Missing Mr. Heinlein

Glaskowsky reminisces while reading the souvenir book from the Heinlein Centennial convention.

In July, in Kansas City, Missouri, there was a convention commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert A. Heinlein: the Heinlein Centennial.

Heinlein, who lived from 7 July 1907 to 8 May 1988, was the most accomplished and influential science-fiction writer of the 20th century. I suppose some people might disagree, but that's the way I see it. Heinlein inspired me to serve in the US Air Force and to become an engineer (as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, here).

I met Mr. Heinlein only once, and only briefly, at the 1977 World Science Fiction convention in Miami, Florida (SunCon). Having instituted the practice of blood drives at science-fiction conventions the previous year, he was giving autographs only to blood donors at the event. Since I was only 16, he gave me his autograph in exchange for my promise to donate after I turned 17 (which I did, and seven more times since). That brief negotiation was my only personal contact with the man, but I've always been grateful for it.

I wish I'd been able to attend the Centennial, but I did buy a membership, so they sent me the Souvenir Book from the event. I've been reading it this weekend, and it's really quite excellent.

It contains four substantial pieces of Heinlein's own writing that I hadn't seen before (or even heard of): a short funny piece about the craft of writing from a fanzine (a fan-published magazine), a story Heinlein wrote for a writing contest while serving in the US Navy on the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2), a declassified memo Heinlein wrote at the close of World War II recommending that the Navy pursue the development of manned rockets for military use, and a 9,200-word essay on personal technology written for Playboy Magazine in 1963-- but never published.

This Souvenir Book is available from the Centennial organizers (here). If you're a Heinlein collector, you'll want a copy.

By the way, for the high rollers in the audience who want to get caught up on the Heinlein canon, there's a complete collection being produced by Meisha Merlin Publishing, "The Virginia Edition: The Definitive Collection of Robert A. Heinlein."

The leather-bound 46-volume set will include all of Heinlein's novels, short stories and non-fiction works, plus several volumes of Heinlein's personal correspondences. The set is priced at $1,500. The way I see it, that's a good deal for the most important body of work in science fiction.

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