Volume 013, Number 3, Summer, 1995

Freedom's Doom

“Cheap stuff on ice” — a Socratic dialog between Brad Linaweaver and Daffyd ab Hugh

Brad Linaweaver and Dafydd ab Hugh discuss their forthcoming Doom novel, Knee-Deep in the Dead.

Giant floating heads that spit ball lightning; angry, red minotaurs; zombies, flying skulls with razor teeth, killer ghosts; and alien brains riding robot spider-bodies…even the dreaded Cyberdemon, a fifteen-foot horror with a rocket launcher for a hand! These are just a few of the monsters that Space-Marine “Fly” Taggart must fight in Doom I: Knee Deep in the Dead and Doom II: Hell on Earth, the novelizations of the popular Doom and Doom II video games from Id Software. But what on earth does this have to do with libertarians, for Hayek’s sake? Well, one can start with the authors: Brad Linaweaver, Prometheus Award winner and Nebula finalist for Moon of Ice, which Gregory Benford considers probably the best “Nazis win” alternate history, and a multitude of short pieces on liberty for National Review, Chronicles, Reason, Option, The Mercury, and New Libertarian; and Dafydd ab Hugh, author of the immensely popular Arthur War Lord and Far Beyond the Wave and the upcoming novel The Pandora Point, about a libertarian revolution, as well as the Nebula and Hugo nominated socialist dystopian story “The Coon Rolled Down and Ruptured His Larinks, a Squeezed Novel by Mr. Skunk.” Brad has been working libertarianism into his short stories for many years now and has sold around fifty of them Dafydd’s most recent story is the Randian “Nerfworld,” about private space development and the urgent necessity for a right to fail. They both can be counted on to inject troublesome libertarian ideas into panels at more science fiction conventions than anyone cares to shake a Krugerrand at. At this year’s DragonCon/NASFiC, they will discuss the Doom novels on a special panel; anticipating the audience questions, Prometheus is pleased to print some of their answers in advance.

BRAD: What gave you the idea that those loyal public servants of the Infernal Revenue Service would ever sell out the human race to alien monsters?

DAFYDD: Well, somebody had to. It was a choice between the IRS and the Shriners. Since that passage was written on 11 April, however, and I had just realized that the entire advance for the novel was going to be split between Washington and Sacramento, leaving me just enough to buy more paper to continue financing the People’s Republic of Roosevelt, it was an easy call. Speaking of the IRS, your most famous work is an intellectual tour de force about Nazis. How did you manage to so radically alter your normal voice in order to write the science fiction action-adventure of Doom?

BRAD: When I was first trying to sell Moon of Ice as a novel, John F. Carr suggested that I put in more battle sequences in what was basically a talky book. So I did the same battle over twice, from two different points of view. Considering that I kept writing the Moon of Ice story over and over, this seemed appropriate; but some might say I was in a damned rut. Writing action sequences for the Doom books was very good for me, and you, Dafydd, showed me many tricks of the trade. So let me ask you: Why do you think the majority of libertarian science fiction published nowadays seems to be action-adventure instead of the Lit-Crit stuff?

DAFYDD: Since this interview is supposed to be light, I’ll answer that question seriously, just to be perverse. The liberals have had a near monopoly on serious—or as you call it, Lit-Crit—fiction since the days of Ayn Rand…possibly because they, unlike free marketeers, are willing to work for pin money in the giant publishing megacorps in New York… and they publish their own. But more seriously, libertarians and even most conservatives tend to be logical to the point of didacticism, completely ignoring the communitarian side of communication: we intend to win through by the force of irresistible logic, by God, and damn your feelings and emotions! Those intellectual works which have been published, from Human Action to The Bell Curve, tend to be (a) doorstops, and (b) books far more readily repudiated than read. And in most cases, with some notable exceptions, they’re much more often denounced than purchased. This is frustrating as all hell. We libertarians have to live like everyone else, and sooner or later you run out of edible poor. So we tend to retaliate by writing books where there is no danger of philosophical, intellectual discourse: books about teenagers trapped by a flood and a serial killer, such as my Swept Away trilogy, or science fictional romps in pirate star ships… roller-coaster novels that sell well and thrill the reader, but which engagingly disengage the higher faculties. Brad, you wrote the first draft of each of the two Doom novels; how did you attempt to bridge this gap between action and the intellect? Give examples, be specific, you have two minutes.

BRAD: We had the advantage of not being hamstrung by someone else’s plotline. These games are not really stories. We used the situations of the games, but it was up to us to tell the story, which leads to the character question. I’ve always believed that the best books have strong plots and strong characters; so in working on the first drafts, I was able to get inside the head not only of Fly Taggart, our Marine hero, but the other characters we introduced as well: the heroine, Arlene Sanders, in Book I, and the Mormon and the teenage girl in Book II. After all, there’s only so much excitement to be had from “the monster shot at me and missed—I shot back, and he kept coming!”

DAFYDD: Time is ticking, Mr. Linaweaver. Are you going to answer the question, or must I call an usher?

BRAD: Monsters are perfect metaphors for the dangers of life, such as the State. That is one of the reasons you don’t want to make a monster all-powerful, while at the same time not stinting on the danger. What interested me most about all the characters in these Doom novels was the endurance test: what kind of people were they? What kind of beliefs and other baggage did they bring with them to the situation? Libertarians can always benefit from a good role model of endurance. Why did you suggest that we do a Mormon character among the survivors in Book II?

DAFYDD: I’ve always been fascinated by the Mormons, as I have by the Amish and other groups who actually live out the individualist-communities we advocate so freely as libertarians. I mean, the Mormons have actually made it work: far from being self-reliant, the chimeric goal of survivalists, they are communally reliant…yet they do so without rejecting either the modern world or even modern society. Mormons believe they should integrate themselves into all levels of the social fabric, which is why you find so many Mormons in the FBI, in NASA, in the Armed Forces; yet they also preach preparation for total disaster, if such should occur. They live neither in the ultimate individualist utopia nor the somnambulant statism of the mainstream, but an odd and vibrant hybrid of the two. They seemed a natural for the type who could survive and even maintain a social order after an alien invasion of the magnitude we envisioned… burning cities, nuclear warfare, radioactive wastelands. Besides, I have been disturbed for some time by the extraordinary lack of sympathetic, religious characters in science fiction… probably due to the liberal discomfort and distaste for religion in general (the liberals seem to despise any mainstream religion, while embracing wholeheartedly any pagan, Indian, or matriarchal spirituality, no matter how goofy). This is not to say that I, personally, am religious; but so many people are, how could they have simply vanished without a trace in the future?

Star Trek is a perfect example—and I speak having written two Star Trek novels. Evidently, the Bajoran religion is of vital importance; Native American Indian religions have survived, thrived, and spread throughout the fascist Federation; even Gypsies are alive and well. But there is not a single Moslem, Christian, or Jew in any of the four quadrants of the galaxy. I’m pleased that we could do our small part pointing out that a man can be very religious and moral yet still not be an intolerant bigot; a man can have principles and stick to them even when personally inconvenient…even when sex is involved. Speaking of sex, is being a published author a bigger turn-on to women than being a libertarian is a turn-off? Which wins?

BRAD: Long ago, in a galaxy far away, back in the Jurassic, when I attended my first science fiction convention as a pro, I discovered that there were many fem-fans who could still be fooled by the glamour of a pro sale or two. This was at the very beginning of the eighties, before the explosion of new SF writers and before AIDS. In contrast, I never found that being a libertarian “spokesperson” overwhelmed anyone in particular—not even libertarians! The combination, however, of science fiction and libertarianism can still be potent if you can only find camp followers at a young enough age. No, wait… what I mean to say… oh, never mind.

DAFYDD: Screw it. Erase, erase, erase. Start over.

BRAD: To try to answer the question seriously, I’d like to say that every writer is ultimately thrown on his own resources. Successful marriages with a writer in the mix usually require one partner with the patience of a saint. Not surprisingly, many writers I know fall into the divorced category. Creation of any kind always has to be the ultimate turn-on. How could it be otherwise? And there is no denying that a very high level of creativity in any field will inspire resentment on the part of those less inclined. What everyone can do provides less of a thrill than what only a few can do. Always.

DAFYDD: What Brad is so adroitly dancing around is that we wrote a harem-clause into our Doom contract. One advantage of working with near-automatic bestsellers is the extraordinary freedom we have to demand the absurd and unreasonable—and get it. I chose two motorcycle-riding winners of the Ms. Olympia contest, but Brad stuck with the more pedestrian runway models they originally offered.

BRAD: I’m going to make a comparison between your work and the work of Robert A. Heinlein. You both have a military background which stays with you forever; but you both articulate a coherent philosophy of individualism that does not preclude the martial virtues. Do you ever feel a bit schizophrenic regarding these two important forces in your life?

DAFYDD: Well, it was the Navy what made me an anarchist. There’s nothing like seeing the beast from inside its belly to firm one’s resolve never to be eaten again. I do not believe—and I’m probably going to lose half the readership of Prometheus right here—I do not believe a man can even exist in context as a human being outside of some sort of society. We are supported by, imprisoned by, and defined by our relationship to others. There are no individualists; there are plenty of people who fool themselves. Men will naturally cohere into a community, then segregate the tasks of survival and growth among the different people. Think about it…how can capitalism even make sense except as a philosophy of community? Can a man alone buy and sell from himself? Can you buy and sell from people you don’t trust and would prefer to kill? Communities have communal goals, and the first goal is always to survive. You survive, like it or not—and I guess most liberals do not like it—by fang and claw: cross that line and you’re a dead man. Individuals in communities have communal, personal responsibilities; and the first responsibility is to guard and protect your neighbors and your own. If you’re not willing to do that much…you’re jackal-bait, as far as I’m concerned. If we want to survive, if we want our philosophy to have a hope of existing somewhere outside of the ivory-tower prison of most bibble-babble intellectualism, we’d bloody well better require the martial virtues: loyalty, courage, faith, and sacrifice for honor. This is not the meaningless sacrifice of altruism… this is the necessary sacrifice of defending everything you believe in. Somebody’s got to man the wall; there are real barbarians beyond the gates. If community means nothing else, it means the civilized standing shoulder to shoulder against the barbarian hordes… and a man who’s not willing to risk that much security deserves neither security nor freedom—the corollary of Franklin. Free men are free…but first and foremost, they are also men.

BRAD: Two quick points: I define individualism as operating within a cultural context. Alone on a desert island, the issue of individualism vs. collectivism is moot. I agree with you about the barbarians outside the gates; but I should like to add that I believe the fall of Rome is well underway again, and the barbarians are also within the gates. Our domestic welfare statists (none dare call them liberals) are a greater threat to us than one hundred Saddam Husseins.

DAFYDD: Or a hundred thousand demonic alien invaders. If Doom is about the invasion of Earth, it is even more about one man’s resistance against that invasion—he and his friends. Fly is a good man; you might not like his table manners, but you’ll never worry about his willingness to stand up for your own freedom as readily as he does for his own. My last question for you is exquisitely simple, Brad: from the sublime to the mercantilist…how are Knee-Deep In the Dead and Hell On Earth being promoted? Give me a quick puff-piece.

BRAD: Three hundred thousand total copies of both books will be released in August 1995. I am especially pleased that these books will not only be in chain bookstores, but in computer stores. Let me tell you why. Over the years, most of my friends have turned out to be computer jocks. They like to make fun of me as the most computer illiterate, Liberal Arts, English professor bum they’ve ever met. None of my friends from Florida State University, twenty-five years ago, would ever have believed there would come a day when I’d be autographing books in a computer store! And the funny thing is, I would have agreed with them. Doom will be in every bookstore in America; and speaking only for myself, I am proud as I can be that my name is finally on a book that will sell thousands of copies to computer gamers who don’t read. In addition, I have finally managed to publish a great work of literature that will not have a Swastika on the cover—although I did manage to work one into the story itself. And let’s not forget to give credit to the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency for pulling off this coup d’etat: sex, violence, and gore, but no Nazis! At last, Ashley can hold his head up in pride.

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