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Smith, L Neil

Entry updated 11 December 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1946-2021) 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 five comedy thrillers: The Probability Broach (1980), The Venus Belt (1981), The Nagasaki Vector (fixup 1983), The Gallatin Divergence (1985) and The American Zone (2001). Their Majesties' Bucketeers (1981) is a standalone novel set in the same universe but with different characters. The second, more loosely linked series segment, comprising Tom Paine Maru (1984), Brightsuit MacBear (1988) and Taflak Lysandra (1988), follows the descendants of the original protagonists as Homo sapiens moves 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); the North American Confederacy has here become the Galactic Confederacy. Smith also wrote some Star Wars ties in the Lando Calrissian franchise subsequence [see Checklist below].

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 (see Pandemic), 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) consists of 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 EldersContact 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-    ) was 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 was a writer of generally competent, fast-moving and often amusing adventures which could be marred by preachiness and intolerance where matters of Politics and morality were 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 later novels were often rather poorly constructed. He created the Prometheus Award presented since 1979 for Libertarian SF, and was a multiple winner of this award, his first honoured novel being The Probability Broach. [NT/JC/DRL]

see also: Economics; Shared Worlds.

Lester Neil Smith

born Denver, Colorado: 12 May 1946

died Fort Collins, Colorado: 27 August 2021



North American Confederacy

North American Confederacy: Win Bear

  • The Probability Broach (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 1980) [North American Confederacy: Win Bear: pb/Barney Plotkin]
  • The Venus Belt (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 1981) [North American Confederacy: Win Bear: pb/Darrell K Sweet]
  • The Nagasaki Vector (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 1983) [fixup incorporating "Grimm's Law" from Stellar #5 (anth 1980) edited by Judy-Lynn del Rey plus two more previously published stories: North American Confederacy: Win Bear: pb/Rick Sternbach]
  • The Gallatin Divergence (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 1985) [North American Confederacy: Win Bear: pb/Rick Sternbach]
  • The American Zone (New York: Tor, 2001) [North American Confederacy: Win Bear: hb/Stephan Martinière]

North American Confederacy: standalone

North American Confederacy: Galactic Confederacy

  • Tom Paine Maru (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 1984) [North American Confederacy: Galactic Confederacy: pb/Rick Sternbach]
  • Brightsuit MacBear (New York: Avon Books, 1988) [North American Confederacy: Galactic Confederacy: pb/Richard Hescox]
  • Taflak Lysandra (New York: Avon Books, 1988) [North American Confederacy: Galactic Confederacy: pb/Richard Hescox]

Star Wars

Henry Martyn

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/]
  • Ares (Rockville, Maryland: Caezik SF & Fantasy, 2023) [Ngu Family Saga: pb/]

individual titles


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