L. Neil Smith

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L. Neil Smith
Born (1946-05-12) May 12, 1946 (age 76)
Denver, Colorado
Occupation novelist
Nationality American
Period 20th-century, 21st-century.
Genre Libertarian science fiction

Lester Neil Smith III (born May 12, 1946), better known as L. Neil Smith, is a libertarian science fiction author and political activist. His works include the trilogy of Lando Calrissian novels: Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu (1983), Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Oseon (1983), Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka (1983), and the Omnibus edition The Lando Calrissian Adventures. He also wrote the novels Pallas, The Forge of the Elders, and The Probability Broach, each of which won the Libertarian Futurist Society's annual Prometheus Award for best libertarian science fiction novel.

Early life

Smith was born in Denver, Colorado on May 12, 1946. His father was an Air Force officer, and his childhood was spent in various places including Waco, McQueenie, and La Porte, Texas; Salina, Kansas; Sacramento, California; and Gifford, Illinois (all before he completed fifth grade) and then St. John's, Newfoundland and Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, where he graduated from high school.[1]

Writing career

L. Neil Smith should not be confused with J. Neil Schulman, another Libertarian science fiction writer. Smith is aware of this occasional confusion, once humorously signing a letter to Samuel Edward Konkin III as "Neil (L., not J.)"[citation needed]

Several of his works constitute the North American Confederacy series:

  • The Probability Broach (1980) is an alternate history novel in which history has taken a different turn because a single word in the Declaration of Independence was changed. The United States has become replaced by a minarchist/libertarian society, the North American Confederacy, in this parallel universe, also known to science fiction fans as the Gallatin Universe because of the pivotal role of Albert Gallatin in the point of divergence. The antagonists of the series are styled Federalists, or sometimes "Hamiltonians", after the historical political party of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. In 2004, a graphic novel version was released, illustrated by Scott Bieser.
  • The Venus Belt (1980) takes place in outer space and discusses other settlements in the Gallatin Universe solar system. The Federalists are attempting to base a new civilization in interstellar space, kidnapping and enslaving a quarter of a million women as breeding stock from the anti-libertarian timeline from which the viewpoint character of The Probability Broach had escaped, with a plan to someday return in force to take over both of the alternate versions of Earth discovered by way of the P'wheet/Thorens probability broach.
  • Their Majesties' Bucketeers (1981) is a pastiche of the Sherlock Holmes tales by Arthur Conan Doyle, introducing the Lamviin, a trilaterally symmetrical race of aliens native to the arid planet of Sodde Lydfe. Their Majesties' Bucketeers introduces characters who later interact with others in the Gallatin Universe.
  • The Nagasaki Vector (1983) is written from the perspective of a time traveler who is shifted from yet another alternative probability line into the Gallatin Universe by the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki (on August 9, 1945) during World War II.
  • In Tom Paine Maru (1984), entrepreneurs of the Confederacy travel from world to world, exploring the various kinds of messes made by the Federalists who had been shifted back in time and scattered at random over the universe at the conclusion of The Venus Belt. The Federalists had created dozens of colonies, all of which had suffered disaster and retrogression under Federalist rule. Smith uses this device to criticize non-libertarian forms of government.
  • In The Gallatin Divergence (1985), a time-traveling Federalist woman wants to change history but is opposed by the protagonists of The Probability Broach. As these two forces clash, history is once again altered and yet another timeline is created.
  • The American Zone (2001), the most recent entry in the series, is a direct sequel to The Probability Broach concerned with the refugees from various anti-libertarian versions of the United States who take up residence in the Confederacy, and the response of the Confederacy to terrorist violence.

Three novels constitute the Lando Calrissian (Star Wars) series:

  • Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu (1983), the first novel in the series, was set in the Star Wars expanded universe, between the events of the Star Wars films Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope, and concerned character Lando Calrissian. When Lando heard that the planets of the Rafa System were practically buried in ancient alien treasure, he hopped aboard the Millennium Falcon, never stopping to think that someone might be conning the con man.
  • Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Oseon (1983), the second novel in the series, is a direct sequel to Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu concerned with The Oseon, a solar system of luxury hotels catering to the underemployed filthy rich—every gambler's dream come true. And so it was for Lando and his robot companion Vuffi Raa until Lando broke the gambler's cardinal rule: never beat a cop at high-stakes games of chance.
  • Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka (1983), the most recent novel in the series, is a direct sequel to Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Oseon concerned with how, for a year, Lando and Vuffi Raa, his robot astrogator, had roamed space. But then Lando had gone out on a limb to help a race of persecuted aliens, and now he and Vuffi were up against several sets of their own enemies.

These three novels were collected as The Lando Calrissian Adventures Omnibus Edition (1994).

Other works:

  • Pallas is the first installment of what Smith has called "The Ngu Family Saga",[2] a planned four-volume series. Pallas is the story of Emerson Ngu, a boy who lives in a dystopian socialist commune in a crater on the asteroid Pallas. Emerson secretly builds a crystal radio and is astonished to learn of the world outside the commune. Escaping, he discovers that the rest of Pallas is a libertarian utopia. Unable to forget his semi-enslaved family—whose "workers' paradise" is slowly starving to death—he designs a cheap but durable gun (because the libertarians on Pallas, to their shame, did not have a domestic firearms industry), and sets about liberating his former commune. At the same time, he must learn the skills necessary for life in the outside world. The novel thus functions both as a bildungsroman and a story of political revolution.
  • Ceres is the second work in "The Ngu Family Saga," completed on December 25, 2004, planned to be followed by Ares, both set in the Pallas universe and being funded by private investors. The Ceres Project was organized by Alan R. Weiss, a friend of Neil's. After efforts to find a publisher for Ceres proved fruitless, Smith published the novel online, beginning on March 23, 2009, one chapter being added each week.[citation needed]
  • The Mitzvah, a novel about a Catholic priest who is a pacifist and influenced by socialist values of the 1960s. His world is shattered when he learned the German immigrant parents he grew up with adopted him, and that his true parents were a Jewish couple who were murdered in the Holocaust.


Smith joined the Libertarian Party in 1972 (just after its beginnings in 1971). He served on the Platform Committee in 1977 and 1979, and in 1978 ran for the state legislature in Colorado (winning 15% of the vote with a total expenditure of $44)[citation needed].

In 1999, Smith announced that he would run for president in 2000 as an independent if his supporters would gather 1,000,000 online petition signatures asking him to run.[3] After failing to achieve even 1,500 signatures, his independent campaign quietly died. He next tried an abortive run for the Libertarian Party nomination, which ended almost as quickly when, in the California primary, Harry Browne overwhelmingly defeated him, 71% to 9%.[4]

However, Smith appeared as the Libertarian Party candidate for president on the Arizona ballot in 2000, but Browne was chosen by the party's national convention, because of a dispute between the Libertarian Party's national organization and its Arizona affiliate. He and running mate Vin Suprynowicz received 5,775 votes in the national election, less than 0.01% of the vote.[5] Shortly thereafter, Smith's supporters announced a new 1,000,000-signature petition drive; however, in late 2003, with the new drive once again failing to achieve even a small fraction of that total, Smith announced that he would not pursue another political office.

Smith and the "Ad Hoc Conspiracy to Draft L. Neil Smith" helped influence the 2004 Libertarian Party selection of Michael Badnarik for president[citation needed]. Badnarik was influenced by Hope, a novel written by L. Neil Smith and Aaron Zelman (founder and Executive Director of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership)[citation needed]. Smith endorsed the Free State Project and Badnarik's campaign for president in 2004.

Smith is the founder of, and regularly contributes essays to The Libertarian Enterprise, an influential anarcho-capitalist and paleolibertarian journal, and he claims that his most influential essay is Why Did it Have to be ... Guns?.

Published works


Coordinated Arm series

  • The Wardove (1986)
  • Henry Martyn (1989)
  • Bretta Martyn (1997) (sequel to Henry Martyn, connects to The Wardove)
  • Phoebus Krumm (2009) (online comic with art by Scott Bieser, sequel to Bretta Martyn, hardcopy edition in November 2010)

Forge of the Elders Series

  • Contact and Commune (1990)
  • Converse and Conflict (1990)
  • Forge of the Elders (2000) [comprising the previous two books plus a previously-unpublished third book]

Lando Calrissian (Star Wars) series

Ngu Family Saga

North American Confederacy series

  • The Probability Broach (1979, unexpurgated edition 1996, graphic novel 2004)
  • The Nagasaki Vector (1983)
  • The American Zone (2001)
  • The Venus Belt (1980)
  • Their Majesties' Bucketeers (1981)
  • Tom Paine Maru (1984)
  • The Gallatin Divergence (1985)
    • Brightsuit MacBear (1988) [first in new series set in NAC universe]
    • Taflak Lysandra (1989) [second in new series set in NAC universe]

Stand-alone works


  • Lever Action (2001)
  • The Mitzvah (1999; with Aaron S. Zelman)[9]
  • Hope (2001)[10]


  1. "L. Neil Smith". bigheadpress.com. May 12, 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. L. Neil Smith at Random » Welcome to Ceres and the Ngu Family Saga. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
  3. The Ad Hoc Conspiracy to Draft L. Neil Smith – 4th of July Announcement. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
  4. ALTERNATIVE TICKET (with ballot status in Arizona). Retrieved 2010-02-11.
  5. [1]
  6. L. Neil Smith (1993). Pallas. Tor Books. ISBN 9780312856762.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. L.Neil Smith (2009). Ceres Ceres Check |url= value (help) (Online ed.).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (The final chapter and epilogue were posted in January 2010 and included in print versions beginning with the paperback, published in October 2011)
  8. Zelman, Aaron S. & Smith, L. Neil (2001). Hope.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Zelman, Aaron S. & Smith, L. Neil (1999). The Mitzvah.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Zelman, Aaron S. & Smith, L. Neil (2001). Hope.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links