After the Guns of August: Max Weber: Hoisted from Ten Years Ago

Live from the Future of the Past: John Holbo: Robert Heinlein writes letters to editors and librarians: "Enough Lovecraft! Robert Heinlein!...

...I’m reading Innocent Experiments: Childhood and the Culture of Popular Science in the United States, by Rebecca Onion. Chapter 4, “Space Cadets and Rocket Boys: Policing the Masculinity of Scientific Enthusiasms” has quite a bit of good stuff on Heinlein–well it would have to, wouldn’t it? If you’ve read some Heinlein you kind of know what Heinlein is like.... The guy was one serious SJW... [but] he always manages to make it weird in his cosmopolitan-but-All-American, messianic-rationalist-masculinist libertarian-disciplinarian anti-authoritarian-but-in-an-authoritarian-way way.... It’s obvious to anyone with eyes, a brain and a copy of any given Heinlein book that the man was determined to educate and uplift the species–well, at least the boy half. I just didn’t know how many angry letters to editors and librarians he wrote about it.

We should also remember it wasn’t all as militaristic as Starship Troopers. There’s pre-Sputnik and post-Sputnik Heinlein. And he couldn’t ever quite figure out where to put the girls. In all the universe, where did they fit? But credit where due:

During World War II, Heinlein scouted universities for female engineers, looking for draft-exempt workers for his research division at the Philadelphia Naval Yard; he wrote that he found at the University of Delaware that the School of Engineering did not permit females to register and was furious: “I took nasty pleasure in chewing out the President of the University . . . by telling him that his University’s medieval policies had deprived the country of trained engineers at a time when the very life of his country depended on such people”...

I wrote a comment:

IMHO, Sputnik unmanned Heinlein in a deep and profoundly destructive way…

For example, Johnny Rico in Starship Troopers winds up becoming the kind of idiot Marine that the kindly wise naval officer superior Lieutenant Wong steers the protagonist Matt Doddson away from becoming in Space Cadet:

At last he took it up with Lieutenant Wong. “You want to transfer to the marines?”

”Yes. I think so.”


Matt explained his increasing feeling of frustration in dealing with both atomic physics and astrogation.

Wong nodded. “I thought so. But we knew that you would have tough sledding since you came here insufficently prepared. I don’t like the sloppy work you’ve been doing since you came back from Luna.”

”I’ve done the best I could, sir.”

”No, you haven’t. But you can master these two subjects and I will see to it that you do.”

Matt explained, almost inaudibly, that he was not sure he wanted to.

Wong, for the first time, looked vexed. “Still on that? If you turn in a request for transfer, I won’t okay it and I can tell you ahead of time that the Commandant will turn it down.”

Matt’s jaw muscles twitched. “That’s your privilege, sir.”

”Damn it, Dodson, it’s not my privilege; it’s my duty. You would never make a marine and I say so because I know you, your record, and your capabilities. You have a good chance of making a Patrol officer.”

Matt looked startled. “Why couldn’t I become a marine?”

”Because it’s too easy for you-so easy that you would fail.”


”Don’t say `huh.’ The spread in I.Q. between leader and follower should not be more than thirty points. You are considerably more than thirty points ahead of those old sergeants-don’t get me wrong; they are fine men. But your mind doesn’t work like theirs.” Wong went on, “Have you ever wondered why the Patrol consists of nothing but officers-and student officers, cadets?”

”Mmm, no, sir.”

”Naturally you wouldn’t. We never wonder at what we grow up with. Strictly speaking, the Patrol is not a military organization at all.”


”I know, I know-you are trained to use weapons, you are under orders, ders, you wear a uniform. But your purpose is not to fight, but to prevent vent fighting, by every possible means. The Patrol is not a fighting organization; it is the repository of weapons too dangerous to entrust to military men.

”With the development last century of mass-destruction weapons, warfare became all offense and no defense, speaking broadly. A nation could launch a horrific attack but it could not even protect its own rocket bases. Then space travel came along.

”The spaceship is the perfect answer in a military sense to the atom bomb, and to germ warfare and weather warfare. It can deliver an attack that can’t be stopped-and it is utterly impossible to attack that spaceship ship from the surface of a planet.”

Matt nodded. “The gravity gauge.”

”Yes, the gravity gauge. Men on the surface of a planet are as helpless against men in spaceships as a man would be trying to conduct a rock-throwing throwing fight from the bottom of a well. The man at the top of the well has gravity working for him.

”We might have ended up with the tightest, most nearly unbreakable tyranny the world has ever seen. But the human race got a couple of lucky breaks and it didn’t work out that way. It’s the business of the Patrol to see that it stays lucky.

”But the Patrol can’t drop an atom bomb simply because some pipsqueak squeak Hitler has made a power grab and might some day, when he has time enough, build spaceships and mass-destruction weapons. The power is too great, too awkward-it’s like trying to keep order in a nursery ery with a loaded gun instead of a switch.

”The space marines are the Patrol’s switch. They are the finest-”

”Excuse me, sir-”


”I know how the marines work. They do the active policing in the System-but that’s why I want to transfer. They’re a more active outfit. They are-”

”-more daring, more adventurous, more colorful, more glamorous-and and they don’t have to study things that Matthew Dodson is tired of studying. Now shut up and listen; there is a lot you don’t know about the setup, or you wouldn’t be trying to transfer.”

Matt shut up.

”People tend to fall into three psychological types, all differently motivated. There is the type, motivated by economic factors, money … and there is the type motivated by `face,’ or pride. This type is a spender, fighter, boaster, lover, sportsman, gambler; he has a will to power and an itch for glory. And there is the professional type, which claims to follow a code of ethics rather than simply seeking money or glory-priests and ministers, teachers, scientists, medical men, some artists and writers. The idea is that such a man believes that he is devoting his life to some purpose pose more important than his individual self. You follow me?”

”I … think so.”

”Mind you this is terrifically oversimplified. And don’t try to apply these rules to non-terrestrials; they won’t fit. The Martian is another sort of a cat, and so is the Venerian.” Wong continued, “Now we get to the point: The Patrol is meant to be made up exclusively of the professional type. In the space marines, every single man jack, from the generals to the privates, is or should be the sort who lives by pride and glory.”


Wong waited for it to sink in. “You can see it in the very uniforms; the Patrol wears the plainest of uniforms, the marines wear the gaudiest possible. In the Patrol all the emphasis is on the oath, the responsibility to humanity. In the space marines the emphasis is on pride in their corps and its glorious history, loyalty to comrades, the ancient virtues of the soldier. I am not disparaging the marine when I say that he does not care a tinker’s damn for the political institutions of the Solar System; he cares only for his organization.

”But it’s not your style, Matt. I know more about you than you do yourself, because I have studied the results of your psychological tests. You will never make a marine.”

Wong paused so long that Matt said diffidently, “Is that all, sir?”

”Almost. You’ve got to learn astrogation. If deep-sea diving were the key to the Patrol’s responsibility, it would be that that you would have to learn. But the key happens to be space travel. So-I’ll lay out a course of sprouts for you. For a few weeks you’ll do nothing but astrogate. Does that appeal to you?”

”No, sir.”

”I didn’t think it would. But when I get through with you, you’ll be able to find your way around the System blindfolded. Now let me see-”

The next few weeks were deadly monotony, but Matt made progress. He had plenty of time to think-when he was not bending over a calculator. Oscar and Tex went to the Moon together; Pete was on night shift in the power room. Matt kept sullenly and stubbornly at work-and brooded. He promised himself to stick it out until Wong let up on him. After that-well, he would have a leave coming up one of these days. If he decided to chuck it, why, lots of cadets never came back from their first leave. In the meantime his work began to get the grudging approval of Lieutenant Wong.

At last Wong let up on him and he went back to a normal routine. He was settling into it when he found himself posted for an extra duty. Pursuant thereto, he reported one morning to the officer of the watch, received ceived a briefing, memorized a list of names, and was issued a black armband. Then he went to the main airlock and waited. Presently a group of scared and greenish boys began erupting from the lock. When his turn came, he moved forward and called out, “Squad seven! Where is the squad leader of squad seven?”

No, I do not know whether Lieutenant Wong is relating the Myth of the Metals in Your Soul from Plato’s Πολιτεια here or not. But it is clear that Heinlein regards the career of a Marine—of a Johnny Rico—as unworthy of the kind of boy who would be reading a Robert Heinlein novel.

Or, at least, so he did before Sputnik. After Sputnik… well, Johnny Rico becomes the equivalent of a Warrior Caste Bug: fighting not for Truth, Justice, and the American Way but rather only for the biological expansion of genus Homo…