A Maple-Leaf Rag

by L. Neil Smith

         As the Libertarian movement's most widely published and prolific living novelist (there -- I said it, and I'm glad!) I don't usually respond to what's referred to (too politely, if you ask me) as "literary criticism". In fact, I don't even read the stuff.
         However, since an obscure Canadian magazine recently decided to make it personal, to smear me by association in a way anyone who knows me, or my work, will unquestionably regard as the most impossibly absurd, it's time to take the metaphorical gloves off and humiliate them in precisely the way they deserve most -- with a high-tech "secret weapon" they've clearly never heard of: the truth.
         You'll notice I haven't named them. I don't intend to; they don't deserve the publicity. When I tried to get a copy of their publication in this university town of 100,000 with its many newsstands and bookstores, the folks I called not only didn't stock it, they'd never heard of it! That's as it should be, and, short of offering them a little advice about their circulation problem at the end of this essay, I won't do anything to change it.
         What they tried, in an issue attempting to link terrorism and the internet, was to portray me, through innuendo, as a racist. This libel was so offensive to me, that I couldn't help but to respond. I grew up in a household where racism was regarded as a particularly egregious form of stupidity, whether it was of the primitive but honest variety practiced by NeoNazis and Klansmen, or the slicker version we call "affirmative action" or "political correctness".
         And, by the way, I opposed the war in Viet Nam, opposed the draft (I still do -- it's slavery) and campaigned for Eugene McCarthy. I'm not just "pro-choice", I'm pro-abortion, believing it to be a positive factor in our society, and I believe the War on Drugs has to be ended if we're to have any society left at all.
         A simple phone call, or five minutes' research into my work would have told the feebs and moral cripples at this rag all they needed to know to avoid embarrassment. The piece they quoted, an essay I wrote for the net called, "Bill Clinton's Reichstag Fire" carried, as all my internet essays do, a tag paragraph crassly touting five of my books and containing three separate ways to reach me.
         But instead, they asked for it: let's do what they were too stupid or lazy to do, look at one minor aspect of my record as a novelist ...
         The hero of my first novel, The Probability Broach, and my second, The Venus Belt, is a full-blooded Ute Indian (by the way, there are no "native Americans" -- we're all immigrants here, right back to Folsom Person) whose wife is a freckled strawberry blonde and whose best friend is the 137-year-old Mexican widow of a Russian prince. These are the books that also introduced sapient chimpanzees, gorillas, porpoises, and killer whales to science fiction, all inhabitants of the "North American Confederacy", an amalgamation of the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
         Remember that, as it may prove important later on.
         The brave protagonist of my third novel, Their Majesties' Bucketeers, is a meter-high, hairy, nine-legged, crab-like firefighting detective whose species has three genders. And yes, it was a pretty interesting book to write. No dirty bits, though.
         The viewpoint character of my fourth novel, The Nagasaki Vector, is Jewish, although he doesn't keep kosher as far as I know (I never asked him) and he speaks with a decidedly West Texican accent. He's followed constantly by three tiny aliens who think he's God, and his flying saucer has fallen in love with him.
         I honestly don't know the racial background of YD-038, the hero of my fifth novel, Tom Paine Maru. As you might be able to judge from his "name", he's an escapee from the kind of world that liberals have spent the last 60 years trying to build for us, and his ethnicity just didn't seem important at the time. Sorry.
         With The Gallatin Divergence, my sixth novel, we're back to the Ute Indian again, who gets time-traveled to the 18th century by a physicist who also happens to be a Tursiops truncatus -- that's a porpoise, for those of you out there who run Canadian magazines.
         Somewhere in there, I also wrote three books -- recently combined and reprinted as The Lando Calrissian Adventures -- about the guy in Star Wars who owned the Millenium Falcon before Han Solo did. You may remember him; he's the fellow who blew up the second DeathStar, and he was played by Billy Dee Williams.
         Now in my tenth novel, The Wardove, we have a rock band in the distant future, one of whose girl singers is having an affair with an alien who looks like a cross between a helium balloon and an umbrella. You tell me whether that's racist, sexist, or open- mindedly enlightened. Probably couldn't resist that long, curved handle.
         Okay, so the hero of The Crystal Empire, my eleventh novel, is a white guy, I confess, and he's even an unabashed sort of Nordicoid semi-Viking, make what you will of that. The three loves of his life are a voluptuous blonde, a beautiful Indian, and finally a Moslem princess (it's a long book) who helps him battle an alliance of Renaissance Aztecs and Ming-plus Dynasty Chinese. Note that even my villains are equal-opportunity employers.
         I never did decide what race the hero of my twelfth novel, Brightsuit MacBear was, although he's the great-grandson of that Ute who started the whole thing, way back when. His best friend is one of those nine-legged crabs. They team up with a critter who -- no, no, better not. Don't think you're quite up to that one, yet.
         Lucky thirteen, Taflak Lysandra, concerns a young lady of Australian Aboriginal extraction and her father, the American coyote with a cybernetically augmented brain who adopted her. She starts off being unhappy (like many adolescents are) because she doesn't have blue eyes, freckles, or a turned-up nose, but learns to be happy with her looks because, as she discovers in the end, compared to the kind of person she is inside, they're basically unimportant.
         Admittedly, except for an occasional alien, everyone in my fourteenth novel, Henry Martyn, is white. They're descended (900 years removed) from the last remaining guilt-ridden middle-class liberals in the Solar System, who were exiled to a faraway star cluster when everybody else finally got thoroughly fed up with them.
         Otherhandwise, in numbers fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen -- Contact and Commune, Converse and Conflict, and Concert and Cosmos, respectively -- hardly anybody's white, because of an especially nasty kind of "affirmative action" carried out by the American Soviet Socialist Republic. I do have talking molluscs, though. These books, by the way, collectively known (by their proud author) as the "Forge of the Elders Trilogy", proved so politically incorrect that the publisher canceled the third volume!
         Which brings us to my eighteenth novel, Pallas -- available now on fine paperback racks everywhere -- in which a little half- Cambodian, half-Vietnamese boy refugees out of a UN agricultural commune. Over the course of his long, productive life, he loves three white women (one, for complicated reasons, with a Sikh surname) while battling a White American Male former US Senator you may even recognize, although the resemblance is purely coincidental.
         The hero of Lever Action, my nineteenth book, is me (it's a collection of two decades' worth of essays and speeches) and my race and ethnic background are none of your frigging business. What you're reading now will be an early entry in Lever Action II.
         Finally, my twentieth novel, Bretta Martyn, will take us back to the strange universe of Throwaway White Liberals I mentioned earlier.
         Thirty-odd years ago, I took a solemn oath never to initiate force against another human being for any reason, nor to advocate or delegate initiated force. That, plus my deep, lifelong regard for the First Amendment -- I forgot, they don't have one of those in Canada, do they? Make that my deep regard for free speech -- oops, they don't really have that, either. What I'm trying to say is that I value the liberty to say what you want so highly that I won't sue these cretins no matter how much they deserve it.
         I admit, I thought about it for a while.
         I've no way of proving it, but since they monitor the net, I suspect what this is really all about is a speech at the Arizona LP convention last year in which I promised, when my wing of the party comes to power, that we'll offer statehood to any Canadian province that ratifies the Bill of Rights. That promise is still good, Canadians are working to that end right now, and nothing this slimy little magazine can do will stop it, or even slow it down.
         What they might try instead, if they really want to increase their microscopic readership even here, let alone the future portion of America they live in, is to give up their obsolete ideology (or leave it at home when they come to work) and -- I know it's unprecedented in conventional mass-media -- try telling the truth.
         It might hurt a little the first time.

L. Neil Smith is the award-winning author of 19 books including The Probability Broach, The Crystal Empire, Henry Martyn, The Lando Calrissian Adventures, Pallas, and (forthcoming) Bretta Martyn and Lever Action. An NRA Life Member and founder of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, he has been active in the Libertarian movement for 34 years and is its most prolific and widely-published living novelist.

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