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Speech to the Libertarian Party of Colorado
May 18, 2002, Leadville, Colorado
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen of the Libertarian Party of Colorado, their honored guests, my fellow children of the American Revolution ...
It's probably an understatement to say the events of September 11, 2001 set the cause of individual liberty back 20 years. In the eight months since then, the government has illegally arrogated to itself more power to intrude into your life, to deprive you of your liberty and property, than this nation has witnessed since the War between the States.
I could easily take up this entire hour, describing crimes against individuals and the Bill of Rights the government commits every day, every hour at the nation's airports alone. That would be depressing, and I'd rather spend my time with you this afternoon discussing how to make it stop, for I believe it's in our power to do it, if we do it right.
There are hopeful signs. It took a century and a half to break the mystique of Abraham Lincoln and expose him as the fascist monster that he was. By comparison, it only took a single lifetime to prove that Franklin Roosevelt was willing to sacrifice thousands of American lives at Pearl Harbor, simply to stay in power. And now, after only eight months, the facade of the Bush regime is beginning to crumble as the American military rains terror from the sky down on innocent women and ten-year-old goatherds, as immigrants, some of whom lived here for decades, are abducted and "disappeared" by a government that looks more and more like that of Argentina every day, and 70-year-old women are groped by perverted and corrupt "security" thugs at America's airports.
A few years ago, I gave a speech to the Arizona Libertarian Party entitled "You Can't Win a Culture War If You Ain't Got Any Culture", in which I explained that no matter how politically energetic you are, you'll never be victorious unless you win the sympathy and imagination of a majority of the people. If you manage to do that, their votes will follow -- although by the time they do, they may not even be necessary.
Seven years ago, I gave an unusual speech to this very group, in which I told the story, from beginning to end, of a novel I had just begun to write, a novel I hoped would help to generate a culture of freedom by winning the sympathy and imagination of as many people as possible.
Although that novel was a sequel -- in some ways a "definitive" sequel -- to my first novel, The Probability Broach (which some peopled have been kind enough to say is the definitive libertarian novel), I had no publisher for it. I only knew that it had to be written, and that somehow, one way or another, I was going to write it.
So I brought my poor little unwritten novel, orphaned before it was even born, to you and your predecessors, the libertarian party of my home state. I told you the story and, amazingly, found a publisher -- Tor Books -- and The American Zone found its way into print. It won a "Freedom Book of the Month" award, a "Freedom Book of the Year" award, and is now one of five finalists for this year's Prometheus Award.
I've always written science fiction because I believe that to win the sympathy and imagination of a people, you need to show them a future worth looking forward to, a future worth fighting for. That's why I wrote The Probability Broach, of course, to show people what a libertarian society might look and feel like. Some people complained that I'd made that society unreachable by putting it over on the other side of whatever barrier exists between universes of alternative history.
For those people, I wrote Pallas, the account of a somewhat different libertarian society, one that can be reached employing science, technology, and engineering that our civilization already possesses. It also had a lot of conflict, a little violence, a dash of sex, and a couple of appealing love stories I'm still proud to have written.
This afternoon -- just for luck, you understand -- I want to share another story, another orphan, with you. As The American Zone was a sequel to The Probability Broach that took readers further and deeper into the world in which it was set, so Ceres will be a sequel to Pallas that is intended, not only take readers further and deeper into that world, but to give them hope that there is something better waiting for them on the other side of the "War against Terror", which is actually a war against the free American people and their Bill of Rights.
Ceres will be a huge, sweeping story about exploring the Solar System, terraforming and settling new worlds, preventing their utter destruction (and that of humanity's home planet) by the same forces that wiped out the dinosaurs -- and growing wealthy in the process. Ceres will also be a number of smaller stories: about a little girl with a giant dream; about her brother, full of fury and ambition; about two other wonderful people, deeply in love but estranged for years, who find a way at last to make their love work. Ceres will present its readers a future full of opportunities, challenges, and joy.
If I give them hope, perhaps you can fulfill it, by creating for all of us a future worth looking forward to, a future worth fighting for. I will forge this tool for you; it is up to you to put it to good use.
By L. Neil Smith
PART 1: WILSON NGU
At seventeen, Wilson Ngu is already considered a full-grown man by everybody on the world of his birth, Pallas, second largest of the Belt of asteroids circling the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Wilson looks the part of an adult, tall, well-muscled, with the characteristic tan that can only result from being a native of deep space. He carries himself in a manner that unselfconsciously conveys a confidence and competence unusual in somebody of his age anyplace except out along the frontier of humanity's expansion into the Solar System.
Yet even with the full endorsement of his father, Adam Ngu, Chief Engineer of the fabulous Ceres Terraformation Project, Wilson has had difficulty convincing visitors from the Earth-based corporation paying for the project to respect him as the responsible adult he happens to be.
Wilson's job is to assist his father (two of his uncles work on Ceres, too) with the unspeakably titanic task of eliminating the lifeless bitter cold and hard vacuum of the largest of the Belt asteroids and replacing them with an Earthlike environment. That requires, merely to begin with, the judicious but effective use of nuclear explosives to alter the rotation of a world with the same surface area as the Indian subcontinent, so that the Cerean day is 24 hours long and there's a large, deep impact crater at each of the poles.
Next, using factory vessels orbiting the giant asteroid, endless sheets of "smart" plastic a mile wide are manufactured and carefully wound around Ceres, eventually covering every square foot except for the polar craters. Then hundreds of laser-operating teams descend to weld the edges of all the plastic sheets until they form a seamless transparent covering that will envelop the whole asteroid, retain its atmosphere, and shield inhabitants on its surface from harmful solar radiation.
The next step is the fabrication in orbit of thousands of steel cables -- made on site from asteroid metals collected in the Belt -- each a thousand miles long, and anchoring them at the polar crater rims. The cables will hold the plastic envelope in place once it's inflated with an artificial atmosphere generated by specially designed microorganisms. The polar crater floors, left in hard vacuum, will become the new world's spaceports, connect by airlocked tunnels through the mountainous crater rims to the planetoid's now-hospitable surface.
In an effort that makes the construction of the pyramids in ancient Egypt appear almost trivial, many more engineering operations like these will follow before people can come to live and work to create a new and brighter future for themselves and their children on Ceres.
Wilson's secret ambition, however, is to break off on his own and become a deep-space asteroid hunter. Metallic asteroids contain not only nickel and iron, but great amounts of gold, silver, platinum, chromium, palladium, and iridium. Carbonaceous chondrites contain life-giving water and a substance related to petroleum, called kerogen.
And, of course, there's a rich bounty paid for the diversion or destruction of asteroids headed toward Earth or any other Settled Worlds.
Taking a captured asteroid apart is rather like dismantling a whale aboard 20th century "factory" ships on Earth. One by one, layers are "peeled" off and separated into their various valuable components. Portions of captured asteroids -- mostly an iron-bearing magnesium silicate, called olivine -- not useful in any other way are pulverized and used as reaction mass for the fusion-powered spaceships' engines. The asteroid-pulverizing machines are commonly referred to as "coffee grinders".
To realize his dream, Wilson needs an asteroid hunting vessel of his own, and for that, he needs a lot of money -- which means sticking with his dangerous, demanding, but high-paying job on Ceres for what could turn out to be years. And yet the young man feels the press of time acutely. There's a bright, pretty girl Out There called Amorie Samson -- living and working with her asteroid hunter family -- with whom he's lately been corresponding with increasing passion over the interplanetary web. He knows she likes him (the fact is, the girls all like Wilson), but he also knows that females in her culture marry young -- just as they do on Pallas -- and that she won't wait for him forever.
PART 2: ADAM NGU
Although Wilson's father Adam -- a builder to the very core of his being and proud of his work on Ceres -- has been entrusted with the most ambitious engineering job (so far, he often reminds himself) in human history, he understands perfectly what's going on with his son and sympathizes. He's promised himself to help Wilson every way he can to achieve his heart's desire -- which is no more, in Adam's opinion, than typical of what any proper young man should aspire to -- without simply handing everything to him, which he knows would be disastrously harmful.
Sometimes Adam regrets that he didn't become an asteroid hunter, himself. It might have saved him a great deal of trouble later on in life.
He's even more concerned about his eleven-year-old daughter Llyra, growing up back on Pallas in the little one-time frontier municipality of Curringer. Recently -- diffidently -- she's revealed to her father certain spectacular ambitions of her own which, given his daughter's character, Adam takes very seriously. He fears that Llyra might easily destroy herself, both physically and mentally, pursuing her ambitions, but he also knows better than to interfere. It hurts him deeply to think what she might do in an effort to fix something that she didn't break.
He isn't sure himself what went wrong between him and Llyra's mother.
PART 3: LLYRA NGU
Eleven-year-old Llyra Ngu is the great-granddaughter of Pallas' legendary Emerson Ngu, born on the asteroid that her great-grandfather helped to pioneer and develop. She knows all the tales of her little world well, and, in her quiet way, is proud to be a member of such an heroically important -- not to mention wealthy and influential -- family.
But what Llyra truly loves, what she claims as her very own, is figure skating, which has become a popular recreation on Pallas. For Llyra, however, it is much more than mere play, and what worries her most about it is that she's growing up on the smallest of the Settled Worlds in the Solar System, its gravity only amounting to about a twentieth of that of Earth, the birthplanet of the human race. As an athlete, Llyra's horizons are therefore literally -- and horribly -- limited.
Even competing on Ceres, the largest of the asteroids, but the next-smallest of the Settled Worlds, would prove very difficult for her.
Perhaps even life-threatening.
On the other hand, Ceres doesn't have an ice-rink yet. In fact it doesn't even have an atmosphere, although it will in the relatively near future, thanks largely to her family. While it's being given an Earthlike "shirtsleeve" environment by the Curringer Corporation, which similarly terraformed Pallas half a century ago, Llyra is very proud of the part her father, her older brother, and a couple of her uncles are playing in the immense effort involved in transforming the largest of the asteroids into a suitable place for human beings to live.
Llyra's mother Ardith is also concerned with asteroids, but for a very different reason. She conducts scientific research for a private institution (there isn't any other kind on Pallas), looking for ways to detect those bodies destined to strike the Settled Worlds (like the six-mile asteroid that struck Earth 65 million years ago, rendering dinosaurs and most other lifeforms extinct) and somehow deal with them.
The proprietary name for the long-running project she's now leading is "PELE", for "Preventing Extinction-Level-Events". It's logo is a drawing of the famous 20th century soccer player kicking an asteroid.
With unusual insight for her age, mirroring her older brother's maturity, Llyra believes that her mother buries herself in her work to keep from thinking about the personal aspects of her life. Whatever her reason, she's almost turned the raising of her daughter over to the girl's coach, Yasmeen Kalmakov, who is hardly more than a girl, herself.
Llyra's heart aches because her parents live apart. She's certain that they still love each other. She's so accustomed to being around strong-willed individuals that she doesn't understand why they can't seem to live together for more than a few days at a time. For a long while, her secret dream has been to become such a spectacularly great figure skater that her parents are compelled to get back together because they both want to be with her. Llyra's grimly determined to compete someday -- and win -- in the crushing gravity field of Earth itself.
She has committed herself morally to a long, bruising, painful journey that will take her from one Settled World to the next as she attempts to train her body and mind to achieve what others insist is impossible.
Part of Llyra's "journey" will be learning to achieve her goals for their own sake, and for herself, not just to get her parents back together.
PART 4: NULL DELTA EMM
Not everyone in the Solar System is thrilled by the idea of the Ceres Terraformation Project and other vast undertakings like it. On Earth, something calling itself the "Mass Movement" claims that the mass of the homeworld is being slowly but steadily increased through the importation of asteroid metals, and that it will eventually -- inevitably -- lead to seismic instability just as dangerous as any impending asteroid collision might be. Leaders of the Mass Movement routinely juggle statistics and employ questionable "junk" science to support their contentions, which most elements of the media report unquestioningly.
Null Delta Emm is a violent terrorist branch of the Mass Movement which those Massists who take a more moderate pose deny any connection with.
During an otherwise routine seam-welding operation on the surface of Ceres, Wilson stumbles on a small group of NDE terrorists hiding in a fissure, preparing to destroy several of the orbiting factory ships with rockets. Single-handedly, he prevents the deadly launch, kills or captures the saboteurs, calls for help, and holds the killers until it arrives.
A grateful Curringer Corporation gives Wilson an iridium medal (his mother and sister come to see him ceremonially accept it from his father) and a cash reward handsome enough that he can now purchase the little asteroid hunting ship he's been dreaming of. He's also become a marked man, having received several death-threats, apparently from NDE.
After spending some time with his family (he watches his sister skate and, just like Llyra, wishes that his parents were back together permanently) Wilson sets off for the best place to find and capture asteroids.
PART 5: YASMEEN KALMAKOV
While they're visiting Ceres -- under a mile-wide plastic dome that serves as a surface construction camp -- Llyra and her coach Yasmeen are offered an opportunity to skate. Adam has rigged up a makeshift rink, and watches proudly with his workers as his daughter battles double the gravity she's accustomed to and acquits herself magnificently.
What he doesn't know is that she's heard about a "mascon" back home on Pallas near one pole where the gravity is nearly a full 10th of a gee. There's even a lake over it that freezes in the winter and she's been flying there as often as she can to skate in the locally higher gravity. In between such visits she lifts weights and works out in a centrifuge designed to help women -- who often have reproductive difficulties in the lower gravity -- to conceive and maintain their pregnacies.
Llyra introduces Wilson to the beautiful and graceful Yasmeen, thinking he might be impressed, but, preoccupied with other things, his award, his ship, and most of all, the prospect of finally meeting Amorie Samson face to face, her brother hardly seems to notice her coach. Llyra is annoyed but chalks it up to the fact that Wilson is a boy.
Meanwhile, she and Yasmeen have plans of their own. The exercises she's been doing so arduously have worked. It wasn't easy to skate on Ceres, but she survived it. The next-largest Settled World is Earth's moon. Llyra pleads with her parents to let her go and learn to skate in one sixth of the earth's full gravity, three times what she grew up in.
In the end, she and Yasmeen depart the Asteroid Belt aboard the same "constant boost" fusion-powered passenger liner that her brother takes -- one that gradually increases its acceleration from the mere one-twentieth gravity of Pallas to the one-third gravity of the Moon. Next stop for Wilson, the floating shipyards at the Lagrange position nearest Earth's natural satellite. Aboard ship, Llyra works out for hours to be prepared to skate at the most famous ice rink in the Settled Worlds, Armstrong City's Robert and Virginia Heinlein Memorial Arena.
She will remain there, struggling, losing one competition after another but slowly climbing in the rankings, for more than three years. While there, she and Yasmeen will have adventures, including visiting Yasmeen's father who owns and operates "El Moro", the Larson Manned Optical and Radio Observatory on the outward, or Far Side of Earth's Moon, and a parallel, automated, mostly unmanned installation at the Lagrange point on the opposite side of the mother planet. (The rest of Yasmeen's enormous family is extremely wealthy and lives on Mars.)
The two facilities scan the celestial sphere together to detect meteoroids, asteroids, comets, and other bodies capable of wreaking the kind of disaster on Earth, or any of the other Settled Worlds of Earth's Solar System, that rendered dinosaurs extinct 65 million years ago.
PART 6: AMORIE SAMSON
It is several months before circumstances finally allow Wilson to meet Amorie in person. In that time, he learns that asteroid hunting isn't quite as straightforward an undertaking as he'd once believed. Although he readily masters the fine arts of piloting, tracking, and capture, there are complications that prove the adage "Hell is other people".
First, he must purchase tracking information from the El Moro observatory, exclusively or nonexclusively, depending on what he's willing to pay. Next, some older, more established hunters attempt to claim operating territories, although the custom is that space is open to everyone. Wilson must teach himself not to be intimidated by their blustering.
And then there are pirates. Sometimes difficult to distinguish from ordinary asteroid hunters, they fly fast, nimble, stealthed ships with extra engines. Hanging silently in space, they listen and watch for the radio-noisy process of asteroid hunters finding and capturing asteroids, then swoop in to steal the resulting treasure, employing radar chaff and jamming to silence their prey, Honest hunters fight back with the tools of their trade, blasting equipment and cutting lasers.
Having survived these and many other hazards of asteroid hunting, Wilson finally arranges to meet Amorie. She's even more beautiful than her pictures on the screen of his computer, with a quick, delightful wit and a lush, supple body. She spends an unforgettable night with him -- later he learns that her "kindness" was cruelly calculated: asteroid hunting families desperately need greater genetic diversity -- then tells him she's going to marry somebody else and bids him goodbye.
PART 7: CITY OF HELENA
At last, Yasmeen is satisfied that Llyra is ready to compete on the next planet up, gravitywise, her own native world, Mars. They board the luxury space liner City of Helena, looking forward to what lies ahead. On the third day out, an explosion rocks the ship. NDE has struck again, this time in a hijacking attempt. Ordinarily, anywhere else, armed passengers would have made quick work of the criminals, but under the East American laws that govern space flight from the Moon, they were all compelled to put their weapons in their stored baggage.
Llyra and Yasmeen made sure they knew exactly where their weapons were, manage to retrieve them, and lead the other passengers in overpowering the hijackers. But the damage has been done. The liner is adrift, without power, tumbling in the void, rapidly losing air and heat.
Wilson is about to be engaged in another small battle with pirates when the news comes of the stricken liner. He is astonished (and a little suspicious) when the pirates break it off and ask him to come with them to help rescue the ship. He knows that his sister and her coach are aboard, so he gladly agrees, and together the two smaller vessels -- soon joined by dozens of other hunters -- streak toward the coordinates.
They arrive, not knowing whether they're in time. The damaged liner is dark and cold, still venting atmosphere from its riven hull. There are no more signals. Hunters board the City of Helena, fearing the worst.
Finally, sealed deep within the core of the ship, they find every one of the passengers, barely alive, but still breathing. Power lines are brought from the hunter ships while the hunters themselves repair the hull breech and prepare to tow the liner to the nearest port, either above Orson Wells Station on Deimos, or H.G. Welles Station on Phobos.
Wilson is ecstatic to find his beloved sister Llyra alive and well. He's also had the satisfaction of seeing Amorie's husband among the rescuers. The marriage was apparently arranged between their families and it's no wonder she wanted genetic material from someone else.
He begins to see Yasmeen in a different light.
A very anxious Adam and Ardith meet their children on the surface of Mars, both of them temporarily dependent on wheelchairs in the planet's heavier gravity, but otherwise doing well. Ardith is talking about moving her research base to Ceres once terraforming is complete. Adam isn't saying anything, but it's clear to his daughter that he has hopes.
As Wilson and Yasmeen get to know each other better, Llyra begins her training in the heavier gravity of the Red Planet. Eventually (after another adventure or two) she will skate triumphantly at the Broadmoor, Earth's premier rink, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, West America.
That's the end of the story -- for now. Now it has to find its publisher, just as The American Zone did. I'll let you know what happens.
In closing following the example of the ancient Roman senator Cato, who ended every speech he made, no matter what it had been about, with the words "Carthago Delenda est" -- "Carthage must be destroyed" -- let me remind you of your 1000-yard-old right and duty as a juror to judge the law, as well as the so-called facts of the case.
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