Memories & condolences
Neil will be missed by me for the rest of my life. Wish he had written more. I remember our first email exchange, I signed my name L. Christopher Nold, he replied back with "Another person whose name parts on the left!!!" His sense of humor and his sense of honor knew no end. The biggest life lesson he taught me was "never believe everything you read, even if it is in a school textbook." That has served me very well over the years. I wish I had been even more in contact with him.
For days I've struggled with what to say. I guess I'll just say this:
I wish solace for his family and friends. I am so sorry for your loss!He is a very large part of who I am today; such an inspiration to me. I owe him more than I can explain. He always made me feel like I mattered-- that my opinions mattered. I miss him.
I also notice he was quite the collector of "Kent"s.
How does one acknowledge a person whom you've known of and respected for 40 years, been an online friend and correspondent of for 10 years, but never met in person?
Cathy and Rylla, it's been a pleasure to get to know Neil through correspondence and TLE since I found and sent him an interesting quote from Albert Gallatin (the one on our side of the Probability Broach). Thank you for sharing him with the world and keeping his legacy alive, And please, don't be strangers. My prayers and condolences are with you.
I read all of Neil's books, as far as I know. And I corresponded occasionally. Regret never meeting him, but no doubt he was an amazing man. I will miss him, and I know you will miss him far more.
On Sarah Hoyt's blog I wrote this: There are lots of excellent writers, and many of those excellent writers are SF writers. But I can think of only three in the past 100 years that are really good writers consistently able to wrap a message for freedom in such a good story that the reader is thoroughly entertained while quietly absorbing the message along with it. Those three are George Orwell, Robert A. Heinlein, and L. Neil Smith.
L. Neil and his family hosted my late friend J. Neil Schulman and me during the Alongside Night movie tour and organized a local group to see Schulman's film. J. Neil joked that "the libertarian science fiction author named Neil who writes non-fiction about guns" wasn't enough to distinguish himself from "El Neil."
There are probably "L. Neil Schulman" and "J. Neil Smith" variants confusing the multiverse timeline enforcers. Both will be missed.
He was truly one-of-kind. Independent-minded libertarians will miss him more than we could know. Rest well, L. Niel. Your memory will be a blessing to many.
I wrote him a couple times and received replies that not only helped me on my journey but treated me as an adult, respecting my viewpoints and offering new directions of thought. Later, after the introduction of the internet I reintroduced myself and we had more in depth discussions about morality, ethics, and the continued destruction of the country we both love. He always made time in his busy life to write to me or, even more importantly, talk to me on the phone. We had long conversations on subjects ranging from music to religious topics, never a dull moment or a lull, and no matter how much pressure he felt to get back to his prolific work, it was always ME who had to stop the conversation to go to work. I like to believe that I had a positive influence on him, from discussing how I used physical therapy to learn to walk again after a terrible accident that should have killed me. I promised him that if he could persevere and get to a point where he could get around with only occasional need for a cane and get his arm to the point that he could aim a rifle again I would pull some strings and take him to hunt whatever prey he wanted from a helicopter.
In 2016 Neil was selected to receive a Prometheus lifetime achievement award (he won many awards but this was a special one) and I decided that I wanted to be there in person to see this man that I held in such esteem being acknowledged for his contributions to mankind. I immediately got in contact with his unbelievably wonderful family, his smart and beautiful wife and his intelligent but engagingly elven daughter to start planning. I wanted to set down a meal for them and all their friends, I wanted to meet his other fans who were coming to see this moment, and I wanted to meet the (I am completely sure about this) fictional character Roger Owen. We finalized our plan and I created a multi-course banquet, (to be prepped a 1,000 miles away from where it would be consumed) and work began between his daughter Giovanni, her handsome sidekick Shane, and myself to actually pull off this audacious plan. We managed to get it all arranged (in very little time, the date and place for the award had just been released) and I flew to Denver (which I couldn't actually afford to do) with one change of clothes and two bags filled with equipment and ingredients. The original plan was to have the inerrant and esteemed (but also, as I pointed out, fictional) Roger Owen himself would be picking me up, but that plan fell through due to his unfortunate physical limitations (being fictional as previously indicated) so I found an alternative and soon (for a given meaning of "soon" as Denver is the only place I know of with an airport located 2 states away which is guarded by a demonic, red-eyed stallion that already consumed the soul of its creator) I was there. We met up and I got to meet a different (and unrelated) Neil Smith, known as "Bones" and a wonderful young lady names Iris. The rest is a kind of blur with moments of great clarity and all too soon it was time to prepare the banquet. It went quite well, with the assistance of Gio and Shane, and soon we were washing dishes and having a few simultaneous conversations when it became time to start heading back to our hotel rooms. It was at this point that Cathy Smith discovered that their vehicle was gone, apparently stolen from the "secure" parking structure. It was decided that Cathy would get to the bottom of the situation while Gio and Shane took Neil and I back to the hotel. At this point Neil had suffered a stroke and was paralyzed on one side so getting around could be challenging but between Iris and I we managed to get Neil back up to his room and it was decided that we would stay with Neil until Cathy got back. We spent the next 7 hours in such intense conversation that we kept waking up the people in the next room (which I feel bad about to this day). It was one of the most exciting and satisfying time of my life, hours discussing the trials and obstacles that homosapiens face on its way to the next evolutionary step. Eventually it turned out that the dipshit owners of the "secure" parking structure had towed the Smith vehicle illegally, so we all stumbled off to our own rooms to pass out. The award ceremony was only a few hours away. Somehow we all made it to watch Neil receive an honor that had only been presented to one other writer, Robert A. Heinlein. All too soon I had to take off back to my neck of the woods, then realizing that apart from the tasting necessary to put out the meal I hadn't eaten for 3 days and slept a total of 5 hours, far too caught up with meeting my hero, and completely overjoyed by the whole experience.
We continued with frequent phone calls and emails, discussing everything from his current works to any other bizarre subject we could imagine. I sent him a bottle of whiskey made with ingredients used to make sarsaparilla and root beer, because we had discussed our mutual love for those beverages. I talked to him, not too long ago, and we still discussed his current novel and those still in the pipeline. I had become his proofreader for a while and had been privy to several works that have yet to be published, even appearing in a couple books in alternate dimensions where I still ply my artistry. While we spent many hours discussing how he felt he had failed, his book sales were never high enough to make him satisfied, I also talked about how he was simply a man born out of time, that he hadn't failed, mankind had failed to grasp the issues, he was a man writing messages in bottles that were being tossed into the sea of time to be recovered by those.mature enough to understand.
So, here is what I am trying to say, go meet your heroes! I am so incredibly thankful that I did, my life is so much richer for having met mine. He was even greater as my friend than he was as my hero, not because he was some kind of superior man, unassailable in some ivory tower of intellect, but because he was a man, born with the foibles and weaknesses of all men but still rose above it all as a prophet of a future world, a world where every sentient entity will be free to live as they will, without interference or intrusion from any source, whether that source be another entity or some make-believe boogeyman called "government".
My friend and hero L. Neil Smith passed away on Friday, 27th of August, about 5:15AM and I am destroyed, as heartbroken as when I lost both my little brothers so close together. Although his body was breaking down rapidly over the last few years, his mighty mind and indomitable soul were just as sharp and indestructible right to the end. He was so hopeful that the medical breakthroughs he had foreseen might come to his aid (I know, human Longevity is 20 years away and always has been), and I can't help but feel that WE all let him down in this. I write this through tears and runny nose because the end always comes too soon, too many things unsaid, and we never seem to learn this lesson. Please, go meet your heroes, tell them how important they are to you, how they have changed your life forever; because someday either one or both of you will find comfort in that exchange, life is short and despite what slow-thinking people say, you only DIE once, but you LIVE every day granted to you by the Universe, make those days count, they pass faster every day you live, they seem a blur to me now. I wish I could have become Neil's friend so much earlier, it just seemed there was sooo much time and so many other things to do.
I miss you, Neil, selfishly and unabashedly, I miss talking to you, I miss reading your latest work, and I miss giving you joy with my skill, feeding your body as.you have fed my mind. Rest in Peace, my friend; I know if there does turn out to be an afterlife you're already drunk with RAH and RAW, fighting about something and having a great time.
We'll miss you, Neil. The cause of liberty will ever benefit from your wit and wisdom.