The Horrible Earth’s of Heinlein’s Juveniles

Jo Walton over at Tor has a few reflections on the dis-utopias in Heinlein’s juveniles.

Heinlein isn’t usually noted for his dystopias. […]  But as I was gazing out over the cornfields of Iowa … I found myself thinking about US rural poverty, which led me naturally to reflecting on US rural poverty in Starman Jones. In Starman Jones, Max is a dirt-poor farmer teen who leaves home in search of adventure and opportunity when his stepmother marries again. Max has an eidetic memory and is a lightning calculator, which is enough to get him promoted to starship captain practically as soon as he gets off the planet, but on Earth isn’t enough for him to qualify as apprentice to a dustman. Earth has become dominated by Guilds, all of which demand fees and recommendations and kickbacks to allow people to join. Max cheats, lies and bribes his way off this horrible place to make good among the stars.

The other Earths of Heinlein’s juveniles aren’t much better, as I remember…

Read the whole thing here:

Since I recently reread many a Heinlein juvenile, I must say I agree with the conclusion. Heinlein believed in Malthus, and thought overpopulation, over-regulation, war, and disaster were the destiny of mankind. If you read his nonfiction (for example, A TRAMP ROYALE) you know this reflects his worries and his view of the world. As a kid, I simply did not notice the chilling little touches in the opening chapters of FARMER IN THE SKY describing calorie rationing; the closing chapters contain a completely pointless bull session where some nonentity character steps in and gives a speech predicting disaster for the overcrowded earth.

Heinlein was the Mark Steyn of his generation: he thought demographics controlled everything from the wealth of your nation to what kind of government you can have — too much crowding means no democracy in the Heinlein theory of history, for example. Heinlein was also a romantic about frontiers, as all Americans should be; and romance about frontiers means disillution and claustropobia about the regulation and overcrowding of cities and civilized life.

If you want to see my reviews of Heinlein revisited, see below: