Letter to a Young Reader

by L. Neil Smith
[email protected]

Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

Dear Becky,

I’m extremely sorry to have taken so long getting back to you. Our family has been as busy with SkateFest 2002 as I imagine yours has been. Your mom and dad tell me that you were disappointed to discover, having read my novels Brightsuit MacBear and Taflak Lysandra, that there weren’t any more Mac and Elsie adventures in print for you to enjoy.

Please excuse me for feeling just a little bit flattered by your disappointment. In another sense, I’m even more disappointed than you are. I had tremendous plans for Mac and Elsie, myself, of which these two books were meant to be only a beginning. I’m going to share some of those plans with you now, and tell you how the current, incomplete, extremely frustrating, and totally unsatisfactory situation came to be.

There were to have been seven books, altogether, in what I call the “MacBear-Lysandra Heptalogy”. As you’ve probably already figured out, there are four main characters, MacDougall Bear, his alien friend Pemot, the sapient coyote G. Howell Nahuatl, and his adopted daughter, Elsie. Their adventures begin on the planet Majesty, on the Sea of Leaves.

My plan was to “braid” these four characters into seven stories, each complete in itself, but also tied together by the larger mystery of the “Hooded Seven”. In the third book, Flintknapper MacBear, Mac and Howell look for Elsie on another very odd planet, “Excelsior”, where children grow up in an artificial Stone Age, progress through the Bronze Age, and through other historic eras, so that by the time they’ve grown up — unlike people in our culture — they understand how everything in their civilization works and appreciate each step of progress.

In Lamviin Lysandra Elsie and Pemot travel to his world, Sodde Lydfe, where they visit his Uncle Mav, the hero of an earlier book of mine, Their Majesties Bucketeers and help him defeat an ancient enemy. (There were originally supposed to be two more books about Mav, too.)

Almighty Nahuatl, pairs Howell and Pemot, who investigate the strangest alien I’ve ever written about, a native of one of the strangest worlds I’ve ever written about, and pick up a fifth major character, a naturally-evolved cybernetic entity they call “Anton Mesmer”.

Krakenslayer MacBear, teams Mac and Elsie up on a world with two wildly different kinds of ocean — seawater on top, and below that, a liquid (which really exists) that humans can actually breathe. This is the first time they’ve met, and they don’t like each other much, at first. You probably already suspect that situation will eventually change.

Finally, in Sevenhunter Lysandra, all five characters find each other at long last, bck where it all began, on Majesty’s Sea of Leaves, and together they solve the amazing mystery of the Hooded Seven.

Becky, when I created these stories, I had a literay agent in New York who turned out not to be very bright. I wanted him to negotiate a contract for me that would include all seven books — which would have meant steady employment for yours truly, in an extremely unsteady line of work, and a guarantee that all seven of the books would eventually get published. But my agent’s bright idea was that we should sell the novels two at a time to some publisher, and after the first two were a runaway success, we could hold out for more money for the books that followed.

Unfortunately, the first two were not a runaway success. My books usually aren’t. Instead, they have tremendous staying power in the market. People go on buying them for many years after they’re first published, replacing books they’ve worn out, or have given or lent to others.

That suited me. I wanted these books to be like L. Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz” stories, with one generation after another introducing them to their children. The publisher didn’t see it that way. (I don’t think they ever really understood what I was trying to achieve with the MacBear-Lyandra Heptalogy — and might have really hated it if they did.) Also, they wanted my books to sell out in a few weeks, exactly like magazines on a newsstand. So they “lost interest” after the second book, and I never got an opportunity to write the other five.

Since then, I’ve tried — for fourteen long years — persuading other publishers that they should give Mac and Elsie a chance, so far without much success. I think my biggest problem is that these books involve ideas that “sophisticated” eastern publishers believe are too old-fashioned, ideas like self-reliance, individual responsibility, and honor. These books urge young people to think for themselves. And, as you’ve probably noticed, they aren’t particularly “politically correct”.

But they concern some very important matters, for example, a young man, brought up by his evil grandfather, trying to learn the truth about the way his folks died, and discovering a lost legacy along the way.

Or a young girl who hates the way she looks, learning that what’s inside her — intelligence, courage — counts for a lot more than her appearance.

I’ll keep on trying, though, until, one way or another, you get to read the other five books — even if it has to be to your own future children. If you, or anybody else, is interested in helping, you might try writing to the publishers of your own favorite books, whoever they might be, suggesting that they should pick up the MacBear-Lysandra Heptalogy.

Who knows what could happen?

Thanks for your interest, Becky, it’s been a pleasure writing to you.

My very best regards,



Reprinted from The Libertarian Enterprise for July 29, 2002

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