Science fiction author Heinlein honored as famous Missourian

Robert Heinlein

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Lawmakers on Tuesday inducted science fiction writer Robert Heinlein to the Hall of Famous Missourians to a cheering crowd of fans who call themselves “Heinlein’s children.”

The Missouri native won science fiction awards for some of his most famous works including “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Starship Troopers,” a story about a war against arachnid-like aliens that later was adapted for film.

Fans, including a state lawmaker, said his work also inspired readers to pursue careers in science and space exploration. State Rep. T.J. Berry, of Kearney near Kansas City, said Heinlein encouraged others to “strive for the stars, for the moon” and “for what’s next.”

“Our devotion to this man must seem odd to those outside of the science fiction field, with spaceships and ray guns and bug-eyed monsters,” Heinlein Society President Keith Kato said. “But to Heinlein’s children, the writing was only the beginning of doing.”

Donors to the Heinlein Society and the Heinlein Prize Trust paid for a bronze bust of Heinlein, which will be displayed at the Capitol.

Heinlein joins 45 other Missourians honored with busts in the Capitol. Others include Mark Twain, Dred Scott, and Ginger Rogers, as well as more controversial figures such as Rush Limbaugh.

The House speaker traditionally selected inductees, but Heinlein was picked after public nomination and voting. The new process followed controversy when former Speaker Steve Tilley inducted commentator Limbaugh, a choice criticized by Democrats and women’s rights activists.

Heinlein was born in 1907 in Butler and raised in Kansas City. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1929 and served for several years until he was found medically unfit to continue and retired in 1934.

A science-fiction magazine published his first story in 1939. He continued writing for decades and died in 1988.

Amy Baxter, who came from Atlanta for the ceremony, said she read Heinlein’s books as a child and wrote to the author and his wife asking them to take her on as an adopted granddaughter.

Baxter said was inspired by Heinlein characters including a female doctor and a “feisty redhead who blew things up.” She went on to become a pediatric emergency physician.