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October 6, 2012

How Robert A. Heinlein handled his fan mail


Wrote Kevin Kelly: "I found this letter in a folder of old correspondence from my days when I was editing at the Whole Earth Catalog. It is from the science fiction master Robert A. Heinlein."

"Heinlein engineered his own nerdy solution to a problem common to famous authors: how to deal with fan mail. In the days before the internet, Heinlein's solution was fabulous. He created a one page FAQ answer sheet [top] — minus the questions. Then he — or rather his wife Ginny — checked off the appropriate answer and mailed it back.While getting a form letter back might be thought rude, it was much better than being ignored, and besides, the other questions you did not ask were also answered! Indeed, it is both remarkable and heartwarming that Heinlein replied at all to most mail. Can you imagine other great authors doing the same — even with a form letter? Heinlein's form is very entertaining to read because you are forced to reconstruct the missing requests."

"But progress marches on, even in science fiction authors' households. Ginny Heinlein said that by 1984, "with the advent of computerization in our household, we no longer use the form letter to answer fan mail. I find that it is possible now, with the computer, to write individual letters in reply to fan mail faster than I could check off the answer on the form."

October 6, 2012 at 08:01 PM | Permalink


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In my SF fanboy days, RAH was a favorite author.

This cheer I find interesting on several levels--most especially the way in which computers (and here we mean the crude personal computers of the mid-1980's!) made even the ticking-off a checklist too much work by comparison; it's more easily done on a PC!

My favorite item is the one about including an SASE. One more victim of technological advance. Though not yet in 1984:  For most of us, email hadn't been "invented" yet, and only letter- and envelope-printing had been computerized. (If you knew your way around a printer, that is.)

== PT

Posted by: PT | Oct 7, 2012 3:23:23 PM

“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.”
― Robert A. Heinlein -

so true

Posted by: sherlock | Oct 6, 2012 10:28:39 PM

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