L. Neil Smith's
Will Mac and Elsie Ride Again?
by L. Neil Smith
Exclusive to TLE
Dear friends and readers ...
This message represents something of an experiment.
It isn't every day an author sends a book proposal to his readers. Yet a formal proposal for the series of books this message describes has been presented, over the past few years, to just about every major publisher of science fiction, none of whom showed a glimmer of interest in it, although they sometimes held the proposal for months, or even years.
This project is close to my heart, not just because of another author to whom it's meant as something of a tribute, but because of the good I believe it can do. I have a 12-year-old daughter. I know how hard it is to find quality reading material for her that reflects the values I'm trying to bring her up with. Although there's nothing very political in them, and little preachment of any kind, these are, nonetheless, libertarian books (or will be) for libertarian parents to give to their children in the hope of making them libertarians, as well.
In books that we've written together and speeches that we've made separately, my friend and partner Aaron Zelman and I have been trying to encourage Americans to create a "Bill of Rights culture". Do that, we've always said, and the politics become easy. And think how much easier that first task would be, if we started with readers who were young.
About 15 years ago, I began writing a series of seven novels meant to be read and enjoyed by "young adults" -- and grownups alike -- in a tradition established by Robert A. Heinlein, following his dictum that the way to write such a novel is to create a good story for adults and then "remove the sex". I grew up on Heinlein's "juveniles", myself, and wanted to see if I was up to giving them company on the world's bookshelves.
My "MacBear-Lysandra Heptalogy" will consist of seven freestanding science fiction mystery adventures, set in the Galactic Confederacy of my earlier novel, Tom Paine Maru, that also tell an eighth, overall story, end with a glimpse of yet another mystery, and just the vaguest hint of romance between the two principal characters, MacDougall Bear and Elsie Nahuatl, a human boy and girl, who share their interstellar exploits with an assortment of strange and wonderful characters -- in a manner slightly reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz -- including a cybernetically enhanced coyote, an appealing and extremely alien scientist, and a "virtual being" who evolved on a ferromagnetic planet.
The characters will be "braided" into the series: characters A and B in the first book; characters C and D in the second; A and C in the third, B and D in the fourth, until every possible combination is realized and I bring all five characters together for a seventh and final adventure.
The first two novels, BrightSuit MacBear and Taflak Lysandra, were published in 1988. I don't think the publisher ever understood them or how to market them. I wanted them presented as science fiction for adults and for "young readers", showing up in both places in bookstores. I was led to believe that a special effort would be made in that connection, but in the end, it wasn't, which was too bad. I'd always thought the MacBear-Lysandra Heptalogy could become something of a literary landmark, once the whole thing had found its way into print.
I'd also wanted to sell all seven books under a single contract, sacrificing bigger advances I might get for later books, if the series were successful, for three to five years of something resembling job security. From my point of view, it was a good trade, but my agent at the time "knew better" and wouldn't have it. He wanted to peddle the books in pairs, theoretically jacking up the advances as we went along. (It wasn't the first time he was wrong; his "knowing better" was the reason it took me more than a decade to get the third volume of Forge of the Elders into print.) As it turned out, the first two books were unsuccessful (the publisher didn't have any idea what I was trying to do with them, nor any incentive to promote them as leading elements of a seven-book series) and the remaining five volumes never got written.
Now, for the first time publicly anywhere, I'm presenting you with a synopsis (see the link below) of the MacBear-Lysandra Heptalogy, the kind of treatment I've used to sell all of my 23 books to publishers. They represent an artform in themselves. I've always thought it was a pity they were only seen by authors, agents, and editors. (Warning: the synopsis contains "spoilers".) If the idea of these books appeals to you, there's something you can do -- a couple of somethings, actually.
Look around your home at the books you like most. Make a note of who published them and what their addresses are (if you can't find addresses in the books, try the World Wide Web). Forward this message to the publishers of your favorite books so that they can see the synopsis.
It's not a bad deal. They'll have two books "in the can" and five more coming from an author with a track record. One of the puzzling aspects of this project is that I've never demanded lots of money for it, just enough to feed my family and pay the bills while I get the writing done.
What's more, at a moment when book sales, worldwide, are flat or actually on the downslide -- but J.K. Rowling, with her Harry Potter novels, has managed, singlehandedly, to increase children's book sales by a whopping 36% -- the seven MacBear-Lysandra books represent an unprecedented opportunity for the right publisher to "grab the golden snitch".
A problem I may have had with some publishers is that these books are politically incorrect in an age of Zero Tolerance for individual liberty. The first involves a boy of about 15 reclaiming a stolen legacy that includes his dead father's personal sidearm. The second is about a little girl of about the same age who routinely travels to strange and dangerous places with her father and always carries a pair of pistols. Both kids live in a civilization where none of that is very remarkable.
Contrary to the ignorant and bigoted views of mass media and the government, that's the kind of civilization we need to establish, if only to keep atrocities like the Columbine massacre and the September 11 hijackings from happening again. So if you know of some individual, group, or smaller and more courageous "flyover country" publisher willing to underwrite such a project, please put them in touch with me.
The MacBear-Lysandra Heptalogy synopsis is about eight times longer than this letter. Rather than filling up your Inbox with it, here's a link to where it appears on my own personal website, "The Webley Page":
Have fun, and thanks for "listening",
L. Neil Smith
If you like Scott Bieser's cartoons, you can get them on t-shirts, mouse pads, totes, or mugs at http://www.cafepress.com/cp/store/store.aspx?storeid=libertyart