Starship Soldier - Tor/Forge Blog

What’s Your Favorite Heinlein Novel, David Drake?

Cover of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (November 1959), illustrating Starship Soldier by Robert A. HeinleinStarship Soldier

My parents gave me a subscription to an SF magazine for my 14th birthday, September 24, 1959. Rather than to choose the magazine themselves or to spoil the surprise by asking me, they bought the current issue of each SF magazine on the local newsstand and gave them to me so that I could pick the one I wanted. The October, 1959, issue of F&SF was among the options.

October, 1959 was F&SF‘s tenth anniversary issue; possibly the best issue of what I now believe was (during the ’50s) the best SF magazine of all time. There was a lot to like in it, but the first part of Heinlein’s Starship Soldier (the serialized version of Starship Troopers) was what convinced me that I wanted a subscription to F&SF.

In 1973 I was writing what became the first story in the Hammer’s Slammers series. (I didn’t intend it as a series at the time.) I had arrived at opinions about society which were different from those which Heinlein advocated; and I knew things about ground war which Heinlein, whose military service was that of a peacetime naval officer, would never know.

Due to what was probably a subconscious warning, I picked up a paperback copy of Starship Troopers and reread the opening chapter. I then went back over my story to make sure that none of it was flatly plagiarized from Heinlein.

I don’t know how obvious it is to anyone else, but it was extremely obvious to me: I could not have written The Butcher’s Bill had I not read Starship Soldier so long before.

David Drake can be found online at


Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve (978-0-7653-1960-9 / $29.99) will be available from Tor Books on August 17th 2010.


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