Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Heinlein, Robert A

 Icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

(1907-1988) US writer of major importance in the development of modern Science Fiction. RAH's methodical approach to scientific extrapolation was equally effective when he bent to Fantasy and Supernatural Fiction, which he wrote especially for Unknown. The fantasy is so rationalized in "Magic, Inc." (1940 Unknown as "The Devil Makes the Law!"; in Waldo and Magic, Inc. coll 1950; vt Waldo: Genius in Orbit 1958) – set in an Alternate World where Magic operates by strict laws and codes – that the story reads like sf (> Rationalized Fantasy). "Waldo" (1942 Astounding) is a mixture of hard sf and Gnostic Fantasy: a physical weakling finds a way of manipulating the spirit world in order to benefit our world. RAH also produced a couple of paranoia fantasies: "They" (1941 Unknown), perhaps the ultimate solipsist fantasy (a man is convinced the world is a puppet show), and "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" (1942 Unknown as by John Riverside), where a man seeks help in solving what he does during the daytime, discovering he is a sort of art critic of the flawed cosmos. These were assembled with others in book form as The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag (coll 1959; vt 6 x H 1961), which also included "'... And He Built a Crooked House'" (1941 Astounding), where a house has topologically shifted to become a Portal to other worlds (>>> Edifice). RAH produced some definitive Time Fantasies in "By His Bootstraps" (1941 Astounding as by Anson MacDonald) and "'– All You Zombies –'" (1959 F&SF) – a theme he referred to in his later sf novels about Lazarus Long, especially Time Enough for Love (1973), where RAH uses time to sustain Immortality.

RAH concentrated on sf for the next 20 years, and his first return to fantasy was critically disliked. Glory Road (1963), dismissed as a weak attempt at Sword and Sorcery, is actually a rousing adventure novel that would have been at home in Unknown except for the liberal doses of Sex. It concerns a soldier who becomes infatuated with a beautiful girl who transports him to an Otherworld in the Multiverse to aid her in her Quest to steal the Egg of the Phoenix, guarded by the Eater of Souls. The work was in the forefront of the revival of Heroic Fantasy that gathered pace two years later. There are echoes of Glory Road in Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984), where a man and a woman find themselves thrust into the Afterlife – here seen as an Alternate World – and have to rely on their wits and on divine intervention to survive.

RAH was one of the first writers successfully to meld the substance of sf and fantasy into an integral whole without compromising either genre. His experiments were later developed by others, in particular Roger Zelazny and Gene Wolfe. [MA]

other works: Much sf (> SFE).

Robert Anson Heinlein


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.