Month: September 2012

The Self Reliance Expo- Hickory NC

The Self Reliance Expo- Hickory NC

I will admit to being something of a”prepper”. For those not in the know, a prepper is a person who prepares for a disaster. Most preppers have a disaster they are specifically preparing for. In Florida most are ready for hurricanes, in California earthquakes. Some of us prepare for more world wide catastrophes.

My personal opinion is that we might experience another Carrington Event within my lifetime. The Carrington event was a solar storm that struck the Earth in 1859. If the same type of storm hit the Earth today it would destroy all electronics on the planet. The entire world would be thrown back to the 19th century and possibly as many as 90% of the people in the United States would die from hunger and disease.

With that in mind I prepare for the worst. I live many miles outside of town. My home is a small farm and I can produce more than enough food for myself and a few of my neighbors. I also have about a six month stock pile of extra food, an extensive medical kit, and not to give away too much information I also have the means to defend my property. One day I may need all these things and it is better to be safe than sorry.

The booths and presentations at the expo covered a large range of topics. From starting a fire with a bow drill to the most advanced solar electric set-up I had ever seen (and one I may be purchasing). Two booths that stood out for me were the Project Appleseed booth , and the Dr Bones and Nurse Amy booth. Project Appleseed is a firearms training organization that teaches proper firearm use along with the history behind private weapon ownership in the United States. Dr Bones and Nurse Amy teach survival medicine. At the expo they taught several classes on suturing wounds when there is no Doctor around to help.

One of the highlights of the show for me was watching old hippies teach conservative preppers their skills. I could almost hear them cringing. Their own political fellow travelers just don’t care about mushroom identification or how to grind grain with a grist mill any longer. Anything that makes a Hippie cry makes me smile.

The Self Reliance Expo seemed to be a huge success. Well, everything was a huge success except one booth. As I was walking around I noticed that every booth and demonstration was standing room only except one. The National Geographic channel had set up a “Doomsday Prepper” booth. Doomsday Prepper is a television show that makes it their mission to make fun of the prepping community. The girl at the booth had to give away cheap little backpacks to get anyone to sign up for the show. I signed up to get the backpack and talk to the girl they had manning the booth.

Waiting for GodotHere she is trying to talk people who are walking by into signing up for the show. I spent about an hour talking to her while I waited for Dr William Forstchen to finish signing books so I could interview him.  She was a really nice person but I don’t like how the show portrays the prepping community. She wanted me to appear on the show and I would have said yes if I had some control over the final product. Of course they would not want that. It is better TV to make fun of the hillbilly than to actually listen to what he has to say.

Dr. Forstchen was the main reason I attended the expo. He is the author of One Second After a novel about Western North Carolina in the aftermath of an EMP attack on the United States. He has also co-authored several books with Newt Gingrich (Some astute readers of this site know I was a Gingrich supporter). Dr. Forstchen’s speech was probably the most attended speech at the convention and he covered both the political aspects of how the United States is preparing for an EMP attack and what we might expect in the event of one actually happening. My interview with Dr. Forstchen will cover much of this and should be on the site by the end of the week.

Education: Science Fiction That’s Needed Now

As a libertarian, there are a lot of areas that I wish government would get their fingers out of, but education is not one of them.  Based on my reading of the founding fathers, I would say they placed a high responsibility on government to support education for the purpose of maintaining a free and reasoning society.  The idea that education  was both the door and keeper of freedom and opportunity cannot be denied as you read them.

I would note, that I said support education, not control it. I believe that local control is necessary for education to be truly effective.  Maybe that is because I am currently the vice president of my local school board, but it also my deepest conviction that the more centralized control is, the more things are likely to get screwed up on a grander scale.

Science fiction addresses the subject of education in many ways but one of the most notable to me was in Space Cadet one of Robert Heinlein’s novels.  In that novel education for the cadets is multifaceted.  First there is one person who acts almost as a counselor and controller of the cadets education while the on the school ship.  Things are controlled so that the basics are given to everyone, but the counselor also works individually to educate along the person’s strengths.  There is, of course, the fact that even as cadets they receive on the job training.  Then of course there is the hypnotic educator device that implants knowledge into the brain of the subject.  This seems to have limited use but is extremely helpful in overcoming certain elements of time constraints and individual hurdles in learning.

As much as I would like such a device in the here and now, I know it is probably not immediately forthcoming.  What has become more available is computers, online learning, global communications, etc.  The fact is technology is already giving us more opportunities to be educated but the fact is that we are not taking them or are misusing them.  The fact is that what we need is not the technology of science fiction to help education, but the philosophy.

The idea that everyone has certain basics to learn but then their education needs to be specialized to that student’s strengths has great merit.  The current system of education in United States does not allow this.  Most students, particularly in public eduction K-12, maybe meet with such a counselor once or twice a year.  They are placed on tracks of learning and no thought is given to them later that they may change or grow in such a way as to merit change in how they are educated.  My personal thoughts are such track education needs to be abolished and each individual student given more attention. In the science fiction model, the students meet with their mentor/counselor on a weekly basis to discuss educational strategy and motivation. Advancement is not based on the passage of time, but on the ability of the teacher and student to move to the next level of learning. The main key then becomes: Expectations are very high for everyone.

The teacher’s role is completely changed in many respects. Picture the future classroom.  It may not actually be a place at all although I firmly believe that there is something positive psychologically about having a place of learning.  The main teacher is not a specialist in a certain type of knowledge.  There may be other teachers that are a part of the team that specialize, but the main teacher is not a specialist in anything except education and educational psychology.  His role is to be mentor and guide.  He talks regularly with the students and connects them with the other teachers they will need to move forward.  His job is to know the students, help them establish goals and connect them with the people, tools nad resources they need to learn in the way that is most effective to them.  He then gauges real progress and moves the students on when they have met the criteria of actually having learned the subject at hand.  I think this idea is worth a try.

The one other thing from the same model that needs to be implemented is the open forum where everything and I mean everything can be discussed and argued.  The one thing modern education does not do very well is teach critical thinking and this needs to change.  In my own life, it was the hall way bull sessions of high school and college that probably did more along this line than any class.  In Space Cadet, this took the form of the hall way bull session, but in Starship Troopers it was an actual class called History and Moral Philosophy.  What is needed is a place where anything can be discussed and challenged from the existence of God to the merits of mommy’s love.  You will not see this in current education in the public schools because at that level the more important thing is control not thinking skills.  Such groups and classes tend to have an element of chaos to them that modern educators do not like.  This needs to change.

Of course we could all wait for the hypnotic educator machine, but I have my misgivings about that about that based on other science fiction that speaks of using such things for control and mental manipulation.  the truth is much could be improved simply by changing philosophy and motivation.  The politicians always talk about changing policy, but ultimately that will only do so much.  There is much talk, but no real action that actually help students learn more or in better ways.  Perhaps a little less rhetoric and a little more science fiction would help.

Warp Drive? We May Have Had a Breakthrough (cautious optimism)

Warp Drive? We May Have Had a Breakthrough (cautious optimism)


According to Yahoo News we may have had a breakthrough that will allow faster than light travel with low energy consumption. I have read the article…HERE….I don’t know if I believe they can really do it.  I relish the chance to try. The problem, as I see it, is the exotic matter ring. Producing it is still beyond our capabilities, as far as I know, but the scientists mentioned in the article seem confident they can produce a warp drive effect in the lab on small scales. We will keep our fingers crossed.

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Daniel Knauf Creator of the TV Series Carnivale

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Daniel Knauf Creator of the TV Series Carnivale


This week we are proud to bring you an interview with Daniel Knauf. You may remember Daniel as the creator of the hit HBO show Carnivàle. He is currently working to recreate the story telling genre with his Bxx internet format. Bxx presents a non-linear method of telling a story in which the viewer can follow the story from multiple angles, out of sequence, or even follow specific characters through the story.


The Hitchhiker asks…

Question 1- Tell our readers a little about how you broke into the entertainment business. I have read a little about how Carnivàle was discovered and I would like to hear the story from your side?

I was an employee benefits consultant by day, writer by night. I’d had some limited success in the ’90s, but things hadn’t really gone anywhere in the long-haul. In 1998, I was in what I like to call “the crest of a slump.” I was closing in on the big four-oh, and I decided to take a last run at the whole silly screenwriting thing. I created a website called as an online resume’ of sorts, where I posted the first acts of all my unsold scripts as writing samples. In 2001, a young development exec, Robert Keyghobad, working for Scott Winant, an Emmy-winning television director-showrunner, found Carnivale at my website. We developed it together, took it to HBO and the rest is history.

Question 2- Many of our readers are older science fiction and fantasy fans. For instance I am 41. I know you broke into the business later in life meaning in Hollywood after your twenties. Was it hard to do that in a town obsessed with youth and what are your words of wisdom to someone like me just now trying to work my way into the entertainment field at this late date?

It helps to be talented. Know your craft. Deliver promptly. When an opportunity presents itself, seize it with both hands and ass-rape the shit out of it. I mean that. Don’t go for half measures. Keeping that fire blazing in your belly when you’re middle-aged is the hardest part of the battle. If you can pull that off, you should see a measure of success.

Question 3- You have been writing for comics for some time now. What is the real difference between scripting for a TV show or Movie and writing for a comic?

Comics are much harder to write. Like haiku, it’s a very unforgiving medium by virtue of its brevity. The disadvantages are that you can’t really depict movement. You’re writing a story with a series of stills. Also, you can’t rely on an actor or a deft edit to make your dialogue play. Everything is on you. Plus, comics pay way less than TV and movies. And there’s little or no back-end, so you totally get shafted out of any profits from movies that may be derived directly from your work. It’s a lot like how things used to be in the early days of rock-n-roll; a lot of terrific artists get terribly exploited by the big comic-book publishers. But the one big advantage to comics is the creative control you have as a writer. The editors pretty much leave you alone and let you create.

Question 4- Explain for our readers your latest project Bxx Haunted and where you want to take this? What kind of media would you like to see developed from this innovative approach to entertainment?

I created Bxx because, though the internet has been around for a couple decades, no one had devised a narrative format that exploited its characteristics. Sure, people post stories and videos, but they make no effort–other than, perhaps, length–to adapt them to the internet as a specific medium. An episode of television, for instance, can’t really be called “internet content” simply by virtue of being uploaded; it’s still just TV you passively watch on your computer. You’re not interacting with it the way you interact with actual internet content. I wanted to create a narrative form that the audience would access the same way they access other content on the internet, that is by instinctively clicking when their interest is piqued, receiving information in various media–video, text, images–and viewing it in a multitasking environment via multiple screens.The key difference between the internet and, say, film or a book, is that the internet is non-linear. The order in which you access content is dictated by each individual, not by some,external physical mechanism such a one page following another, or frames of film running through a projectors gate. The user defines how an what and in what order he or she wants to access content. So the first thing I had to broom what the idea of controlling how my story would be experienced. That’s not to say that there couldn’t be a three act structure–a beginning, a middle, and an end. In fact, that structure is immutable and unavoidable in life as in fiction. However, in traditional storytelling, the writer controls the sequence of events, parses them out in a very specific order that can be manipulated to maximize their impact on the audience. Since the internet is intrinsically non-linear, so too should be any narrative format adapted to that medium.So I considered other types of narratives that are experienced non-linearly. Ancient history, for instance. Artifacts are discovered, and a picture emerges of an epoch. Additional artifacts are dug up, and that picture changes. Artifacts don’t present themselves in linear order. History unfolds with massive gaps that gradually get filled as more information presents itself. Memories are another type of non-linear narrative format. We smell cut grass. We feel good. It evokes a moment in our own history, which then triggers synapses that connect us with adjacent memories–some connected by time, others by the people involved. And so in a few seconds, a scent can trigger a chain of memories that begin with our first kiss and end with blowing a math exam in college.A more technical type of non-linear narrative is the story contained on an airliner’s flight-recorder. The story begins at take-off and ends with a crash. The flight-recorder captures an uninterrupted real-time record of everything that occurred in the course of that story on multiple media–cockpit audio, radio transmissions, avionics, technical logs. The story of the flight is then accessed by investigators, not necessarily in chronological order, but in whatever way it is necessary to determine why the crash occurred.The flight recorder–or black box– became my model for the box-narrative format.As a proof of concept, I created an event that unfolded in real time–in the case of HAUNTED, a paranormal investigation in which the team is compromised and/or possessed by the very entity they are observing, leading to a tragic outcome. Like any drama, it was scripted and rehearsed. However, this drama lasted 32 hours, and was captured by 16 video cameras. We literally called “action,” and 32 hours later, called “cut.” We then put everything that was captured during the course of that drama–video, text, stills–on a website and developed a user interface that would allow the audience to navigate and access the content.Though the result is imperfect, it was much more compelling than it has any right to be. Without any promotion to speak of, we’ve generated a fairly large audience. Hopefully, we’ll get a shot at doing it again with a decent budget and better hardware.

Question 5- I am a big fan of Andrew Breitbart. He said, “Our culture is the most important front. And the three most important pillars of that culture are Hollywood and pop culture, along with education and the media. Those three are absolutely controlled by the left.” This website was created because I realized the truth of those words and I want to take back my segment of popular culture from the left. I know you were a friend of Breitbart and you suffered for coming out of the conservative “closet”. Please tell us your opinion of this quote and tell us what exposing yourself meant in Hollywood?

First of all, coming out as a conservative revealed the sheer vastness of the army behind me. I got so much support and so many kind letters, I was deeply moved. Meanwhile, I’ve gotten very little hate. I’m sure the decision has costs me a gig or two, but it hasn’t cost me any real friendships. Despite all the loudmouths, the majority of liberals in Hollywood lean closer to the center than you might think. All that said, as an artist, I serve truth and beauty, not right or left. If a narrative leads to a dark place with mature content, I’m going to follow it there. Injecting politics into a narrative is the sleaziest kind of propagandism. Yes, the Left does it all the time, and frankly, I think their work–and, btw, its effectiveness as propaganda–suffers for it. They have to twist reality grotesquely out of true to convey their values. So you end up with silly movies in which the “bad guys” are all big-business types of European descent, and all non-whites are portrayed as inherently noble–even magical. Nobody buys that stuff. It’s absurd. As MLK asserted in his “I Have a Dream” speech, character is not defined by skin-color. Bad guys and good guys come in all colors, races and creeds.Conservatives get that. Most people get that. It’s only the liberals that feel this need to PC everything up.To realize Breitbart’s words, you don’t fight leftist propaganda with rightist propaganda. You don’t fight fire with fire. You fight fire with water. The dramatic narrative is inherently a vessel for conservative values. The very construct of a classical “hero”–that is, an individual struggling against a collective, external menace–is deeply conservative. So my job is, in a way, easier than that of the modern Hollywood propagandist. All I have to do is tell a ripping yarn.I can tell you what I won’t do, though. I won’t ever write a gratuitous scene that makes the audience feel like a dupe because they go to church, or salute the flag, have pride in America and believe in its exceptionalism, or cherish the Constitution and the liberty it defines.

Thank you for the interview.

Wolves in Petticoats: The Victorian Werewolf

Wolves in Petticoats: The Victorian Werewolf

This is a rough excerpt from the introduction of a book on Victorian werewolves I am writing right now. It should be finished sometime around March 2013. (I have way too many projects to give it my full attention this year)



It has been suggested that the vampire legend, largely created by Bram Stoker, is the most enduring and famous creature mythos to emerge out of popular Gothic literature. While this may be true the lowly werewolf must also be given a place of distinction. The literature of the Victorian era werewolf has nowhere near the enduring popularity of the Vampire, nevertheless during the period the werewolf was at least as popular with a score of books and short fiction to testify to its enduring legacy. In this book I will seek out the werewolf in its many forms and discuss its origin and evolution in the modern world. I will  break down werewolf mythology into several themes. The first will be the Supernatural curse. The second will be the “New Woman” werewolf or the wolf-woman as seductress. The third and final category will be the exotic werewolves of the Americas and India.

The supernatural curse appears throughout the werewolf literary genre. In the earliest werewolf stories these curses are almost always self inflicted such as in Reynolds’s, “Wagner the Wehr wolf” here the curse is the price Wagner pays the devil for his immortality and riches, in later works such as Kipling’s, “The Mark of the Beast” the curse is involuntary placed on the bearer because of his desecration of an Indian temple. I will discuss the varied methods by which the victims and often willing participants are transformed into a beast.

An intriguing aspect of the Werewolf during the Victorian period is the appearance of the female werewolf. When we think of female shape shifters wolves are often the last things to come to mind. There are literally thousands of books depicting women turning into cats or catlike creatures but not wolves; however the female werewolf was much more popular in European mythology and Victorian literature than in our modern literary tradition. The female werewolf while rare was a staple of several authors such as Clemance Housman and Frederick Marryat.  Housman was a writer, illustrator and a leading feminist of her day. She wrote several werewolf short stories and one novel. Her stories fit more in with the traditional folklore than some of the other Gothic horror novelists.

The idea of the werewolf is not just limited to Western and EasternEurope. The wolf-man is a universal human concept appearing in the folklore of almost every human society. During the Victorian period the West was being exposed more and more to the variety of world cultures. We can see this variety expressed in the werewolf fiction of the era. From Kipling’s Indian werewolves to Beaugrand’s Native American skinwalkers we see the werewolf in a multitude of aspects. The Victorians were fascinated by exotic cultures and exotic locales this made the foreign werewolf all the more intriguing as it paired a myth that people were familiar with to a more mysterious setting.

The classic werewolf literature of the 19th century has been long overshadowed by the werewolf of Hollywood. The original mythology is much more creative and innovative than the stock portrait of the werewolf that has been fostered on our modern sensibilities by popular film. In the Gothic horror novel we find a werewolf that is more than just the rapacious beast that comes out at every full moon. Instead the Victorians gifted us with a character as nuanced as the vampire and as full of pathos as Shelley’s Frankenstein. Modern authors would do well to seek out this classic creature and forget what Lon Chaney Jr. taught us about the Wolf man.



Gothic Monsters- The Litany of Fear in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau

Gothic Monsters- The Litany of Fear in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau

H.G. Wells may be known as one of the first writers of science fiction but his novel The Island of Doctor Moreau is one of the first modern horror stories and hits upon four of the greatest fears of the Victorian age. His work does this in such a subtle and inventive way that we may need to reevaluate Wells and name him one of the modern fathers of horror fiction as well. The four fears that Wells so intricately weaves into his story are the fear of science, the fear of internal corruption, the fear of reverse colonization, and the fear of social isolation. These four themes run throughout Victorian Gothic literature but few utilize all of these in one story. For instance Dracula is probably the best known of all the Gothic monsters but the story relies primarily on the use of the fear of internal corruption. In fact Dracula even fits the mold of the Detective story and uses scientific inquiry and deduction not as a negative but to finally destroy the title vampire.  If we look further afield we can see these four great horrors of the age used in many novels and stories of the period. For instance both Ziska and The Beetle utilize the fear of internal corruption, and reverse colonization as part of their plots, while The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde combine fear of science and internal corruption. Social isolation runs through many of these stories as an oppressive background to some but it is much more prevalent in The String of Pearls, here we find the Victorian mind petrified by the very society they have created. Alienated and alone a man could become lost in a city of millions. All these fears however are embodied in Wells story of men created from beasts.

Foremost in the novel Wells wishes to delve into the horrors of the scientific age. Doctor Moreau has set himself up as a literal God above the bestial creatures he experiments upon. He has even handed down a series of Laws in a parody of God speaking down to Moses.

“A horrible fancy came into my head that Moreau after animalizing these men had infected their dwarfed brains with a kind of deification of himself.” (129)

The audience of this novel was well aware of Darwin’s theory of evolution and I am sure they saw what Wells was suggesting through the character of Doctor Moreau. Here was a world turned upside down. Prometheus was unbound and God was now flesh and blood. Doctor Moreau represented the death of religion because if man could replicate the works of God what was God? Science had killed God and this realization could not have been lost on the Victorian mind. If men could command the powers of a God through scientific knowledge then what types of God would they be? Again Wells goes for the gut and here we see Doctor Moreau a mad God drunk with what he believe to be power over his creation, but just as Zeus over threw the Titans Moreau’s Godhood would end in tragedy at the hands of his creation. Science is at the heart of horror in this novel. Wells shows the reader that science unbidden by morals and ethics will run amok. This story is certainly a parable for the reader informing him of the dangers of science divorced from ethics and morality.

While a fear of science drives the story the twin fears of internal corruption and reverse colonization lurk just beneath the surface. Wells creates a microcosm of Britain on the Island. Here we have learned men of science, white men, civilized men but they have without knowing created the situation that will lead to their own demise. The beast men are creations of the Victorian mind but they are also stand-ins for those people that exist in the British colonies. Any Victorian would recognize in the dog-man the loyal Indian servant who graced so many wealthy homes in the period. This man brought from the savage Indian sub-continent would have been thought just as much a creation of British science and ingenuity as any man created from a beast. Here was a person, who through the prejudice of the Victorian mind would have been seen as having been raised out of a condition of savagery and into the light of civilization. What fear Wells must have produced in these minds when they read of the beast men raised in what could only be a parody of the civilizing hand of British society abroad. What little prick of fear would the fine gentleman have when laying down his head and knowing that his Indian servant could at any time revert back into a savage and kill him while he slept? This was the fear the Wells awakens in his novel.  So too did Wells awake the fear of internal corruption. We see this corruption creep into almost all the characters in the novel. Even the civilized Victorian was not immune to the effects. Wells pierces the thin veneer of civilization and we see the monsters and beast that lie beneath. Moreau is mad with his power. He has set himself up as a God before his creations. This internal corruption which can be seen as the loss of his soul is the price he has paid for his experiment. Prendick goes to live with the beasts and essentially becomes one of them while working on a means to escape. In the parlance of the time Prendick had “gone native”.

The last fear and one that probably sat heaviest on the hearts of those in London was that of social isolation. Prendick returns to London a changed man. His metal has been tested by his ordeal and he does not return the stronger for it. Prendick has been stretched to his breaking point and while he has not totally fallen apart his mind has been forever frayed by his encounters on the Island. Prendick cannot look at his fellow man or hear their voices without hearing and seeing the beasts. He is alone in a city of millions with his fear. Prendick comments on his fear that all men are like the beasts,“it seemed that the preacher gibbered “Big Thinks,” even as the Ape-man had done; or into some library, and there the intent faces over the books seemed but patient creatures waiting for prey.” (250)  To the fevered mind of Prendick God must have died on that island and science had killed him. Wells now takes the reader to the brink of real fear by asking a simple question. If Science has killed God and man evolved from the beast, are men not beasts? Here is the gripping fear. Civilization is just a façade it is merely the litany of the Law, a false set of beliefs that hold men back from their true inner desires.  Prendick finds the only inner peace that he can in contemplation of a God in which he no longer believes.


Wells, H. G. The Island of Dr. Moreau, Dover Thrift Editions. New York: Dover Publications, 1996.



The Freehold Investigates Vandalism in District 12 (Hunger Games)

The Freehold Investigates Vandalism in District 12 (Hunger Games)


The Hunger Games film has become one of the biggest blockbusters of the year. I happen to live just a few miles from the abandoned mill town of Henry River, North Carolina which was the site of “District Twelve” in the movie. In fact I often drive  through the town on my way home from work. So I have been familiar with this town for years. While the town has long been abandoned, it has also been well maintained. That maintenance is being challenged by a new force…..vandals.

The site has become a major tourist attraction in our area, and busloads of visitors have been showing up and touring the small town for months. The last few times I drove through the town I noticed some changes that are distressing.

For instance the general store which served as the bakery in The Hunger Games is slowly being stripped for souvenirs. One by one the letters on the front of the building have been stolen. This was not a simple one time theft. Each letter disappeared on a different day and I assume taken by different thieves.












Vandals have also been breaking windows on the side of the store.











Last but not least, taggers are showing up leaving their distinctive scrawl on the historic buildings. These are just a few of the problems I can see from the road. I hate to think what has been destroyed or stolen from inside the houses. I will endeavor to bring you more on this situation as soon as I can get an interview with the owner or caretaker.


Please if you are a fan of this movie do not come to this town and decide to destroy portions of it or carry off souvenirs. It may just be a movie set to you but this is a Historic landmark as well.


Alternate History – Voting Rights?

If there is one area of science fiction I would like to explore it is the world of alternate history. I say science fiction because what I am looking at is not simply an alternate timeline but books that explore what would have happened to technology had different things happened historically.  More than that how would society have been different?  One idea, and maybe someone has written on this, is the issue of voting rights on history.  In particular, I was looking at the issue of what if one of the ideas the founding fathers threw on the table was earning the right to vote in some way.

One of the ideas the founding fathers of the United States put forth was that one must own property to vote.  Sorry, the idea that everyone was equally capable of voting was not present in all members of that First Congress.  In fact, being products of the Enlightenment, I wager they were thinking of an educated and reasonable voting population that would elect the best and brightest among them to public office.  I know the  idea was hotly debated and for good or ill, men were given the right to vote simply because they could breathe.  I wonder what would have happened if the other side had won out.  What if you did have to own property in order to vote?  What would that have done to American society?  What would qualify as property?  What effect would this have had on technological development, particularly if the idea of property was extended to include intellectual property?

Robert Heinlein did something similar in Starship Troopers where the right to vote was given through government service.  Oddly enough, even though I am a libertarian there are times I think that some other criteria for voting should be there other than just breathing.  There are times I do see some people in our society and think to myself: “How does someone who is that stupid, ignorant, lazy, unpatriotic, etc. get to vote?”  I mean if liberty is earned by a country why not individuals?  Should liberty not be earned individually?  *sigh*  Or maybe it is just me looking at this election coming up and thinking “Oh My God!!!”.

I am looking for reading suggestions on this or something similar.  I would like to read someone who has thought of this idea or something similar.  It should also have a science fiction aspect in that the results change technology in some way significant. Help would be greatly appreciated.  Given my gaps in reading modern authors, somebody who has only written in the last twenty years would be great too.

In the meantime, I ponder the simple question of universal verses earned voting rights.  I am not sure if libertarians actually take a stand here.  I know what we have and I work within it, but there are times when I ponder what it would be like if things were different.

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews L. Neil Smith

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews L. Neil Smith




L. Neil Smith is a writer, and libertarian political activist. He  is the founder of the Prometheus award for libertarian fiction and has written volumes of libertarian centered science fiction. He has also given us what I consider our most thought-provoking interview to date. It is my pleasure to bring you L. Neil Smith.


The Hitchhiker asks…

Question 1. You are the creator of the Prometheus award can you tell us why it was needed?

I’ve been a student of social and political change as long as I can
remember. One thing you learn from such a study right away is that
political change is impossible without social change, psychological
change, to prepare the path — and the best way to accomplish that is
to “concretize” the otherwise abstract future you want to create and
live in.

H.G. Wells and Edward Bellamy both understood this and used science
fiction to criticize their times and generate a realizable alternative
in the minds of their readers. There have been others. Both Arthur C.
Clarke and Robert Heinlein created believable, desirable universes,
although their motives weren’t quite as explicitly political. Ayn Rand
did it, too, but I don’t believe she knew she was writing science
fiction. One of the few absurdities she wrote was that the detective
novel — notably Mickey Spillane’s — was the last literature of

Of course, as a lifelong science fiction reader, I knew better. So the
fundamental idea was simple: encourage writers to create new worlds in
which people are free to live their lives as they wish and to prosper
in that freedom. And the way to get that done was to offer a very
concrete award — solid gold — for doing that job best in any given

Question 2. I love the Probability Broach. I especially love the graphic novel based on it. One of the reasons I find the probability Broach so intriguing is that I live in the South Mountain section of North Carolina. This area was in an undeclared war with the federal government from the time of the Whiskey rebellion until the late 1960s. Of course the Probability Broach hinges on the fact that the Whiskey Rebellion was won by the rebels in their timeline. Do you have any other fiction based in that universe?

There are several other novels in what I call the “North American
Confederacy” or the “Win Bear” series, although my German publishers
referred to it as the Gallatin universe, and that’s probably more
appropriate, since some of the books don’t involve Win Bear or occur
on Earth.

I’ve skipped around a bit, so, in the order in which they should be
read, they are _The Probability Broach_, _The American Zone_, _The
Venus Belt_, _Their Majesties’ Bucketeers_, _The Nagasaki Vector_,
_Tom Paine Maru_, _The Gallatin Divergence_, _Brightsuit MacBear_, and
_Taflak Lysandra_. There’s also a tiny bit of Confederate crossover in
_Forge of the Elders_, and some minimal connection with the _Roswell,
Texas_ universe in _The American Zone_.

All of these books are available now or are in the process of being
reprinted. Tor is about to make _TPB_ an electronic book at long last;
Phoenix Pick, which does most of my stuff has electronic versions
ready practically the same day the “dead tree” book cmes out. And of
course _TPB_, as you note, is available from as a
webcomic or graphic novel.

Last, but far from least, Brian Wilson, the libertarian radio talk
show host has recorded an audio version of _The Nagasaki Vector_
— which some folks think is my funniest book, that can be had at a
modest price through CD Baby. There will be more if sales merit it.

Question 3. As one of the founders of Big Head Press do you think your message is reaching a younger audience by means of graphic novels and comic strips?

I’m not really a founder of That credit belongs to
Frank Bieser, the publisher, and Scott Bieser, the brilliant artist
who is also what we call the “HMFWIC”.

That said, BigHead was created,in the beginning, to make _The
Probability Broach_ into a graphic novel. That process took a long
time, and so they published _A Drug War Carol_ first, written by Scott
and Susan Wells. It has its own website and can be had as a dead tree
graphic, as well. One of the best bargains available today.

I’m not sure it was ever our purpose to reach younger readers in
particular. I’m happy to reach anybody who’ll listen — that is, read
our publications.

One problem the general freedom movement has — and which I’ve been
struggling to fix all throughout my career is that its various
“compartments” are too well insulated from one another. Today, for
example, we have libertarian supporters of Ron Paul, and Libertarian
Party members for Gary Johnson. We’ve got two flavors of Objectvist.
There are Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. We’ve got survivalists
and “preppers”. We’ve got hard money advocates and gun people. I’m not
sure how much they communicate with one another, but — given the
preparations the government seems to be making for a civil war — I
think it’s important that they do.

BigHeadPress and other efforts like it could become important conduits
for freedom-oriented ideas and communications within the various
sections of the movement. Hardline statists know that they’re in their
end-game, but there may still be time to deter them before it gets
really ugly.

Question 4. What does the future hold for you and your work? Are you working on anything new that may interest our readers?

What’s new? Well, the fun news is that _BrightSuit MacBear_ and
_Taflak Lysandra_ are about to be republished (I hope to sneak _Their
Majesties’ Bucketeers_ in there, somewhere, too) and will then be
followed by the five additional books I meant to write in that
sub-series. There could be two more _lamviin_ Mav and Mymy novels, as

That’s in addition to _Blade of p’Na_, a prequel to _Forge of the
Elders_ that I’m almost done with, _Ares_, which will fit between
_Pallas_ and _Ceres_ (there will be two morein that series, as well,
called _Beautiful Dreamer_ and _Rosalie’s World_) and a new project
I’ve just taken on which I can’t fully discuss yet. Brian Wilson and I
are also working on an audio version of my nonfiction book, _Down With
Power: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis_.

Oh, yes, and I’m also doing work for LinePlot Productions on a sequel
to their animated movie _The Silver Circle_ which will be released
later this year.

And finally (so far), I used to be a professional musician, and I hope
to put together an album of the various songs I’ve written in the last
half century or so. The album will be called _Do Not Remove This Tag!”

Question 5. I know you are a libertarian activist can you tell us a little about what changes in American society you would like to see? As a rational (Heinlein) conservative I can see the appeal of libertarianism but I am of the opinion that a libertarian state as depicted in the Probability Broach or in Roswell Texas can only be sustained if the population has a certain educational level or educational “background” (that may be a more appropriate word). I believe this country has fallen below that level. Do you believe that is true or that we need a certain level/background at all to implement a libertarian society?

Whatever knowledge of history and human nature I’ve managed to acquire
over the years tells me that people will rise — or fall– to meet
your expectations of them.

The people who built this country — I’m not talking about the
Founders, here, but of ordinary people doing ordinary thngs every day — were not especially well-educated, but they knew which side their bread was buttered on. That’s the whole “secret” to a freer market and a free society. they weren’t always consistent, either, but they did create the most prosperous, peaceful, and progressive society that ever existed at any time, anyplace on Earth.

It was their “leaders” who undermined that and are in the process of deliberately destroying it. They dream of a new form of high-tech feudalism, a dream that must be shattered if freedom is to survive.

It’s presumptuous for you — or for anybody else — to think you know how much liberty people “deserve”, or are prepared to use in ways that you may think are “wise”. You have no such right. Nobody has. That’s as bad as the criminals, cretins, and crazies who think they have a
right to rule us now.

Look: the two hardest things in the world to learn, the two things
that make us genuine adults, the two things that many people — maybe even most people — never really manage to get through their thick collectivist skulls are these:

A. Other people are as real as you are.

B. You must learn to let go of their lives.

Instead of prescribing for others, ask yourself, instead, how much
liberty _you_ deserve and are prepared to use wisely. Otherwise, MYOB: mind your own business. If everybody did that, we could have a free society tomorrow.

And no, I don’t believe we need just a “little bit” of government
(that’s like a “little bit” of cancer), for example, to build the

Like Doc Brown said, “Where we’re going, we don’t _need_ roads

Thank you for doing this interview.

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I am proud to announce that the Freehold will be moving into visual media in the very near future (this weekend). I have purchased some professional quality video equipment and I will be documenting the “Self Reliance Expo” that is occurring in Hickory, NC this weekend.  The keynote speaker on Saturday will be William Forstchen – author of One Second After. I hope to corner him and get at least a few words if I can manage it. Please stay tuned and we look forward to bringing you quality news from the science fiction and fantasy world… with video.