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  • Influence of the Science Fiction Writings of Robert A. Heinlein on Polyamory

    originally published by Serolynne, March 21, 2005

    The concept behind polyamory, or the lifestyle of openly and honestly loving more than one person at a time, has been around for much longer than the word itself.  But with the advent of the internet and a term to draw people together, polyamory has become a movement of its own. The Ravenheart family, who formed a ‘nest’ and a church based on the writings of Robert A. Heinlein, are frequently credited with coining the term ‘polyamorous’. Because a word was created, people of like minds are now able to partake in a community that has resulted from the polyamory movement. Even today, more than 40 years after the influential works of Heinlein were published, people still point to reading Heinlein’s science fiction writings as the catalyst that brought them to exploring polyamorous lifestyles.

    Robert A. Heinlein is a recognized science fiction writer, who wrote short stories, novellas and novels from 1939 until 1987 . His writings often questioned various social and political norms.

    In 1961, Heinlein published Stranger in a Strange Land, about a human raised on Mars who returns to Earth, bringing along some alternative views on sexuality, relationships and spirituality.  “Robert Heinlein depicts a group where bacchanalia, mate-swapping, and communal living are wholly moral”. The fictional Martian, Valentine Michael Smith, formed the Church of All Worlds for his followers who subscribed to his theories on spirituality and relationships. Nesting, or forming intricate webs of intimate connections in a group of church members, was presented as a valid social structure in the book.

  • Scope of the Term "Polyamory"

     

    No single written definition of "polyamory" has universal acceptance. It is generally agreed that polyamory involves multiple consensual, loving relationships (or openness to such), but beyond that the term is as ambiguous as the word love itself. 

    Some object to the idea that one must currently be participating in multiple relationships to be considered polyamorous. Others would consider their relational outlook polyamorous, regardless of whether they happen to be single or in an exclusive relationship at the time. A relationship is more likely to be called "polyamorous" if at least one relationship is long-term, involves some sort of commitment (e.g. a formal ceremony), and involves shared living arrangements and/or finances, but none of these criteria are necessary or definitive.