Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 541, October 18, 2009

"There is no genuinly forward-looking
science fiction left in mainstream America."

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Who Owns The Future?
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Thanks to the botched-up mess of positively Obamaic proportions that forced digitization has made of broadcast television, the Smiths have been turning more and more for entertainment to our computers and the Internet. We found HULU and enjoy it very much. We've discovered new programs like Warehouse 13, Eureka, and Sanctuary, and have even begun watching certain broadcast favorites like Fringe the same way. There's also a fair amount of history and science to be found there.

All by itself, one Rick Steves documentary on Iran, which should have earned an Emmy or a Pulitzer, has made the whole tangle worth while. If every American saw that film, it would change our foreign policy.

More recently, we have added to our choices something that almost seems like it came out of one of my novels. is a Chinese site, located in Shanghai, that we've only just begun exploring. It's huge—a petabyte's worth—and hard to get around on because most of the site's writing is in Chinese. A friend sent us a more specific URL,, that we've been enjoying enormously.

I don't know who this "Robert" is—clearly an outlaw of some kind without regard for the intellectual property rights of giant corporations—but he has something special to offer: all the Star Trek there ever was, from the original 1966 series and the animated stories, through Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. All the movies are there, as well, except for the most recent.

I confess that I have been missing Star Trek in all of its various incarnations tremendously since 2005, when Enterprise, my personal favorite among the lot, finally bit the dust. It's a guilty pleasure for a libertarian, the underlying assumption being that the future will be dominated by a military dictatorship that pretends it's a democracy. Nevertheless it's a future in which human civilization has continued to explore, exapand, and advance, a welcome alternative to our unhappy present where all eyes are to be cast upon the muddy ground where we're expected to struggle amidst the ruins of our former glory, over the final remaining pair of shoes, can of beans, and band-aid.

Half of America holds "values" which already have begun sucking them back into a festering Dark Age that they will never recover from. They're grimly intent on dragging the rest of us down with them. "Everybody in! Nobody out!" the demonstrators chant menacingly in support of medicalized Marxism. It's perfectly consistent that there is no genuinly forward-looking science fiction left in mainstream America—which seems to have abandoned any curiosity ever had about the "shape of things to come"—and an ominously chilling warning that the future, apparently, now belongs to the Chinese, who appear to still believe that humankind can shape its own destiny, and to whom the cramped, narrow world of Star Trek must feel like a libertarian utopia.

You may have heard that NASA has been told it can simply forget any dream it ever had of establishing a Lunar colony in the next 20 years. That NASA has been forbidden the Moon is a bad sign, even for those of us who believe that it should be shut down altogether and replaced by private companies. It means those presently in control of this government have no investment in a future most of us have spent a lifetime striving to create, but are determined instead to keep our species captive here on Earth where they can control every square inch of the planet, every minute of our lives, and every cell of our beings.

There is a way out of this morass, but it will require grit, determination, patience, and persistence. I don't read much new science fiction these days, mostly because it, too, seems to have forgotten not only the future, but the fact that we are a species of vertebrates, in whom rational and ethical self-interest is the principal survival trait. Sadly, most science fiction writers today tend to identify with environmentalists and warm-mongers who demand that we should all be ashamed of being human, deny that we represent the present pinnacle of evolution by natural selection, and abjectly concede to even the lowest organisms more rights than we enjoy ourselves.

As a direct and fitting consequence, the market for the efforts of these writers grows smaller, dimmer, every day. It appears that people smart enough to be literate don't want to live in the future according to Obama. Or the cold, bleak, hopeless world of Algore the Prophet of Lies.

There is, however, lots of science fiction still out there written in an earlier time, when our culture had some confidence in itself, and people looked forward to conquering the insensate universe, not through any military effort (it's ironic—and revealing—that the quintessentially liberal Star Trek centers itself on the journeys of the flagship of a heavily-armed warfleet), but through science and engineering. The works of Robert A. Heinlein are a good place to start. I can recommend books by H. Beam Piper, too. Don't just read them or reread them, pass them along to your kids and your friends.

This must become a movement. What this poor, battered nation of ours needs most is a sort of Jehovah's Witnesses of science fiction, going door-to-door—conceptually if not literally—bearing the glad tidings of a future filled with peace, freedom, progress, and prosperity. The promises that we can truthfully make, about what people, restored to full ownership and control of their own lives, can accomplish, far outshine the threadbare, shopworn blandishments of socialism.

For 30 years, I have labored, often with little encouragement, to carry the torch of Rational Man, of Competent Man, of Confident Man on to the next generation. Sometimes I have had help. Sometimes I have had so much encouragment that it made me weep. Professionally, I've mostly been alone. But my vision of the future—of the libertarian future—of many possible libertarian futures—has always been clear.

Please share that vision with me. We can create the universe of Win Bear, of Emerson Ngu, of Eichra Oren, and of the Moratorium, if we will it. If we refuse to let our culture—the culture of the future—slip from our grasp and fade away. If you read, read my books and those of others who believe, or have believed, in a future of human freedom.

And if you write, I implore you—as I have, almost to no avail, since I began writing novels, myself—to focus your efforts on that future.

It all begins anew, with a dream ...

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of more than 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas is currently running as a free weekly serial at

Neil is presently at work on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Where We Stand: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis with his daughter, Rylla.

See stunning full-color graphic-novelizations of The Probability Broach and Roswell, Texas which feature the art of Scott Bieser at Dead-tree versions may be had through the publisher, or at where you will also find Phoenix Pick editions of some of Neil's earlier novels. Links to Neil's books at are on his website


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