Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Heinlein, Hubbard, Herbert and Huxley: Four Horsemen of the Sci-Fi-pocalypse

Robert A. Heinlein is one of the most famous names in sci-fi. He's considered one of the "Big Three" - along with Arthur C. Clark and Isaac Asimov - and written famous works such as Stranger in a Strange Land, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, and Starship Troopers. But perhaps even more noteworthy are his other contributions to the field. Heinlein was one of the authors who helped lead the genre out of mediocrity and “pulp” status, and into literary significance. Heinlein considered it of the utmost importance that everything space related in his novels be mathematically accurate and scientifically plausible, making his works much more realistic than their predecessors. Furthermore, his novels leave behind the early "space opera" configuration and instead focus on important social issues, such as liberty and government, sexuality and religion. It is because of Heinlein's influence that selected science fiction works are now accepted into the literary canon.

Even readers who have no interest in the science fiction genre have heard of the infamous L. Rob Hubbard. Hubbard first came into the public eye through his contributions to popular pulp fiction magazines in the 1930’s, most notably Astounding Science Fiction. There he began a close professional relationship with the magazine’s editor, John W. Campbell, who Isaac Asimov described as the “most powerful force in science fiction”, and credited with shaping the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Campbell helped Hubbard test out his theory of Dianetics, and published a paper on it in Astounding. It was with Campbell’s – and the science fiction magazine’s – help that Hubbard was able to expand Dianetics into the organization that made Hubbard famous, The Church of Scientology.
Frank Herbert is without a doubt one of the most commercially successful science fiction writers. In fact, his most famous novel - Dune - is the bestselling sci-fi novel of all time. Compared with Heinlein's seminal Stranger in a Stranger Land, Dune marks a shift away from pulp fiction and into literary significance. Furthermore, Herbert changed the direction of sci-fi by focusing on technology’s affect on humanity within his stories, rather than writing a story for the sake of technological advancement alone. Herbert deliberately suppressed technological elements within the Dune series in order to focus on more character driven aspects; this successful approach marks him as the creator of a new sub-genre within the field – "Ecological" Science Fiction.

Last but not least, I’d like to discuss the great Aldous Huxley. Heinlein and Herbert were instrumental in elevating the quality and public opinion of science fiction, but it was Huxley that finally cracked his way into the literary canon. Along with Orwell’s 1984, Brave New World is one of the only sci-fi novels I remember reading as part of my high school curriculum. Furthermore, Brave New World was ranked fifth after Ulysses, The Great Gatsby and Lolita in Modern Library’s “100 Best English-Language Novels of the 20th Century”. This is a remarkable shift from previous sci-fi works that critics barely considered literature. Brave New World marks a perfect blend between scientific and technological advancement, and the social and moral issues that define human society.
This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2012. My theme is (in case you didn’t already guess) science fiction. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the rest of the participants, simply click here.


  1. Nice spread of Sci-fi heavies! Stranger in a Strange Land is one of my favorite books. Huge fan of Dune too: such great scope of a setting and a good look into the motivations and nature of people as individuals. For me, I never considered Brave New World to be near as good or important as 1984.

  2. I never realized Heinlein wrote Starship Troopers. I haven't read the book, but seriously -- have you seen the movie? Some of the smartest men I know LOVE that movie, ridiculous bugs, trumped up love story and all. (Please say Starship Troopers is not on your list for "S"...)

  3. Haven't read much sci-fi (nothing against it, just busy reading a lot of fantasy...) but I'm going to add STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND to my Goodreads list.

  4. What an awsome picture on the front of the book! Attention getter!

    Definitely sounds like an great read!

    Nice one for "H"

  5. These are some great books you have here. Must reads! I love sci-fi. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I don't think I've read any Hubbard, but I love the other 3 you mentioned. Brave New World is such a great book! And Dune! And robots... :)

  7. Excellent post! I've never read anything by Hubbard, but the other three are phenomenal. My first experience with Heinlein was Job: A Comedy of Justice. It tackled religion and morality. I read most of his heavier books before I read the lighter ones. It's amazing how much these authors influenced popular culture and the world. A few years ago I heard of an anti-anxiety drug named Soma, and I couldn't believe it.

  8. Laughing Ferret – I love both 1984 and Brave New World. I think they ask the most interesting questions, and definitely both deserve a place in the world of literary classics. Stranger in a Strange Land too, but then I’m biased.

    Jade Oak Marsh – I know. The movie is ridiculous. And my dad just LOVES is. My mom and I just role our eyes when he puts it on. You know what I mean?

    Kimberlee – You really should. It’s so much more than sci-fi. It brings up questions of religion and philosophy; it’s a truly great story.

    Danielle – Glad you appreciate these amazing classics!

    Jemi – you have fabulous taste :)

    Janna – Seriously? They really named their drug Soma? That concerns me more than I can possibly say.

  9. I loved today's post. I don't have a lot to add though - great stuff.

  10. Oh man, three favorites! I'm not all that big of fan of Hubbard. Have you read any of Huxley's other works?

    1. I have. I read the Island, and Brave New World Revisited. What else of his do you like? And no, I'm no Hubbard fan either but felt he needed mentioning regardless.

  11. Today's post was like a must read of sci-fi!

  12. I'm with Bish above: Love, Love, LOVE Heinlein, Herbert, and Huxley!!!
    "Stranger in a Strange Land," "Dune," and "Brave New World" are three of my all-time favorite novels. I've devoured most of their work.

    But Hubbard? Meh... >shrug<

    Great A-to-Z blog!

    (And thanks for visiting mine the other day -- I was gone all weekend and just getting caught up now!)

  13. I've read most of the Dune novels and loved them. I have yet to check out the other classic sci fi writers though.

    Great A-Z post!

  14. Of the ones you listed, I found Heinlein to be the easiest to follow when I read him. He wrote some truly great stuff!! :)

  15. I've never read Huxley, and I really couldn't get into Hubbard -- tried short fiction, tried Typewriter in the Sky, tried Battlefield Earth. Just not for me.

    Still reread Heinlein, though. I like some of his short, simpler ones, too -- Waldo and The Door Into Summer. Or "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag."

    I enjoyed Dune, but couldn't get into any of the sequels. Funny how that works.

    Nice round-up!


  16. Stranger in a Strange Land is one of my favorites! "Waiting is" is a common expression in our house :)
    Happy 2nd week of A-Z!
    ~AJ @

  17. I'm not a huge sci-fi fan, but if you're going to read it, you should read the best.

  18. I love Heinlein and Herbert! My favorite Heinlein novel would have to be The Cat Who Walked Through Walls because it was so different than anything I had read previously. (Stranger in a Strange Land is on my TBR!) Dune is magnificent, and I've read the series several times. I don't care for the later installments as much as the first few, but they're still good. I haven't read the ones written by his son/nephew/whatever.

    I have never gotten around to reading Huxley or Hubbard, but I intend to. I own several novels by each of them. :-)

  19. There are some works here that I really need to read. For some reason, I've just never gotten to them. Even though I may own more than one. I'm not gonna say what I have and what I haven't read, though.

  20. Read all of those authors. Liked Heinlein best, which obviously shows in my own books.

  21. We actually have Dune and a few other books in the series, but I still need to read them!

    I'm really enjoying your Science Fiction posts. :)

  22. Johanna – I know. There were too many H’s to choose from so I just did them all.

    Chris – I feel the same way about Hubbard, but he still seemed, uh, infamous enough to mention here. The other three are some of my VERY favorite writers.

    DL and Erin – Heinlein is an incredible writer. There’s definitely a reason he’s considered one of the Big Three.

    Ayja – that’s awesome. I love when people use literary references with their family.

    Kate – Agreed, and these are some of the best.

    Kayla – Please do. Huxley is the best – both an incredible writer and, some might argue, philosopher. He brings up some truly complex questions about humanity.

    Andrew – I’ve definitely been catching up on some things recently. There are some things I read in high school and nearly forgotten about. This challenge has been a GREAT motivator for me.

    Alex – Heinlein’s work is inspirational. I find it sneaks into my own story ideas pretty often.

    The Golden Eagle – The first Dune book is by far the best. I really hope you enjoy it!

  23. Errr... I haven't read ANY of these.... can we still be BWFF's??

  24. Really interesting and informative post. I am a fan of Huxley. Thanks for dropping by the blog


  25. I had no idea Hubbard was a Church of Scientology founder, goodness. I love the history of SF, but I have a really hard time reading the older stuff. It's very...wordy, a lot it. Though it probably didn't help my prof only gave us a week to read each book :/ I have yet to read Dune, which is such a shame because I know I have to, being a SF fan. It's on my ever growing 'to read' list.

  26. Man, I haven't read any of these! Maybe I need to do some catch-up.

  27. Stranger in a Strange Land, Brave New World, and 1984 (not part of the H post...but you mentioned it) are favorites of mine in Sci-fi. Great post!

  28. I've still not read Brave new World, which is a shame :( I've not heard of Heinlein either; shall have to get acquainted :)

    Fellow A-Z Bloggy Buddy
    Mithril Wisdom

  29. Thanks for doing this series on sci-fi! Love it! I'm learning a lot and definitely want to add more sci-fi to my TBR. :)

  30. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. All of these. Just amazing. I wish I had more time to read and re-read.

  31. Julie – haha don’t worry. I’ll help you catch up :) Movie-fest time!

    Gwen – I understand, some of the older stuff can be a bit daunting. But I Dune is really wonderful, and just about everyone I know who’s read it loved it!

    Michael – those three are all on my love list too.

    Joshua – I know. Writing about them makes me want to read them again, but there’s just no time. Sigh.