(1946- ) US author, ex-police reserve officer, gunsmith and former state candidate for the US Libertarian Party who began publishing sf with "Grimm's Law" for Stellar 5 (anth 1980) edited by Judy-Lynn del Rey. He remains best known for the North American Confederacy sequence, set in a parallel universe (see Parallel Worlds) in which a libertarian version of America has become progressively decentralized ever since its foundation. The first segment of the overall series comprises three comedy thrillers, The Probability Broach (1980), The Venus Belt (1981) and The Nagasaki Vector (1983), with Their Majesties' Bucketeers (1981), set in the same universe but with different characters. The second segment, comprising Tom Paine Maru (1984), The Gallatin Divergence (1985), Brightsuit MacBear (1988) and The American Zone (2001), follows the descendants of the original protagonists as Homo sapiens out into the Galaxy, spreading the libertarian gospel to Aliens and abandoned human colonies in both the parallel universe and our own (see Libertarian SF). Taflak Lysandra (1988), set in the same universe, deploys a different set of characters.
The Crystal Empire (1986), a somewhat confused tale of libertarian technological inventiveness, is set in an Alternate World, a Europe destroyed by a far more devastating Black Death, utilizing a Jonbar Point used later to more effect in Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt (2002). The Wardove (1986), set on a Terraformed Moon long after a nuclear Holocaust has created a Ruined Earth, where war is waged between anarcho-capitalists of several different species (including humans) and a repressive government; it is unusual among Smith's work for its general darkness of tone and comparative lack of humour, a humourlessness also evident in his one collaboration, the much later Hope (2008) with Aaron Zelman. Contrastingly,the Henry Martyn sequence comprising Henry Martyn (1989) and Bretta Martyn (1997) are light-hearted Space Operas written in a style strongly reminiscent of the Captain Blood sequence by Raphael Sabatini (1875-1950). A further sequence, Forge of the Elders – Contact and Commune (1990) and Converse and Conflict (1990), both assembled with an added book-length tale as Forge of the Elders (omnis, 2000) – is set in yet another alternate world; in this instance Mikhail Gorbachev (1931- ) has been deposed (as was soon, indeed, to happen in the real world), Soviet hardliners have (perhaps rather mysteriously) taken over America, and preternaturally alert anarcho-capitalists (often found in libertarian tales) begin to upset the apple cart. One of the protagonists is (also mysteriously) descended from the inhabitants of Atlantis.
Smith is a writer of generally competent, fast-moving and often amusing adventures which can be marred by preachiness and intolerance where matters of Politics and morality are concerned. Almost all are distinguished by their relentlessly upbeat mood, and by an increasingly laboured sense that the future can be ours if only we free ourselves from the shackles of government; the more recent are often rather poorly constructed. [NT/JC]
see also: Economics; Shared Worlds.
Lester Neil Smith
born Denver, Colorado: 12 May 1946
North American Confederacy
Forge of the Elders
Ngu Family Saga
- Pallas (New York: Tor, 1993) [Ngu Family Saga: hb/Nicholas Jainschigg]
- Ceres (Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor (Phoenix Pick), 2010) [Ngu Family Saga: pb/]
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