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America in
Chains

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
philology”.

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.

Comments

1. Victor Milán - November 4, 2007

Marine biology? Who’da thunk it?

Please let me (or us) know what you turn up in your studies of Dim Mak. I used to incline toward dismissing it. Study of taijiquan and discovering the empirical basis of acupuncture (as well as personal experience of various manifestations of qi) caused me to reassess.

Also, I never knew you guys had a dog.

2. al perez - November 4, 2007

Anybody who played in a band called The Original Beautful Dreamer Marching Jug Band had to grow up to be a leader of lbertarian political thought. Too sane to make a good Demican.

3. enemyofthestate - November 5, 2007

“…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.”

Never learned to drive or never got a license?

4. Lawhobbit - November 8, 2007

They don’t have a dog. They have a big grey hairthing. And it shares. :D

5. Administrator - November 9, 2007

….Well, let’s see.

….If the University of Queensland at Brisbane had admitted foreign students in the 1960′s (or there had been Navy ROTC at CSU), my life would have turned out very differently. I miss the sea terribly sometimes. I’ve handled starfish and urchins and all sorts of other tidepool life, and I’ve always found their little not-quite-self-contained world fascinating. I made myself a “science kit” in my shop class in Newfoundland (I still have the case) and wandered the coast there whenever I got the chance. In Florida, I lived right on the water and enjoyed that part of being there very much indeed.

….Northeast Florida pretty much sucks, otherwise.

….I also think sometimes that I would have made a good paleontologist.I love that subject, too — hmmm … tidepool fossils. That might be the ticket. I could study that here in northern Colorado or Wyoming. But I’d still miss the spray and the smell of the shoreline.

….I suspected the existence of a martial art based on acupuncture, but didn’t know for sure until I mentioned it to my acupuncturist (I have lower back problems), who turned white and tizzied out on me, saying it’s “forbidden”. I thought that was pretty interesting. I haven’t gone much beyond the Wikipedia stage since then, but you can see what lines I was thinking along when you consider Eichra Oren’s fighting style in _Forge of the Elders_.

….Incidentally, I don’t believe in _chi_.

….Our dog is little, actually. She’s a seven-year-old Keeshond (pronounced “CAZE-hont”) and weighs 31.7 pounds. Like a coyote, she’s a skinny little thing under all that fur. Look the breed up; they’re very interesting. Family dogs from Holland, bred for tight spaces, to guard the family barge.

….My other groups were The Roughriders I and II, and The Shady Grove Singers. The latter was with my high school girlfriend who still plays professionally. You can look her up, too. Her name is Gail Gillespie. By the way, my jug band didn’t actually march.We did a lot of Jim Kweskin imitation.

….I can operate a car mechanically and have on occasion, but I don’t possess all of the requisite acquired reflexes that you do. I had beginner’s permits a couple of times when I was young, but other things have always interested me more. Oddly enough. as you may have noticed, I love the private automobile and am among its most vocal advocates and defenders. Public transportation — dirty and unsafe — is for socialist losers.

….Cathy says she doesn’t want me to drive, because she’s afraid I’d get to thinking about other things and have an accident. It’s true that I once tried shaving with a straight-edge razor and discovered that it won’t allow you to think about _anything_ but shaving. Since I like to think about other things when I’m shaving, I now use one of those triple-edge Blart & Bonkus super razors, or an electric.

….I’m not sure about if Cathy’s right — what she worries about doesn’t happen during matches, or at the range in general — but I’m long since content letting her (and now my lovely and talented daughter Rylla) drive. I’m sure it’s quite the oddest fact about me that I don’t mind going public with.

6. Eric Oppen - November 9, 2007

Gorblimey! I never knew you couldn’t drive!

Sometime if I’m out in Fnord Collins at the right time, I wanna listen to your band. I’m not really familiar with that sort of music, but my tastes are very broad, and I’m a filker myself. Lately, almost all my filks have been Harry Potter-related; after I filked “O Holy Night” and “How Great Thou Art,” some people at Ohio Valley Filk Fest told me they’d never be able to hear those songs in the same way again. *evil snicker*

I understand why you don’t like public transportation, but, believe me, it’s a useful backup when one’s own vehicle(s) are sick.

7. al perez - November 9, 2007

Thought you didn’t get driver’s license simply out of philosophical consistency. Irma’s backseat driver so she gets to drive more often. However I got better night sight, so the rule changes at sunset ( after i get my pint of type o).

8. Administrator - November 11, 2007

….Eric, I don’t have a band at the moment, that was all back in high school and college. I’m a solo act, but I jam with other musicians at a couple of bars in town, Avogadro’s Number on Wednesday, Hodi’s Half Note on Sunday. In fact I’m just about to go to Hodi’s right now.

….But I’ll tell you what: do you think enough people might be willing to shell out somewhere between fifteen and twenty hideously inflated Busharoonies for a CD of me performing my songs? I have anough for an album, I play adequately (better than Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan anyway), and the director of the high school chorus used to weep big fat tears because I was into small-group folk music instead of his thing. I’m a counter-tenor.

….Of course that was before thirty years of two packs of Marlboros a day — although I quit in 1993.

….My songs are a mixture, many of them funny, like “Do Not Remove This Tag” and “Can You Get Laid, Up In Heaven?”, some serious, like “I Will Be Free”, some romantic, like “Grey-Eyed Angel” and “Bluegrass” (which is a love song, despite its title).

….Let me know, because I’m about to make my first move in that direction this very afternoon. Should I keep moving, or should I just move along?

9. al perez - November 11, 2007

go for it!!!! (CD)

10. Eli - November 12, 2007

I’d risk some ferns on a cd based on your wordsmith cred alone. Seems a good risk to me.

11. Administrator - November 12, 2007

….Thanks, friends. I will write today to two individuals who maintain recording studios in the foothills here. One of them has an actual record business.

….I’m also getting together as soon as possible with another composer (he writes songs with science fiction themes, but never heard the word “filk” before I said it to him) who is also, absolutely bar none, the best five-string banjo player I’ve ever heard.

….I will keep you posted.

12. Kent McManigal - November 12, 2007

“as of May 12, 2007″? What have you done since then????

13. Administrator - November 13, 2007

….I just assembled the biography in May, is all. There wasn’t enough new on it to relable. But there may be something big enough to cause a relable in late November or early December.

14. Eric Oppen - November 28, 2007

I’d love to hear you jam with Leslie Fish (anarchist, folk/filk singer, SF fan, Second Amendment activist) sometime.

15. Russell Whitaker - December 17, 2007

Neil: “dim mak” (or “dian xue”), to the extent that it exists at all, is simply a subset of a larger set of skills. Many martial arts have it, what in the Japanese arts are called “kyushou-jutsu,” applications on pressure points. I don’t believe in qi/chi myself, but I _am_ a fan of putting the hurt on those spots that are, um, hurtiful (my own coinage: Colbert has “truthiness,” Russell has “hurtiful.”)

Consider studying a general martial art with no sporting application, like Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu (my personal art) or Systema, if you can find good dojos/studios in the Fort Collins area.