HEINLEIN vs. ASIMOV CAGE MATCH….Gary Farber, stout man, is reading Robert Heinlein’s long lost first novel, For Us, The Living, and reports back:

Really really bad. Horribly, painfully, agonizingly, gongs ringing on your head, your teeth being drilled, being forced to listen to perky blonde partners of Regis Philbin chirp at you for hours, while Spider Robinson drones at you, and every inch of skin under your calluses itches madly but you cannot scratch, bad.

In comments, Gary upgrades his opinion of the book slightly, and also avers that no matter how bad it is as a novel, it’s still interesting reading for serious Heinlein fans because it so clearly contains the seeds of practically everything he wrote later.

So I guess I should go buy it. For over a decade after Heinlein died I kept buying his books, even including the endless “original uncut versions” that mostly turned out to have no more than a few paragraphs of difference from the published versions, and finally gave up sometime in the mid-90s after I decided I wasn’t going to get suckered any longer. This is why For Us, The Living is the only piece of Heinlein I don’t own, and it’s probably time to complete the collection.

In a related vein, Megan McArdle asks:

I wonder if those who read science fiction in childhood can be divided into those who liked Robert Heinlein better, with his swashbuckling individualism, and those who preferred Isaac Asimov, with his technocratic fantasies. And I wonder if those early preferences semi-reliably map onto the conservative/liberal divide . . .

Well, I liked ’em both, but I liked Heinlein more and I turned into a liberal. However, this almost seems like an unfair comparison to me. Political preferences aside, swashbuckling individualists just make for more exciting genre fiction, don’t they? (Although I’d actually classify Heinlein’s heroes as mostly cranky individualists rather than swashbuckling.)

I’m still waiting for someone to make a movie out of Starman Jones, though. There’s gold there, I tell you, pure gold….

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