Author’s Biography as of May 12, 2007 November 4, 2007
L. Neil Smith was born in Denver, Colorado on May 12th, 1946. His
father was an Air Force officer, so he grew up all over North America
in places like Waco, McQueenie, and Laporte, Texas; Salina, Kansas;
Sacramento, California; and Gifford, Illinois — all before he was in
5th grade — and then St. John’s, Newfoundland and Ft. Walton Beach,
Florida where he graduated from high school.
Neil always expected to be a scientist, leaning toward marine
biology (especially tidepool studies) and organic chemistry — a
special science achievement award was generated just for him in junior
high school — until he discovered the stifling degree to which the
academic sciences are regimented, and that most science consists of
writing grant applications and washing laboratory glassware. Later,
his scientific focus began to center on archaeology, anthropology, and
human evolution, interests often reflected in his work today. Along
the way, Neil also acquired a deep interest in language and history,
and studied Latin, German, and what was then called “comparative
Neil began shooting when he was around 11 years old, through a
joint program of the National Rifle Association and the Boy Scouts of
America. Ultimately, he won the rank of Eagle Scout and “more
sharpshooter bars than I can remember”. Neil has also studied European
fencing and certain of the Asian martial arts, including Judo, Tae
Kwon Do (in which he broke his foot, “forcing” him to sit still and
write his first novel), and Tai Chi. Recently, he has begun looking
into Dim Mak, the “forbidden” martial art. A gunshop owner, laboratory
ballistician, and reserve police officer in the early 1970s, he is
often recognized as “one of the world’s leading authorities on the
ethics of self-defense”.
Music — primarily guitar and banjo — has always been a large
part of Neil’s life (lyrics to several of his earlier songs may be
found in his 1986 novel _The WarDove_) and he was practicing six hours
a day when other young men his age were learning to drive and obtain
their licenses, something he himself has never accomplished. In high
school and college, he performed solo, and led a number of small
groups and bands including “The Shady Grove Singers”, “The
Roughriders”, and “The Original Beautiful Dreamer Marching Jug Band”.
His first “real” job was as a banjo player at a Shakey’s pizza parlor.
Today he participates in a weekly “bluegrass jam” at a local bar and
restaurant called “Avogadro’s Number”.
Greatly preferring science fiction to any other literary form,
Neil’s boyhood favorites were Arthur Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, Isaac
Asimov, Poul Anderson, Richard Wilson, Robert Scheckley, Zenna
Henderson, and of course, Robert A. Heinlein, to whose works his own
are often favorably compared. Later, he discovered the books and
stories of the late H. Beam Piper; his daughter is named after one of
Piper’s characters, the Princess Rylla in _Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen_.
Shortly before Heinlein’s death, Neil learned that the “Old Man”
read every novel he had written, and approved of them highly, advising
aspiring writers that “L. Neil Smith writes _good_ books”, containing
“exactly the right mixture of sex, violence, and political
preachment”. Neil has never worried about critics since then.
It was through his interest in science fiction that Neil first
encountered the works of Ayn Rand in 1961, when he read _Anthem_, _The
Fountainhead_, and _Atlas Shrugged_ and knew he had found the
worldview that would guide him for the rest of his life. He also
recognized (and has since written about) the unique way that the ideas
of Rand and Heinlein complement each other, and it was this direction
he began to take philosophically and politically.
Neil joined the Libertarian Party in 1972, serving on the national
platform committee in 1977 and 1979. He has run for political office
twice, setting records of one kind or another each time. He became a
life member of the National Rifle Association in 1974. It was in 1972
that he met the great libertarian teacher Robert LeFevre. In 1977,
frustrated by the course American politics was taking, Neil began work
on a highly polemic science fiction novel, originally titled _The
Constitution Conspiracy_, which he hoped would do the same thing for
libertarianism that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s _Uncle Tom’s Cabin_ did
for Abolitionism or Edward Bellamy’s _Looking Backward_ and the works
of H.G. Wells did for early socialism.
That novel was published in December of 1979, by Del Rey Books, a
division of Random House, the first publisher that read it, under the
more familiar title _The Probability Broach_ and has since acquired a
reputation as the “definitive” libertarian novel. It was the first of
27 L. Neil Smith books (so far), including _The Crystal Empire_,
_Henry Martyn_, _Pallas_, _Bretta Martyn_, _Star Wars: The Lando
Calrissian Adventures_, _The Mitzvah_ and _Hope_ — with Aaron Zelman
– and _Forge of the Elders_.
Neil recently adapted _The Probability Broach_ as a 185-page full
color “graphic novel”, which is also available as a webcomic (see URLs
below), and has also written graphic novel/webcomic scripts for
_Roswell, Texas_, and the forthcoming _TimePeeper_. At the moment he’s
working on a number of new books, another with famous cartoonist and
humor writer Rex F. “Baloo” May (who collaborated with him on
_Roswell, Texas_), as well as a third volume of what will ultimately
be the four-book “Ngu Family Saga”.
A highly prophetic author, Neil’s writings have predicted, among
other things, the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the laptop computer
and the PDA, wall-sized flat video screens, the Internet as we now
know it, and the digital watch. His novels have won four Prometheus
Awards and numerous Freedom Book of the Month and Freedom Book of the
Year awards, as well.
In addition to his personal website, “The Webley Page”
http :\\www.lneilsmith.org and an energetic blog on the website of
his comic book publisher http://www.bigheadpress.com/lneilsmith/,
for more than 12 years Neil has been the publisher of _The Libertarian
Enterprise_ http ://www.ncc-1776.org, a weekly journal reflecting the
opinions of a couple of dozen writers, acting as the “conscience” of
the libertarian movement.
For several years, Neil was an enthusiastic competitive shooter,
favoring NRA Hunter’s Pistol, the half-scale version of international
handgun metallic pistol (he used a S&W 10mm revolver and shot in the
mid 20s). He plans to resume competition when he can find the time. He
is also a philosophical advocate of hunting, in the manner of Jose
Ortega y Gasset. At present, and for the foreseeable future, he lives
in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife Cathy, his daughter Rylla, her
dog named Graywind, and two cats, Amber and Ambrose.
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