A Human Being Should Be Able To….

A human being should be able to
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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.” – Heinlein, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

Robert Heinlein (1907 – 1988) was an American science fiction writer considered as one of the first
science fiction writers who broke into mainstream magazines. He, Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke are often considered to be the “Big Three” of science fiction authors.

The quote above comes from Heinlein’s selection of aphorisms, “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long” which were originally published as two intermissions in the 1973 novel “Time Enough for Love.” The aphorisms portray Lazarus’ philosophical, humorous, and sometimes quirky thoughts on social themes. Having lived for more than two thousand years, making him the oldest living human, he no longer finds
life worth living. He only agrees not to end his life for as long as his companion Ira Weatherall will listen to his tales that are actually revealed as his life story.

Although his science fiction stories render vibrant imaginations of time travel and unearthly
technologies, he also repeatedly addressed social themes. He provided a social backdrop to his stories,
maintaining the humanity of his characters despite the futuristic elements that come into play. His
characters also exhibit non-conformist beliefs and attitude to the extent of being morally
questionable. He demands his readers to think and question existing cultural beliefs and morality.
In 1974, the Science Fiction Writers of American named Heinlein its first Science Fiction Writers Grand Master. He also won Hugo Awards for four of his novels, and was nominated for four Nebula Awards. And in 1998, he was inducted in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

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