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America in
Chains

WELCOME TO _CERES_ AND THE “NGU FAMILY SAGA” March 23, 2009

If you’ll look in the upper lefthand corner of this blog page,
you’ll see a small button labelled “Ceres”. Its presence there
represents an experiment that could just turn out to be something
important.

As many readers know, my heretofore unpublished novel _Ceres_ is a
sequel to _Pallas_, part of what will eventually be a four-book “saga”
concerning several generations of a pioneer family settling on, and
terraforming some of the worldlets that make up the Asteroid Belt, a
region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter containing millions of
rocks ranging in size from a few hundred miles’ diameter to grains of
sand.

_Ceres_ tells the story of two young people, brother and sister
Wilson and Llyra Ngu, great-grandchildren of Emerson Ngu, who was the
protagonist of _Pallas_. Born into a wealthy family and raised on the
terraformed asteroid Pallas, second largest of the Belt asteroids,
both have ambitions that require leaving their homes for the depths of
space.

Wilson, 17 at the beginning of the story, but considered a fully
grown man in his pioneering society, wants to be an asteroid hunter,
prospecting the Solar System for rare, desirable, or useful materials,
while collecting bounties by protecting the System’s Settled Worlds
from impacts like the one that killed off the dinosaurs. Presently, he
works for his father, Adam, Chief Engineer of the Ceres Terraformation
Project. Wilson has also been conducting an extremely long distance
Internet romance with a beautiful girl about his own age who belongs
to an entire family of asteroid hunters. He longs to meet her in the
flesh.

Llyra, 13, is a figure skater (the only one in the Asteroid Belt,
where hockey is a favorite sport) who wants, more than anything, to
skate competitively on Earth. Advised, because she was born and raised
at one twentieth of the home planet’s gravity, that such an ambition
could destroy her physically or even kill her, she undertakes a long
journey from world to world, always to a higher level of gravity, in
which she trains, sometimes for years, before moving on to the next
world.

She is accompanied by her coach, tutor, and companion, Jasmeen
Khalidov, 19, who was born on Mars to Chechen refugees who fled there
to avoid Russian butchery. Jasmeen is probably the most important
person in Llyra’s life because her parents are estranged and often
absent. Her father lives on Ceres, and her mother, Ardith, is a famous
chemist, specializing in finding new uses for the materials found in
asteroids.

Llyra’s journey, of course, gives us a chance to see the Solar
System in the 22nd century, and those who live in it, especially in
the Moon and in West America. We’ll also see remnants of socialism in
East America, and the 22nd century equivalent of today’s authoritarian
environmentalism, the so-called Mass Movement, which claims, absurdly,
that importing materials from the Asteroid Belt and other places will
alter the mass of the Earth’s crust, cause it slow down, relative to
the core, and make it quake and buckle, wiping out all life on the
planet.

And then there’s the Mass Movement’s violent arm, Null Delta Em.

Villains you’ll love to hate.

Add two or three love stories, a spaceport security scene some
have said will be worth the price of the published book by itself, a
spectacular spaceliner hijacking, baseball — and a gourmet restaurant
– on Mars and you’ll get an idea why this is my favorite of my own
novels.

What I hope to accomplish with this book, indeed, with all four,
is to reintroduce the human race — especially Americans — to a
future Robert Heinlein, George O. Smith, even socialists like Arthur
Clarke once told them about, before we began to fear what appears to
lie ahead. I want the human race — especially Americans — to dream
again of a future worth looking forward to, a future worth fighting
for.

Certain “sophisticates” will tell you that’s corny — or that it’s
overreaching. Some even say that time has passed me by as an author,
that I’m obsolete, that there’s no place for me in the post 9/11
world.

You know who you are.

Well, welcome to the _post_ post 9/11 world it’s in our hands to
create. The first step in creating that world is imagining that it is
possible.

Naturally, as author, I retain all rights to _Ceres_ and expect my
claim to be respected, especially by libertarians. If you like what
you read here, the way to share it with others is by giving them the
URL.* We’ll add a chapter a week until the book is finished. Somewhere
along the line, I’ll upload the prequel, _Pallas_, and eventually add
_Ares_ (the story of young Julie Segovia — Llyra’s grandmother) and
finally _Beautiful Dreamer_ which is all about .. but that would be
telling.

Wouldn’t it?

======================

* http://www.bigheadpress.com/lneilsmith/?page_id=53

Comments

1. Mike Busch - March 23, 2009

I wondered what trouble you’d been getting into lately :) .

Looks like I have some reading to do!

2. Administrator - March 23, 2009

I actually finished _Ceres_ on Xmas Day, 2005. [Insert long story about trying to sell it -- or even get an agent to look at it.] Spent most of the time since then writing scripts for _Roswell, Texas_, _TimePeeper_, and most lately, _Phoebus Krumm_.

I’m presently working on _What Libertarians Believe_ with my daughter Rylla, and will likely do another non-fiction later this year.

I yearn to get back to _Ares_. Don’t look too oddly at me when I say that I can feel and almost hear the characters inside me, screaming that they want to live.

3. Victor Milán - March 23, 2009

And we’re all screaming that we want to read ARES.

4. Victor Milán - March 23, 2009

Well, and CERES too, of course. The difference being, we get to.

5. David Anderson - March 23, 2009

I’m in…but I’ll wait for a few chapters to be available. I’m not crazy about serials. Maybe I’ll re-read Ceres first.

6. Administrator - March 23, 2009

Victor, I will keep that in mind. _Ares_ is a great story, I think, about a character, Julie Segovia, I’ve become fascinated with, and whom you will meet in _Ceres_. We’ll see Billy Ngu, Emerson’s oldest son, and Brody, his youngest, who will be the protagonist in _Beautiful Dreamer_. We’ll also see Mars, before and after terraformation, and the process — very different from Pallas and Ceres — by which it came to be livable.

7. Administrator - March 23, 2009

Hi, Dave! And welcome.

8. al perez - March 24, 2009

Hopefully some publisher somewhere will see that you are getting enough “hits” on _Ceres_ to admit it is worth spending the money to print your work instead of letting you find an alternate method of publication (and hopefully your friends will get money into your hands between now and then!!!)

As for the shortage of dreams of a future, even that promised by socialist utopians., offered by so many publishers, we live in an era of betrayed dreams. The betrayers and murderers of dream bare not let us dream again, lest we see their crimes and fulfill their nightmares.

Thank you for sharing your dream.

9. SJ Doc - March 24, 2009

Baen Books had published your completed *Forge of the Elders*, and still sells it via Webscriptions (which I bought as well as the paperback copy I picked up when it went into print; my eyes are going bad, and i can enlarge text on a computer screen without having to handle a magnifying glass).

Would it be impertinent to ask why Jim Baen’s successors might have been unwilling to publish *Ceres* (and put *Pallas* back into print)?

10. Administrator - March 24, 2009

I enjoyed working with the folks at Baen, especially Toni Weisskopf, who is the only editor who ever caught me in a firearms error. The sales of _Forge of the Elders_ were disappointing, at least that’s my understanding, and nothing I could do seemed to improve them.

That, of course, may be my problem in general, rather than looking to some sort of blacklist (which Baen would be the very last to participate in). I just don’t sell well enough. I don’t know why. It’s one of the greatest and most painful mysteries of my life.

Everybody has a theory, mostly that I’m too forthright in my political opinions. But if I weren’t, what would be the point of writing in the first place?

_Pallas_, of course, was originally published by Tor. My editor there, Jim Frenkel, for all that he is a bedwetting liberal (you know it’s true, Jim) is an honorable and decent man who always treated me with kindness, and bent over backwards to get my books on the market. He’s another one I’ve disappointed and I wish it were in my power to surprise.

In the end, folks — and I do not mean to make a duty or a guilt trip out of it — it’s ultimately up to you. I know you like what I write, and you buy as much as tyou can. I write the best stuff I can, and stay in touch with my readers. I think I need my readers to find me more readers, but I know you all recommend my books to others all the time.

But we need to do something else, and I just don’t know what it is. I’ve just joined Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Scribd. Maybe that will help. And publishing _Ceres_ online is another attempt at raising my market visibility.

In any case, thank you all for being there, very much.

11. al perez - March 25, 2009

Maybe if you and Aaron can get The Mitzvah made into a movie or miniseries you can get the “name recognition ” you deserve and thus increase the sale of your books to the level they deserve.

12. SJ Doc - March 25, 2009

If *Ceres* cannot find publication in dead-tree format, would Ms. Weisskopf and her colleagues at Baen find it prohibitively cost-inefficient to utter this novel – and (copyright issues overcome) *Pallas* as well – electronically, among their Webscriptions offerings?

At http://www.webscription.net/p-152-forge-of-the-elders.aspx , your *Forge of the Elders* will continue “in print” and available to readers long after Amazon.com is linking to used book dealers peddling old, yellowed pulp copies for $.99 plus S&H, and will generate a trickle of revenue for you and for Baen.

Which the sale of those used copies will not.

The costs involved in converting a book into the various digital formats in such an offering are far lower than uttering a paperback edition.

Moreover, the cost of *maintaining* your novels “in print” and available for purchase from their publisher become so low (and the Keynesian “velocity of money” New Deal legislation taxing businesses on unsold physical inventory does not apply to files on a hard drive in the pubisher’s computer system the way it does to books in a warehouse) that there is no need for your *Forge of the Elders* ever to go out of print.

(( This legislative legacy of “the Crooner” [as Mencken called him] has been the bane of the productive midlist writer ever since the 1930s, and was discussed at some length in the *SFWA Bulletin* sometime back in the ’90s. It’s responsible for publishers pulping massive amounts of perfectly good, ready-to-sell books in their inventories just before the close of their corporate business year so as to avoid suffering this punitive tax. ))

I think that this is what your colleague, Mr. Schulman, has been trying to do with his Web site at http://www.pulpless.com/ . The Baen Books approach seems to me more robust, including even better potential for the online marketing of your output.

If the Webscriptions option has not yet been considered, and your relations continue cordial with Baen Books and the staff at Tor, might such be considered?

13. Anders Monsen - March 25, 2009

What about turning Ceres into a book for the iPhone?

14. SJ Doc - March 25, 2009

More on the *SFWA Bulletin* article mentioned above, which was published in 1993 as “How Thor Power Hammered Publishing” by Kevin O’Donnell, Jr.

See http://www.sfwa.org/bulletin/articles/thor.htm

I knew I’d find the damned thing online if I just kept looking….

15. Stephen - March 27, 2009

I am a little surprised that Pallas didn’t do better than it did. As I told El Neil some years back I think it as good story as Ringworld. Better in some ways.

16. L. Neil Smith - March 27, 2009

Imagine _my_ surprise, Stephen, after working on it all those years. I don’t know why it didn’t sell better. It’s possible that if I did — if selling better required compromising what I believe in and write — that I’d still do iy the same way and take the lumps. More than possible, an absolute certainty.

17. SJ Doc - March 28, 2009

It’s been a while since I’d read *Pallas*, but let me give some thought to “why it didn’t sell better.”

First, consider that it may have been marketed improperly. Not inadequately, but improperly.

If memory is serving me properly, *Pallas* is very much a bildungsroman, tracking the development of its central viewpoint character from childhood through a critically decisive adolescence to life as an adult.

Could this have sold better if marketed as a “Young Adult” novel? Could it sell well as such right now?

Right now, I’m going again through a time when I’ve got adolescents and pre-adolescents in the household. Grandkids. I’m again being exposed to their reading appetites, as well as what’s being assigned to them in the way of school reading tasks.

Gawd, but the stuff they’re being assigned. “Sucks” doesn’t begin to describe the full ugliness of it.

This poses simultaneously an obstacle and an opportunity for books like *Pallas* (and, for that matter, like J. Neil Schulman’s *Alongside Night*). The educationalists in the government indoctrination centers would strain themselves into hernias trying to keep their students away from work like yours.

The students themselves, however, plagued by what their teahers are forcing upon them, both need and would delight in something of an antidote.

That’s where novels like your *Pallas* can serve very well.

Considering the rising incidence of “oppositional defiant disorder” among America’s children and teen-agers, the market for libertarian literature seems to be growing most rapidly among readers in the second generation of life.

Consider it.

18. Ann Morgan - March 30, 2009

L. Neil: I think you should make a paypal link on the bottom of the pages with the chapters to Ceres. I actually feel kind of bad that you could not get this published and are letting everyone read it for free without you getting anything

19. Ann Morgan - March 30, 2009

Sorry, didn’t say that very well in my above message, the link should be for voluntary donations, if you make people pay first in order to access the story at all, you’ll probably have less readers. I really loved the previous book, Pallas, though. It’s one of my favorite books.

20. Wayne Grantham - April 18, 2009

I, too, began my science fiction reading adventures with the Heinlein “juvies.” They were in my junior high school library–something that probably doesn’t happen any more, the way I hear that the government children’s prisons try to manage what kids see and read.

I’ve been reading each chapter of _Ceres_, then impatiently waiting for the next. I’m also impatiently waiting for _Ceres_ to show up in my local B&N. I like to hold a book in my hands–ol’ Neanderthal me!

21. bob tanner - April 30, 2009

L neil, I always look forward to your books whenever or however they come out…I was recently in Portland OR and saw your STAR WARS books o the shelf there–Powells Book Store. You never fail to come up with a great story and powerful political info as a Major part of it…I LOVE IT…bob

22. Administrator - April 30, 2009

Thanks to Wayne and Bob. I’s very nice to get good feedback.

23. Mike Davis - May 7, 2009

It’s funny. But I had forgotten that some of your characters are based on some of my acquaintences. I can’t help but think about Marshall Fritz and Karl Hess when I read about Pallas and now Ceres.

What the usual suspects see as archaic, I see as heroic. As you know there are few things more heroic than the man or woman who takes responsibility for his or her life (success, failure, happiness, loneliness, etc etc.)

Thanks for reminding me of people that are now gone who’s ideas transcend mortality. Thanks also for reminding me of a world of heroes and heroines.

I look forward to adding “Ceres” to my L. Neil Smith collection when it is available for purchase. Until then “Pallas or Bust.”

24. Rodger - July 19, 2009

So how do your loyal readers pay you for this boon?
Could you post a snail mail address so we could shower you with FRN’s?

25. Iloilo Jones - July 26, 2009

I’d like to voluntarily pay for the entertainment, adventure, and fun of reading Ceres. Please give me a way to do so.
Your fan,
Iloilo