THE ROBERT HEINLEIN INTERVIEW
And Other Heinleiniana

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J. NEIL SCHULMAN

THE ROBERT HEINLEIN INTERVIEW

And Other Heinleiniana









The Robert Heinlein Interview and Other Heinleiniana.

Copyright © 1996 by J. Neil Schulman. All rights reserved.

Review of Revolt in 2100 published in New Libertarian Notes, 1972
Copyright © 1972 by J. Neil Schulman

"The Robert Heinlein Interview" was serialized in New Libertarian Notes magazine, in six installments from November, 1973 to September, 1974, as "New Libertarian Notes Interviews Robert A. Heinlein"
Copyright © 1973, 1974 by Robert A. Heinlein and J. Neil Schulman

A slightly different version of the review of Time Enough For Love was published in Laissez Faire Review, Jan-Feb, 1974.
Copyright © 1974 by J. Neil Schulman

"Looking Upward Through the Microscope: Robert A. Heinlein"
Published in the November, 1975 issue of Reason Magazine under the title
"Looking at Robert A. Heinlein"
Copyright © 1975 by Reason Magazine
Used by permission

A Letter to Prometheus Magazine
Published in the Summer, 1983 issue
Copyright © 1983 by J. Neil Schulman

Review of Job: A Comedy of Justice
Published 1985 in New Libertarian magazine
Copyright © 1985 by J. Neil Schulman

"Requiem"
Published in Samuel Edward Konkin III's Tarzine of the Apas, May 12, 1988
Copyright © 1988 by J. Neil Schulman

"The Lost Manuals: A Tribute to Robert A. Heinlein"
Published by Laissez Faire Books, July, 1988
Copyright © 1988 by J. Neil Schulman

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner except in the case of quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

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Cover design by CaliPer.
Cover photograph by Julius Schulman.
Author photograph of J. Neil Schulman by Kevin Merrill.







To Soleil

I'd Like You To Meet An Old Friend Of Mine













Table of Contents

Introduction

The Lost Manuals: A Tribute to Robert A. Heinlein

A Letter to Joel Gotler

"Looking Upward Through the Microscope: Robert A. Heinlein

Review of Revolt in 2100

Review of Time Enough For Love

A Letter to Prometheus Magazine

A Letter to Robert and Virginia Heinlein

Review of Job: A Comedy of Justice

Introduction or "The Giant Chutzpah Strikes Again"

The Robert Heinlein Interview -- Excerpt for Sampler

A Letter to Brad Linaweaver

Review of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

"Requiem"

About J. Neil Schulman

Begin Reading Introduction.





THE ROBERT HEINLEIN INTERVIEW
And Other Heinleiniana

Introduction

"What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though."
--Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye

In July of 1973, I was twenty and had been an avid fan of Robert Heinlein for half my life. I don't think it's an overstatement to say there's a good chance that if he hadn't lived, I would've never made it to age twenty. Teenage suicide is common, and my teenage years were, to state it mildly, not good. If Robert Heinlein hadn't written the books he wrote, and I hadn't read them, I doubt very much that I would have had the intellectual background necessary to climb out of the hole I was in between the ages of fifteen and eighteen.

For most of my childhood, Heinlein represented everything in my life that meant anything to me. He wrote about futures that were worth living for. He wrote about talented people who felt life was worth living, and made it worth living, no matter what the breaks that fell their way. His characters never had an easy time of it, but they persevered.

And, boy oh boy, when you're getting the shit kicked out of you in half a dozen different ways, images like that are sometimes the only thing between you and the edge.

So in July of 1973, only a few short years since I figured he'd saved my life, I'd been looking for a way to phone up Robert Heinlein for quite a while, already. And that was the month I managed to do it, by parlaying a review of one of his novels for one major New York newspaper into an interview with him for another.

I'm not going to repeat that story here; you'll find it later in this book.

When I met Robert Heinlein in person in 1973, a few months after I interviewed him by telephone, he was at the height of his powers as one of the major writers of this century, and I was a writer just starting out. He was sixty-six, and had been writing for thirty-four years. His thirty-eighth book had just been published; his sales figures were higher than ever before. And if your idols are supposed to have clay feet, he kept his well- shod: I was unable to find them.

For the remainder of his life, Robert Heinlein and I were friends. I sent him birthday presents; he sent a wedding present. We kept up with each other. My excess desire to have him endorse my first novel caused me a major problem with my writing career; my misstep, however, did not break up our friendship.

Don't get me wrong. There are lots of people who knew Heinlein far better than I did, and were far better friends with him for far longer. We saw each other in person maybe a half dozen times total, with another dozen or so phone calls scattered between 1973 and his death in 1988. Mostly I wrote him and his wife, Virginia Heinlein; mostly Ginny wrote back. But the important thing in all this is that during the course of our friendship, I was able to tell him how much his writing meant to me.

It was enough.

***

This book contains articles, reviews, and letters I wrote on Heinlein and his fiction between 1972 and 1988. [Note for the Pulpless.Comtm edition: I've included one new piece, a review of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress that I was just asked to write for the Laissez Faire Books catalog -- JNS, 1996] Each of these have been included because they express one aspect or another of my "gestalt" of Heinlein.

The most important item in this collection, obviously, is the Heinlein interview itself. It is, to the best of my knowledge, the longest interview Heinlein ever authorized, and the only interview in which he talked freely and extensively about his personal philosophy and ideological views.

It's going to be obvious, reading this interview, that the interviewer was a young ideologue with an agenda of his own, who wasn't quite sure which he wanted to do more -- interview Heinlein or argue politics with him. All to the better -- that young squirt got answers out of Heinlein that no one else did. And this older squirt is happy to make it available again for the first time in over fifteen years.

For those who want to know where Heinlein stood, in his own words, on epistemology, UFO's, life after death, or libertarianism, this interview is a priceless gem. I still can't believe I was lucky enough to get it.

No, strike that. Heinlein, through Dr. Samuel Russell in Have Space Suit--Will Travel, said, "There is no such thing as luck. There is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe."

And Heinlein, himself, prepared me.

J. Neil Schulman
Los Angeles, May 18, 1990

Go to Original Introduction to HEINLEIN INTERVIEW.


Return to Table of Contents.

THE ROBERT HEINLEIN INTERVIEW
Introduction
or
The Giant Chutzpah Strikes Again

There I was sitting at my typewriter doing a fifth rewrite on my review of Time Enough For Love and wondering what He would think, when suddenly the telephone rang and He said, "This is Robert Heinlein. May I speak to Mr. J. Neil Schulman?"

Perhaps I'd better back up just a bit.

When I was ten and living in Natick, Massachusetts (pop. approx. 25,000), my fourth grade class was escorted to the Morse Institute Library--the children's division, upstairs--on the first of regular, monthly visits. Once there, we were released into our own custody with nothing more than an admonition to rendezvous back at the door (in double file, or course) with whatever books we wanted.

At that age I was an addict of Superman comics (I'd have found his ability to fly quite useful in evading my relentless antagonists--the little beasts!) and I suppose that was one of the factors that drew me over to the science fiction. I took out either Rocket Ship Galileo or Red Planet that first time--I can't remember which; in any case, by the end of the term I was a confirmed Heinlein addict as well.

Which was one of the few good breaks I had in an otherwise rotten childhood.

(It might be instructive to here recall Dr. Thomas Szasz's definition of childhood as a twenty year prison term.)

By the time I finished elementary school I'd read not only all Heinlein's "juveniles" but also whatever books of his were carried in the downstairs adult library--a joyous discovery when I learned that my favorite author also wrote books for grown-ups.

I was just about convinced I'd read every book Heinlein had written when a fellow cadet in the Civil Air Patrol told me about a science fiction book, "with all this sex in it, see?" It turned out to be Stranger in a Strange Land, of course, and I realized that the prim librarians at Morse Institute hadn't noticed anything written after Starship Troopers. After which, with the aid of paperback bookstores, I soon had read virtually every book he'd written.

If you wish a psycho-philosophical explanation of why I responded so strongly to Heinlein's writings, I suggest you turn to Ayn Rand's Romantic Manifesto; I have no wish to delve into such esoterics here. Suffice that his fiction instilled in me a deep respect for science, intelligence, competence, autonomy, liberty, and all-around horse sense, as well as being one of the few links to a sane value-orientation I had in those God-forsaken years.

Then on January 10, 1971 through no fault of his own, Robert Heinlein turned me on to libertarianism.

My mother, a diehard New York Sunday Times crossword-doer, said to me, "Hey your favorite author's picture is in the Times Magazine." (She has severely regretted doing so ever since.) I rushed over and sure enough there it was--but who were all these strangers in the pictures around him: Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Jerome Tuccille, Karl Hess, Baruch Spinoza? (Spinoza??!!) I read the article entitled "The New Right Credo--Libertarianism" by Stan Lehr and Louis Rossetto Jr.*Footnote, and said to myself, "So that's what the set-up in 'Coventry' is all about." Ten months later I had started the Borough of Manhattan Community College Libertarian Coalition and the rest is history; I kept on in Libertarian activities until I reached my present preeminence in the movement. (Ouch! That's initiation of force, Sam...)

As to how this interview came about.

Being such a fan-atical Heinlein fan, I'd been on the lookout for a method to meet the man as long as I can remember, and about April of 1973 I had a plan. Publisher's Weekly had run an ad announcing the release of Heinlein's new novel, Time Enough For Love, for June 19th and I figured I'd write a really super review for the New York Times Book Review, tying up its theme of long life with Jerome Tuccille's Here Comes Immortality, a recently- released book with strong, libertarian overtones. Aside from killing two birds with one stone, I thought this just might get me a nice letter from Mr. Heinlein which , through my diabolic intelligence and bon vivant personality, I could eventually turn into a invitation to meet him. The method was one used successfully by Sharon Presley and, Mr. Heinlein has since told me, first advocated by Benjamin Franklin: find out what the person you want to meet wants...and give it to him. (A variation of this technique is demonstrated in "We Also Walk Dogs." Note Dr. O'Neil and the Flower of Forgetfulness.)

I sent off to John Leonard, the Times Book Review editor, and several days later one of his assistants called me to come down to their offices--and pick up bound galleys of Time Enough For Love! I'd done it!

Well, at least I thought I had.

I was assigned 900 words for the two books--an impossibly short length, if you've ever tried it--and got in what I considered a pretty fair piece a week before the deadline. Then I sat back waiting for the review to be in. A month or so later I received a check for $100...but the review still wasn't scheduled, and since I'd been told minimum payment would be $125, I called up to find out what was going on. That's when I found out that "due to space limitations in the Book Review," mine wasn't going to be printed.

Rats. Other unprintables.

(John Leonard has since written his own review of Time Enough For Love for the daily Times book page, and had Theodore Sturgeon review it in the Book Review. So much for that.)

I was, however, being allowed to submit my review elsewhere. Well, that wasn't so bad; I might even get paid twice for the same review. Hey, that wasn't bad at all.

I submitted it around to different magazines and newspapers, improving it and doubling the length in the course of rewriting, until I finally hit George Nobbe, editor of the New York Sunday News. He liked the idea of the review, but only had enough space for 600 words. So I typed up and sent him the Heinlein review alone, and a few days later he told me it was sold; it would be appearing in the next Sunday's edition.

The Thursday before he called me to say all bets were off.

It was now "high editorial policy" that only staff-written book reviews could be used. Rats. (Other unprintables.) He wanted to know, however, if I wanted to do an interview with Heinlein. Did I want to...? Is the bear Catholic? Does a Pope...well, you get the idea. "Fine," said George Nobbe. Did I know how to contact Heinlein? Sho'nuff!

So in a scenario right out of Superman, I contacted Clark Ken..er, that is, I called Sharon Presley at Laissez Faire Books. She put through a call to Mr. Heinlein relaying the News offer. And the next day, Thursday, June 26th, 4:14 p.m., E.D.T. (approx.) I picked up the telephone and The Voice said...and you already know what The Voice said.

(Talk about adequate preparation for a statistical universe! [See Have Space Suit--Will Travel.])

After I managed to stutter that I was me, Mr. Heinlein asked me what the project was all about. I told him, then he asked if I had time to chat a while. Did I have...? Is the Bear...aw, forget it. So to start off, he asked me what I wanted to ask. I said, "How do you know what you know?" I couldn't be sure with long distance, but I think he gasped. Thereafter we talked philosophy and just about everything else under the sun, then Mr. Heinlein said he wanted to know something about me. Me. I told him my entire life from birth. I told him about my father's career as a violinist. (Mr. Heinlein asked me to go slow enough to write it all down. A Farleyfile, perhaps? [See Double Star.])

We then talked about his life some more, and he asked me to send him a list of questions in advance of our taping the interview itself. Then we said goodbye. I exhaled about a minute later and noted the time: we'd talked just under two hours.

(Irrelevant interjection: That evening I went out with Sam Konkin & company to see the movie Live and Let Die and I guess I was pretty much walking on air. I mentioned that near the end of The Conversation I'd mentioned to Mr. Heinlein how much I'd admired his work since childhood and he'd replied that hero worship wasn't always the best thing for the hero. "Hero worship, hmmmph!" Sam commented. "Worship!--'Here, have my first begotten son!'")

I spent the next hour or so organizing my notes and the following is a partial list:

Heinlein Debriefing

1) Heinlein's answer to my first question was that he starts with the evidence of his five senses and postulates a real world because it makes it easier to take subways and such, as he occasionally must.

8) Heinlein calls himself an individualist, and remarked, "Ayn Rand is a bloody socialist compared to me." I think he was joking; we both laughed.

11) But no matter how much you feel like an individual, Heinlein says, you are but a link in the tree of human evolution. I asked if he thought survival of the species should be raised to the level of eschatology, and he replied that he eschewed the term (my phrasing) and prefers to use words of Anglo-Saxon origin. If I meant "of final importance," then yes; though not of only importance.

18) "I have never plotted any story I've ever written," said Heinlein. He continues that "plot" is something English professors talk about because they can't explain what it is writers really do.

The next day, Friday, I sent off three pages of questions to him special delivery and fidgeted all weekend. Monday, at about 3:35 p.m., E.D.T., by prearrangement, I went into George Nobbe's empty office at the News (he had taken the day off) with a cassette recorder and telephone pickup and put through The Call.

Mr. Heinlein answered and told me he'd just received my questions and hadn't had a chance to look them over yet. I said I was sure they would've been delivered the day before. "Yesterday was Sunday," Heinlein said. "I sent it special delivery," I said. He then told me he lived way out in the country (about a half hour outside Santa Cruz, Calif.) and there wasn't any special delivery there. Though he laughed and said he wouldn't expect a "city boy" to know that. I hadn't.

I went out and had a sandwich then called back in forty-five minutes. I started the tape and we talked for 3 1/2 hours, stopping only at hourly intervals to turn the cassettes. At the end, I asked if leftover material could be used for New Libertarian Notes. He said yes.

Who is Robert Anson Heinlein?

He was born in Butler, Missouri on July 7, 1907 into a large family tracing its roots back to a Bavarian-German ancestor who emigrated to America in 1756. Heinlein was raised in Kansas City, Mo., won an appointment to Annapolis where he was noted as a champion swordsman, and served on active duty as a line officer on destroyers and aircraft carriers until being disabled out of the Navy. He started writing science fiction in 1939 "to pay off a mortgage" and within two years was regarded as one of the leaders in the field.

Robert Heinlein has twice been Guest of Honor at the World Science Fiction Convention (1941 & 1961) and four of his novels (Double Star, Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress) have won the Hugo Award given by the Convention's popular vote--an unmatched record. At a seminar on Heinlein I conducted at this past Worldcon in Toronto, the consensus of opinion in an off-the-cuff poll I took gave Time Enough For Love a good chance for a fifth.

Talking with Robert Heinlein is talking with the Platonic archetype of all his best characters. Heinlein is a fiery intellectual who feels as much at home with an anecdote as a syllogism. From the deference I paid him whenever we talked, Mr. Heinlein might have gotten the impression that I'm normally meek and timid. I'm not, Mr. Heinlein--really. Ask Sharon Presley; she'll set you straight.

The following will be the first installment of what is, in my biased opinion, the most interesting and comprehensive in-depth interview ever printed about Heinlein.

If I may be immodest to bring it up (and I have never been noted for my modesty), my story for the New York Sunday News, "Looking Upward Through The Microscope: Robert A. Heinlein," has been called by both Mr. and Mrs. Heinlein the best article, in style, content, and accuracy, of the many, many written about him over the years.

Any editors listening? Any of you want to buy a slightly worn book review?

*Footnote for the Pulpless.Comtm edition: Yes, this is the same Louis Rossetto who is founder and publisher of Wired Magazine!

Go to Begin Reading Heinlein Interview.


Return to Table of Contents.

THE ROBERT HEINLEIN INTERVIEW

Conducted by J. Neil Schulman
June 30, 1973

Note for the Pulpless.Comtm edition: This interview appears exactly as it was edited by Robert A. Heinlein in 1973, with no deletions, additions, or changes. -- JNS, 1996

SCHULMAN: All right. Why don't we start with question number one?

HEINLEIN: Question number one: "Do you believe time travel is possible or is it merely a fictional device?"

There is no basis for belief or non-belief in this question, Neil. We don't have any data from which to work. There is at present no satisfactory theory of time. We haven't the slightest idea of how you might get your teeth into the fabric of time--whatever it is. Time travel, as of now, comes under the head of fantasy, inasmuch as it requires one to postulate something about which we know nothing. I do not regard time travel as either impossible or possible. I have no opinion about its possibility or impossibility because we have no data on which to make a judgment. But it makes an excellent device for telling stories, particularly stories that speculate about the condition of mankind and his future, and so forth and so on; it's been used almost entirely for that purpose, including A Connecticut Yankee In KIng Arthur's Court which is very largely a social and political pamphlet expressed in story form, to go back to a time-travel story of the last century and one which doesn't even use a time machine--it just postulates it. And the same thing is true, of course, of H.G. Wells' Time Machine and his When The Sleeper Wakes. In both cases he was using a time-travel device in order to permit him to speculate about the human condition.

SCHULMAN: If you did manage to find a time machine, would you go back and try strangling yourself as an infant to see if the universe would collapse around you?

HEINLEIN: No I wouldn't try it. [laughter] In the first place, I am not at all unhappy about having lived the life I've lived. In the second place, if I strangled the infant and the universe collapsed around me thereby--the solipsist's point of view--then I would have proved my point by failing to prove my point. I mean you wind up with a zero--with no observer, follow me? You wouldn't know if it worked or not. If you're going to engage in the notion that the universe ceases to exist if you die, then you're not entitled to an observer outside that to see what happens. Solipsism has its own logical paradoxes.

SCHULMAN: Okay. We might as well proceed to question number two, then.

HEINLEIN: "I'd like to know more about your theory that 'no matter how individualistic you feel, you are really only part of an evolutionary organism.'"

SCHULMAN: Did I quote you correctly on that?

HEINLEIN: You've placed a little emphasis in there: "really only a part of." What i believe I said--the book is across the room and I'm not going to dig it out--was that "you are part of an evolutionary organism" not "really only a part of." Difference in emphasis, do you follow me?

SCHULMAN: Yes.

HEINLEIN: Just as you are J. Neil Schulman and you are also part of the population of an area known as New York City. But it isn't a case of J. Neil Schulman being "really only a part of" New York City. You are J. Neil Schulman and you also happen to be one of that population group called by that name. Now, there is a matter of emphasis here. You say, "Can you prove this?" Well, I can't prove that you are "really only a part of" but I observe that you are only a part of. No emphasis on it, we simply observe it. You have parents. You have at least the potentiality of offspring. I assume that you go along more or less at least with evolutionary theory.

SCHULMAN: To a certain extent.

HEINLEIN: ...Yes. We simply observe that we are part of this continuing process.

SCHULMAN: Now, I think what I was asking here was the more philosophical question...in other words, I can see that I have parents and come from an evolutionary chain.

HEINLEIN: Yes.

SCHULMAN: But the phrase "evolutionary organism" seems to suggest that you have one being with central control or something...or at least some central plan.

HEINLEIN: It doesn't... I don't mean to imply that. Evolutionists differ in their notions as to whether or not there is any central plan or whether the whole matter is automatic, or what it may be. All I really meant is that although we feel as if we were discreet individuals, if you consider it in terms of four dimensions with time as the fourth dimension, you are part of a branch...a branching deal, with an actual physical connection going back into the past and physical connection extending into the future until such a time as it's chopped off. If you have no children then it's chopped off at that point. I have no children myself, however I'm not dead yet, either. I think, however, you are more interested in a later part here: "if so but we retain free will, why should we place the welfare of the whole organism above ourselves?" The question as to whether or not you place the welfare of your species--your race--above yourself is a matter for you to settle with yourself and for me to settle with me.

SCHULMAN: On what basis?

HEINLEIN: [Quoting question] "If you say it's something you can't justify on a purely rational basis, then what other basis is there to justify it?" That's what you're getting at; you're trying to make it as either/or here between rational and irrational.

SCHULMAN: Well...rational and nonrational in any case.

HEINLEIN: All right. [Long pause] Uh, I'm trying to phrase this clearly. And you say this last question leads up to this next one: "Is there ever any justification to accept something on faith? How can you prove this since by doing so you are inherently rejecting reason as final arbiter?" Now, there are a lot of implications in your question, a lot oh hidden assumptions in your question.

SCHULMAN: I suppose so.

HEINLEIN: Yes, indeed. All the way through this I can see that you regard yourself as a rationalist and you regard reason as the final arbiter on anything.

SCHULMAN: Well, I'm basically starting out with Ayn Rand's Objectivist epistemology.

HEINLEIN: Well, I'm not going to comment on Miss Rand's epistemology; I have notions of my own. Have you read anything by Alfred Korzybski?

SCHULMAN: No, I'm familiar with his work only through your own; you've mentioned him quite a few times.

HEINLEIN: Only through my own. You haven't read Science and Sanity, for example?

SCHULMAN: No, I haven't.

HEINLEIN: And you're not familiar with his epistemological approach?

SCHULMAN: Only what you yourself have mentioned.

HEINLEIN: Uh, huh. [interruption] Uh, I've just been talking to Mrs. Heinlein; now let me see.

Let me invert these questions a bit. If you've read Stranger in a Strange Land, you've probably gathered what I think of faith. I do not regard faith as a basis on which to believe or disbelieve anything. On the other hand, Neil, there are many things--practically all of the important questions of philosophy--are not subject to final answers purely by reason. In my opinion, they are not subject to final answers simply by reason. This has been gone into a considerable extent by philosophers in the past, and there's even a term--a technical term--for that called "noumena" as opposed to "phenomena." Phenomena are things that you can grasp through your physical senses or through measurements made with your physical senses through instruments and so forth and so in other words, phenomena are things that we can know about the physical universe. Noumena translates as the unknowable things. The unknowable things: What is the purpose of the universe? Why are you here on this earth? What should a man do with his life? All of those wide open, generalized, unlimited "whys." There are all noumena, and consequently they are not subject--consequently by definition--these things are not subject to final answers simply by reason. My own attitude on that is shown a bit in several places in this last book [Time Enough For Love] in which Lazarus Long indicates that he hasn't been able to find any purpose to the universe any more significant than gametes using zygotes to create mare gametes. He expresses it that way in one place, then he turns it over, turns it upside down, and expresses it another way to the effect that as far as he knows, there's no more important purpose to the universe than making a baby with the help of a woman you love. And yet obviously neither of these things are answers; they are just expressions of what Lazarus Long happens to like. Now, do you happen to like chocolate malted milks?

SCHULMAN: Uh, yes.

HEINLEIN: Now, do you like them better than strawberry malted milks?

SCHULMAN: Yeah, I would say so.

HEINLEIN: Can you justify that by reason?

SCHULMAN: No, I would say that it's a purely subjective judgment.

HEINLEIN: That's right. That is correct. It doesn't involve faith and it doesn't involve reason.

SCHULMAN: But I'm using internal data; there is data which I am acting upon.

HEINLEIN: That's right. The internal data tells you that you like it better...but it doesn't tell you why. This applies also to a great many things about the universe: it's your own internal, subjective evaluation of it, not any final answers given by reason or rationality.

SCHULMAN: This brings up the end of Methuselah's Children in which Lazarus Long seems to be taking just about the opposite attitude.

I have a quote here:

"'The last two and a half centuries have just been my adolescence...men...never had enough time to tackle the important questions. Lots of capacity and not enough time to use it properly.'"

And then he's asked: "'How do you propose to tackle the important questions?'

"'How should I know? Ask me again in about five hundred years.'

"'You think that will make a difference?'

"'I do. Anyhow it'll give me time to poke around and pick up some interesting facts...'"

A little later: "'...Maybe there aren't any reasons.'

"'Yes, maybe it's just one colossal big joke with no point to it.' Lazarus stood up and scratched his ribs. 'But I can tell you this...here`s one monkey who's going to keep on climbing, and looking around him to see what he can see, as long as the tree holds out.'"

HEINLEIN: And that's exactly what he's doing at the end of the next book.

SCHULMAN: Just holding on.

HEINLEIN: Uh, yes. In the mean time it is postulated that he's had a couple of thousand years trying this, that, and the other thing, and he has reached one point. He has reached one opinion; it's stated flatly in the early part of the book: that you cannot get final answers about the universe from inside. He said you'd have to get outside and take a look at it. And the man he's talking to, Weatheral, says: "Then you believe in immortality?" [In the book, the word "afterlife" is used.] And Lazarus says, "Wait, wait, wait, wait, now--hold everything! I didn't say I believed in immortality; I don't believe in anything. Because belief gets in the way of facts." He's made certain observations and they've given him certain limited opinions, and among the limited opinions he has is the one working hypothesis that there are no final answers to be obtained from human being inside the universe, that the position of observation doesn't permit that--to get any final answers. Follow me?

SCHULMAN: Okay.

HEINLEIN: There's nothing inconsistent about the end of Methuselah's Children and what the man has to say a couple of thousand years later; it's just that he's had a couple of thousand years trying this that he said he was going to try and he still hasn't gotten any final answers.

SCHULMAN: I suppose this leads up to question number fifteen on page two.

HEINLEIN: Question fifteen on page two: "What would a 2,300 year old man know that we don't?" Neil, I haven't the slightest idea; I'm not even a hundred, yet! Remember, this thing's a work of fiction. "Wouldn't it take a 2,300 year old man to write the memoirs of Lazarus Long?" Of course it would, but do you know any? This is a work of fiction. If I've managed to make him at all convincing as an extremely old man--not necessarily twenty-three centuries but extremely old--then it's successful as a work of art, as a work of fiction. If it entertains the reader in the course of doing that then it's a commercially successful work of art. But I am not twenty-three hundred years old; I'm not even a century, yet.

SCHULMAN: I just wanted to check that out.

HEINLEIN: All right.

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