Martin Morse Wooster: Sci-Fi Conservatism

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[Martin Morse Wooster, a former editor of The Wilson Quarterly and The American Enterprise, frequently reviews science fiction and fantasy.]

Ask a science-fiction fan who the three greatest writers of the 20th century were and you’ll start an argument that will last all day, but the consensus remains that they were Isaac Asimov, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert A. Heinlein. Clarke kept politics out of his novels. Asimov was a devoutly liberal Democrat; liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has repeatedly stated that his teenage enjoyment of Asimov’s Foundation series, which depicts a precisely planned and controlled future, inspired him to become an economist and a man of the Left.

Robert A. Heinlein, however, was a conservative. Heinlein had a libertarian streak to him, and if you meet a Heinlein fan that has named his cat “Adam Selene,” you’ll find someone who believes Heinlein to be a simon-pure libertarian. But Heinlein’s patriotism and strong support of the military ensure that he must be thought of as a conservative.

Heinlein’s conservatism extended to his non-political juvenile fiction of the 1940s and 1950s. There are hundreds of thousands of Baby Boomers who read such books as The Star Beast (1954) and Have Space Suit, Will Travel (1958) and discovered exciting novels, set in a future of limitless wonder and exploration, told by a writer who seemed like a kindly uncle who whispered, “Yes, I know being a teenager is a struggle. But knowledge is important. And I know math is hard, but you’ve got to understand math if you want to do well in life.”...

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