L. Neil Smith's
Number 66, February 29, 2000
He's Back!

The Return Of The Creature

by L. Neil Smith

Special to TLE

           Well, the hiatus is over at last, and I'm in the middle, just now, of the oddly difficult transition from creating long works of fiction to writing short works of what I sincerely wish wasn't nonfiction. I think some word is in order concerning what I've been up to.
           In mid-October of the next-to-last year of the 20th century, I more or less dropped out of cyberspace and politics to attend to the higher priority of feeding my family and saving my career by finishing a book by the time specified in the contract. I completed The American Zone front to back, on December 5, my daughter's birthday.
           In some ways, my return to my profession was a tremendous release, almost a vacation. Besides The American Zone, I attended to many other projects. I wrote two books in 1999, the other one being The Mitzvah, with JPFO founder and executive director Aaron Zelman. I prepared Forge of the Elders, my poor, truncated two-book Warner trilogy, for republication this April as a single volume by Baen Books. I took steps to revive the seven-book series -- heptalogy as I call it -- that begins with BrightSuit MacBear and Taflak Lysandra.
           At the urging of my stalwart agent/attorney Tom "Hobbyt" Creasing, I started The Steamcoach Pillagers, a North American Confederate western I've wanted to write for 20 years. I adapted "TimePeeper", a movie treatment I've had kicking around almost as long into a long story (cartoonist Rex May wants to call it a "novelito") that you'll see in print next year. Rex and I continued the work of five years (so far) on our outrageous collaboration, Texas ueber Alles.
           A speech I gave to a CSU physics class will turn into both an epic novel and a non-fiction book about asteroids. And I struggled some more with a novel I don't even want to name yet, but that is both a labor of love, and a work of great hope for me and my family.
           Before I knew it, Christmas was upon us, an imperative never to be denied in any house occupied by a 10-year-old. Despite the fact that we're not religious and we observe it as a cultural holiday, it's a busy season, thanks to Winter Wishes, the annual ice show at our local rink. My daughter had a pivotal part. Dressed from head to toe in golden sequins, she was the first skater out onto the ice, under bright lights, to open five performances of The Wizard of Oz.
           Then came the bleakest, dumbest New Year's I can remember. For the sake of my resume as an SF writer and futurist, I'm happy that, months in advance of the biggest non-event since Comet Kahoutek, I got it into public print that Y2K would come to nada. Less predictable was what people -- the governmental subspecies in particular -- might try. Night skies leading up to January 1 seemed especially full of military aircraft, and, as always, there were 10 times as many cops on the street as there ought to be in any free country.
           My little family watched TV in the security of our living room and took a peek at Drudge and other sites every couple of hours. I knew there'd be no technical problem, but kept my 12-gauge within reach beside my best battle rifle -- and my most competent autopistol on my hip -- the whole evening. I imagine many of you spent New Year's the same way. As soon as 2000 came to New Zealand without any ill effects, I felt vindicated in my prediction and we all relaxed and enjoyed our copy of Strange Days.
           So here we are, now, in the last year of what I disagree with the Cato Institute and call the worst century in human history. True, we got Marconi, the Wright Brothers, the internet, and Sarah Michelle Gellar. We also got World War I, World War II, and World War II, Rev. 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, ad nauseum -- call it 150 million steaming corpses -- plus more than 100 million more, murdered by their own governments in acts separate from war. In all, more than a quarter of a billion men, women, and helpless, harmless little kids (the current population of the US) obliterated by something worse than anything it ever claimed to protect us from, a disease masquerading as its own cure.
           But once again, I've digressed. Something people-related about Y2K that was predictable was the reaction, afterward, by the doomsayers, snake oil salesman, survival pimps, and their idiot customers. Not one I'm aware of apologized to a world that hadn't needed their brand of crap or confessed they'd been mistaken (at best) or had cruelly exploited a sad, dying, once-great nation already terrorized and sucked dry by the baby-butchers of Waco.
           Some are still saying that we ain't seen nothing yet (they must have a lot of bean-curd jerky and military surplus tampons left in their basements to palm off on some sucker). The majority are simply pretending the whole thing never happened, that they moved out to the frog-boonies for the fresh air and bought that yellow Honda generator for the aerobic exercise of yanking its cord. Nobody -- with the noble and solitary exception of one good and valued comrade who knows who he is -- has even written to acknowledge that I was right.
           In many ways, that situation reminds me of the political campaign I launched last July 4th. As you may recall, I promised then, that if a million individuals publicly endorsed my candidacy -- along with the platform of Bill of Rights enforcement that was my only reason for undertaking it -- I'd run for President as an independent. Allow me to repeat that: I said I'd run for President as an independent on the condition that a million people endorsed the idea.
           Now the funny thing about that -- like the vanishing Y2K alarmists -- is that somehow, people heard and remembered the promise, but forgot the condition, which remains unfulfilled to this day. People expected me to start acting like a candidate, which I most decidedly am not and never will be unless a million people ask me to be.
           And what did they expect of me as a candidate? They'd liked me well enough when it appeared I'd be different from other candidates. When I turned out actually to be different, that was something else.
           They wanted me to go to conventions when I'd said I'd run as an independent if I ran at all. They wanted me to travel when I'd said I'd confine my efforts to the internet and other electronic media.
           They wanted me to pretend to be things I'm not -- or stop being the things that I've been all my life -- in order to get on TV. They wanted me to "tone down my rhetoric -- they always want me to "tone down my rhetoric" -- when what they'd claimed they'd liked about me before was that I was honest, principled, and above all, plainspoken.
           One old friend even called to beg me to go easy on the LP, as he was one of a group trying to win me that party's nomination. I was well into book-mode by now, or I'd have asked him how I could accede to his request and remain the person he wanted to see nominated.
           They wanted me to "clean up my act". They didn't like it that I was photographed in my favorite red T-shirt at the end of one of the hottest days on record in Fort Collins. They said I looked drunk when I was hot and tired and simply waiting for a table in a restaurant and hadn't even had my goddamned margarita yet. In effect, they said I shouldn't look like a 53-year-old white guy. They ordained that no candidate could wear a beard as scraggly as they thought mine was.
           They even pretended to confusion when I said I wasn't seeking the LP nomination but wouldn't turn it down if it were offered.
           When this sort of nonsense happened for the hundredth time, I asked myself (in the words of P.J. O'Rourke) what the fucking fuck it had to do with Bill of Rights enforcement. The answer is nothing, proof positive that the American political process trivializes everybody and everything. The fact that I have a 10-year-old daughter and two cats is probably more important than what I stand for. What was most dismaying was that I was getting it from libertarians.
           Meanwhile, thanks to the break I had to take to work for a living, a plethora of embarrassing glitches on our web sites, and the fact that everybody has an idea that's just a little bit better (if all the energy expended trying to get me the LP nomination had been spent, instead, gathering endorsements, I'd be President of the Philippines today), the endorsements failed to amount to more than a trickle. We're in the process of sorting them out, but if I have as many as 2,500, I'll probably faint dead away.
           What does this mean?
           Well, it means that Captain Bringdown (who also knows who he is) -- a middle-aged adolescent who made one Great Leap in his lifetime and spent the next three decades doing pathetic Renfield impressions for entities unfit to lick his shower thongs, while sneering at anybody who continued trying to accomplish something real, the renowned pragmatician who handed the LP over to the sleazy con-gang who now run it for personal profit, the shriveled spirit whose response to my announcement last year was a sophomoric e-note predicting I'd never get as many as 10,000 endorsements -- it means that Captain Bringdown gets to snigger at those of us still foolish enough to believe we might win a free country within our lifetimes.
           Personally, I find that humiliating and intolerable, but it's out of my hands. To reiterate, I'm not a candidate, I'm just an individual whose friends have so far failed to convince him to run.
           With my absolute non-candidacy clearly understood, permit me to observe that there isn't a single specimen running for President with any party this year who's fit to be a restroom attendant for the worst of America's Founding Fathers. It's time that we stopped marveling over that, or even being disgusted by it, and actually did something about it, instead. I've done what little one man can, to offer folks a chance, but disappointingly few have taken advantage of it.
           Unfortunately, I don't know how to quit and probably wouldn't if I did. I don't necessarily regard this as a positive trait.
           Over the next few weeks and months, I'll keep my original offer open. We'll fix the glitches and count the endorsements. I'll write regular columns on the issues of the day. At the same time, recalling what it was like to get back to what I was meant to do, I'll keep writing books. I'll also be taking my non-campaign in a slightly different direction now and again, suggesting what life will be like as a consequence of stringent enforcement of the Bill of Rights.
           For the past 50 years, for example, there has been a cheap, simple way to eliminate air pollution with infrastructure already in place, without taking anyone's property away or violating anyone's rights.
           I know how to get ordinary people into space to stay -- performing an ultimate humanitarian act along the way -- not only at no involuntary expense to anyone, but at a profit unimaginably immense.
           Make no mistake: mine is the only political effort that has a chance at achieving an effect. If a million people demand enforcement of the Bill of Rights, it will change everything. No Republican, no Democrat, none of the current crop of minor candidates can make that promise truthfully, especially whoever gets the LP nod. Now that I've exposed the weakness of last cycle's candidate by beating his brains out in opinion polls both online and off, they're ready to switch to a dweeb who wants the party to stop talking about ending the War on Drugs. How much more bankrupt can the LP get?
           Doubtless there will still be those who want to offer advice on the way my hair is cut. For them I have one question: would you rather live as we do now -- continue the futility that has marred the last 30 years -- or create a nation where the Bill of Rights is enforced?
           If it's the latter, help me -- or get the hell out of my way.

L. Neil Smith, author of 24 books and publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise, is wearing his old red t-shirt even as he writes this.

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