A nuanced look at Heinlein’s Starship Troopers

In Starship bloopers Charlie Stross promises to present a nuanced opinion of Starship Troopers, and delivers.

… Heinlein was always happy to pick up a bonkers ideological shibboleth and run with it in his fiction. He was sufficiently flexible to write from the first person viewpoint of unreliable/misguided narrators, to juxtapose their beliefs against a background that highlighted their weaknesses, and even to end the story with the narrator—but not the reader—unaware of this.

Recall that just a few years after ST came out Heinlein also wrote Stranger in a Strange Land and Glory Road. As Larry Niven wrote:

There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is ‘idiot’.

Stross writes:

The annoying right wing Heinlein Mil-SF stans that came along in later decades—mostly from the 1970s onwards—embraced Starship Troopers as an idealized fascist utopia with the permanent war of All against All that is fundamental to fascist thought. In doing so they missed the point completely.

(I confess that while the general sense of “stan” was obvious, I had to look up the exact source of the term. I added the hyperlink to make it easier for readers in the same place that I was.)

Stross does not name any “right wing Heinlein Mil-SF stans,” but I can think of a few SF authors from that period and later that could be so labeled.

See also this Twitter discussion.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.