Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 628, July 17, 2011

"There is nothing wrong with America today except that it's
run by and for the criminal class and always has been."

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A Thing of Shapes to Come
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

A few days ago, I was visiting with a friend about what I want to do, literarily speaking, after I'm finished with Sword of p'Na and Ares.

While I still plan to write Beautiful Dreamer, a fourth volume, full of surprises, of the "Ngu Family Saga", and my unconscious mind apparently thinks I'm going to do a sequel to Sweeter Than Wine, because it's already given it a name—Only the Young Die Good—and started writing the damn thing for me, I recently realized that it's time now to do something that I've been threatening to do for years.

In fact, a couple of things.


In the late 1980s, I decided to follow Robert Heinlein's example and write a series of novels aimed specifically at what publishers call "young adults". Heinlein's formula for what he called "juveniles" was to write a good, satisfying adult novel and then "remove the sex". Of course the way it really works is not to put the sex in to begin with.

Sometimes it's difficult to tell which are Heinlein's regular novels and which are his juveniles. I started in sixth grade with Farmer in the Sky, Tunnel in the Sky, and Starman Jones, although The Door Into Summer and Double Star are my favorites. Unlike other writers, the Old Man never wrote down to his audience. That made him a great mentor for kids of my age, but I think it's fair to say that he was still looking for what he eventually became, and that what he had to teach us all consisted more of attitude than ideology.

With no disrespect intended, and largely thanks to Heinlein, I knew what I was from the time I was 15. I wanted to be more specific—it seemed to me the times called for it—and I wanted all my "juveniles" to be consistent with one another, that is, set in the same universe, involving many of the same incidental characters and situations, since I thought they might stick with readers better that way.

I began with the setting I'd built for Tom Paine Maru, amidst the great fleet of the Galactic Confederacy (successor to the North American Confederacy of The Probability Broach), giant ships engaged in exploration, trade—and sabotaging every government they come across.

The idea was to take a small number of characters and "braid" them into seven books, a "heptalogy", as near as I could figure it in the dim and ancient days before Wikipedia. The first would involve two characters A and B, the second would feature C and D, the third A and D, the fourth B and C, adding a character E in the fifth, and bringing all five together in the seventh. The five characters would consist of:

A teenage boy, Berdan Geaner, the great grandson of Win Bear;

A teenage girl, Elsie Nahuatl, whom we first saw in Tom Paine Maru, adopted human daughter of G. Howell Nahuatl, a cybernetically enhanced coyote, whom we originally ran across in The Nagasaki Vector;

Add a couple of aliens, starting with Epots Dinnomm Pemot, a lamviin scientist from the planet Sodde Lydfe, and the nephew of Agot Edmoot Mav, the detective hero of Their Majesties' Bucketeers, on the one hand (lamviin have nine), and a character from a sort of virtual species that evolved on a planet stripped by a nova of all its substance except its spinning iron core, where electronic—but fully natural—organisms eventually arose like cybernetic flatlanders. He takes up residence in their ship's computer, where Berdan, Pemot, Elsie, and Howell call him "Anton Mesmer", because of his magnetic personality.

Each of the books would be a freestanding adventure, but would also contribute to an overarching eighth story. Altogether they would comprise a sort of deep-space, specifically libertarian Harry Potter series which would offer libertarian parents and grandparents books to give their children and grandchildren, while providing independent young readers like I was with the same moral compass Heinlien offered me.

I wrote the first two stories, Brightsuit MacBear and Taflak Lysandra, which were published in 1988, but mismarketed as adult science fiction rather than what the trade calls YAs. (I'd actually wanted them marketed both ways, but who listened to mere authors in New York publishing, especially in those days?) After that, the publishers, who never really understood the project anyway, lost interest, and the last five were never written and published. Rights in the books have long since reverted to me, and I have plans for them.

The remaining five books have been thoroughly outlined for years. I will begin by lightly rewriting the first two, looking for places where I might have unconsciously censored myself in the process of trying to deal with East American editors, and put them online, a chapter at a time, exactly as I did with Ceres and Down With Power.

As that begins to happen, I'll start writing the remaining five MacBear/Lysandra books, which will also make their first appearance online. I have a wonderful, innovative publisher who I believe will produce them as dead-tree books and get them simultaneously into Kindle, audio books, and as many other formats (and languages) as possible.

I will have created a legacy.

In the end, kids will have something libertarian to read, their parents and other adults will have something libertarian to give them, and best of all, long after I am gone, I will remain a literary and political thorn in the sides of the cretins, crooks, and crazies who made it necessary to write these seven little books in the first place.

But that's only the beginning.


At the same time I was corresponding with one friend about the MacBear/Lysandra Heptalogy, I was corresponding with another—rather more conservative than libertarian—about his grave concerns over the dangerous and complicated situation on this country's southern border.

He'd sent me a long collection of quotes from figures in what might be termed the "La Reconquista" movement, items like a racist thug named Augustin Cebada, of something called the Brown Berets, blathering, "Go back to Boston! Go back to Plymouth Rock, Pilgrims! Get out! We are the future. You are old and tired. Go on. We have beaten you. Leave like beaten rats. You old white people. It is your duty to die. Through love of having children, we are going to take over."


Now if an Augie Sebastian of the White Bedsheet Alliance had suggested that everybody with an Hispanic surname be driven back south of the border, the hypocritical reptiles of the Southern Poverty Law Center would have covered him by now in a thick layer of poisonous saliva.

There is more, a great deal more like that in what my friend sent me, and worse. The taunts seem arrogant and irritating until you see that they're demeaning only to those who make them, betraying feelings of cultural inferiority on the part of those who consign themselves to permanent underclass status. If, by random chance, they should win this bitter battle that only they seem to be waging, how will that work, exactly? They're all nasty little collectivists, incapable of dealing with the phenomenon of individuality, let alone individualism. After they have driven out anyone with any enterprise and ambition, will they run whatever they've won like that socialist trainwreck, Mexico?

Conservatives, Republicans, right-wing socialists, are all afraid of these people. Being collectivists themselves (in the name of God, Country, the Corps, and never to overlook National Security) they've forgotten, assuming they ever knew, that problems like these—and problems in general—are better solved if you don't think like a collectivist.

And the first thing to remember in that respect (once you've remembered that you're an individual yourself, and not part of a herd) is that those who have decided to be your enemies are individuals, too, whether they want to admit it or not, and can be reached at that level.

To be as honest and straightforward as possible, I do not now, nor have I ever considered immigration—legal or otherwise—to be any kind of problem for the United States in and of itself. All of the Pat Buchanans on the planet to the contrary notwithstanding, since 1776, immigrants have done almost nothing but make America a vastly better country. I'm descended from immigrants, and so, more than likely, are you.

Furthermore, I don't give a Paul Revere silversmith's damn about anybody's nationality, religion, choice of sexes, or race. All I care about, really, is their attitude toward the Bill of Rights, and, as soon as I can bug them about it a little, the Zero Aggression Principle.

Over the past several years, I've written maybe a dozen articles—inspired initially by a brief professional contact I had with an anti-immigration website called—challenging all of those conservatives, Republicans, and right-wing socialists to actually do something about what frets them, instead of whimpering, in print and online.

At the time, I thought that amounted to—or at least started with—printing translations of the Bill of Rights in Spanish, among other languages—and perhaps getting "street teams" to post them on lamp poles, walls, and fences in appropriate places in the cities most affected. The application of a little radio and TV might be useful, as well.

The idea is to change a newcomer's understanding of what comprises the real core of American values—not any of the crap conservatives and liberals are always shoveling at us, but genuine individualism, unabashedly free enterprise, and opportunity unlimited by government—tell him, in effect, why he's gone to the effort of being here, whether he knows it or not, and immigration no longer represents a threat.

After a decade or so, I've realized that nobody's going to take me up on my challenge—why should they, since their profit comes from panic? As they say, if you want something done right—or at all— do it yourself. Which is why and how The Probability Broach got written.

And so, once I have completed the MacBear/Lysandra Heptalogy, I will go straight to work on another series, intended for a somewhat younger audience. These will be simpler stories, more evocative of L. Frank Baum than of Robert Heinlein, but they will be written with absolutely no holds barred where it comes to explaining the important economic and political issues of the day, pointing a finger at evil and corruption, and advocating individual liberty in principle and practice.

I know people who are going to hate that.

So do you.

In my recent novel Ceres, one of the pivotal characters is Julie Segovia Ngu—Llyra and Wilson's paternal grandmother—one of the early pioneers on Mars. (She's also the viewpoint character of Ares, which I'm writing now.) Julie is famous (or infamous) across the Solar System as an author of children's books, writings that are regarded as dangerous and subversive by established authorities in East America and in other remaining nation-states on Earth, where they have been banned.

Now, in the same way that Dorothy Gilman ended up writing The Maze In The Heart Of The Castle (which had been a "macguffin" in her neat little murder mystery The Tightrope Walker), I plan to produce those children's books, possibly "by Julie Segovia Ngu, with L. Neil Smith".

They all concern 12-year-old Conchita, her 8-year-old nephew Desmondo, for whom she babysits, and their pet arachnicat, Ploogle. (And no, I don't know right now what kind of creature he is or where he came from.) At this stage in the outline, Conchita and Desmondo were born and live on a terraformed asteroid in a completely free society. Yet they somehow manage to get themselves lost in a variety of places—other asteroids, maybe other dimensions—that are not free.

These places are ruled over by "Wimpersnits", Desmondo's name for politicians, bureaucrats, useful idiots, and advocates in general of state interference in lives of individuals. (At one time, Sarah Brady was Queen of the Wimpersnits in America.) "Oogies" are the uniformed thugs who enforce the stupid, corrupt, and insane will of the Wimpersnits.

Obviously, Conchita and Desmondo must find their way home.

I chose these characters for a number of reasons. The little girl and the little nephew that she babysits for evoke not only some of the Frank Baum stories (Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz comes to mind), but the Little Lulu (and Alvin) comics I loved when I was a kid. Conchita and Desmondo are Hispanic partly because Julie herself is Puerto Rican, having grown up hard in the mean streets of late 21st century Newark.

But they're also Hispanic because it is my urgent intention to establish a libertarian "handshake" with the children of millions of immigrants, legal and otherwise, on whom "Progressives" are currently counting to maintain them in power forever. Conchita and Desmondo are going to do my very damnedest to demonstrate the murderous nature of collectivism and the contrasting value of individual liberty to these folks, and to rip the immigrant constituency right out from under the Left.

Let me say it again, so there's no mistake. I intend to rip the immigrant voters they've been counting on to keep them in power, right out from under the race baiters and poverty pimps who think they own America.

The other side isn't going to take this lying down (they don't in the novel Ceres, either), but if I know kids, any attempt to censor or outlaw these works will only make them that much more attractive to the target audience, which is why I'm being completely open about them now.

In Ceres, special miniature, easily-smuggled editions of Julie's books are always printed, they're recorded on the 22nd century equivalent of thumb drives (not a bad idea when you think about it), and produced in as many different media—graphics, audio, video— as possible. Julie even reads her books herself on the radio, broadcasting her ideas past borders into areas where they're needed most. When we first see her, there's a Conchita and Desmondo theme park being built in the Moon—to the annoyance of East American politicians.

At the moment, based partially on a highly memorable lecture by Robert LeFevre, I'm planning five or six books. Even in the early 1970s, he saw our productive society being parasitized and menaced by five (or was it six?) evil entities. Conchita and Desmondo will face each of them (these are not action-adventures about bloody revolution, but about two little children learning hard truths about the real world) in separate books. Some I already have names for. The entities are "Big Government", "Big Business" (meaning mercantilism), and "Big Labor". A book on "Big Religion", for reasons internal to Ceres, will likely be called, Conchita and Desmondo and the Deadly Dragon and one on "Big Media" will be Conchita and Desmondo and the Crooked Mirror.

I've been thinking about doing stories on prohibitionism and "Big Crime", and I mentioned one of Julie's books in Ceres concerning the psychovultures sent around to schools after events like Columbine. These books could easily become the most loved—and most hated—in children's literature. Imagine a President facing a sixth grade class of kids who really understand the Federal Reserve and the mechanics of inflation.

None of this could have been published when I started writing novels, but we've gone right around the gatekeepers, now. It was probably John Ross's Unintended Consequences that sounded the death-knell for conventional publishing. Naturally, I would strive to get my books published overseas, so they could build sort of a "backfire" of individual liberty, and even be reimported here, if necessary.

All in all, not counting the first two MacBear/Lysandra books, I'm contemplating at least eleven new books over a period of perhaps five years.

A number of individuals have objected to me that nobody—let alone the children of immigrants—reads any more. I find this rather odd, at a moment when Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is selling like hotcakes. The current generation of children is one of the most literate in a long while, a near miracle that I attribute to what I've called the "Harry Potter Effect". Perhaps another generation of children will be libertarians thanks to the "Conchita and Desmondo Effect".

At the moment, America is a tiny island of diminishing freedom in a worldwide ocean of totalitarianism. Here and there, far away, we see other little islands of freedom sticking up, but they are sinking, too. Success will mean that we have reversed that situation, creating vast horizons, mountains and prairies of liberty, although places like East America may stubbornly remain malodorous sinkholes of power and madness.

All in all, however, there is nothing wrong with America today except that, exactly like every other country in the world, at every other time in human history, it's run by and for the criminal class and always has been. Alexander Hamilton and Boss Tweed and Barney Frank come to mind. The only difference between now and our leafier days is that criminals are much more stupid today than they used to be.

I don't deceive myself that one book—or even one series of books—can change everything. Sometimes I feel like I'm in the bottom of a Roman galley, with LeFevre's "Big Six", muscled and sweaty, rowing with giant oars. I'm down below them, at a tiny little hole in the hull, trying desperately to paddle in the opposite direction.

With a toothpick.

But I do know that as long as I can breathe, I will keep paddling.

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