Heinlein juveniles

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Heinlein juveniles are the young adult novels written by Robert A. Heinlein. The twelve novels were published by Scribner's between 1947 and 1958, which together tell a single story of space exploration. A thirteenth, Starship Troopers, was submitted to Scribner's but rejected and instead published by Putnam. A fourteenth novel, Podkayne of Mars, is often listed as a "Heinlein juvenile", although Heinlein himself did not consider it to be one.

In addition to the juveniles, Heinlein wrote two short stories about Scouting for boys and three short stories with Puddin', a teenage female protagonist, for girls.

The Scribner's juveniles[edit]

James Gifford wrote, "It is not often recognized that [the juveniles] are a reasonably consistent 'Future History' of their own".[1] The dozen novels do not share any characters and do not form a strict chronological series; the later novels are not sequels to the earlier ones. They nonetheless tell a single story of space exploration.[2] The first novel, Rocket Ship Galileo, is about an effort to reach the Moon. The next few (through The Rolling Stones) revolve around interplanetary travel within the solar system. The next few (Starman Jones through Time for the Stars) revolve around various versions of the early phase of interstellar travel. In the next novel (Citizen of the Galaxy), interstellar travel is well-established and easy for humans, and the central problem is one of the maintenance of law and order in the galaxy. The protagonist of the next and last Scribner's juvenile, Have Space Suit—Will Travel, travels to the Lesser Magellanic Cloud and interacts with an intergalactic civilization. The last book submitted to Scribner's, Starship Troopers, portrays an interstellar war between mankind and other species.

The intended readership was teenage boys, but the books have been enjoyed by a wide range of readers. Heinlein wanted to present challenging material to children, such as the firearms for teenagers in Red Planet. This led to "annual quarrels over what was suitable for juvenile reading"[3] with Scribner's editors.


Groff Conklin wrote in 1955 that "Nobody but nobody can beat Heinlein in the writing of teen-age science fiction".[4] Jack Williamson wrote: "[An] inspiring theme of space conquest unifies the dozen Scribner's titles ... The books, taken together, tell an epic story of the expansion of mankind across the planets of our own Sun and the stars beyond. ... a generally consistent story of the future conquest of space. The first, Rocket Ship Galileo, begins in a backyard shortly after World War II, with three boys testing a primitive rocket motor. The last, Have Space Suit—Will Travel, ends with the triumphant return of its young hero from the Lesser Magellanic Cloud... Nobody has written a more convincing and inspiring future human epic."[2]

Starship Troopers[edit]

Starship Troopers was written as a juvenile for Scribner's but the publisher rejected it,[5] ending Heinlein's association with Scribner's.[6] He wrote, "I am tired of being known as a 'leading writer of children's books', and nothing else."[7] Putnam published the novel in 1960.[8]

Scouting stories for boys[edit]

When he returned to writing after World War II, Heinlein sought to diversify beyond pulp science fiction. The Scouting stories, originally printed in the Boy Scouts of America magazine Boys' Life, were part of that effort.[9] Farmer in the Sky, which also had a strong connection to Scouting, was serialized in Boys' Life under the title "Satellite Scout". Heinlein considered writing another Boy Scout story called "Polar Scout" in conjunction with a planned trip to Antarctica in early 1964, with the goal of releasing a collection of Scouting-related stories as a juvenile book. The trip did not take place and the author never wrote "Polar Scout".[10]

Puddin' stories for girls[edit]

Upon delivery of one of his early juveniles, his editor at Scribner's wished someone would write stories for girls.[11] Heinlein took this as a challenge and wrote a short story for girls. The story, a first-person tale featuring Maureen "Puddin'", appeared under the byline "R. A. Heinlein" in Calling All Girls magazine. He wrote two more, and planned four additional stories with the goal of publishing a collection titled Men Are Exasperating, but he never wrote any more and the Puddin' stories have never been collected in one volume.

Podkayne of Mars[edit]

Heinlein wrote "I grew so fond of Maureen [from the Puddin' stories] that I helped her to get rid of that excess weight, changed her name to 'Podkayne,' and moved her to Mars (along with her unbearable kid brother)."[11] Heinlein felt that a particular ending for Podkayne of Mars, published in 1963, was dramatically necessary to the story. Early readers hated it, however, and he reluctantly changed it. In 1995 the book was rereleased with both the published and original endings.

Podkayne's categorization as a "Heinlein juvenile" is unclear. Many reviewers list it with the juveniles,[12] and it is narrated by a teenager, but Heinlein himself did not regard it as a "juvenile".[13]

Ties to other works[edit]

Heinlein wrote a few series of linked stories and novels. Three of the juveniles are connected to his Future History. Hazel Stone of The Rolling Stones also appears in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, The Number of the Beast, and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. Space Cadet is set after "The Long Watch", which appears on Heinlein's Future History chart. The protagonist of Farmer in the Sky, Bill Lermer, plays the song "The Green Hills of Earth" on his accordion; the song is featured in the story of the same name from Heinlein's Future History. Farmer also refers to the "Space Patrol," the interplanetary peace-keeping organization described in Space Cadet.

The Mars of Red Planet seems to be the Mars of Stranger in a Strange Land; Jack Williamson writes that "The Martians in this story have a special interest, because they are the educators of Valentine Michael Smith [and] they display the same appalling powers that Smith brings back to Earth." [2] Have Space Suit—Will Travel mentions a recently established lunar base and an "infant Luna City", possible early references to what Heinlein developed into the lunar outpost of his Future History and the lunar colony of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

Other juveniles do not as a whole integrate easily into those series. For example, the timeline for interstellar travel in Time for the Stars does not fit into the Future History. Neither does the Arachnid War from Starship Troopers, nor the appearance of the advanced civilization in the Lesser Magellanic Cloud from Have Space Suit—Will Travel. Some of the juveniles which do not integrate with each other, nevertheless share similar elements of setting. The Mars of several of the books (Red Planet, Between Planets, The Rolling Stones, and Time for the Stars) has indigenous, intelligent (even dangerous) life, but they are not necessarily the same Martians in each book.


  1. ^ Gifford, Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader's Companion, 2000, p. 24
  2. ^ a b c Jack Williamson, "Youth Against Space: Heinlein's Juveniles Revisited", in Robert A. Heinlein (1978), ed by Joseph D. Olander and Martin H. Greenberg
  3. ^ Virginia Heinlein, Grumbles from the Grave, p. 83.
  4. ^ Conklin, Groff (March 1955). "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 95–99.
  5. ^ Gifford, James. "The Nature of Federal Service in Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers" (PDF). Retrieved March 4, 2006.
  6. ^ Causo, Roberto de Sousa. "Citizenship at War". Archived from the original on March 15, 2006. Retrieved March 4, 2006.
  7. ^ October 10, 1960, Grumbles from the Grave, p. 226.
  8. ^ "Biographies of Robert and Virginia Heinlein". The Heinlein Society. Retrieved March 4, 2006.
  9. ^ Expanded Universe, p. 276.
  10. ^ December 28, 1963, Grumbles from the Grave, p. 192-193.
  11. ^ a b Expanded Universe, p. 354.
  12. ^ Alexei Panshin, Heinlein in Dimension
  13. ^ March 10, 1962, Grumbles from the Grave, p. 86.

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