Serve me right for taking five days to get to the Times
Book Review section. There's a back-page essay called Heinlein's Female Troubles
, all about Robert Heinlein's treatment of women in his fiction. Understand, I once got booed
from the floor at a panel at an SF convention when I suggested that Heinlein's treatment of women in his later books got in the way of my enjoying them (the books, not the women...), but I stand foursquare for his juveniles and a good number of his adult works (I think Time Enough for Love
is the place where his work jumped the shark; you might have your own thoughts on the subject). M.G. Lord, the author of the essay, says that Heinlein's work is what made a feminist of her, and I can't argue with the examples she gives or the points she makes. And she does acknowledge that Heinlein's post-1970s novels are tainted "with a dated laciviousness and [impair] his ability to create three-dimensional women." But I'd go farther and say that with his later books Heinlein stops trying to create three-dimensional women at all; most of them are a catalog of abilities (starship pilot! mathematician! particle physicist! gourmet chef!) stapled to a Playboy
pinup, with a pair of ovaries paperclipped to the packet. While Lord criticizes Friday, for example, as "a brazen disease vector, recklessly promiscuous, with a bizarre weakness for male engineers," what bothered me about Friday and the other women of Heinlein's last works was their status as mommies. Future mommies, happy incubators...not raising children (who seemed to be brought on stage to be cute for a moment, then retired to the nursery to get out of the way of the plot) so much as being in a pre-gestational or peri-gestational period. Nursing mommies. These works gave me a permanent distaste for being told that pregnant women are sexy (which irritated Spouse a little during those times when I was pregnant). And I won't even go into the weirdness of Lazarus Long going back in time to sleep with his mother...
I will go to my grave loving The Moon's a Harsh Mistress
and The Day after Tomorrow
and Double Star
and a whole lot more of Heinlein's work. That's going to have to be enough.