Interview With Bob Boardman
By L. Neil Smith
Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise
Robert B. Boardman, frequent and welcome contributor to this publication, is the author of Savior of Fire, an uncompromisingly libertarian SF novel that shows what happens to a free society when it embraces (or is embraced by) government. The book fell into my hands a couple of years ago, after which Bob and I had many conversations about the future of liberty in America. He's visited us on three occasions. Last December, while we were at the High Plains Shooting Range near Greeley, I got Bob to sit still long enough for this interview ...
SMITH: I've said that, for today's liberals, reading Savior of Fire must be like biting into a marshmallow and finding a rock. What moved you to write it?
BOARDMAN: Richard Nixon, the first Republican to show me that our problems aren't solely the fault of Democrats. The events of that time I remember with the most pain were wage-price controls and government reaction to the oil embargo. I realized then that Republicans can't be trusted to honor individual rights -- not even economic ones -- if they find those rights inconvenient for the government. At the time, I lived in Oakland, California, where gas lines -- caused by government -- were very long. So I had plenty of free time to write about the liberties we had lost, and the result was the first draft of Savior of Fire.
SMITH: You wrote it when?
SMITH: And it was published in ...
BOARDMAN: 1991. I have my quota of rejection forms. More to the point, I did a lot of moving around in subsequent years. In 1975, I was working for a government-regulated company and the frustration was making me look around. I ended up moving to Oregon, then Alaska, then back to northern California, then to Southern California, then Texas. The manuscript followed me around, but kept getting buried deeper and deeper as I concentrated on making a living. By the time I was settled in Texas, Reagan was President and the future looked good. And I'd landed a job so challenging and time-consuming that I didn't even see the manuscript again until I moved to Florida in 1990.
SMITH: What took you to Florida?
BOARDMAN: The space program. You know the human mind has an infinite capacity to contain contradictions. Although I'd been a libertarian since the early 70s. I still believed the government could conduct a useful space enterprise. When rumors went around that Mission Control was moving to Florida, I decided to get there first.
SMITH: But you learned your lesson.
BOARDMAN: Yes. NASA impedes progress in space the same way the Postal Service impedes mail delivery: by using the force of law to prevent competition. But a small miracle happened as soon as I got to Florida: someone invited me to a party, where I met the president of a small publishing company. And that's how Savior of Fire got into print. It was one of the happiest moments of my life, and it inspired me to write another novel, The Trashers.
SMITH: A sequel?
BOARDMAN: No. It's a different kind of story, an adventure story, whereas Savior is almost a love story. And Trashers is a lot grittier. The underlying theme is how private enterprise can provide better solutions to toxic waste disposal.
SMITH: When is it coming out?
BOARDMAN: After I find a publisher.
SMITH: Your original publisher, Blue Note Publications, won't handle it?
BOARDMAN: Not until the first printing of Savior is sold. The euphoria of being published wore off when we were ignored by the hundred or so reviewers to whom we sent two copies each.
SMITH: To what do you attribute that?
BOARDMAN: On a good day, I attribute it to Unknown Author, Unknown Publisher, and Paperback Book.
SMITH: And on a bad day?
BOARDMAN: Maybe the message gets in the way of the story. That's okay; much as I'd love to be a successful novelist, the message is the important part. I'm continually looking for ways to spread the message.
SMITH: What message is that?
BOARDMAN: That we are not the property of any government. That each of us is equal to the task of living. That none of us can forcibly claim the lives, liberty, or property of others no matter how great our need. While I strive for sales of Book One, a publisher for Book Two, and inspiration for Book Three, I actively seek other ways of spreading this message.
SMITH: Such as?
BOARDMAN: For the past half year, most of my time has been spent developing the Nepenthe Project with Lloyd Walker, another Houston libertarian. We plan to establish a center for making movies with a libertarian theme.
SMITH: What kind of movies?
BOARDMAN: Comedies, mostly. One of them may develop into a sitcom series. Most sitcoms today indulge freely in male bashing. The villains are businessmen, scientists, fathers only half as smart as their dumb-ass kids. The heroes are all lawyers, journalists, other government employees. Our sitcom will be different, kind of a role reversal.
SMITH: What progress so far?
BOARDMAN: We're at the stage right now of organizing the company and publicizing it to get the attention of potential investors. There's a lot of people who believe movies and television are due for some moral and philosophical upgrading. And we're trying to create something that will be so entertaining that people will gladly pay for their own education. Our most important artistic criterion is that our works have to produce a profit. We have two truckloads of expensive equipment, and Lloyd has solid experience in making movies, from video to Cinemascope, from documentaries to horror films.
SMITH: Sounds like something that needs doing. What other things are you involved in, that help spread libertarianism?
BOARDMAN: I'm Treasurer of the Committee to Elect Rob Thorn, a libertarian running for US Congress in District 8 here in Texas.
SMITH: Sounds like you'll have a busy 1996. Good luck in all your ventures.
BOARDMAN: Thanks, Neil.
Editor's note: Bob firstname.lastname@example.org asks you to order Savior of Fire (Blue Note Publications, 1991) through your local bookstore. The price is $5.95. You'll save three bucks shipping and handling and the bookstore may purchase a copy or two to put on their own shelves.
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