L. Neil Smith's
Number 119, April 30, 2001

From: "L. Neil Smith" <lneil@lneilsmith.org>
To: "Eric Husman" <ehusman@zianet.com>
Subject: Re: Napster
Date: Saturday, April 21, 2001 2:13 PM

Eric Husman wrote:

> I agree with your 2 April column in TLE.
>From which sites can I download your complete novels?

Cute try, Eric, but no cigar -- and points off for intellectual dishonesty. The analogy is not a good one, and the fact that you included the word "complete" demonstrates that you are perfectly well aware of it.

To be a good analogy, you would have had to say something like "individual chapters" (analogous to individual album tracks, you see), and the answer then would have been http://www.baen.com -- simply proving my point that Napster served as free advertising for record companies, since that's why Baen puts chapters of my books online.

Better yet, you could have said "individual essays", since (unlike book chapters) those are as freestanding as tracks on an album. The answer then would have been "everywhere" -- put my name in your browser and see for yourself.

Or better yet, [send e-mail to] vin@lvrj.com to order the new essay collection Lever Action ($21.95 plus $6.00 S&H) that having columns everywhere online advertises so well.

From: "Jeff Colonnesi" <jcolonne@flash.net>
To: Schwartz@bitstorm.net
Cc: john@johntaylor.org
Subject: firearm sales to LEOs / government
Date: Sunday, April 22, 2001 12:35 PM

Nice idea, but almost impossible to implement. Remember, under the current laws, those exact same people would be responsible for deciding if the gun store could remain open or renew its license. So as soon as they refused to sell to police or government employees, they would be targeted to be closed down. How? Re-zoning, local laws prohibiting firearm sales within X distance from school, parks, exc.., anonymous tips to the ATF (not necessarily true ones) - take your pick. And the government could easily get public support for shutting them down. Could you imagine the public reaction to a headline that read: "Gun store refuses to sell to police." or "Gun store tells police they are not welcome." It would be talked up immediately that the only conceivable reason they had for refusing to deal with police is that they dealt with so many criminals. In addition, the store would probably face a discrimination lawsuit which, even if they won, would bankrupt them.

All is not lost however, there is simple, safe and immediate thing that gun stores could do:

Stop giving discounts to LEO's.

Almost every gun store gives discounts to active duty police (5% - 10% is common). By stopping that, they can send a message and make a bigger profit in the bargain (revolution at a profit). And the public reaction to a headline that reads: "Gun store refuses to give police discounts." is hardly the same.

Jeff Colonnesi

From: "Shugarts, Keith" <Keith.Shugarts@B2EMarkets.com>
To: TLE@johntaylor.org
Subject: Don't Talk Back
Date: Tuesday, April 24, 2001 2:44 PM

Dear Libertarian Enterprise;

Last June David Boaz, vice president of the CATO Institute, was driving through the cesspool of American Democracy when he was stopped by a police officer for failure to comply with the cities dictate that motorists must wear seat belts. The officer initially was going to issue Mr. Boaz a warning but returned to his motorcycle after Mr. Boaz questioned the direction of law enforcement what with over 300 murders in the district. Mr. Boaz was then issued a ticket for a "tax" $50.00, mostly to pay for paper shuffling bureaucrats, and assessed 2-points so the state regulated insurance companies could "tax" him more. When asked whether it was his comments that had changed the warning into a ticket the officer replied that Mr. Boaz should have kept his mouth shut. Mr. Boax detailed his encounter in the April 15th edition of the Washington Post.

As unsettling as that was, the response to Mr. Boaz's article that sent distinct chills down my spine. Several civic minded citizens wrote in chastising Mr. Boaz for daring to question the officer of the city with one writer offering this slice of homespun wisdom, "I taught my children that you don't argue with umpires or cops because not only can you not win, you're going to lose. Ever seen the strike zone grow on batters who show up the ump?"

And now, five of the nine justices have ruled that it is legal to arrest and handcuff a driver even for crimes punishable only by fines brought about by a woman being arrested, handcuffed, and taken to the police station for driving without a seatbelt. Justice David Souter writing for the majority justices said "The arrest and booking were inconvenient to Atwater, but not so extraordinary as to violate the Fourth Amendment."

The Fourth Amendment states, the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. So one reading that must wonder where Justice Souter can find that a level of inconvenience must be reached before the seizure becomes unreasonable. The sad thing about this is most Americans will applaud this continued erosion of their liberties concerned only that "... that my insurance premium will go up if Mr. Boaz eats his windshield."

Of course this is only one of the dancer in a long Conga-line of assaults on the liberties and freedoms of individuals in the United States. The Supreme Court has already let stand the rights of a police officer to pull over a motorist even with little more than the bad reputation of the driver to go on as evidenced by the decision Maryland vs. Dyson.

This leaves me wondering if I have to carry a side arm to guarantee that my rights and liberties are respected even if the government has declared it illegal for me to do so?

The lesson given here is don't talk back, be a good citizen, and there is a place for America for you.

Perhaps though, there is no longer any place for liberty and freedom.

Yours in Liberty,
Keith Shugarts

From: "Scott Cattanach" <sendtoscott@yahoo.com>
To: "TLE" <tle@johntaylor.org>
Subject: Sheep of the month (or Thinking About Internment)
Date: Wednesday, April 25, 2001 1:09 PM

From John Derbyshire, frequent National Review Online contributor. For those of you with strong stomaches, the whole article was published in Chronicles and is at http://olimu.com/Journalism/Texts/Commentary/Internment.htm

FYI, Derbyshire's wife is from China, and is still in the naturalization process.

"...I guarantee that when the first U.S. carrier is sunk by Chinese action, or the first American city is erased by a Chinese ICBM, Chinese nationals, including those who are U.S. Citizens, will be hustled into camps faster than you can say 'executive order' and will stay there for the duration, whatever the ACLU -- or even the Supreme Court--thinks about it. I hope the camps will not be very uncomfortable, for I shall be there too -- the Derbyshires travel as a family. I also hope that I shall be able to maintain sufficient detachment to understand that a responsible U.S. government really has no choice in the matter."

From: "Shugarts, Keith" <Keith.Shugarts@B2EMarkets.com>
To: TLE@johntaylor.org
Subject: Powell's Finger
Date: Friday, April 27, 2001 1:52 PM

Not missing a chance to "spank" Hollywood, Foreign Minister Colin the Fickle, one of King George the Dim's advisors, decided to chastise Robert Downey Jr. for his contribution to the problems in Columbia and other Andean nations. Foreign Minister Colin forgetting of course that the only reason "Drug Lords" and their ilk exist at all is because of the prohibition the United States has placed on illicit and illegal drugs and the only harm Robert Downey Jr. has caused is to himself and viewers of Ally McBeal.

The only lessons that the United States seems to have learned from Prohibition is that the government wasn't taking enough advantage of the situation of prosper from declaring certain substances illegal. Of course back in the 1920s the federal government was not nearly as entangled around our necks as it is today.

Foreign Minister Colin stood before congress and told them that wealthy American drug users are a main cause of the cocaine scourge ravaging Colombia and other Latin American countries. Foreign Minister Colin, testifying before a congressional panel, said the main reason Andean nations faced difficulties in curtailing the production of narcotics, particularly cocaine, was the huge demand for drugs in the United States."The real problem in the region is not caused by the region, it is caused by what happens on the streets of New York, the streets of all our other major cities," Foreign Minister Colin told a House of Representatives budget subcommittee.

Colin the Fickle was obviously asking for more money to combat the drug scourge that the government created so the government can tax you more, put more police on the streets to pull you out of your cars and arrest you then search your car for those drugs that they've declared illegal thereby obliterating any 4th Amendment protections you might have had.

Yours in Liberty,

From: "L. Neil Smith" <lneil@lneilsmith.org>
Date: Saturday, April 21, 2001 3:21 PM



$7.99 ISBN# 0-671-31982-5

I've been meaning to get this done for some time, but my work on another novel prevented it until now. My big 2000 novel Forge of the Elders is out in paperback from Baen Books, and I thought you might appreciate knowing about it.

Rather than blowing my own horn, allow me to present three reviews Forge of the Elders received when it appeared in hardcover, two by T.L. Knapp when it won the Freedom Book of the Month Award for May, 2000 (excellent birthday present, Tom!) and the Freedom Book of the Year Award for the same year. I'm also including William E. Howell's generous review for Prometheus, recently reprinted when Forge of the Elders became a finalist for the Prometheus Award.

We'll find out more about that in September.

* * *


Capitalist monsters from outer space!

Well ... not exactly. Turns out they're not monsters, but sapient individualists. And they come from all of the various alternate universes where evolution took a different fork in the road and the crustaceans or the dinosaurs ended up as the dominant and intelligent species.

L. Neil Smith is known for his brand of no-holds-barred space opera centered around a libertarian theme. Forge of the Elders "seriously discusses life-and-death ethics, epistemology, metaphysics (the Aristotelian kind), physics, evolution, the authoritarian personality, and politics of unanimous consent," the author said in a recent letter. "In many ways, it's my most ambitious literary undertaking so far."

I think it may be his downright best in terms of grabbing a reader and yanking him down into the suspension of disbelief that fiction requires, too.

Smith predicted the fall of the Soviet Union, but in this saga, communism made a big worldwide comeback. The protagonists are the captain and crew of three mothballed space shuttles approaching an asteroid dubbed 5023 Eris on a mission of exploration and exploitation on behalf of the United World Soviet. But someone has beat them to it ... a culture composed of sapient nautiloids, obsequious reptiles, and inscrutable arachnids -- and rescued humans from a civilization predating our known history.

They're individualists, they're capitalists, and they're already there; what's more, their technology is of such superiority that it wouldn't be difficult for them to wipe out three space shuttles, their misfit crews, and perhaps the home planet before lunch. Naturally, the Soviet apparatchiki aren't hearing it though, which leaves Captain Guttierez, Major Reille y Sanchez, and company in a delicate situation. Hilarity and philosophy ensue. Only L. Neil Smith would have the temerity to have a character ask, with a straight face, "Who is John Galt?" And he has the talent to carry it off.

The characters -- from Mister Thoggosh (nautiloid "Proprietor" of 5023 Eris) to Rosalind Nguyen, chief medic of the lamented expedition -- face a series of murders, delicate diplomatic situations, and the ultimate mystery: the origin and fate of "the Eldest," a sapient race that came and went before all others. They may be Smith's most well-rounded cast.

Don't let the good humor, the tension of mystery and the empathy Smith generates for his characters obscure the depth of Smith's exposition of ideas.

This book is a winner from every angle.

* * *


One is tempted just to say, "L. Neil Smith wrote it", and let it go as that. After all, that pretty much guarantees it will be a rollicking good adventure, openly espousing liberty and damning all the "usual suspects" who work against our freedoms. In this case, the novel is particularly satisfying, as it is the unified completion of a trilogy L. Neil began years ago, which was unceremoniously cancelled by its publisher after the second book, for being "too extreme".

Forge of the Elders tells the tale of a mid-21st century shoestring expedition from an impoverished and socialism-dominated Earth to a strange asteroid. Upon arrival, they discover that it is inhabited by numerous intelligent species from alternate historical realities on Earth, all of whom are devout anarcho-capitalists. Smith gives free rein to his imaginative faculties in dreaming up what sentient beings would look and act like, had they emerged via evolutionary branches as different as birds, mollusks, trilobites, sea scorpions, and more.

The immense (534 pages) tale progresses through a multiple murder mystery and the solving of several fascinating scientific enigmas to the expected happy ending. Oh yeah, there's a space battle in this book, too! There's even a tie-in to the North American Confederacy storyline. Many unique characters are presented, especially Eichra Oren, the p'Nan moral debt assessor, and his talking dog, Sam. Eichra Oren experiences love and tragic loss, not to mention the conflict between his personal desire and his moral responsibility. I don't want to go into anymore plot details, lest I spoil some of the wonderful surprises in this book.

All in all, Forge of the Elders is fine, fun story, chock full of good philosophical points and interesting characters. If you like any of L. Neil Smith's previous novels, you will love this one, particularly as it packs even more of a personal and philosophical wallop than usual.


* * *


Choosing a Freedom Book of the Year has been difficult for me. In 2000, I've been privileged to review twelve volumes that all stand head and shoulders above the norm. I've seen astounding first novels (David Calderwood's Revolutionary Language), moving histories (Jim Powell's Triumph of Liberty"), groundbreaking theoretical works (J.C. Lester's Escape from Leviathan), and more. What the decision finally came down to, for me, was a simple question: Which of these twelve books will stick with me? Which one of them would I think about on a desert island, even if I couldn't take it with me?

And thus I bring you, as Freedom Book of the Year, L. Neil Smith's Forge of the Elders.

I confess to a certain amount of prejudice in the matter. I grew up, after all, as a science fiction fan, and not just any kind of science fiction fan. I thrilled to Robert Heinlein's juveniles, and later to the grandiose space opera of E.E. "Doc" Smith. To this day, while I can read and enjoy the cold, matte-black maunderings of cyberpunk or of science fiction novels so "hard" that you need a physics degree to really understand them, what I really like is a larger-than-life hero or heroine, villains so irredeemably evil that their presence on the page chills one's blood, and lots of action.

And spaceships. We mustn't forget: lots of spaceships.

Forge of the Elders is all this and more: the tale of the asteroid 5023 Eris and those who love -- or at least want to control -- her. Smith starts off with three (three!) spaceships, or space shuttles at any rate, and it only gets better from there. More spaceships, more captains (one whose personality and elan in combat with ethical dilemmas makes James Tiberius Kirk look like the tight-ass, tin-horn authoritarian he is, another who happens to be a mollusk the size of a Volkswagen), more conundrums and more good humor than you can shake a tightly collimated ionizing laser beam at.

Smith writes space opera like ... well, analogies fail me here. Like a rodeo cowboy rides bulls, strapping himself to the story and letting it go hell for leather, only the trip is longer than eight seconds and you actually get somewhere useful. Or maybe like the astronauts of the old Apollo program, who sat atop a pile of explosive fuel big enough to blow a city-size crater in the earth, and managed, despite the bureaucratic meddling and red tape, to make it take them into space -- to the moon, even -- instead.

Wrapped inside the big ball of fascinating yarn that Smith calls Forge of the Elders is a philosophical knitting needle, an audacious reclamation of a philosophy that brings sneers to the lips of academicians and demagogues even today: Social Darwinism. That anyone, in this day and age, would attempt to redeem the philosophy made famous in the 19th century by Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner is remarkable in itself. That Smith succeeds not only in redeeming it, but in extending it and making it relevant, is key to my selection of Forge of the Elders as Freedom Book of the Year.

Smith has spoken to these issues in the past, most notably in his speech, "A New Approach to Social Darwinism." In Forge of the Elders he fleshes out his notion of the twin roles of adversity and diversity in the survival and improvement of species, and links these factors with both the emergence of sapience and the desirability of human liberty.

My bookshelves are full of well-plotted, entertaining novels, and they overflow with well-argued, logical treatises on economics, philosophy and politics. Only a very few books, by a select few authors, manage to be both successfully. A number of those books are by Smith, and Forge of the Elders holds pride of place among them. This trilogy -- in one omnibus volume -- is a must for anyone who cherishes both a great story and an intellectual challenge.

* * *

If I were to add one thing, it's that, whatever else Forge of the Elders may be, it can serve as the same sort of introduction to a philosophy of individual liberty as my earlier books, The Probability Broach and Pallas. The difference is that Forge of the Elders addresses more deeply fundamental moral issues.

Forge of the Elders is available right now in bookstores, grocery stores, and drugstores everywhere. If your local emporium doesn't have it, ask them to order it. Tell them the bizarre and wonderful cover by Bob Eggleton -- featuring a longhaired, bearded astronaut drinking a beer with a giant squid -- should sell the book all by itself. It's also available at Amazon.com [hardback or paperback] and, most happily, at http://www.LaissezFaireBooks.com. If you like it, you might drop my publisher a note at jim_baen@baen.com and tell him you want to see more books by yours truly.

Thanks a lot,
L. Neil Smith

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