Number 274, June 6, 2004

What do we need ... what do we not need?

by Ron Beatty

Exclusive to TLE

Other than my father, two men have influenced my life more than any others. Both of these men are legends in their field, and I'm sure have influenced many lives other than mine.

The first is Robert A. Heinlein. I don't need to go into great detail, as I have already made it more than plain how much I owe to Mr. Heinlein. Suffice it to say that he taught me to think, to challenge conventional wisdom, and to weigh carefully what "everyone says" for truth, and to discard it if it isn't so. One of the greatest philosophers and authors of the twentieth century, my greatest regret is that I never had the opportunity to meet or correspond with him, to let him know how much I appreciated his work.

The reason I decided to write this article is to make sure that this doesn't happen again, with the other man who has done so much to give me many hours of enjoyment, a new cause I can believe in, at a time when so much that we had thought was permanent turns out to be illusion, or at best, transitory.

That other man is also a science-fiction author. He is a political activist, a satirist, essayist, philosopher, and a man of rare wisdom. When or if he reads this, he will probably wish he could reach me to thump me upside my head! I am speaking of the publisher of TLE, Mr. L. Neil Smith.

Neil, I have been fortunate enough to meet many celebrities in my life, and even to associate with some of them on a personal level. Many, if not most of them, have been much less than they seemed. The few times I have corresponded with you, you have been kind, considerate, and a true gentleman. Just so you know, your books have been friends, companions, and teachers, just as Robert Heinlein's have, and I thank you.

Of course, there are many others who have influenced me. The Illiad and the Odyssey of Homer. Virgil's Aeneid. Johnstone's "Out of the Ashes". The wit and wisdom of Louis L'Amour. None of them can touch the easy, familiar way that Neil has of reaching out and making you think about our present society, where it is, and where it could be.

So, Neil, thank you, for all of your books. The Probability Broach, The American Zone, Pallas, Henry Martyn, The Gallatin Divergence, and all the others. I hope we see many more from you, and all your older works re-issued. In the meantime, take care of yourself, we need your work out there making us think, inspiring us, and making us laugh and cry.


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