Robert Heinlein (July 7, 1907 - May 8, 1988) was one of the most influential and, at times, controversial authors of "hard" science fiction. Most of his works, including short stories, have been continuously in print in many languages since their initial appearance and are still available as new paperbacks years after his death. Known towards the end of his career as the "dean of science fiction," he set a high standard for science and engineering plausibility that many contemporaries could not emulate. Heinlein was the first science-fiction writer to break into mainstream general magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s with unvarnished science fiction, and he was among the first authors of bestselling novel-length science fiction in the 1960s. For many years Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke were known as the Big Three of science fiction. He won seven Hugo Awards, three of them retrospectively, as well as the first Grand Master Award given by the Science Fiction Writers of America for lifetime achievement.
The major themes of Heinlein's work were social: radical individualism, libertarianism, solipsism, religion, the relationship between physical and emotional love, and speculation about unorthodox family relationships. His iconoclastic approach to these themes has led to wildly divergent perceptions of his works. His 1959 novel Starship Troopers was excoriated by some as being fascist. His 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land, on the other hand, put him in the unexpected role of pied piper to the sexual revolution and counterculture.
The English language has absorbed several words from his fiction, including "grok," meaning "to understand something so thoroughly that it becomes part of the observer." During his lifetime, beginning with his very first works in the later 1930s, he was also a major influence on many other writers, who tried to emulate, with varying degrees of success, the apparently effortless skill with which he blended speculative concepts and fast-paced storytelling.