I have no wish to have a man who doesn’t know me tell me who I am

Writing to a John Presser in July of 1978, science fiction author Robert Heinlein speaks of his disdain for Heinlein in Dimension; a critical analysis of Heinlein’s work – and unauthorised biography of sorts – by Alexei Panshin that was published a decade previous, and which ultimately attracted legal threats from Heinlein. The book, which can be read in its entirety here, has continued to court controversy ever since.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of L. W. Curry.



15 July 1978

Dear Mr. Presser:

I agree with you; I disagree with your friend Paul. Any competent fiction writer can assume many roles, many points of view, any age, either sex. If he can’t do this he had better get into some other trade.

Ask your friend Paul whether or not he figured out ahead of time that the writer James Tiptree, Jr. is in fact a woman.

I agree with you that Paul’s notion is both preposterous and, in most cases, an invasion of privacy.

For years I avoided reading HEINLEIN IN DIMENSION–eventually I needed to for legal reasons. I did not want to read it because I have no wish to have a man who does not know me and who is considerably less than half my age tell me who I am, what I think, and what my evaluations are.

Panshin wrote that while he was in college, and, according to letters I have seen, dashed it off in about a month while getting ready for his semester exams. As may be, he wrote it without ever having laid eyes on me or spoken a word to me.

As to whether or not he succeeded in “analysing” me from my stories, I will limit myself to one item:

He divides my work into three periods: the third he calls my period of “alienation”–to this he assigns a definite starting date.

I have won four Hugos for “best novel,” an unmatched record. Three of these four were voted to me by the fans during that so-called “period of alienation”–and approximately 90% of my total book sales in my entire life were during that same period of “alienation.”

I could go on endlessly–but there isn’t time. This won’t change the mind of your friend; when a man makes up his mind without evidence, no evidence disproving his opinion will change his mind.

All good wishes,

(Signed, ‘Robert A. Heinlein’)