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Neil sent out this e-mail message to his address book on November 23, 2001:

Dear Friends and Readers --

Good news!

My latest book, The American Zone was shipped by Tor November 14, and should be on its way to bookstores as you read this. It's the first new novel about Win Bear and the North American Confederacy in some time, and features characters like Lucy Kropotkin, Clarissa MacDougall Olson-Bear, Will Sanders, and Olongo Featherstone-Haugh. Here and there, you'll recognize characters from real life -- you may even see yourself. And, of course, you'll run across Mr. Meep.

I started writing The American Zone seven years ago, but even to me, it seems eerily topical today. It opens with a terrorist attack on the same scale as the assault on the World Trade Center, destroying a mighty manmade landmark and claiming victims in great numbers.

It also predicts the life-ruining, fascistic measures that power- greedy politicians will demand, using the tragedy as a justification. In that, of course, I was hardly being prophetic. I knew how Hitler had used the Reichstag Fire as an excuse to seize power and stifle dissent in Germany. I wrote most of the novel while Clinton was trying the same trick with the Oklahoma City bombing. If war is the health of the state, atrocities like these are its vitamins.

The American Zone then goes on to do something I think is new: show how the diffuse threat of terrorism can -- and must, if our individual liberties are to survive -- be effectively countered with an equally diffuse defense by individual human action. (And simian and cetacean action, too; this is an L. Neil Smith book, after all.)

The idea in the beginning was simply to write about people who thought of themselves as good libertarians (even anarchists), until they refugeed out to a strange place -- the North American Confederacy -- where their children could purchase hard drugs and machine-gun ammunition from vending machines. In that sense, it was a novel of hypocrisy and the failure of moral courage, a theme, sadly, that now has wider meaning as we see those we once thought were good libertarians cheer the bombings overseas and the witch hunts at home, while the Bill of Rights spirals down and around the drain.

Don't worry, The American Zone has plenty of silly moments. Both of Will Sanders' beautiful, sexy wives are pregnant, he doesn't know, from one minute to the next, whether to be cocky or chagrined about it, and they think that's funny. And wait until you see what happens when restaurant patrons -- newcomers to the Confederacy -- complain when Lucy and Clarissa show off their new firearms to each other.

Naturally, I want you to buy this book for yourself, your family and your friends. My fondest hope is that it will help put the brakes on a runaway state. But I have a special purpose in asking you buy it now. I've just been told that my hope of selling my next project to this publisher depends on how well The American Zone sells between now and Christmas.

I don't want to give away too much unfinished business, but one of the items before them is Ceres, a sequel to Pallas, in which the largest of the asteroids gets terraformed, while the grandchildren of Emerson Ngu protect the Earth and the Settled Worlds from rogue meteoroid strikes and do many other strange and wonderful things.

If you've read the speech I gave to the Eris Society last year on preventing "extinction level events" like the one that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, then you'll know what Ceres is about. I believe you can find a transcript of that speech somewhere at [Not yet -- The Webley Webmaster]

But The American Zone is about remaining free in the face of advancing tyranny. In purchasing it, you'll be giving a gift that not only takes care of the folks on your gift list, but one that might help preserve the Bill of Rights. That was my intention, anyway, long before September 11. You'll have to judge for yourself how well I did.

The American Zone is a hardcover novel with what may be the most beautiful cover I've ever been given, and costs $26.95. It should soon be available at bookstores everywhere, and will be doubtless showing up at and before you know it. You can always order by clicking through on my personal website, The Webley Page, at and see the wonderful cover at the same time. I will have a few copies myself that you can order from me signed and personalized to you. Send me e-mail:

In December, Tor Books will release a new trade (large) paperback edition of my first Win Bear novel, The Probability Broach, with a splendid matching cover by the same artist. The price will be $15.95 and some booksellers are offering a special deal for both books together. Click soon.

If you object to hearing about my books this way, let me know and, NetScape willing, I'll remove you from my address book. It'll be your loss.

And whatever else you do, don't forget to celebrate Bill of Rights Day, December 15. See for some suggestions.

Thanks for your kindness and patience,
And happy holidays to you and yours,

L. Neil Smith

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