ROBERT A. HEINLEIN, American writer (d. 1988); One of “the Big Three” in science or imaginative fiction (Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke being the other two) Heinlein was often called “the dean of science fiction writers.”

While not Gay himself, for Robert Heinlein, personal liberation included sexual liberation, and free love as a major subject of his writing starting from the 1939 For Us, The Living. Beyond This Horizon (1942) cleverly subverts traditional gender roles in a scene in which the protagonist demonstrates his archaic gunpowder gun for his friend and discusses how useful it would be in dueling — after which the discussion turns to the shade of his nail polish.

All You Zombies (1959) is the story of a person who undergoes sex reassignment therapy, goes back in time, has sex with herself, and gives birth to herself. Sexual freedom and the elimination of sexual jealousy are a major theme of Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), in which the progressive minded yet culturally canalized reporter, Ben Caxton, acts as a dramatic foil for the less parochial characters, Jubal Harshaw and Mike. Paralleling Ben’s gradual philosophical awakening, the nurse Gillian Boardman learns to embrace her innate tendency toward exhibitionism and to be more accepting of other people’s sexuality (e.g., Duke’s fondness for pornography). Stranger’s treatment of homosexuality is ambiguous. Two negative references to homosexuality have been interpreted by some as being homophobic, but both deal with Jill’s hang-ups, and one is a discussion of Jill’s thoughts.

It is therefore unclear if they reflect Heinlein’s own point of view. In The Moon is A Harsh Mistress, homosexuality is ill-regarded, but accepted as necessary, in an overwhelmingly male society, by the book’s point-of-view character.

In contrast, homosexuality is regarded with approval — even gusto — in books such as 1970s I Will Fear No Evil, which posits the social recognition of six innate genders, consisting of all possible combinations of male and female, with straight, Gay, and bisexual. In The Number of the Beast, a male character discusses unsuccessful homosexual experimentation as a teenager, eventually stating that, while his previous experimentation had failed, if his friend and son-in-law Zeb Carter was to display a sexual interest in him, he would do his best to enjoy the experience and make Zeb feel as if he had desired it all along.

In later books, Heinlein dealt with incest and the sexual nature of children. In Time Enough For Love, Lazarus Long uses genetic arguments to initially dissuade a brother and sister he has adopted from sexual experimentation with each other, but he later arranges for them to be married, having discovered that they (in an extremely rare but scientifically possible circumstance) are not brother and sister on a genetic level; he also consummates his strong sexual attraction to his own mother, whom he goes back in time to see again.

In some of Heinlein’s books, To Sail Beyond the Sunset, for instance, sexual urges between daughters and fathers are exemplified and briefly discussed on several occasions. Later in the same book, the protagonist/narrator (Maureen Johnson) discovers that her two youngest children are engaged in heterosexual incest. After failing to dissuade them from the relationship, she forcibly returns the two to their father, and never mentions them again.

The protagonist of The Cat Who Walks Through Walls recalls a homosexual experience with a Boy Scout leader, which he didn’t find unpleasant. In Heinlein’s treatment of the possibility of sex between adults and adolescents, some readers may feel that he dodges many of the valid reasons for the taboo by portraying the sexual attractions or actual sex as taking place only between Nietzschean supermen, who are so enlightened that they can avoid all the ethical and emotional pitfalls.

Also, the individuals involved in almost all cases are fully mature (if not “over mature”, as in centuries-old), with stable personalities. The question of incest at this point, in Heinlein’s characterizations, is more one of genetic compatibility and progeny issues than morality.