The Robert Heinlein Interview
and Other Heinleiniana
by J. Neil Schulman

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

foreword by Brad Linaweaver
Mill Valley, California; 1990, 1999

200 pages

June 2010

I studied philosophy under Will Durant many, many years ago — this was before he was well-known, long before he was well-known; this was back in the early twenties — and he first introduced me to a wide range of philosophers; and I read 'em all; I gobbled 'em all. I suppose I've learned something from all of them, but not necessarily what they wanted to impart. ...

Robert A. Heinlein

Heinlein in his own voice

This is a book by an enthusiast, for deep fans of science fiction and lovers of liberty, and specifically for fans of the premier writer of science fiction, Robert A. Heinlein. In 1973, as a young man, J. Neil Schulman was fortunate to conduct a long telephone interview with Heinlein. This transcribed interview is the heart of The Robert Heinlein Interview and Other Heinleiniana; the book also contains some reviews by Schulman of Heinlein works, and some letters relating to Heinlein.

I don't normally notice, for reviewing purposes, publishers' promotional text and recommendations; but to suggest the singular interest of this book, I make an exception:

I've been encouraging Neil for years to bring out his interview with Robert as a book. To my knowledge, this is the longest interview Robert ever gave. Here is a book that should be on the shelves of everyone interested in science fiction. Libertarians will be using it as a source for years to come.

Virginia Heinlein
back cover
The Robert Heinlein Interview

To appreciate the Heinlein-Schulman interview, the reader really needs to be familiar with Heinlein's Future History series and specifically a handful of books that repeatedly come up in the discussion: Methuselah's Children, Have Space Suit — Will Travel, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and Time Enough for Love; and the stories "If This Goes On —" and "Coventry". Schulman also reviews Job: A Comedy of Justice. The interview and other material are suffused with plot spoilers, so the reader should read or (if forgetful) re-read at least the above stories before plunging into this book.

The interview ranges across a goodly spread of time and space, but perhaps the most attention is given to humans and their perennial joys and difficulties in relating to one another. Schulman asks questions from the viewpoint of a very young libertarian idealist, and Heinlein answers as an older lover of practical liberty with a widely diverse life experience. Their contrasts and agreements as they discuss, for instance, NASA and the potential for private space development, keep the conversation lively. Major authors who come up more than once in the interview include Isaac Asimov, Alfred Korzybski, and Ayn Rand.

Schulman's reviews and letters included in The Robert Heinlein Interview nicely supplement the interview itself, especially his account on how the interview came about. I particularly like the essay on what Heinlein's works meant to a lot of kids growing up, "The Lost Manuals".

A very interesting document of Heinleiniana.


© 2010 Robert Wilfred Franson

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