Stephen Speicher

Starship Troopers

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42 posts in this topic

I should have put this quote of yours in bold-it was to this that I was specifically replying:

The Carthaginians weren't Greeks. I specifically said "Greeks" and not "Ancient World" with reason. I recall that they were related to the Phoenicians. I haven't come across anything about military encounters between the Greeks and the Carthaginians. I would be interested to found out there were (although I'm sure there were some naval altercations)

The Greeks themselves being the glory-hungry and competitive people they were, faught their wars in person.

At least until the Romans put an end to that sort of thing.

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Punk, you said:

I have a wide and eclectic reading selection. I have yet to come across a text prior to the mass armies following on the industrial revolution that shows patriotism or nationalism in the modern sense.

Perhaps you could find one.

Sure, Polybius is the very best example, Herodotus too (not the entire history, just his account of the Greek war with Persia in early 5th c. BC), etc. Generally, any book about these two cultures and their traditions of self-government and hatred of tyranny; if it's a good book, it will include commentary about the civic virtue that society demanded of each of its members, creating a highly cohesive, mobilized, devoted citizen army that, unlike modern notions of devotion, was entirely centered on selfishness (not altruism), property (not communism), and freedom (not subjugation).

At the same time, I should note that I did not say that all nations in antiquity lived up to this standard. The truth is quite the contrary, that most nations of antiquity did not. That is what makes the precious example and inspiration of Rome and Greece so invaluable, and irreplaceable.

I'd be especially interested if you actually found one from between the late classical period and the 19th century (say 500 AD to 1800 AD).
I think that, again, you are missing the entire point of what I'm saying. I don't hold up antiquity as some kind of magical time when everyone was free and happy. My post refers only to the few cultures and nations that defied the totalitarian trend of history; I put them up for example because, unlike all subsequent free nations including ours, theirs were entirely self-generated, and thus have the most to teach us about what a free nation should be like. And in our modern age, while we've had success building on their lessons and improving some aspects of our lives over what they had, in other ways we've gone down and have been incapable of acquiring and making permanent other lessons they have to teach us. Robert Heinlein, why this whole thing started in the first place, has a very unique idea about how to recreate some of those elusive ancient virtues in modern society (and by the way, if we are to continue discussing this, we should at least both be familiar with the book, or at the very least, the movie based on the book).

PS For what it's worth, Greeks and Carthaginians did have major cataclysmic wars. In the 4th century BC, Corinthian general Timoleon had decisvely defeated massive Carthaginian armies in Sicily, and a few decades later, a Sicilian tyrant Agathocles continued inflicting massive defeats on the Carthaginians, and even invaded Africa itself, and was about to take Carthage by storm and save Romans the trouble (but yet was delayed at the 11th hour, and betrayed). I should also note that these wars were fought mainly with mercenaries on both sides, so they don't really fit into the paradigm we're discussing here.

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...

The Greeks themselves being the glory-hungry and competitive people they were, faught their wars in person.

At least until the Romans put an end to that sort of thing.

The Greeks did strive for excellence—to be the best they could be—on and off the battlefield.

But isn’t that a good thing? I think it is.

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Warning: There are spoilers about this book in this post.

The most striking feature of Starship Troopers is not its story or style but in the ideas presented in it. I didn’t expect anything of much substance out of the book after seeing the movie, but I was pleasantly surprised. For presenting ideas in a tidy, if not always clear, fashion and more for having a strong hero and a happy ending, I give Starship Troopers a solid 8.

Heinlein presents his ideas in a way that fit well into the story. And as a reader, I definitely didn’t feel preached at by the author. (The clearest example of “preaching” that I can think of is B. F. Skinner’s Walden Two). The story and ideas are also told in first person, making for an easy pleasant read. But the biggest downfall to Starship Troopers is that at the end of reading it, I came out confused about Heinlein’s ideas. They were presented, but were often left without anything to concretize them or tie them in to previous ideas.

For example, the largest problem I had was in trying to understand ethics as mathematical. In several places, there are references to ethics as something that can be thoroughly put into symbolic logic. I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around putting all moral judgments into a mathematical formula, as I don’t know how I can put context into a math formula.

The largest theme throughout the book was very strongly anti-communist. In a few places, the Bugs were directly compared to communism. Bugs are brainless and have no free will, controlled by a remote brain caste. An individual bug is worthless to the bug collective. In contrast, many humans will go back to rescue only one human.

In another place, Rico was asked rescuing one man is enough to start a war. Rico says yes, because human value isn’t measured in terms of use to other humans, as Marx suggested. But what human worth is measured in is left blank.

I truly enjoyed the development of Rico as a character from a boy fresh out of high school to being an officer in the military. And the ending was very fitting, leaving me at the end of the book feeling glad I read a good story. I look forward to reading more of Heinlein’s work. :)

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I look forward to reading more of Heinlein’s work. :)

He's my second favorite writer after Ayn Rand. In general I recommend just about anything that he wrote. Some personal favorites, though I haven't read them in a long time, are Tunnel in the Sky, and Have Space Suit, Will Travel. Chronologically, after The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, I think that his work began to go to pot, with the distinct exception of Time Enough for Love. Some may find it too weird for their taste, but I think it's a great story, centering around a biologically immortal man, Lazarus Long.

For what it's worth, I recall that he mentioned Glory Road as his personal favorite of his own novels, in one of the very brief times that I got to talk with him at a conference for private space development years ago.

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I look forward to reading more of Heinlein’s work. :)

Try his "future history" series of short stories and his "juveniles" that he wrote for teenagers.

My very favorite of all is "Door into Summer." It's one of the few Heinlein books with a great plot.

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Heinlein is my favorite writer. The only book of his I would not recommend is "I Will Fear No Evil".

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Heinlein is my favorite writer. The only book of his I would not recommend is "I Will Fear No Evil".

"--------------------

"The greatest productive force is human selfishness."

Robert A. Heinlein"

What book is that quote from?

I enjoyed Starship Troopers. It was very refreshing to find a decent Science Fiction writer after all of the mediocre stuff I have read by McCafferty, Bradbury, Clarke, etc. Some of Assimov is good, too, but some not.

As I read the book, I could not help but notice that it was written two years after Atlas Shrugged, and I kept wondering if Heinlein was influenced by it. Since I have not read any of Heinlein's other books, can anyone else comment on this?

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As I read the book, I could not help but notice that it was written two years after Atlas Shrugged, and I kept wondering if Heinlein was influenced by it. Since I have not read any of Heinlein's other books, can anyone else comment on this?

I know of two cases where Heinlein mentioned Ayn Rand's fiction. There is a reference to John Galt in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. In the Grumbles from the Grave - a posthumous collection of Heinlein's letters - he wrote to his agent expressing a desire to write something similar to The Fountainhead. So I'm certain Henlein was aware of Miss Rand's fiction and her ideas.

I believe Betsy Speicher once corresponded with Heinlein. I'm sure she could tell you more about how much he was influenced by Ayn Rand.

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"The greatest productive force is human selfishness."

Robert A. Heinlein

I believe it is part of the "diaries of Lazarus Long", but I don't know which novel it was abstratcted from.

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I believe Betsy Speicher once corresponded with Heinlein. I'm sure she could tell you more about how much he was influenced by Ayn Rand.

He liked Ayn Rand, but he was more libertarian than capitalist. His main differences with Objectivism was that he thought duty was a noble concept and he was into a weird epistemological theory called General Semantics.

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I know of two cases where Heinlein mentioned Ayn Rand's fiction. There is a reference to John Galt in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. In the Grumbles from the Grave - a posthumous collection of Heinlein's letters - he wrote to his agent expressing a desire to write something similar to The Fountainhead. So I'm certain Henlein was aware of Miss Rand's fiction and her ideas.

Absolutely.

In a more obscure source (J. Neil Schulman's interviews with Heinlein), he says of his politics that "I would say that my position is not too far from that of Ayn Rand's; that I would like to see government reduced to no more than internal police and courts, external armed forces--with the other matters handled otherwise", and notes that "Ayn Rand is a bloody socialist compared to me." He was definitely aware of her work.

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His autobiographical books make it clear that he wasn't a libertarian as understood nowadays by Objectivists.

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Try his "future history" series of short stories and his "juveniles" that he wrote for teenagers.

IIRC Starship Troopers was intended to be one of the "juveniles" but the publisher who had been publishing the juveniles--one per year--rejected it. Heinlein took it to another publisher and that was the end of the series of "juveniles". Many years later Heinlein wrote an essay going through many of the complaints people raised about Starship Troopers. The only one he did not demolish (usually by pointing out that the complainer could not read and comprehend simple declarative sentences) was the one he proudly accepted--that it "glorified the military." He said of that one something along the lines of "damned right it does!"

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I believe it is part of the "diaries of Lazarus Long", but I don't know which novel it was abstratcted from.

It was Time Enough for Love, which, incidentally is "the capstone and crowning achievement of [his] famous Future History," mentioned by Betsy (quote is from the description on the back of the book). It is my second-favorite of his books, next to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

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Just as a teaser for others who haven't read Time Enough for Love:

"...it is the story of a man so in love with Life that he refused to stop living it..."

And Heinlein tells that story beautifully; not as inspiring and life-changing as Ayn Rand (but what is!), but still a great sense-of-life book nonetheless.

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I've only read a few works by Heinlein, and here is how I assess him so far.

I love his sense-of-life. A contrast to it would be that of Stanislaw Lem--a lousy writer, by the way--whose sense-of-life, if put into words, would be: the Universe is bleak, black and Man has no capacity to see it. Whereas Heinlein's sense-of-life would be something like: the Universe is a brightly lit, fun place to be--a cosmic Disneyland; let's enjoy it!

As a story-teller, he's very good; as a writer, he is not so good. He very often throws in non-essentials, such as, in Starship Troopers, after some statement regarding being a sitting duck, there's something like: Do ducks sit? If so, why? That may be just a few words, but it can really hurt the narrative flow.

But all in all, if I ever have a kid, I will introduce him or her to Robert A. Heinlein!

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