Based on both recommendations and easy availability, I have obtained Space Cadet, Time for the Stars, Have Space Suit - Will Travel, The Door Into Summer, Podkayne of Mars, and Tunnel in the Sky.

I read Tunnel in the Sky, which I generally enjoyed and will report on individually, and three pages of Podkayne of Mars, which was all I could get through before I was overcome with the urge to vomit and/or hurl the book across the room. Those pages consist of 15-year-old Podkayne talking about being a giiiiiirl and going on about how pretty she is and giving her exact measurements and how she's smart enough to not reveal that she's smart because why would any giiiiiirl want to do things herself when she can bat her eyelashes at a man twice her age and have him do things for her? ICK ICK EW. Also, written in a rather twee style. I hate twee.

If it was about her learning better I'd keep reading, but I recall from the last time I read it that she gets blown up because she goes back to a house where she knows there's a bomb to rescue a cute alien kitten, and then her uncle lectures her mom over her comatose body about how it's all her mom's fault for having a career. (Flips to end.) "A woman has more important work to do." Barf. Nix on Podkayne.

Podkayne of Mars

Though I may change my mind after I've read more, my preliminary reading of one book and three pages of another suggests a theory on why people get so outraged over sexism in Heinlein's work, as opposed to getting outraged over sexism in the work of other male sf writers of the same time - especially when, as Heinlein's defenders argue, Heinlein actually has more interesting/badass/competent women than the others.

It's due to bait-and-switch. Because his women are more badass/competent/etc, the female or sympathetic male reader thinks, "Hey! Badass female soldier! Awesome!" Then, two pages later, the badass female soldier says, "Oh, I have no interest in the military at all! I'm only doing this because men outnumber women in outer space, so out there I can get a man and have lots of babies! I don't care of he's a total jerk and hideous, all that matters is that he's male. Oh to be pregnant!"

At that point, the reader is much more likely to be surprised and irate, their expectations having been unpleasantly thwarted, than if, as many other writers of the time did, no non-stereotypically feminine characters had been introduced at all.

As Jo Walton and others mentioned over at the Tor discussion, Heinlein has a trick of sounding extremely authoritative, in a manner which either seduces you into wanting to measure up to his rather eccentric requirements for true manliness/womanliness/awesomess, or else makes you instantly begin deconstructing them in your head. Or both at once. Again, this is unlike other authors of his time whom I've read, who were less concerned with what makes a Proper Man or whose opinions were not presented in such a compelling and forceful manner.

For instance, though I had to look this up as it's not in one of the ones I read, "Specialization is for insects." I'm sure not everyone has this reaction, but I bet I'm not the only person who reads that and instantly, defensively thinks, "I can do lots of stuff!" and then, "Tell that to a cardiac surgeon."

ETA: Complete quote: A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

This is being discussed in the DW comments.

Link to edition I'm reading, with strangely-proportioned hero: Tunnel in the Sky
cofax7: climbing on an abbey wall  (Default)

From: [personal profile] cofax7

I think your bait-and-switch theory is spot-on.

And happily I never got around to reading Podkayne.
jonquil: (Default)

From: [personal profile] jonquil

Aha! The bait-and-switch technique is an admirably concise description of the problem.

By the way, you read the unpublished ending of Podkayne. He wrote that and turned it in and the editor nixed it. The version I grew up reading had her severely burned and in a pod, but expected to survive. I much prefer the bowdlerized version.
em_h: (Default)

From: [personal profile] em_h

Double-commenting cause I should've commented here rather than LJ ...

Huh. I read Podkayne, in high school even, and I don't remember anything about it except that a teacher saw me reading it and said sneeringly, "You certainly have catholic reading tastes"

You would think that I would look back on it with horror, rather than it just being a big old blank in my mind. But then again, I guess there were an awful lot of books I had to just blank out ... and perhaps the teacher's sneeriness made me give it a bit of a pass.
opusculus: Black hole (Default)

From: [personal profile] opusculus

I think you did nail a lot of the problems with Heinlein. I know I loved his stuff as a kid because they were some of the stronger female characters around, and I just kind of let myself ignore the more obnoxious attitudes about women's roles that came with them. But bait and switch really does describe it well.
veejane: Pleiades (Default)

From: [personal profile] veejane

"Specialization is for insects."

Ha. I wonder whether he spun his own thread for clothing? Or scrubbed his own floors, for that matter. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress includes an interplanetary equivalent of sending your laundry from Hawaii to the mainland (because that's cheaper than trying to do it locally), so I wonder who he thinks DID the laundry once it arrived in California??
polarisnorth: a silhouetted figure sitting on the moon, watching the earthrise (Default)

From: [personal profile] polarisnorth

I really want to read the Door Into series, but my library for some reason doesn't have all three, just the last two.
twistedchick: (climbing kirk)

From: [personal profile] twistedchick

A simple answer, which I have from people who knew Heinlein and talked to him at SF cons until he was too ill to go to them:

1. Heinlein based all the adult women on his wife, Ginny, whom he thought was perfect.

2. Heinlein *could not write women characters*. Of any age. He just didn't get it.

Re the quote on what a human being should be able to do: the book it's from, Time Enough for Love, includes long sections on how to colonize a new planet and build a new society, as well as quotations from the thoughts of Lazarus Long, who did that several times over as well as much more. I believe that his quote is in context in encouraging self-sufficiency when considered against a background of having to do everything possible to stay alive in a harsh environment without much or any outside help. I also agree with him that people should be able to do as much as possible, as many things as possible, because you don't know what will happen next. Consider, if you will, Iraq, where what had been modern metropolitan cities now have, at best, a few hours of electricity and three or so hours of running water per day.
sothcweden: birds flying high at sunset/dawn (Default)

From: [personal profile] sothcweden

Linked here by my reading list. I think what you said about Heinlein's bait'n'switch with women makes a lot of sense, and I'll keep in in mind the next time I tackle one of his books. I've only read a little of his work: Tunnel in the Sky, Space Cadet, and Puppetmasters, so I'll be really interested to see what you think of Tunnel and Space Cadet.

From: [identity profile]

Huh. I read Podkayne, in high school even, and I don't remember anything about it except that a teacher saw me reading it and said sneeringly, "You certainly have catholic reading tastes"

You would think that I would look back on it with horror, rather than it just being a big old blank in my mind. But then again, I guess there were an awful lot of books I had to just blank out ... and perhaps the teacher's sneeriness made me give it a bit of a pass.
ext_6428: (Default)

From: [identity profile]

I read Podkayne as a kid and to this day what I remember best is my absolute OUTRAGE at everything about it.

From: [identity profile]

I couldn't read Podkayne when I was a teenager. I can't imagine how barf-able it would be now.

My favorite of all of his is "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress".

From: [identity profile]

Yeah, a lot of people justifiably hate Podkayne. I was kind of surprised to see so many people say they liked it in the comments on your previous post.

Your point about the bait-and-switch is an excellent one. (There were some related interesting comments made here.)

He occasionally managed to avoid this, but not as often as one might hope. The best example is probably Glory Road, which has a lot of weird gender stuff but does not end at all in the sadly typical way you describe. (Gur znva srznyr punenpgre vf erirnyrq gb or gur rzcerff (zber be yrff) bs gjragl havirefrf, naq cebprrqf gb trg ba jvgu ure wbo. Gur ureb funpxf hc jvgu ure sbe n juvyr, ohg riraghnyyl ernyvmrf ur vf onfvpnyyl n xrcg zna jvgu abguvat hfrshy gb qb, fb ur yrnirf, jvgu ab uneq srryvatf ba rvgure fvqr.)

From: [identity profile]

Those books pretty much sum up my childhood reading, yeah these many years ago. And I liked Podkayne at the time. I read it at least twice.

When I got a little older I went upstairs and started reading his adult stuff. Blink blink. A real eye opener.

The one that skeeved me out was an adult one where the dad started having sex with his daughter and it was presented as a great thing.

From: [identity profile]

On an entirely tangential note, someone (I forget who, but not someone I had any reason to trust) claims that Rod Walker, the protagonist of Tunnel in the Sky, is black. I can't recall any such indication, but as you've just read it, I was wondering if you noticed anything to that effect.

From: [identity profile]

re: Tunnel in the Sky: It's a Darrell K. Sweet cover. 'Nuff said. (OK, I can see what he was trying to do - the guy is crouched over and running quickly. The problem is that he painted the head as if the person were standing upright, instead of crouched. It should be tilted a bit forward also, otherwise he's got an awful crick in his neck.)

I'm almost surprised he didn't put a ruff on the character. It annoyed me for the longest time that all his covers for anything vaguely medievalesque had the characters wearing ruffs, which is Renaissance, not medieval! (Yes, I know it's SF, not fantasy.)
Edited Date: 2010-08-20 05:09 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile]

Yes, Podkayne is awful. Even when I read it as a kid, hardened to sexism in SF due to reading a lot of oldschool stuff, it left me feeling sick.

And you nail it with the bait and switch. The only *real* deep down value of a woman was having babies, no matter how cool and skilled they might seem on the surface.

From: [identity profile]

I'm sort of sorry I suggested Podkayne, although your review clarified exactly what I was hoping it would clarify, which is: whether the "what a lovely SFF story with a female protag!" or the "EW ACK NO" people are more in line with my reading preferences.

It's due to bait-and-switch.

Yes, yes, yes.

I mean, I'm a historian, or at least I was; I do get that people of different times have different starting points, and that if you're, say, a medievalist and you get mad whenever some medieval document reinforces gender essentialism you'll basically be mad all the time, and to no effect because the person you're mad at is dead and presumably doesn't care. I do understand that.

But the problem is that Heinlein looks like he's going to do something that's refreshing and enlightened! ...and then he whiplashes back to something icky. Women should be able to be smart and competent and talented! long as they ultimately realize that being a helpmeet and babymaker is the most important thing. Women should be able to have sex without shame! long as they have sex with the men who most deserve them, and don't get too fussy. Women should be treated well! ...because they're a Valuable Commodity. And so on.

And even more than that, people—modern people!—promote him as A Great Author With Strong Female Characters. Without irony and without acknowledgement that there are issues there. And so that brings it into the modern discourse, and I think, at that point, it's fair to respond to it.

/blah blah blah
(deleted comment) (Show 7 comments)
ext_13461: Foxes Frolicing (Default)

From: [identity profile]

One must wonder how much manure pitching (or even diaper changing) RH ever did.

I admit to having done some manure pitching (and surely did change diapers as I was the oldest kid and the second oldest of the cousins, and a girl besides), as a kid, growing up on a farm. Gratefully no manure pitching since (though, yes occasionally diaper changing of friends' babies).

Unless ... sifting and cleaning cat litter counts?

RH never had any kids.

Never butchered and dressed out a hog myself, as that takes a lot of strength, and is a long process, when you are doing it yourself at home, rather than a factory, but I watched on occasion. There was certainly butchering and dressing out chickens though.

Worked on building walls, and shingling roofs.

I can't write a sonnet, not if it were for the sake of saving my life. Or program a computer -- unless we're talking about what I've been doing for a week at least, of migrating data and programs from one computer to another, with a different operating system?

One thing we KNOW RH pitched, though, and in tons, and that is bull shit. It's amazing how many people to this very day still eat it up too.

Love, C.

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