Brings the Lightning by Peter Grant: A Short Book Review

Peter Grant’s “Brings the Lightning” is a western.  It is the story of a confederate soldier who heads west after the war to make a fresh start.  Of course, this is well mapped territory.  Recently I reviewed the movies and novel called “True Grit” and that broadly falls into this sub-genre.  But a time-tested plot can still be entertaining.  What is required is the ingredients of any good story.  The action needs to be interesting, the characters engaging and the writing style appropriate to the intended readers.  For instance, if you intend to attract the extreme literary type reader to a tale of the west, then you probably select a highly introspective confederate protagonist.  This will be the sort of hero who, when faced with danger, falls into a reverie and expounds (either to himself or to his companions) about the philosophical and theological ramifications of the action at hand.  An extreme example of this would be the epic poems of Homer or Virgil.  In these stories a hero will interrupt a battle to discuss his ancestry with the enemy.  Doubtless there is some charm in this approach.  This is not the style taken by Grant in the present book.  The story tracks the progress of Walter Ames as he goes from cavalry soldier, to post-war civilian in the occupied south, to westbound settler.  And the form of the narrative resembles the character of the protagonist.  The approach is straightforward and direct.  Ames encounters the altered reality of his new life and determines a plan for escaping it and overcoming his circumstances.  He shows himself resourceful and flexible (as any good protagonist should) and proceeds to pick up the interrupted thread of his life and direct it where the great drama of the American West is being written.  During this action, we will become acquainted with the paraphernalia of settler life.  We learn about how the great army surplus of the Civil War is made available to civilians (either legitimately or through bribery) and details of the weapons and transport equipment enlisted into the settlers’ quest.  We meet all sorts of people.  There are riverboat gamblers, army officers and NCOs, tradesmen, craftsmen, thieves, murderers and schoolmarms.  We meet trail scouts, freed black slaves, indian braves and outlaws from North and South.  By the end of the story Ames has navigated from the Old South to the Rocky Mountains and gone from a young soldier in retreat to a tested and respected individual on the frontier.

On the cover, we see the subtitle, “The Ames Archives Book One.”  So, this is a series.  And the stage has been set for expansion of the plot in several directions and dimensions.  It can be anticipated that several of the characters will have added importance later on and some unfinished business will resurface.  All these things are expected and even necessary to expand the scope of the story to encompass some of the larger themes that exist within the western genre.  But it’s important to tell the potential reader what he’s letting himself in for, more volumes.  It’s an episodic story in a planned series.

Now for my opinion.  I like it and recommend it.  The prose is clean and uncluttered.  The characters are sketched sufficiently and enjoyably.  The subject matter is interesting and the plot contains enough excitement to justify its inclusion in this genre.  It’s a good western.  But just to be perfectly clear, you’re not getting James Joyce or Thomas Mann.  This is more in the mold of Charles Portis.  It’s an adventure story.  If that is what you are looking for and you have similar tastes to mine, you may be happy with this book.  If you’re looking for Hamlet, move on.

True Grit – Part 2, Rooster Redux

True Grit: The Duke, The Dude and the Dutiful Daughter; Part 1

So, who’s the better Cogburn?  Of course, there’s no answer to this.  If I were to guess on the consensus among the populace, I’d speculate that voting would be strongly divided by age.  Anyone under the age of forty (I’m guessing) would be more likely to be in the Bridges camp.  Anyone over the age of fifty would favor the Duke.  Chronologically then, I should be in the Wayne camp.  But it’s not that simple.

These are both fine films.  And even though I have fond memories of enjoying the older film over the years, I found the Coen Brothers film incredibly entertaining.  And it’s going to be hard to separate my judgement on the comparative virtues of the Cogburn portrayal from my overall feelings for the two movies.  But that is what I will be trying to do here.

I’ll start by comparing both film portrayals to the novel.  It is fair to say that both films depart in places from the book.  Overall, I’d say that the newer movie diverges by adding additional plot elements while the older film removes some elements that give the book a harsher plot.  These differences in part, exist because of the differences that exist in film-making practices between 1969 and 2010.

Perhaps the most significant difference between the novel and the 2010 film portrayal of Rooster is the greater animosity between Cogburn and LaBoeuf.  In the 2010 movie LaBoeuf and Cogburn have such a major falling out that the joint expedition is ended not once but twice.  A subtler difference is the increase in the amount of bantering mockery that Rooster heaps on the Texas Ranger.  Although the tone and even the flavor adheres to the book’s character it is an amplification of the actual text.

The obvious change to the story line between the book and the 1969 movie is the conclusion of the story.  In both the book and the 2010 movie, we read that after the desperate ride to save Mattie from the snake bite, Mattie loses her arm to the venom.  Also, she never sees Rooster again.  In the 1969 movie, she makes a full recovery and Cogburn meets up with her at her family home shortly after her recovery.

Taking into account the conventions that existed in 1969 against grittier subject matter, I do not feel either portrayal can be shown to excel the other in fidelity to the spirit of the book.  And I would say they both are excellent translations of the book to cinema.

But that’s a cop out.  Somebody has to win and someone has to lose.  Surprisingly, I’m choosing Bridges.  Events in the last few decades have prejudiced me in favor of tougher portrayals of the world.  I find the more realistic version of things more useful and more honest.  And even though it has more to do with the Coen Brothers skills as film makers than Bridges acting skills in the scene, I greatly admire the affect produced by the scene where Cogburn rides and carries Mattie to save her life.  So, even though the Duke is an iconic figure and his Rooster Cogburn was one of his best parts (and won him his only Oscar), I’m giving the prize to the Dude.  He definitely abides.

The First Urban Fantasy:  A Christmas Carol

Merry Christmas to all from the management of Orion’s Cold Fire.  Now the title of this post is admittedly a stretch.  But it is a ghost story and it does take place in an urban center.  I guess it would be adding insult to injury to claim steampunk status too, so I won’t.  I gladly confess I’m a huge fan of this tale.  I first remember running into it as a boy when my older cousin played Mr. Fezziwig in a grammar school production.  I don’t remember much about that production other than the fact that Fezziwig was actually wearing a gray wig.  Since then I’ve read the short book and attended several professional and amateur stage productions.  But the most substantial proportion of my involvement with this story is the hundreds of viewings of the various film versions that have been made over the decades.  Discounting such travesties as the episode made as part of the old television series “The Odd Couple” and the one starring the cartoon character Mr. Magoo, I have watched at least seven separate films.

 

Among the few versions that I still watch, the oddest one is the musical from 1970 starring Albert Finney.  With Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley it includes a scene of Scrooge being installed in Hell by his long dead partner.  I’m not particularly fond of musicals and Finney hasn’t really got a singing voice so there any number of painful moments in this film but the comical aspect of Scrooge is highlighted and allows this version to serve when children are present and might otherwise become bored.

 

Until recently I was of the opinion that the best version was the 1951 edition starring Alistair Sim.  It had a good British cast and possessed a script that amplified the meager details of the novel with some dramatic details of the back story between Scrooge and his sister on her death bed.  It also fills out the history of Scrooge as a businessman and shows us some details of Marley’s death.  It remains in my reckoning a very good film.

 

But as with all other things in life, age alters our opinions and our point of view even about Dickens’ masterpiece.  Of late, I have come to favor the 1984 television version starring George C. Scott.  The balance of the cast is British with Scott the only American.  The script is relatively close to the novel although there are a few touches having to do with Scrooge’s nephew and wife that are innovative.  But in several aspects I find this later version to be the best.  First is the character of Marley.  The actor portraying this ghost is the best of any that have acted the role.  The feeling and meaning he puts into his lines is perfect for that part.  Next is the child playing Tiny Tim.  He is without a doubt the most diminutive and fragile looking child imaginable.  He enhances the reality of what we know is Tiny Tim’s probable fate.  And finally, there is Scott’s part.  He is a powerful man who displays his ruthlessness openly.  George C. Scott was a very good actor and it shows.  He interacts with the spirits as an equal.  He defends his point of view as you might imagine a rational egoist would.  You feel his gradual awakening to the error of his world view as a visceral experience and not just a logical progression.  He captures the transformation that Dickens was portraying.  It’s well done.

 

So, now why do I enjoy this story?  I believe that Dickens’ story captures some essential truth about what it means to be human.  He is trying to show us that in order to save ourselves we have to save those around us.  And not through some social construct (“are there no prisons, are there no workhouses”), but by touching the lives of those around us and lending a hand to the weak.  As a right wing fanatic this is an important lesson to remember.  If you object to the idea of the socialist state then you must instead reach out to the people around you and make things better yourself.

 

So for me this story is a cautionary tale.  Don’t forget that the people out there are real and they are someone’s children.  And they can hurt.  Watch out for them.

 

I’ll end this on a happy note.  As Tiny Tim said, “God bless us, every one.”

Giving Thanks for a Short Respite – Part II

Giving Thanks for a Short Respite – Part 1

Here we are almost a month after part one of this thread and the warm glow from the election has not dissipated.  If anything, it has increased.  Donald Trump has surprised almost all of the critics (other than the democrat hacks who if even Einstein were the republican candidate would deny he was smart enough to count on his fingers).  His cabinet selections have been good, very good.  Personally, my favorite is the pick for EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt.  Pruitt is the Oklahoma attorney general and he has been involved in stopping the EPA from imposing CO2 restrictions on the energy industry.  This sort of clear and direct approach to reversing the outrages of the Obama administration, I think, bodes very well for Trump’s success.  In addition, the extreme panic and indignation on exhibit over this particular selection is both amusing and instructive.  These folks realize that they are not dealing with the hapless Bushes or some equally ineffective mainstream republican.  We’re gonna get to move the chains in a big way.

So, I kept my promise and I did not speak about the election or politics with my friends or relatives of the other persuasion at Thanksgiving.  I intend to maintain this policy through to the New Year and possibly beyond.  The idea of separating friends and families from political debate was sound.  No good or gain would come of it.  Anyway, it would be overkill.  I’m so saturated with schadenfreude through reading and watching reports of the progressives’ fury and panic that I’m almost poisoned with it.  So, I’m done with it.

The time is better spent enjoying the holidays.  There are books and movies to read and see.  There are grandsons, nephews and nieces to regale with tall tales and bribe with presents.  There will be mountains of splendiferous food; lobster, lamb, turkey, ham, lasagna, sausage and bean soup, eggplant parmigiana and breads, rice and potato dishes enough to feed a small village.  After that we’ll eat desserts until diabetic shock sets in.  Pies; apple, blueberry, strawberry rhubarb, coconut custard, sweet potato, Boston crème and three kinds of pumpkin.  Pastries; sfogliatelle, lobster tails, tiramisu and several kinds of cannoli.  And we’ll drink gallons of coffee.  And for those who indulge, there’ll be enough wine and booze to float a boat.

So, looking ahead to the Inauguration and the First 100 Days what should we expect?  I think the question that needs to be answered is whether Senator McConnell has the stomach to go nuclear to get the cabinet and supreme court appointments confirmed.  Recently he’s showed some backbone but it’s too soon to say.  Luckily, McConnell is about to find out that pressure can come from both sides of the divide.  I don’t doubt that Trump will use the bully pulpit and public opinion to get what he needs.  After that I’m assuming we’ll see a bunch of Obama executive actions rescinded and new ones put in place.  Also, I think we’ll hear what will be replacing Obamacare and how the immigration measures will be initiated.  Eventually I hope to see how Trump plans to increase employment.  Changes to the corporate tax code to encourage increases to domestic employment would be the best way.

So, here’s to everybody’s holidays.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Enjoy yourself and save your energy for 2017 and the fireworks to come.

Heinlein Part 2 – The Juveniles

Heinlein: What’s the Deal With Him?

The Juveniles.  That is where it all began for me, and I was probably typical.  Exploring the science fiction shelf in the kid’s floor of the library I found and read “Red Planet.”  Fantastic.  The characters were intelligent (well the good guys were) and the story combined adventure, humor and a young protagonist that we could root for.  As I worked my way through the series I had no idea that most science fiction (especially juvenile sf) was nowhere near as good.  And I didn’t know why I liked these books so much.  But I do now.  Heinlein had identified something important in how Americans of my generation viewed ourselves and the future.  We believed it was time for humans to push the frontier beyond Earth.  Heinlein had translated the Western into science fiction.  His heroes are easily seen as descendants of the pioneers who pushed across the plains and forests of North America in the 19th Century and colonized a continent.  His families (and they often came as families) were colonizing the Solar System.

Consulting my on-line encyclopedia (specifically Infogalactic) I find the following chronology:

Rocket Ship Galileo, 1947

Space Cadet, 1948

Red Planet, 1949

Farmer in the Sky, 1950

Between Planets, 1951

The Rolling Stones aka Space Family Stone, 1952

Starman Jones, 1953

The Star Beast, 1954

Tunnel in the Sky, 1955

Time for the Stars, 1956

Citizen of the Galaxy, 1957

Have Space Suit—Will Travel, 1958

 

Interestingly, Rocket Ship Galileo was always the weakest (in my mind) of the novels both in terms of plot and character development.  In fact, it’s the only one I’ve never re-read.  I can see that he had not quite come up with the formula he later perfected.  And just to personalize this, here is my list in order of personal preference (top being favorite):

Have Space Suit—Will Travel

Citizen of the Galaxy

Starman Jones

The Rolling Stones

The Star Beast

Farmer in the Sky

Red Planet

Tunnel in the Sky

Space Cadet

Between Planets

Time for the Stars

Rocket Ship Galileo

Of course, I probably could move around anything other than the top and bottom entries depending on mood.  But this tells you more about me than about the author.

So, as I approach sixty why do I consider these children’s books interesting or relevant?  Was it the extraordinary prose style or absolute unique character of the protagonists?  Not at all.  Heinlein was a very capable writer and wrote clean prose but he was no Faulkner.  And many of his young adult characters are almost interchangeable.  The real reason was because these novels combine all the components of good fiction.  The plots are lively and interesting.  The characters are engaging, sympathetic and admirable.  To my mind, Heinlein in this series is the heir to Kipling’s “Kim” and Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.”  You recognize in them a voice that isn’t confused about the rightness of the endeavor his characters are engaged in.  There’s very little of the moral ambivalence that became the defining characteristic of the 1960s and beyond.  This was the spirit of the post-WWII optimism.  This was the high noon of the American Century and it was beautiful.  We would get another taste of this spirit when Ronald Reagan brought back American optimism in the 1980s.  We’ve had precious little of it since.

I’m of the opinion that adopting the same kind of feel to sf today would be popular.  For this reason, I think the Heinlein juveniles (and some of his better adult stories and novels) have value as a template for what to look for in a sf story today.  Lately I’ve seen the beginning of this idea occurring and I see that as a hopeful sign.  If this return to optimistic story style coincides with some kind of a Trump resurgence in American optimism in general it could be a fortunate thing for the sf fans of my grandsons’ age.  So, hat’s off to RAH (and his editors) for producing a set of young adult sf novels that could last a hundred years without aging at all.  I think I’ll re-read “Have Spacesuit Will Travel” for Christmas.

True Grit: The Duke, The Dude and the Dutiful Daughter; Part I

“I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man.” When was a better line ever uttered in a Western?

What red-blooded American male doesn’t love True Grit? I liked everything about the old movie (other than that truly awful song Glen Campbell sings).  I like everything about the new movie (except for the awful politics of the actor who plays LaBoeuf).  But until recently I had never read the source novel.  Now, having done so, I have a renewed admiration for the film makers.  The differences between the novel and movies are creative choices that must have required a bit of reflection on the differences between reading and watching.  All in all, I’m hard pressed to claim that the films are less than the book.  They are each excellent.  But ultimately, the book provides more of the protagonist’s inner voice.  Mattie Ross is the fictional autobiographer here.  It’s her story and she tells it from her very idiosyncratic point of view.  If the main facts of the plot are outlined (young woman goes forth to avenge the murder of her father) it would seem obvious that enormous sympathy should exist for the heroine.  But she’s not the most sympathetic character.  She takes advantage of her formidable lawyer to bully an innocent tradesman into paying her for damages he did not cause.  She is pathologically self-righteous and judgmental.  And she lacks any tact or charm.  Basically, she’s a jerk.  But at the same time, she possesses courage, fortitude, energy and intelligence.  She has worked out the situation around her father’s murder and planned a campaign to redress it.  She has not spared herself (or anyone else for that matter) and follows through with it without concern for pain, weariness or danger.  She is a very original and convincing character.

All through her odyssey Mattie meets up with a number of characters, some barely sketched, others carefully fleshed out. Most vivid of course is Rooster Cogburn. but others, Ranger LaBoeuf, Lucky Ned Pepper, Colonel Stonehill and even Tom Chaney, are fully drawn and interesting personalities.  And here is where the movies don’t let us down.  The portrayals of Stonehill and Pepper in both movies are excellent.  The actors are given a very small window to work in, just a couple of scenes.  But both convey the personality we are meant to see in a specific setting  that reveals interesting components of his character.  At almost all points the plot mixes humor and drama in believable measure.

The Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (pronounced by him “LaBeef”) is the foil for both Mattie and Cogburn. At every turn his opinion and motivations are at odds with one or the other or both of them.  This allows for Mattie and Cogburn to develop some solidarity.  The scene where LaBoeuf attempts to switch Mattie to force her to abandon the search confirms the respective places for each of these characters.  In a strange way they resemble a family, with Cogburn as a sort of father and Mattie and LaBoeuf as younger daughter and older son.  Now granted this would be a particularly dysfunctional family but considering the status of Mattie to her recently deceased father it is not unreasonable.  It is this dynamic in the story that I think is chiefly responsible for the appeal of the story for women, but of course that is just one man’s opinion.

And finally (at least in this first installment) we come to the climax of the action. The Duel and the Catastrophe.  If there is in all western cinema a closer analogy to a knightly duel I haven’t seen it.  The hero no longer needs to confront his enemy.  The damsel is rescued, the aim of the quest (the capture of Chaney) is accomplished.  But he is honor bound to conquer or die.  A more perfect tableaux for the American West, I cannot imagine.  And then the reversal, and another reversal, and another.  By the time Rooster is carrying Mattie back to town and doctor we have reversed the journey from adventure to real life.  Chaney’s fate is no longer important, Ned Pepper and the other outlaws are debris on the field.  Even Mattie’s beloved pony Blackie is expended in Cogburn’s single-minded endeavor to save her life.  And here the new movie adds to what the original left out.  The rattlesnake bite costs Mattie her arm.  She recovers and grows up to be a wealthy spinster.  And the last act of the book has her belatedly trying to meet up with Rooster at a Wild West Show that he has ended up in.  Cole Younger, one of his fellow “exhibits” informs her that Rooster had died several days previously.  She has his remains moved to her family plot.  Thus completing the idea that Cogburn had become something of a father figure to her.

I intend to discuss some other features of the True Grit movies and book in future posts.

Heinlein: What’s the Deal with Him?

Heinlein Part 2 – The Juveniles

So, here we are five years into the Puppy Era and we all know what we don’t like.  We don’t want revolutionary intersectionalist gender studies diatribes disguised as SF&F message fiction.  Agreed.  But for the sake of reminding us what we do like I’ve decided to start dusting off the dinosaurs.  I’m going to reach back into the Pre-Cambrian Epoch and analyze some of the better fossils currently on display on my admittedly antediluvian book shelf.  First on the list Robert Anson Heinlein (aka the big enchilada).

Anyone who attempts to review Heinlein is in for trouble.  Everyone either loves or hates the man.  Some people actually are able to do both at the same time.  But few are lukewarm.  Full disclosure, I grew up on his juveniles.  I read “Red Planet,” “The Rolling Stones,” “Farmer in the Sky” and the rest of his kids books like some kind of junkie.  When I ran out of them I started trying out the rest of his peers.  As a kid I defined all other science fiction by how it stood next to the grand master. In my mind none of them measured up.  To my young eyes he was a literary god.

As time went on I came in contact with his novels and short stories for adults.  I read his future history stories and found that world interesting and to my optimistic mind plausible.  “The Green Hills of Earth,” “Methusaleh’s Children,” “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” all confirmed my opinion that here was a great storyteller.  I was convinced that picking up something by RAH was a guaranteed good read.

As I grew I found that Heinlein was changing too.  His books became darker.  Starship Trooper although absolutely first rate Heinlein was a serious war story wrapped up in a philosophy lesson.  Farnham’s Freehold is just plain grim.  Glory Road is an interesting but puzzling work.  Heinlein was still enjoyable but he had moved away from the sunnier climes of the past and allowed the dystopian events of the Cold War to color his universe.  By the time of “Stranger in a Strange Land” we are in a new landscape.  RAH has abandoned simple stories and now approaches questions of religion, spitituality and sexuality that sometimes seem bizarre.  At this point I note that “heinleinian” qualities of the stories are still present but the world view has shifted.  It reflects the changes that had occurred between the United States of the nineteen forties and that of the nineteen sixties.  Interestingly these changes were actually forecast by Heinlein in his Future History timeline.  He predicted the nineteen sixties would be called “The Crazy Years.”  Was he ever right!

So , where are we?  Well, Heinlein , the Baby Boomers and I have all transitioned from the heroic, optimistic stories of the forties into the somewhat jaded, realistic stories of the sixties.  So far I’m still with him.  I still wait expectantly for the next big read from the king.  And then he published “I Will Fear No Evil” (IWFNE).  Holy Crap!  It’s over forty years since I read that disaster and even that much time hasn’t softened the feelings of outrage I feel whenever I think of the pain I experienced trying to plow through this awful pile of garbage.  When I finished it I was convinced that either Heinlein had died and a ghost writer was brought in to write this abomination or that he had ingested some really bad LSD and had completely lost his mind.  Either way, the world of guaranteed good Heinlein fiction was over.

In retrospect it turned out that the publication of this book coincided with a very serious health crisis in Heinlein’s life.  The book was published without the careful and time-consuming edits and rewrites that were RAH’s standard operating procedure for publication.  So it’s possible that Heinlein could have rewritten IWFNE and made it into a good book.  But I don’t think it’s true.  In addition to the awful writing exhibited in the book, the dystopian world portrayed, although frighteningly close to some aspects of modern life, is nothing that most people want to read about.

What I think went wrong with Heinlein was that he had extrapolated the trends he saw in his world and came up with a future that although uncomfortably accurate, wasn’t compatible with his audience’s tastes.  The science fiction readers of that time tended to be optimistic.  We wanted a future that was better than the world we lived in.

After the debacle of IWFNE there was a long hiatus before the next Heinlein book appeared.  In the mean-time I moved on to other authors.  Tolkien and his Middle Earth deeply interested me and other fantasy writers and works caught my attention.  By the time, Heinlein came out with Expanded Universe, I no longer thought much about his potential for providing me with good reading material.  Expanded Universe is a book that contains both short fiction works and non-fiction concerning politics, world events and practical philosophy.  It was full of interesting observations and insights into Heinlein and his world.  It managed to renew my interest in what RAH might have next in store.

At this point it was nineteen eighty.  These were optimistic times and an old-fashioned Heinlein story was exactly what would fit in.  His next novel was “The Number of the Beast.”  Essentially the book is sort of an elaborate insider’s joke.  It is full of allusions, puns and puzzles that relate to Heinlein, his works and his philosophy on writing and life.  It is not exactly a page turner.  Not being in a frame of mind to savor his meta-work I resigned myself to taking each Heinlein publication as an unknown quantity to be evaluated as found.  His following books were mostly a mixture of narrative and dispositive philosophical material.  An exception was the book Friday which was more or less a traditional story.  It tied into characters and ideas found in the short story Gulf.  It has several interesting characters and concepts.  In some ways, it is a throwback to his middle period.  But it does not match the optimistic energy of that time.  His description of the balkanized North American states produces in me a melancholy mood.  And the portrayal of inevitable catastrophe for Earth is bleak.  The prospect of survival on other planets sounds more like a retreat in the face of inevitable doom.

So, am I being fair to Heinlein?  Absolutely not.  The truth is that I started off reading books that RAH wrote for people of my age.  Then I read stories by him that were patterned after the material that mid-century editors felt were acceptable for the American audience of that time.  The criteria weren’t identical to the restrictions that existed for motion pictures under the Hays Code but there was definitely a less nihilistic feel to literature from that period than what came later.  Later on Heinlein felt less restricted in portraying the more negative aspects of his vision.  And it is also true that he had some quite controversial opinions on various subjects including sexuality.

Taking these factors into account, my disappointment with much of his later output was inevitable.  Some of that has to do with the disparity in age between us.  He was born more than fifty years before me and his life does not closely mirror mine.  I have often thought that it is time for me to re-read his later stories.  In all fairness, other than “I Will Fear No Evil,” I believe I will probably find all his other books quite enjoyable now that I no longer expect to get “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” every time.

So, that is an outline of my collision with Robert Heinlein through several decades of reading him.  I will follow this up with further remarks on the various categories of Heinlein literature that I admire most.  But I will conclude this survey by stating that Robert A. Heinlein was the most important author during several decades of my formative years.  He is the Grand Master of Science Fiction.  Whether that is important or not I leave to the reader to decide.