[[caption-width-right:300:Robert Heinlein and his wife on the set of ''DestinationMoon'' (1950)]]

->''"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."''
->-- [[Literature/TimeEnoughForLove Lazarus Long]]

Widely considered one of the most influential and iconic writers of SciFi and SpeculativeFiction of the Twentieth Century. He is counted as one of the "Big Three" of ScienceFiction along with Creator/ArthurCClarke and Creator/IsaacAsimov. Often the standard to which other {{science fiction}} writers are compared, although he caught considerable flak for some of his [[WriterOnBoard recurring philosophical and political themes.]] His works range from space adventure Young Adult novels to political manifestos, and generally score towards the "hard" side of MohsScaleOfScienceFictionHardness.

Given his status among the pantheon of science fiction authors, {{Shout Out}}s to his work are very widespread in modern science fiction. He tends to be popular among the military as well, particularly for ''Starship Troopers'', which has in the past been on the required reading lists for both the US Marine Corps and the US Navy.

Heinlein's most notorious and most dividing novel is ''Literature/StrangerInAStrangeLand'', an AuthorTract which contributed hugely to the rise of the hippie movement. However, he's probably best known with the general public for penning ''Literature/StarshipTroopers'', which was very, ''very'' loosely adapted into a film.

Rare exceptions aside, nearly all of his characters are prodigies and geniuses, to the point where this can be considered his author trademark.

[[folder:Works by Robert A. Heinlein with their own {{trope}} pages include:]]
* "Literature/AllYouZombies"
* "Literature/AndHeBuiltACrookedHouse"
* ''Literature/BetweenPlanets''
* ''Literature/BeyondThisHorizon''
* "Literature/ByHisBootstraps"
* ''Literature/TheCatWhoWalksThroughWalls''
* ''Literature/CitizenOfTheGalaxy''
* ''Film/DestinationMoon'' (wrote the {{novelization}}, and served as a script writer and technical consultant for the film)
* ''Literature/TheDoorIntoSummer''
* ''Literature/DoubleStar''
* ''Literature/FarmerInTheSky''
* ''Literature/FarnhamsFreehold''
* ''Literature/ForUsTheLivingAComedyOfCustoms''
* ''Literature/{{Friday}}''
* ''Literature/GloryRoad''
* "Literature/TheGreenHillsOfEarth"
* ''Literature/HaveSpaceSuitWillTravel''
* ''Literature/IWillFearNoEvil''
* ''Literature/JobAComedyOfJustice''
* "Literature/MagicInc"
* ''Literature/MethuselahsChildren''
* ''Literature/TheMoonIsAHarshMistress''
* ''Literature/TheNumberOfTheBeast''
* ''Literature/ThePuppetMasters''
* ''Literature/RedPlanet''
* ''Literature/TheRollingStones''
* ''Literature/SixthColumn''
* ''Literature/SpaceCadet''
* ''Literature/TheStarBeast''
* ''Literature/StarmanJones''
* ''Literature/StarshipTroopers''
* ''Literature/StrangerInAStrangeLand''
* ''Literature/TimeEnoughForLove''
* ''Literature/TimeForTheStars''
* ''Literature/ToSailBeyondTheSunset''
* ''Literature/TunnelInTheSky''
* ''Literature/VariableStar''
* "Literature/{{Waldo}}"

[[folder:Works presently without trope pages:]]

* "Literature/BlowupsHappen"
* ''Literature/{{Elsewhen}}''
* ''Literature/{{Gulf}}''
* "Literature/IfThisGoesOn..."
* "Literature/ItsGreatToBeBack!"
* "Literature/JerryWasAMan"
* "Literature/LetThereBeLight"
* "Literature/LifeLine"
* "Literature/TheLongWatch"
* "Literature/TheManWhoSoldTheMoon"
* "Literature/TheMenaceFromEarth"
* "Literature/{{Misfit}}"
* "Literature/OrdealInSpace"
* ''Literature/OrphansOfTheSky''
* ''Literature/PodkayneOfMars''
* "Literature/TheRoadsMustRoll"
* ''Literature/RocketShipGalileo''
* "Literature/SpaceJockey"
* ''Literature/TheUnpleasantProfessionOfJonathanHoag''

!!Heinlein has probably written -- and in some cases [[TropeMaker created]] -- every major form of story in {{science fiction}}, including:

* Revolution and its aftermath (''Literature/TheMoonIsAHarshMistress'' and the first part of its [[NonLinearSequel sorta-sequel]] ''The Cat Who Walks Through Walls'', "If This Goes On...", later packaged in the collection ''Revolt in 2100'')
* Organized crime invading an industry (''Literature/MagicInc'', "Let There Be Light")
* Space travel (''Literature/TheRollingStones'' along with most of his short stories)
* TimeTravel and Paradoxes ("Literature/ByHisBootstraps", "Literature/AllYouZombies", ''Literature/TimeEnoughForLove'', ''The Door Into Summer'')
* TheMultiverse and cross-universe travel (''Literature/TheNumberOfTheBeast'', ''Literature/GloryRoad'')
* Age extension and immortality (''Literature/MethuselahsChildren'', ''Literature/TimeEnoughForLove'', ''Literature/TheMoonIsAHarshMistress'')
* Labor strikes by people critical to the economy ("The Roads Must Roll")
* Crabby old man has brain transplanted [[GenderBender into gorgeous woman]] (''Literature/IWillFearNoEvil'')
* {{Generation ship|s}}; Society on a self-contained spaceship forming its own religious mythos (''Orphans of the Sky/Universe'')
* Problems of precognition and knowing the future ("Life-Line")
* War and the government it creates (''Literature/StarshipTroopers'', frequently considered one of the best military novels ever written.)
* Slavery, freedom, and the forms each can take (''Citizen of the Galaxy'')
* [[SettlingTheFrontier Settling on and civilizing new and unfamiliar worlds]] (''Farmer in the Sky'', ''Tunnel in the Sky'')
* Human-alien relations (''Literature/RedPlanet'', ''Literature/HaveSpaceSuitWillTravel'', ''Literature/SpaceCadet'', ''Literature/DoubleStar'', ''Literature/StarmanJones'', ''Literature/TheStarBeast'', ''Literature/StrangerInAStrangeLand'').
* The transformative power of innocence plus observations of humanity from an Outsider (''Literature/StrangerInAStrangeLand'')
* The idea of [[MutuallyFictional fiction creating worlds]] (''Literature/TheNumberOfTheBeast'' and its sequels)
* The idea of [[HellOfAHeaven heaven not being heaven without your loved ones]]. (''Literature/JobAComedyOfJustice'')
* ArtificialIntelligence (''Literature/TheMoonIsAHarshMistress'', ''Literature/TimeEnoughForLove'', and their sequels)

Heinlein's protagonists are typically geniuses, often with perfect memory and a love for mathematics. They have held opinions covering most of the political spectrum, to the point where the oft-made argument "Heinlein's heroes all have his political opinions!" needs to account for the fact that the sum total of "political opinions held by Heinlein protagonists" includes many mutually contradictory ideas. For that matter, Heinlein himself expounded the merits of wildly different political opinions; several of his earliest books were essentially guided tours through a couple of (non-Marxist) anarcho-libertarian [[MarySueTopia future paradises]] -- though these paradises also valued sexual freedom and the right to bear arms. He would later write of a yet another such (alien) paradise in his famous AuthorTract ''Literature/StrangerInAStrangeLand'' -- and he would reference this paradise throughout much of his future work.

His protagonists can be expected to believe in [[EternalSexualFreedom sexual freedom]], the right to bear arms, the death penalty, and private ownership and private enterprise, and to [[AuthorFilibuster not be shy in expounding on those beliefs.]] Most believe in hard work and although they often suffer bad luck, in the end it pays off for them. HumansAreSpecial, a fact often expounded upon by his heroes, who are often, by birthright, training, or sheer openmindedness even "specialer" than regular humans. They also tend to be ''ridiculously'' smart. This has led to some (not always unwarranted) accusations of Sueism in Heinlein's writing. [[note]]And, well, his book introducing the "World as Myth" concept has every single villain be named with an anagram of Heinlein or his wife's names or pen names.[[/note]] Expect there to be at least [[StrawLoser one foolish and lazy person]] to [[{{Foil}} contrast to]] [[TheHero the heroes]]. However, ''[[BrilliantButLazy smart]]'' [[BrilliantButLazy lazy people]] are usually respected -- see "The Tale of The Man Who Was Too Lazy To Fail" in ''Time Enough For Love''. (Usually, but not always. In ''Literature/ThePuppetMasters'', the main characters praise engineers but disdain scientists, as the latter merely sit around making up theories without actually ''building'' anything.)

Mutual respect and personal autonomy are key themes, and {{Polyamory}} is presented as the most rational and reasonable form of partnership. It's also not uncommon for Heinlein's heroes to explore the idea of incest -- in any case, family bonds are always very strong. Education (particularly math and linguistics) is a vital (but personal and freely chosen) process, and on occasion there are allusions to naive forms of chaos magic (i.e. mankind's ability to manipulate nature simply by being clever).

In addition to that, [[ColonyDrop throwing rocks at people]] who don't agree with one's personal beliefs is quite okay when one's personal beliefs are enlightened enough -- although Heinlein's heroes tend to bluff rather than use lethal violence. Racism is also always rejected. Heinlein was indirect about it, but many (if not most) of his main characters are implied to be multiracial or at least not white.

His later books valued individual autonomy much more than the earlier ones, and his opinion of government, politics, and politicians changed accordingly. By the end, his opinion appeared to be that there are two types of politician: the WideEyedIdealist who can't be trusted because anyone who can convince him it's for the greater good will get him to abandon a promise, and the CorruptPolitician who can be trusted because he knows he has a reputation to maintain as someone worth buying.

!!Heinlein's stories are populated by certain stock characters:

* The Genius Child: A very common character both in Heinlein's Young Adult novels and in his political work. The genius child is often completely unaware that he or she is a prodigy, and simply dreams of going into space and having wild space adventures. Some of these characters, however, fully know how smart they are, and learn an important lesson about humility. Knowing next to nothing about interstellar politics, they tend to wise up by the end of the story and accept responsibility for their actions. Kip, Max, Peewee, and the twins Cas and Pol embody this, and Valentine Michael Smith is this character type taken to its logical extreme.
* The Competent Man (sometimes woman): Essentially your classic leading man character, he or she is competent in a reasonably wide range of fields (usually including several languages, sciences and/or technologies), and usually is also The Man (or Woman) Who Learns Better, having learned an important lesson and experienced considerable personal growth by the end of the story. The latter aspect is more prominent in Heinlein's juveniles. This can also be an adult version of the Genius Child who already knows how to deal with adult life, or simply the Genius Child's close friend.
* The Wise Old Mentor (usually, but not always, male): Professor Bernardo de la Paz, Hazel Meade Stone, Joseph Bonforte, Jubal Harshaw, and of course Lazarus Long, who also falls into the above category.
* The Gorgeous Woman: Spirited, beautiful and complex. Many of them have [[HeroesWantRedHeads red hair]], like Heinlein's [[AuthorAppeal wife]] Virginia. In fact, it is often tempting to assume the Gorgeous Woman is essentially Virginia in various guises. Star, in ''Literature/GloryRoad,'' is described as hundreds of women in one body, along with a number of men, and amply describes the more universal version of the character.

These characters are best seen in ''The Puppet Masters'', which is also his Alien Invasion plot.

!!His characters are often very intelligent, highly skilled (or they [[InstantExpert quickly learn any skills needed]]), good at math, and sometimes without major mental or physical defect. On this last qualification, there are notable exceptions:
* Waldo, a physical and emotional cripple in need of redemption.
* Oscar Gordon, a self-described grunt with a prominent facial scar, whose genius mainly lies in forms of violence and the practical application of personal ethics. After serving his time in the military, he gets recruited from an endless beach vacation by Star.
* Juan Rico, another grunt, who doesn't have the stuff to join one of the more glamorous organizations but proves to be an above-average officer and the right man at the right time. In film adaptations they tend to forget he's only ''called'' "Johnny," not named that.
* The protagonist of "Literature/AllYouZombies", a heartless cad with an intersexual condition (and a time machine).
* Manuel Garcia O'Kelly "Mannie" Davis, a one-armed computer engineer (lost the other arm in an accident), who is otherwise the archetype for a technically competent hero.
* While Roger Stone is a Competent Man, he freely admits that he's the least intelligent and adaptable person in his entire family, not to mention one of the least so among Heinlein's roster of Competent Men. He yet is the successful leader and moral conscience of the entire Stone family, and is perhaps the only being in the entire multiverse that Heinlein has written winning an argument with Hazel Stone.
* Hugh Farnham in ''Farnham's Freehold'' is ''not'' extensively educated or much more intelligent than the norm and his mathematical abilities are unknown, but he does have access to a long list of useful books, which come in handy when he becomes a freeholder.
* Podkayne Fries in ''Podkayne of Mars'' is a naive and optimistic 16-year-old girl who isn't really capable of understanding evil, and thus can't quite comprehend the villains or the seriousness of the political drama in the midst of which she finds herself.
* Podkayne's brother Clark, who in contrast is a sociopathic Pre{{teen Genius}} only barely kept in check by his affection for his older sister -- and who is only redeemed by [[spoiler:Poddy's (near)-death as a result of the plots in which they've become entangled]].
* Valentine Michael Smith from ''Literature/StrangerInAStrangeLand'' is a human raised on Mars who is intelligent but with NoSocialSkills (but later becomes a charismatic preacher). Apparently Heinlein had a bet going with L. Ron Hubbard to see which one could inspire a cult... Heinlein lost, nanu-nanu. (But many people grok that it was a close race for a while there).
* While not a main character, the Boss (the mentor/competent man archetype) of ''Friday'' is a one-eyed cripple, and apparently a former resident of Luna. Friday herself is neurotically insecure as a result of her upbringing.
* Andrew Jackson "Pinky" (later "Slipstick") Libby, a mathematical genius (and lost Howard Family member), who was clumsy and socially awkward in his youth, and turned out to have the genetic disorder [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klinefelter_syndrome Kleinfelter's Syndrome]].

Heinlein's most notable protagonist is Lazarus Long, a [[TheOlderImmortal near-immortal]] rogue and AntiHero. Lazarus Long appears across much of Heinlein's work, often being both the Competent Man and the Wise Old Man. He is a strong proponent of the atheistic, libertarian, FreeLoveFuture worldview that became a trademark of Heinlein's work, and is a frequent target of criticism for being a MartyStu and AuthorAvatar.

Heinlein's approach to female characterization is [[ValuesDissonance sometimes controversial.]] While his female characters are a reasonably varied lot, they tend to have a few things in common: [[MenActWomenAre The men spend a lot of time explaining things to them.]] They [[NeverASelfMadeWoman rarely end the story un-paired with a man]], [[NeverASelfMadeWoman and they often see motherhood as their highest goal.]] Many stories feature underage (barely teenage) girls "bundling" with far older men. It should be considered, however, that [[FairForItsDay at the time he wrote most of his novels]] an actively dominant female character was an extreme rarity, not to mention that his female characters usually tend to be [[GuileHero guile]] [[ActionGirl action girls]].

Heinlein's adult years were during the UsefulNotes/ColdWar, and he was ''extremely'' hawkish, believing that the Soviets were a serious threat to the US, and that a strong military with lots of nuclear missiles was the only sane response. (For example, one of his character regarded the difference between the Soviets and mind-controlling alien slugs as nearly irrelevant). Further, he apparently ''supported'' Joe [=McCarthy=]'s anti-communist witch hunts. His views were not uncommon at the time, but given that the Soviet Union folded shortly after Heinlein's death, understanding his Soviet-phobia can be difficult for modern readers, but is necessary to grokking his work. (Saying the genocidal hive-minded Bugs from ''Literature/StarshipTroopers'' are stand-ins for the Soviets is ''not'' a stretch.)

He also invented and explored the concept of Pantheistic Solipsism in his later works, also known as "TheWorldAsMyth" philosophy: where powerful writers create universes via the act of writing. He uses this for multiple {{Crossover}}s between world lines, including at least one [[CanonWelding meeting between every major hero he created in a single scene]]. It's also noted that later characters would [[RageAgainstTheAuthor call him (as the author) out for the horrible actions his characters suffer if this idea is true.]]

His impact can be best seen in Larry Niven's short story ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Return_of_William_Proxmire The Return of William Proxmire]]'' where a fictional version of the infamously Luddite U.S. Senator Proxmire -- who wishes to prevent the "waste" of the space program -- decides to use time travel to cure Heinlein's pulmonary tuberculosis because every scientist and engineer "fanatic" in the space program credits him as being their inspiration. (For the interested, curing Heinlein means he rises to prominence in the Navy and pays attention in 1940 when Goddard tries to warn the military about the potential and dangers of rockets. When Proxmire returns to the present, Admiral Heinlein's Navy-run program has set up lunar colonies, orbital solar power stations, and prevented the Russians from developing [=ICBMs=]).