L. Neil Smith's

Number 10, July 1996

Is Someone Collecting Ambroses?

By L. Neil Smith

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         When my first novel, The Probability Broach, was published back in 1979, I was delighted to receive a note from Robert A. Heinlein which said, "L. Neil Smith ... J. Neil Schulman ... F. Paul Wilson .... Is someone collecting Ambroses?"
         Heinlein was paraphrasing this nation's first UFOlogist, Charles Fort, I believe, who, asked about the mysterious disappearance in 1912 of journalist Ambrose Bierce, blandly replied, "Well, perhaps on that particular occasion, somebody was just collecting Ambroses." It was Heinlein's way of referring to the number of Libertarian science fiction writers who (as H. Allen Smith put it), "part their names on the left" and asking if this was more than merely a coincidence.
         Lately, I've been forced to consider a similar reply to my own questions about an interesting phenomenon I've been observing. The matter concerns some highly anomalous behavior on the part of the presumed liberaloids managing America's mass media. It all began, I think, with ultraliberal First Amendment advocate (and legendary jazz critic) Nat Hentoff, writing in his syndicated newspaper column an articulate argument in support of the battered Second Amendment.
         Yeah, I had the same reaction, too.
         Only a few days afterward, the Boston Globe, of all newspapers, printed an opinion column warning both the Powers That Be and the Powers That Wanna Be that gun control laws generate more violence than they prevent, and that, in addition, the Draconian enforcement policies they require probably represent an unacceptable danger to the free market system. At about the same time, the Discover Channel cablecast what I've heard described by politically reliable watchers as a balanced documentary on the meaning and importance of the Second Amendment.
         (For years I've been predicting that the Democrats and Republicans would eventually swap sides on the issue of gun ownership, and Republicans have been backstabbing gun owners with an amiable promptness and enthusiasm. It's very gratifying, now, to see the Democrats beginning to keep their part of the bargain.)
         Next, an X-Files character made a long speech, easily interpretable as Libertarian, in which he asserted baldly that the government operates on the explicit principle that if you give people happiness, you can take away their freedom. Then, a network "made-for-TV" movie concerning the FBI atrocities at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, focused primarily on that government agency's stupidity and incompetence.
         Then, a recurring Star Trek: Deep Space Nine character defected to the anti-government Maquis (he was not the first one to do so), and made a long speech, easily interpretable as Libertarian, in which he condemned the United Federation of Planets for having callously manipulated and destroyed the lives of innocent individuals without their consent and compared it -- unfavorably -- to the ant-like race of cybernetically-enhanced communists known as the Borg.
         And now, in Independence Day, which I was fortunate enough to see on Independence Day, we were handed a whole series of rather loud and explicit messages which I must confess I haven't altogether absorbed yet, overwhelmed as I am by what appears to be a joyous celebration of human competence and freedom containing not a single mistake, even from a strictly Libertarian viewpoint.
         Finally, if you'll pardon a personal reference, that first novel of mine, The Probability Broach (esteemed by many as the definitive Libertarian tale and a work that put the movement on the map for thousands of individuals) is about to be republished this October after what have been, for me, 17 starkly frustrating years of hearing practically every other day how it has changed somebody's life profoundly when he found a tattered copy in a used bookstore. Meanwhile, John Ross's Unintended Consequences has become a national best-seller no matter how hard the establishment tries to ignore or suppress it. And Brad Linaweaver proudly informs me that he's managed to work in references to Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises in his highly popular Sliders and Doom novelizations.
         Is someone collecting Ambroses?
         Politically speaking, we're compelled by circumstances to resign ourselves to the unpleasant fact that 1996 isn't going to be a very good year for the cause of individual liberty. Not with the Democratic Fascist Party being led by a terrorist mass-murderer and his crooked wife, Lady Macbeth, the Socialist Republican Party opting to run a retarded zombie for President, and the Drool-chinned Stumblebum Party (oops, make that "we" Libertarians) giving a spastic nod and a belch to an electoral cross between Werner "EST" Erhard and Immanuel Velikovsky.
         Culturally, however, we may be experiencing the first bashful photons at the end of that very long, dark tunnel we call the 20th century. This could be a vastly more important phenomenon than anything that comes to pass in the political arena this year. After all, if this miserable, bloodsoaked century in chains -- at least the half of it I've lived through so far -- has taught us nothing else, it's that you can't win a "culture war" if you ain't got any culture.
         And for the culture of liberty, 1996 is proving to be a very good year, indeed.

L. Neil Smith is publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise.

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