Gifford, and others has turned the world of Heinlein scholarship on its ear. The now available access to the archives allows one to see what influenced the writing of his stories and novels, such as the life experiences that shaped many of the themes that he wove in his work through out his career. The access has forced many to re-evaluate the personal lens that we view Heinlein’s work through. Panshin has not.

An honest re-evaluation of his own personal biases would result in Panshin having to admit that after decades of being top of the heap, he has been supplanted. His claim to fame has been supplanted by an effort of Herculean endeavor that shows just how wrong Panshin was in his view of Heinlein and his writings. As a result, Panshin has doubled down on his attitudes and views. Instead of taking the opportunity to develop new scholarship, he regurgitates the same ideas and thoughts in order to reinforce the personal biases he has developed over the decades. Personal biases that keep him from being an objective scholar.

It is a dawn of a new era of Heinlein scholarship, hopefully in the years to come more work will be developed and fans will have a wealth of material to peruse and evaluate to further their knowledge of Robert A. Heinlein’s writings.


Sun Jun 01, 2014 1:32 pm

Joined: Sun Jan 25, 2009 7:52 pm
Posts: 136
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Post Re: Personal Bias and Heinlein
Please don't take the following to mean that I defend Mr. Panshin, but the late Mr. Patterson had personal biases of his own. This is just speculation, but perhaps some of the delay in the publication of volume 2 of the biography (which I'm looking forward to in any case) resulted from disagreement about these biases.

Here's one that I know about: During the original attempt to publish the Virginia Edition, Mr. Patterson wrote a memo dealing with preparation of the VE's two volumes of "future history" stories, with several stories/novellas added to the Past Through Tomorrow (1967) sequence and at least one removed, at his suggestion. He gave this collection the title "Timeline: Leslie LeCroix." (Specifically, the first of the two volumes was to be called “Timeline: Leslie LeCroix: Robert Heinlein’s Future History Revised and Corrected / Volume 1, The Outward Urge.”) *

Wanting to call that whole body of work retrospectively "Timeline: Leslie LeCroix" is prima facie evidence of personal bias in favor of the last two novels. (Either that, or he had turned up evidence that 1980s-Heinlein himself would have wanted to use such a title - which seems a little unlikely.)

* Ultimately, when the revived VE published these two volumes, they appeared with the neutral (and shorter) title "The Future History of Robert Heinlein."

Mon Jun 02, 2014 7:27 am
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