For authors as notable as the late Robert Heinlein, the practice of replying to fan-mail can be an incredibly time consuming affair. Some take the easy route and don’t respond at all, whilst others make a valiant effort to reply to as many as humanly possible. Up until 1984 – at which point ‘the advent of computerization‘ negated the need for such a method – Heinlein sat somewhere in the middle and sent back a copy of the following form letter to each fan, with certain responses ticked where applicable. Whilst not as satisfying as a handwritten letter, its quirky personal touch certainly would’ve brought a smile to the faces of many recipients and more than trumps a signed photo.
Robert A. Heinlein
Care of Mr. Lurton Blassirigame
60 East 42nd Street, Suite 1131
New York, N.Y. 10017
An ever-increasing flood of mail forced me to choose between writing letters and writing fiction. But I read each letter sent to me and check its answer.
( ) Thanks for your kind words. You have made my day brighter.
( ) You say that you have enjoyed my stories for years. Why did you wait until you disliked one story before writing to me?
( ) Renshaw: Saturday Evening Post, You’re Not As Smart As You Could Be, April 17th, 24th, and May 1st, 1948.
( ) Essay Mental Telegraphy, Mark Twain’s Works, Harper & Brothers
( ) Don’t send books to be autographed; too many have failed to reach me. Registering or insuring is no answer; the post office is a 30-mile round trip.
( ) Story ideas come from everywhere and anything & writers are self-taught. The book WRITER’S MARKET tells how to prepare manuscripts & lists markets.
( ) My agent handles all business; your letter has been sent to him.
( ) I don’t discuss my colleagues’ works or my own. A novelist writes from many viewpoints; opinions expressed even by a first-person character are not necessarily those of the author. Fiction is sold as entertainment, not as fact.
( ) The item you want is herewith/not available/: Ask your reference librarian.
( ) I don’t sell books. All my books are in print & can be bought or ordered at any bookstore or directly from publishers. Bookstores have “in-print“ lists.
( ) I get 4 or 5 or more requests each week for help in class assignments, term papers, theses, or dissertations. I can’t cope with so many & bave quit trying.
( ) It is not just for a student’s grade to depend on the willingness or capacity of a stranger to help him with his homework. I am ready to discuss this with your teacher, principal, or school board.
( ) Science fiction: stories that would cease to exist if elements involving science or technology were omitted. For full discussion see my lecture in THE SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL, Advent:Publishers. Chicago.
( ) Who’s Who in America; Encyclopaedia Britannica 1974; IN SEARCH OF WONDER, chapter 7, Damon Knight, Advent:Publishers; SEEKERS OF TOMORROW, chapter 11, Sam Moskowitz, World Publishing Company; Current Biography magazine; reference books about authors. I don’t discuss private life, politics, religion, philosophy
( ) Your question: Yes/No/No comment/My publishers announce new works/
( ) Please do not write to me again.
( ) Thanks for the stamped & addressed envelope-a rare courtesy today.
( ) Pressure of work causes me to avoid interviews, questionnaires, radio & television appearances, public speaking.
( ) For legal reasons I do not read unpublished manuscripts.
( ) Don’t plan to call at our home; we work very long hours every day of the year.
( ) Your letter was most welcome!—loaded with friendliness and with no requests or demands. You suggested that no answer was expected but I must tell you how much it pleased me. I wish you calm seas, following winds, and a happy voyage through life.
Robert A. Heinlein, by ____