Influence: Robert Heinlein

I wanted to start a series of posts about writers that I love, that I feel have shaped me in some way. I’ve never really been able to identify how they’ve influenced my work. I don’t tend to be able to describe my process in that way. But, I know that the writers I love have helped to make me what I am now.

The first book of Heinlein’s that I really remember making an impact was Friday.  I’m not sure if it was the cover or the description on the back, but I picked it up and devoured it. Here I was, a young gay boy growing up in Saskatchewan in the late seventies and eighties, in a place and time when it was not a good thing to be. And here was Friday, victim of prejudice because she was an artificial person, created in a lab. She was mistreated due to something she had no control over and something that was irrelevant to the person she was inside. And on top of that, it was a ripping good story, in a fully realized world I could picture in my head, seeing the connections to the world I lived in. I was hooked.

I religiously read everything he put out after that, right up until he died. Went back and filled in with Stranger in a Strange Land and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Time Enough for Love. The Lazarus Long stories.

I think the things I took from his books were the strong sense of love between the characters, the bonds they forged in the face of whatever they were dealing with. Also, the thought that people could love more than one person, could build loving, stable relationships in some combination other than one boy/one girl. That idea was revelatory for me.

And there are elements of both those things in Chasing Cold. The relationships people can create, and the different ways those can express.

Heinlein was far from perfect. He was a sexist old goat and his politics didn’t always jibe with mine, but I loved those books. I still have them on my shelf, battered and well loved and read over and over.

I owe him, and I thank him for giving me those stories.

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