Robert A. Heinlein

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A generation which ignores history has no past — and no future.
Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.

Robert Anson Heinlein (7 July 1907 – 8 May 1988) was one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of science fiction of the 20th Century.

See also pages for the novels:

Starship Troopers (1959)
Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
Glory Road (1963)
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966)
Time Enough for Love (1973)
Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984)

Quotes[edit]

One can judge from experiment, or one can blindly accept authority. To the scientific mind, experimental proof is all important and theory is merely a convenience in description, to be junked when it no longer fits ...
  • I think that science fiction, even the corniest of it, even the most outlandish of it, no matter how badly it's written, has a distinct therapeutic value because all of it has as its primary postulate that the world does change. I cannot overemphasize the importance of that idea.
    • "The Discovery of the Future," Guest of Honor Speech, 3rd World Science Fiction Convention, Denver, Colorado (1941)
Hand the people a scapegoat to hate. Let them kill a scapegoat occasionally for cathartic release. The mechanism is ages old. Tyrants used it centuries before the word "psychology" was ever invented. It works, too.
  • The door dilated.
    • This offhand mention has become the simplest (three words!) and often-quoted exposition of the wonders of a different world, where what would be novel today has become simply the way things work. Beyond This Horizon (1942)
  • Every law that was ever written opened up a new way to graft.
  • How anybody expects a man to stay in business with every two-bit wowser in the country claiming a veto over what we can say and can't say and what we can show and what we can't show — it's enough to make you throw up. The whole principle is wrong; it's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't eat steak.
    • On censorship, in The Man Who Sold the Moon (1950), p. 188; this may be the origin of a remark which in recent years has sometimes become misattributed to Mark Twain: Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it.
  • Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do.
  • Reason is poor propaganda when opposed by the yammering, unceasing lies of shrewd and evil and self-serving men.
  • Take sex away from people. Make it forbidden, evil. Limit it to ritualistic breeding. Force it to back up into suppressed sadism. Then hand the people a scapegoat to hate. Let them kill a scapegoat occasionally for cathartic release. The mechanism is ages old. Tyrants used it centuries before the word "psychology" was ever invented. It works, too.
  • The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed.
  • The death rate is the same for us as for anybody ... one person, one death, sooner or later.
  • I also think there are prices too high to pay to save the United States. Conscription is one of them. Conscription is slavery, and I don't think that any people or nation has a right to save itself at the price of slavery for anyone, no matter what name it is called. We have had the draft for twenty years now; I think this is shameful. If a country can't save itself through the volunteer service of its own free people, then I say : Let the damned thing go down the drain!
    • Guest of Honor Speech at the 29th World Science Fiction Convention, Seattle, Washington (1961)
    • The Quotable Heinlein
  • The difference between science and the fuzzy subjects is that science requires reasoning, while those other subjects merely require scholarship.
    • In: Time Enough for Love: the lives of Lazarus Long; a novel , (1973), p. 366
  • At the time I wrote Methuselah’s Children I was still politically quite naive and still had hopes that various libertarian notions could be put over by political processes… It [now] seems to me that every time we manage to establish one freedom, they take another one away. Maybe two. And that seems to me characteristic of a society as it gets older, and more crowded, and higher taxes, and more laws.
    • The Robert Heinlein Interview, and other Heinleiniana (1973) by J. Neil Schulman (published in 1990)
  • I would say that my position is not too far from that of Ayn Rand's; that I would like to see government reduced to no more than internal police and courts, external armed forces — with the other matters handled otherwise. I'm sick of the way the government sticks its nose into everything, now.
    • The Robert Heinlein Interview (1973)
  • I started clipping and filing by categories on trends as early as 1930 and my "youngest" file was started in 1945.
    Span of time is important; the 3-legged stool of understanding is held up by history, languages, and mathematics. Equipped with these three you can learn anything you want to learn. But if you lack any one of them you are just another ignorant peasant with dung on your boots.
  • Each generation thinks it invented sex; each generation is totally mistaken. Anything along that line today was commonplace both in Pompeii and in Victorian England; the differences lie only in the degree of coverup — if any.
  • Widows are far better than brides. They don't tell, they won't yell, they don't swell, they rarely smell, and they're grateful as hell.
  • My wife Ticky is an anarchist-individualist ... When she was in the Navy during the early 'forties she showed up one morning in proper uniform but with her red hair held down by a simple navy-blue band — a hair ribbon. It was neat (Ticky is always neat) and it suited the rest of her outfit esthetically, but it was undeniably a hair ribbon and her division officer had fits.
    "If you can show me," Ticky answered with simple dignity, "where it says one word in the Navy Uniform Regulations on the subject of hair ribbons, I'll take it off. Otherwise not."
    See what I mean? She doesn't have the right attitude.

The Puppet Masters (1951)[edit]

  • Listen, son. Most women are damn fools and children. But they've got more range than we've got. The brave ones are braver, the good ones are better — and the vile ones are viler, for that matter.
    • The "Old Man" to "Sam", when discussing "Mary", Ch. 11
  • Don't ask me why it was top secret, or even restricted; our government has gotten the habit of classifying anything as secret which the all-wise statesmen and bureaucrats decide we are not big enough girls and boys to know, a Mother-Knows-Best-Dear policy. I've read that there used to be a time when a taxpayer could demand the facts on anything and get them. I don't know; it sounds Utopian.
    • Ch. 24

This I Believe (1952)[edit]

I believe in my neighbors.
I know their faults and I know that their virtues far outweigh their faults.
I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth, that we always make it just by the skin of our teeth — but that we will always make it … survive … endure.
One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.
Written for the Edward R. Murrow radio show, This I Believe (1952) - full transcript and audio online
  • I am not going to talk about religious beliefs, but about matters so obvious that it has gone out of style to mention them.
    I believe in my neighbors.
    I know their faults and I know that their virtues far outweigh their faults.
    Take Father Michael down our road a piece — I'm not of his creed, but I know the goodness and charity and lovingkindness that shine in his daily actions. I believe in Father Mike; if I'm in trouble, I'll go to him. My next-door neighbor is a veterinary doctor. Doc will get out of bed after a hard day to help a stray cat. No fee —  no prospect of a fee. I believe in Doc.
  • Decency is not news; it is buried in the obituaries — but it is a force stronger than crime.
    I believe in the patient gallantry of nurses...in the tedious sacrifices of teachers. I believe in the unseen and unending fight against desperate odds that goes on quietly in almost every home in the land.
  • I believe in the honest craft of workmen. Take a look around you. There never were enough bosses to check up on all that work. From Independence Hall to the Grand Coulee Dam, these things were built level and square by craftsmen who were honest in their bones.
  • I believe that almost all politicians are honest. For every bribed alderman there are hundreds of politicians, low paid or not paid at all, doing their level best without thanks or glory to make our system work. If this were not true, we would never have gotten past the thirteen colonies.
  • I believe in —  I am proud to belong to —  the United States. Despite shortcomings, from lynchings to bad faith in high places, our nation has had the most decent and kindly internal practices and foreign policies to be found anywhere in history.
    And finally, I believe in my whole race. Yellow, white, black, red, brown — in the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability … and goodness … .of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet. I am proud to be a human being. I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth, that we always make it just by the skin of our teeth — but that we will always make it … survive … endure. I believe that this hairless embryo with the aching, oversize brain case and the opposable thumb, this animal barely up from the apes, will endure — will endure longer than his home planet, will spread out to the other planets, to the stars, and beyond, carrying with him his honesty, his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage — and his noble essential decency.
    This I believe with all my heart.

The Rolling Stones (1952)[edit]

  • Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done. One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.
  • Free will is a golden thread running through the frozen matrix of fixed events.

Double Star (1956)[edit]

  • Aside from a cold appreciation of my own genius I felt that I was a modest man.
  • I have never been impressed by the formal schools of ethics. I had sampled them — public libraries are a ready source of recreation for an actor short of cash — but I had found them as poor in vitamins as a mother-in-law’s kiss. Given time and plenty of paper, a philosopher can prove anything. I had the same contempt for the moral instruction handed to most children. Much of it is prattle and the parts they really seem to mean are dedicated to the sacred proposition that a “good” child is one who does not disturb mother’s nap and a “good” man is one who achieves a muscular bank account without getting caught. No, thanks!
  • Take sides! Always take sides! You will sometimes be wrong — but the man who refuses to take sides must always be wrong.
  • His bow to me must have been calculated on a slide rule; it suggested that I was about to be Supreme Minister but was not quite there yet, that I was his senior but nevertheless a civilian — then subtract five degrees for the fact that he wore the Emperor’s aiguillette on his right shoulder.
  • Son, suppose you tend to your knitting and I tend to mine.
  • People don’t really want change, any change at all — and xenophobia is very deep-rooted. But we progress, as we must — if we are to go out to the stars.
  • There is solemn satisfaction in doing the best you can for eight billion people. Perhaps their lives have no cosmic significance, but they have feelings. They can hurt.
  • Pacifism is a shifty doctrine under which a man accepts the benefits of the social group without being willing to pay - and claims a halo for his dishonesty

The Door Into Summer (1957)[edit]

If you would know a man, observe how he treats a cat.
  • If you would know a man, observe how he treats a cat.
    • Chapter 1
  • Nobody ever wins a lawsuit but the lawyers.
    • Chapter 2
  • Cats have no sense of humor, they have terribly inflated egos, and they are very touchy.
    • Chapter 2
  • My old man claimed that the more complicated the law the more opportunity for scoundrels.
    • Chapter 5
  • Paymasters come in only two sizes: one sort shows you where the book says that you can’t have what you've got coming to you; the second sort digs through the book until he finds a paragraph that lets you have what you need even if you don’t rate it.
    • Chapter 5
  • An invention is something that was “impossible” up to then—that’s why governments grant patents.
    • Chapter 6
  • I counted to ten slowly, using binary notation.
    • Chapter 8
  • By the laws of statistics we could probably approximate just how unlikely it is that it would happen. But people forget—especially those who ought to know better, such as yourself—that while the laws of statistics tell you how unlikely a particular coincidence is, they state just as firmly that coincidences do happen.
    • Chapter 8
  • I had taken a partner once before—but, damnation, no matter how many times you get your fingers burned, you have to trust people. Otherwise you are a hermit in a cave, sleeping with one eye open.
    • Chapter 10
  • “Er, will your grandmother tell that fib for you?”
    “I guess so. Yes, I'm sure she will. She says people have to tell little white fibs or else people couldn’t stand each other. But she says fibs were meant to be used, not abused.”
    “She sounds like a sensible person.”
    • Chapter 11
  • They made the predictable fuss about taking a cat into a room and an autobellhop is not responsive to bribes—hardly an improvement. But the assistant manager had more flexibility in his synapses; He listened to reason as long as it was crisp and rustled.
    • Chapter 12
  • The future is better than the past. Despite the crepehangers, romanticists, and anti-intellectuals, the world steadily grows better because the human mind, applying itself to environment, makes it better. With hands...with tools...with horse sense and science and engineering.
    • Chapter 12

Methuselah's Children (1958)[edit]

  • Age is not an accomplishment, and youth is not a sin.
  • No philosophy that he had ever heard or read gave any reasonable purpose for man's existence, nor any rational clue to his proper conduct. Basking in the sunshine might be as good a thing to do with one's life as any other — but it was not for him and he knew it, even if he could not define how he knew it.
  • A committee is the only known form of life with a hundred bellies and no brain.
  • Life is short, but the years are long.
    • Part of the secret "call and response" codewords by which members of the long-lived Howard Families can identify others:
Life is short.
But the years are long.
Not while the evil days come not.

Have Space Suit—Will Travel (1958)[edit]

  • “Dr. Russell, I concede that Washington has an atrocious climate. But you will have air-conditioned offices.”
    “With clocks, no doubt. And secretaries. And soundproofing.”
    “Anything you want, doctor.”
    “The point is, Mr. Secretary, I don’t want them. This household has no clocks. Nor calendars. Once I had a large income and a larger ulcer; I now have a small income and no ulcer. I stay here.”
    “But the job needs you.”
    “The need is not mutual.”
    • Chapter 1
  • There is no such thing as luck; there is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe.
    • Chapter 2
  • Television leaves no external scars.
    • Chapter 3
  • Daddy says that, in a dilemma, it is helpful to change any variable, then reexamine the problem.
    • Chapter 5
  • We lived like that “Happy Family“ you sometimes see in traveling zoos: a lion caged with a lamb. It is a startling exhibit but the lamb has to be replaced frequently.
    • Chapter 7
  • When I don’t understand, I have an unbearable itch to know why.
    • Chapter 7
  • You're in bad shape when your emotions force you into acts which you know are foolish.
    • Chapter 8
  • Some people insist that “mediocre” is better than “best.” They delight in clipping wings because they themselves can’t fly. They despise brains because they have none. Pfah!
    • Chapter 9
  • Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.
    • Chapter 9
  • “Peewee!” I said sharply. “You're not listening.”
    “What were you doing talking,” she answered reasonably, “when I wasn’t listening?”
    • Chapter 10
  • The less respect an older person deserves the more certain he is to demand it from anyone younger.
    • Chapter 10
  • I've heard all the usual Sweetness and Light that kids get pushed at them—how they should always forgive, how there’s some good in the worst of us, etc. But when I see a black widow, I step on it; I don’t plead with it to be a good little spider and please stop poisoning people. A black widow spider can’t help it—but that’s the point.
    • Chapter 10
  • “Die trying” is the proudest human thing.
    • Chapter 11
  • When a fact came along, he junked theories that failed to match.
    • Chapter 12
  • The best things in history are accomplished by people who get “tired of being shoved around.”
    • Chapter 12

Starship Troopers (1959)[edit]

Main article: Starship Troopers
  • Morals — all correct moral laws — derive from the instinct to survive. Moral behavior is survival behavior above the individual level.
  • Correct morality can only be derived from what man is — not from what do-gooders and well-meaning aunt Nellies would like him to be.

Stranger in a Strange Land (1961; 1991)[edit]

  • Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
    • "Jubal Harshaw" in the first edition (1961); the later 1991 "Uncut" edition didn't have this line, because it was one Heinlein had added when he went through and trimmed the originally submitted manuscript on which the "Uncut" edition is based. Heinlein also later used a variant of this in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls where he has Xia quote Harshaw: "Dr. Harshaw says that 'the word "love" designates a subjective condition in which the welfare and happiness of another person are essential to one's own happiness.'"
  • Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often confuses one for the other, or assumes the greater the love, the greater the jealousy. In fact they are almost incompatible; both at once produce unbearable turmoil.
    • "Jubal Harshaw" in the first edition (1961); this is another line not in the "Uncut" edition of 1991 based on his original manuscripts, because this was one of the lines that Heinlein added, rather than trimmed down, during the editing process of the first edition.
  • Ben, the ethics of sex is a thorny problem. Each of us is forced to grope for a solution he can live with — in the face of a preposterous, unworkable, and evil code of so-called "morals." Most of us know the code is wrong; almost everybody breaks it. But we pay Danegeld by feeling guilty and giving lip service. Willy-nilly, the code rides us, dead and stinking, an albatross around the neck.
    You, too, Ben. You fancy yourself a free soul — and break that evil code. But faced with a problem in sexual ethics new to you, you tested it against that same Judeo-Christian code ... so automatically your stomach did flip-flops ... and you think that proves you're right and they're wrong. Faugh! I'd as lief use trial by ordeal.
    • "Jubal Harshaw"
  • There comes a time in the life of every human when he or she must decide to risk "his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor" on an outcome dubious. Those who fail the challenge are merely overgrown children, can never be anything else.

Glory Road (1963)[edit]

Main article: Glory Road
  • Logic is a feeble reed, friend. "Logic" proved that airplanes can't fly and that H-bombs won't work and that stones don't fall out of the sky. Logic is a way of saying that anything which didn't happen yesterday won't happen tomorrow.
  • Democracy can't work. Mathematicians, peasants, and animals, that's all there is — so democracy, a theory based on the assumption that mathematicians and peasants are equal, can never work. Wisdom is not additive; its maximum is that of the wisest man in a given group.

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966)[edit]

  • A rational anarchist believes that concepts, such as "state" and "society" and "government" have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame ... as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world ... aware that his efforts will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure.
  • I will accept the rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.
  • Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws — always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up. Because not one of those people said: Please pass this so that I won't be able to do something I know I should stop. Nyet, tovarishchee, was always something they hated to see neighbors doing. Stop them for their own good.
  • TANSTAAFL.
    • Acronym for "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch." The origin of this phrase is often misattributed to Heinlein or Milton Friedman, but it actually dates back to at least the 1930s. Heinlein's contribution was to make the acronym for it.
  • There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.

The Past Through Tomorrow (1967)[edit]

All page numbers from the hardcover first edition published by G. P. Putnam Inc.
  • How can I possibly put a new idea into your heads, if I do not first remove your delusions?
    • “Life-Line” (p. 15). Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, August 1939.
  • He seeks order, not truth. Suppose truth defies order, will he accept it? Will you? I think not.
    • “Life-Line” (p. 16)
  • There are but two ways of forming an opinion in science. One is the scientific method; the other, the scholastic. One can judge from experiment, or one can blindly accept authority. To the scientific mind, experimental proof is all important and theory is merely a convenience in description, to be junked when it no longer fits. To the academic mind, authority is everything and facts are junked when they do not fit theory laid down by authority.
    • “Life-Line” (p. 24)
  • There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back, for their private benefit.
    • “Life-Line” (p. 25)
  • There is nothing in this world so permanent as a temporary emergency.
    • “The Man Who Sold the Moon” Chapter 1 (p. 100). Originally published in The Man Who Sold the Moon: Harriman and the Escape from Earth to the Moon!, 1950.
  • He decided to stay in his space suit; explosive decompression didn’t appeal to him. Come to think about it, death from old age was his choice.
    • “The Long Watch” (p. 214). Originally published in The American Legion Magazine, December 1949.
  • High I.Q., good compatibility index, superior education—everything that makes a person pleasant and easy and interesting to have around.
    • “The Long Watch” (p. 255).
  • History is never surprising—after it happens.
    • “Logic of Empire” (p. 333). Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, March 1941.
  • You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.
    • “Logic of Empire” (p. 335). This is one of the earliest known variants of an idea which has become known as Hanlon's razor.
  • Don’t pay any attention to what she says. Half of it’s always wrong and she doesn’t mean the rest.
    • “The Menace from Earth” (p. 351). Originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 1957.
  • I think perhaps of all the things a police state can do to its citizens, distorting history is possibly the most pernicious.
    • “If This Goes On—” Chapter 6 (p. 401). Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, February - March 1940.
  • I began to sense faintly that secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy...censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything — you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.
    • “If This Goes On—” Chapter 6 (p. 401).
  • I was too busy to oblige them by dying just now.
    • “If This Goes On—” Chapter 8 (p. 412).
  • Just now I’m writing a series of oh-so-respectful articles about the private life of the Prophet and his acolytes and attending priests, how many servants they have, how much it costs to run the Palace, all about the fancy ceremonies and rituals, and such junk. All of it perfectly true, of course, and told with unctuous approval. But I lay it on a shade too thick. The emphasis is on the jewels and the solid gold trappings and how much it all costs, and I keep telling the yokels what a privilege it is for them to be permitted to pay for such frippery and how flattered they should feel that God’s representative on earth lets them take care of him.
    • “If This Goes On—” Chapter 10 (p. 426).
  • “Do you seriously expect to start a rebellion with picayune stuff like that?”
    “It’s not picayune stuff, because it acts directly on their emotions, below the logical level. You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic. It doesn’t have to be a prejudice about an important matter either.
    • “If This Goes On—” Chapter 10 (p. 426).
  • From my point of view, a great deal of openly expressed piety is insufferable conceit.
    • “If This Goes On—” Chapter 10 (p. 431).
  • “Johnnie, the nice thing about citing God as an authority is that you can prove anything you set out to prove. It’s just a matter of selecting the proper postulates, then insisting that your postulates are ‘inspired.’ Then no one can possibly prove that you are wrong.”
    • “If This Goes On—” Chapter 10 (p. 432).
  • First they junked the concept of “justice.” Examined semantically “justice” has no referent—there is no observable phenomenon in the space-time-matter continuum to which one can point, and say, “This is justice.” Science can deal only with that which can be observed and measured. Justice is not such a matter; therefore it can never have the same meaning to one as to another; any “noises” said about it will only add to confusion.
    But damage, physical or economic, can be pointed to and measured. Citizens were forbidden by the Covenant to damage another. Any act not leading to damage, physical or economic, to some particular person, they declared to be lawful.
    • “Coventry” (pp. 500-501). Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, July 1940.
  • Mass psychology is not simply a summation of individual psychologies; that is a prime theorem of social psychodynamics—not just my opinion; no exception has ever been found to this theorem. It is the social mass-action rule, the mob-hysteria law, known and used by military, political, and religious leaders, by advertising men and prophets and propagandists, by rabble rousers and actors and gang leaders, for generations before it was formulated in mathematical symbols. It works.
    • “Methuselah’s Children” Part 1, Chapter 1 (p. 535). Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, July - September 1941.
  • “What course of action do you favor?”
    “Me? Why, none. Mary, if there is any one thing I have learned in the past couple of centuries, it’s this: These things pass. Wars and depressions and Prophets and Covenants—they pass. The trick is to stay alive through them.”
    • “Methuselah’s Children” Part 1, Chapter 1 (p. 539).
  • “The truth of a proposition has little or nothing to do with its psychodynamics. The notion that ‘truth will prevail’ is merely a pious wish; history doesn’t show it.”
    • “Methuselah’s Children” Part 1, Chapter 8 (p. 606).
  • “Yes, maybe it’s just one colossal big joke with no point to it.” Lazarus stood up and stretched and scratched his ribs. “But I can tell you this, Andy, whatever the answers are, here’s one monkey that’s going to keep on climbing, and looking around him to see what he can see, as long as the tree holds out.”
    • “Methuselah’s Children” Part 2, Chapter 8 (p. 667; closing words).

I Will Fear No Evil (1970)[edit]

All page numbers from the 1987 mass market edition published by Ace Books, ISBN 0-441-35917-5
  • “Going to dance at my wake?”
    “I don’t dance,” the lawyer answered, “but you tempt me to learn.”
    • Chapter 1 (p. 13)
  • From my point of view it is better to be alive and young again, and broke, than it is to be the richest corpse in Forest Lawn.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 24)
  • What we think of as ‘Physical beauty’ is almost certainly a tag for a complex of useful survival characteristics. Smartness—intelligence—among them.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 35)
  • Fighting continued on a token basis, and the dead did not complain.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 171)
  • I’m not trying to frighten you, but only a fool makes predictions based on ignorance; I am not that sort of fool.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 177)
  • A man who marries at my age isn’t taking a wife, he’s indenturing a nurse.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 224)
  • Between being ‘right’ and being kind, I know which way I vote.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 400)
  • We may eliminate death someday but I doubt if we’ll ever eliminate taxes.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 406)
  • When you’re rich, you don’t have friends; you just have endless acquaintances.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 408)
  • It’s impossible for a woman to lay it on too thick with a man. If you tell a man he’s eight feet tall and say it often enough, with your eyes wide and a throb in your voice, he’ll start stooping to go through seven-foot doors.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 427)
  • I have never been able to see life as anything but a vast complicated practical joke, and it’s better to laugh than cry.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 442)
  • Boats and ships are female because they are beautiful, lovable, expensive—and unpredictable.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 452)
  • I don’t think Father Hugo is any more mistaken than the most learned theologian and he might be closer to the truth. Jacob, I don’t think anyone knows Who’s in charge.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 459)
  • I think the major problem in growing up is to become sophisticated without becoming cynical.
    • Chapter 27 (p. 473)
  • Death is an old friend; I know him well. I lived with him, ate with him, slept with him; to meet him again does not frighten me—death is as necessary as birth, as happy in its own way.
    • Chapter 27 (p. 488)

Time Enough for Love (1973)[edit]

It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier.
There is no conclusive evidence of life after death. But there is no evidence of any sort against it. Soon enough you will know. So why fret about it?
You live and learn. Or you don't live long.
Main article: Time Enough for Love
  • Progress doesn't come from early risers — progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.
  • A brute kills for pleasure. A fool kills from hate.
  • A generation which ignores history has no past — and no future.
    • Paraphrased variant: A generation without history has no past — and no future.
  • All men are created unequal.
  • Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.
  • If you happen to be one of the fretful minority who can do creative work, never force an idea; you'll abort it if you do. Be patient and you'll give birth to it when the time is ripe. Learn to wait.
  • It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier.
  • Masturbation is cheap, clean, convenient, and free of any possibility of wrongdoing — and you don't have to go home in the cold. But it's lonely.
  • Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.
  • "No man is an island — " Much as we may feel and act as Individuals, our race is — a single organism, always growing and branching — which must be pruned regularly to be healthy.
    This necessity need not be argued; anyone with eyes can see that any organism which grows without limit always dies in its own poisons. The only rational question is whether pruning is best done before or after birth.
    Being an incurable sentimentalist I favor the former of these methods — killing makes me queasy, even when it's a case of "He's dead and I'm alive and that's the way I wanted it to be."
    But this may be a matter of taste. Some shamans think that it is better to be killed in a war, or to die in childbirth, or to starve in misery, than never to have lived at all. They may be right.
    But I don't have to like it — and I don't.
  • There is no conclusive evidence of life after death. But there is no evidence of any sort against it. Soon enough you will know. So why fret about it?
  • You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.
  • You live and learn. Or you don't live long.

The Pragmatics of Patriotism (1973)[edit]

Quotations from Heinlein's address at the U.S. Naval Academy (5 April 1973), published in Analog : Science Fiction/Science Fact, Vol. 94, Issue 6 (1974), and in Expanded Universe (1980)
  • In this complex world, science, the scientific method, and the consequences of the scientific method are central to everything the human race is doing and to wherever we are going. If we blow ourselves up we will do it by misapplication of science; if we manage to keep from blowing ourselves up, it will be through intelligent application of science.
  • Patriotism is not sentimental nonsense. Nor something dreamed up by demagogues. Patriotism is as necessary a part of man's evolutionary equipment as are his eyes, as useful to the race as eyes are to the individual.
  • I now define "moral behavior" as "behavior that tends toward survival." I won't argue with philosophers or theologians who choose to use the word "moral" to mean something else, but I do not think anyone can define "behavior that tends toward extinction" as being "moral" without stretching the word "moral" all out of shape.
  • Selfishness is the bedrock on which all moral behavior starts and it can be immoral only when it conflicts with a higher moral imperative. An animal so poor in spirit that he won't even fight on his own behalf is already an evolutionary dead end; the best he can do for his breed is to crawl off and die, and not pass on his defective genes.
  • The next higher level is to work, fight, and sometimes die for your own immediate family. This is the level at which six pounds of mother cat can be so fierce that she'll drive off a police dog. It is the level at which a father takes a moonlighting job to keep his kids in college — and the level at which a mother or father dives into a flood to save a drowning child ... and it is still moral behavior even when it fails.
  • Evolution is a process that never stops. Baboons who fail to exhibit moral behavior do not survive; they wind up as meat for leopards.
  • The next level in moral behavior higher than that exhibited by the baboon is that in which duty and loyalty are shown toward a group of your own kind too large for an individual to know all of them. We have a name for that. It is called "patriotism."
  • Behaving on a still higher moral level were the astronauts who went to the Moon, for their actions tend toward the survival of the entire race of mankind.
  • Many short-sighted fools think that going to the Moon was just a stunt. But the astronauts knew the meaning of what they were doing, as is shown by Neil Armstrong's first words in stepping down onto the soil of Luna: "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
  • Men are expendable; women and children are not. A tribe or a nation can lose a high percentage of its men and still pick up the pieces and go on ... as long as the women and children are saved. But if you fail to save the women and children, you've had it, you're done, you're through! You join Tyrannosaurus Rex, one more breed that bilged its final test.
  • I said that "Patriotism" is a way of saying "Women and children first." And that no one can force a man to feel this way. Instead he must embrace it freely. I want to tell about one such man. He wore no uniform and no one knows his name, or where he came from; all we know is what he did.
    In my home town sixty years ago when I was a child, my mother and father used to take me and my brothers and sisters out to Swope Park on Sunday afternoons. It was a wonderful place for kids, with picnic grounds and lakes and a zoo. But a railroad line cut straight through it.
    One Sunday afternoon a young married couple were crossing these tracks. She apparently did not watch her step, for she managed to catch her foot in the frog of a switch to a siding and could not pull it free. Her husband stopped to help her.
    But try as they might they could not get her foot loose. While they were working at it, a tramp showed up, walking the ties. He joined the husband in trying to pull the young woman's foot loose. No luck —
    Out of sight around the curve a train whistled. Perhaps there would have been time to run and flag it down, perhaps not. In any case both men went right ahead trying to pull her free ... and the train hit them.
    The wife was killed, the husband was mortally injured and died later, the tramp was killed — and testimony showed that neither man made the slightest effort to save himself.
    The husband's behavior was heroic ... but what we expect of a husband toward his wife: his right, and his proud privilege, to die for his woman. But what of this nameless stranger? Up to the very last second he could have jumped clear. He did not. He was still trying to save this woman he had never seen before in his life, right up to the very instant the train killed him. And that's all we'll ever know about him.
    This is how a man dies.
    This is how a man ... lives!

Friday (1983)[edit]

  • Friday, don't despise assassins indiscriminately. As with any tool, merit or demerit lies in how it is used.
  • All normal human beings have soi-disant mixed-up glands. The race is divided into two parts: those who know this and those who do not.
    • Ch. XXI, p. 214
A skillful Artist in shapes and appearances does no more than necessary to create His effect.
  • Geniuses and supergeniuses always make their own rules on sex as on everything else; they do not accept the monkey customs of their lessers.
    • Ch. XXI, p. 214
  • A religion is sometime a source of happiness, and I would not deprive anyone of happiness. But it is a comfort appropriate for the weak, not for the strong. The great trouble with religion — any religion — is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak uncertainty of reason — but one cannot have both.

Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984)[edit]

  • Wisdom includes not getting angry unnecessarily. The Law ignores trifles and the wise man does, too.
  • Time is never a problem on the God level. Or space. Whatever needed to deceive you was provided. But no more than that. That is the conservative principle in art at the God level. While I can't do it, not being at that level, I have seen a lot of it done. A skillful Artist in shapes and appearances does no more than necessary to create His effect.

The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (1985)[edit]

Once you can honestly say, "I don't know", then it becomes possible to get at the truth.
  • I usually read the obituaries first as there is always the happy chance that one of them will make my day.
    • Richard Ames; chapter 3, p. 27
  • A monarch's neck should always have a noose around it. It keeps him upright.
    • Richard Ames; chapter 9, p. 108
  • Premenstrual Syndrome: Just before their periods women behave the way men do all the time.
    • credited to Lowell Stone, M.D., born 2144; chapter 15, p. 185
  • Women seem to have almost unlimited capacity for forgiveness. (Since it is usually a man who needs forgiveness, this must be a racial survival trait.)
    • Richard Ames; chapter 16, p. 200
Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat.
  • The hardest part about gaining any new idea is sweeping out the false idea occupying that niche. As long as that niche is occupied, evidence and proof and logical demonstration get nowhere. But once the niche is emptied of the wrong idea that has been filling it — once you can honestly say, "I don't know", then it becomes possible to get at the truth.
    • Gwen Novak (Hazel Stone); chapter 18, p. 230
  • How can you argue with a woman who won't?
    • Richard Ames; chapter 19, p. 235
  • Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat.
  • "The Almighty-God idea came under attack because it explained nothing; it simply pushed all explanations one stage farther away. In the nineteenth century atheistic positivism started displacing the Almighty-God notion in that minority of the population that bathed regularly. Atheism had a limited run, as it, too, explains nothing, being merely Godism turned upside down."
    • p. 564
  • "Of course the intellectual class did not notice this for many decades, as an intellectual is a highly educated man who can't do arithmetic with his shoes on, and is proud of the lack."
    • p. 564

Grumbles from the Grave (1989)[edit]

Posthumous excerpts of letters and correspondence, edited by Virginia Heinlein, ISBN 0345369416

  • "How long has this racket been going on?"
    • Remark after receiving a $70 US check for his first published story.
  • I expect this to be my last venture in this field; 'tain't worth the grief
    • Response to efforts to censor his first novel, Red Planet
  • Criminals are never materially handicapped by such rules; the only effect is to disarm the peaceful citizen and put him fully at the mercy of the lawless. Such rules look very pretty on paper; in practice they are as foolish and footless as the attempt of the mice to bell the cat.
    • Letter to Alice Dalgliesh, the editor who was censoring his manuscript for Red Planet, regarding gun control registration and control

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, Volume I (1907–1949): Learning Curve (2010)[edit]

Authorized biography by William H. Patterson, Jr., ISBN 0765319608

  • This is the great day. This is the greatest event in all the history of the human race, up to this time. That is — today is New Year's Day of the Year One. If we don't change the calendar, historians will do so. The human race — this is our change, our puberty rite, bar mitzvah, confirmation, from the change of our infancy into adulthood for the human race. And we're going to go on out, not only to the Moon, to the stars; we're going to spread. I don't know that the United States is going to do it; I hope so. I have — I'm an American myself; I want it to be done by us. But in any case, the human race is going to do it, it's utterly inevitable: we're going to spread through the entire universe.
    • In a live interview with Walter Cronkite of CBS News, on the day of the first moonwalk (20 July 1969).

Quotes about Heinlein[edit]

You don’t pay back, you pay forward.
Alphabetized by author
  • YOUR INFLUENCE ON US ALL, FROM 1939 ON, CANNOT BE MEASURED. I CAN ONLY SAY I REMEMBER, WARMLY, YOUR MANY KINDNESSES TO ME WHEN I WAS 19–20–21 YEARS OLD. THAT YOUNG MAN BASKED IN YOUR LIGHT AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE GRATEFUL FOR THE HELP YOU OFFERED WHEN I WAS SO POOR & NEEDFUL!
  • Several years ago, when I was ill, Heinlein offered his help, anything he could do, and we had never met; he would phone me to cheer me up and see how I was doing. He wanted to buy me an electric typewriter, God bless him — one of the few true gentlemen in this world. I don't agree with any ideas he puts forth in his writing, but that is neither here nor there. One time when I owed the IRS a lot of money and couldn't raise it, Heinlein loaned the money to me. I think a great deal of him and his wife; I dedicated a book to them in appreciation. Robert Heinlein is a fine-looking man, very impressive and very military in stance; you can tell he has a military background, even to the haircut. He knows I'm a flipped-out freak and still he helped me and my wife when we were in trouble. That is the best in humanity, there; that is who and what I love.
  • Heinlein presents us, in terms of his sources and influences with a rope of many strands and the strength of the whole is in the multiplicity of the strands. To lift one strand out and examine it has two immediate effects: it magnifies the relative importance out of proportion to its place in the whole; and it weakens the whole. For all the good and interesting use Heinlein made of his encounter with Cabell, he was not a disciple or even a "Cabell minor." Rather, he used Cabellian materials to make his own figure in the world, and in so doing he has given the Biography of the Life of Manuel a Life of its own, flowing into literary history.
    Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery — but in literature, transformation is the only form of progeny.
  • I found Robert A. Heinlein in back issues of Astounding, and also in The Saturday Evening Post, and I read everything of his I could find. I was completely hooked on his "juveniles": Space Cadet. Red Planet. Starman Jones. Between Planets. Farmer in the Sky. Wonderful stories, and the only thing "juvenile" about them was that he took the trouble to explain what was happening. Robert once told me that young people want to know how things work, and you can tell them more in a "juvenile" than you can in an adult novel. In any event I devoured everything of his I could find, through high school, the army, college, and I couldn’t have cared less that many were "juveniles". They were wonderful.
    I met Robert Heinlein years later, and through some kind of rare magic we became instant friends. We corresponded for a decade. In those days I was an engineering psychologist, operations research specialist, and systems engineer in aerospace. Most of my work was military aerospace, but I did get to work on Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. We were helping to make the dream come true!
    I went from there to a professorship, and then into political management and city government. Robert visited me when I was working for Mayor Sam Yorty. "You probably don’t know this," he said, "but my political career ended when Yorty beat me for the Democratic nomination to the State Assembly."
    When I finally decided to get out of politics, academia, and the aerospace industry and try my hand at writing, Mr. Heinlein was enormously helpful. Years later, when I was an established writer, I asked him how I could pay him back.
    "You can’t," he said. "You don’t pay back, you pay forward." I never forgot that, just as I never forgot the wonderful things his ‘juvenile’ stories did for me.

External links[edit]

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