I see there’s a new edition of Robert Heinlein’s Farmer in the Sky . Finding a couple boxes of science-fiction as we unpacked here in the Black Hills, my wife and I just reread Heinlein’s juveniles—the sweet, fun run of books he wrote in the 1950s.

Double Star is still my favorite, but my wife prefers the equally sweet Door Into Summer . Oh, and The Rolling Stones and, really, just about anything he published before 1961.

After that, the sex gets just too weird and, far worse for a novelist, too obsessive. As one commentator on Amazon notes : “Robert Heinlein is a great author. But let’s face it. Sometimes you want to a read a good Heinlein book where characters do *not* spend most of their time having sex with their computers, children, mothers, and female clones of themselves.”

Heinlein’s a libertarian— a hero of libertarians , for that matter—and the early fiction shows a libertarianism that just about any conservative could mostly agree with: a distaste for over-government, a grasp of the centrality of family, an understanding of military cohesion, a hunger to light out for the territory.

The next turn in his fiction mirrored the turn of the age in the 1960s and 1970s. And the sex stuff revealed, as well, the inward impetus that would lead us away from the imagination that space is the true new human frontier.

Forty years on from the moon landing, and we’re still earthbound. As I’ve been arguing for some time now , we need to aim the human imagination outward again.

Let’s go to Mars. And reread Heinlein’s juveniles to see why.

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