1907 - 1988
Robert Anson Heinlein (1907-1988) was one of the “Big Three” American science fiction writers of the mid-twentieth century, along with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. A prolific writer with a career spanning half a century, Heinlein published more than 30 novels, along with numerous short stories and collections. He was already established and successful in the genre when he won his first Hugo Award for Double Star in 1956. He would be recognized thus three more times – for Starship Troopers in 1960, for Stranger in a Strange Land in 1961, and for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress in 1966.
Noticeable in his early writing, but particularly prevalent after Starship Troopers, Heinlein used his novels to provoke thought and limn his own perspective about the role, limitations, and confining strictures of society, the obligations of citizenship, and the prerogatives of freedom. Heinlein was lauded not just for individual stories, but also for weaving coherent speculative futures, with themes and characters that spanned swaths of his writing over decades.
Heinlein’s “Future History” series was nominated for a Best All-Time Series Hugo Award in a very strong field in 1966, losing (along with fellow nominee The Lord of the Rings) to Asimov’s Foundation series. Fittingly, Heinlein’s name accompanies his imagination into space; an asteroid and a crater on Mars are named after him.
Robert Heinlein’s wife, Virginia “Ginny” Heinlein (1916-2003), was a chemist, biochemist, and engineer who inspired many of the strong, red-haired female characters in his novels. She met Robert during the Second World War when they both worked at the Naval Experimental Station in Philadelphia, she serving in the WAVES. They relocated to Los Angeles after WWII and married in 1948, remaining married until Robert’s death in 1988, after which she edited collections of his correspondence and writings and authorized longer editions of several of his works.