A Deepness in the Sky: A Fable of Liberty and Tyranny

A Deepness in the Sky is easily in my top three favorite science fiction novels of all time. It is a story that envisions what humanity’s spacefaring future might be, and the questions we’ll have to answer when making first contact. Best of all, it is about the eternal struggle between liberty and tyranny.

Vernor Vinge has a remarkable talent for world-building. In this book he constructs a universe in which planetary civilizations rise and fall, while a culture of traders called the Qeng Ho (pronounced “Cheng Ho”) shuttle across the cosmos in great ramscoop fleets. The traders themselves live on their ships in a commercial meritocracy, and through their extensive travel and trade manage to spark settled human planets that have fallen into poverty, and glean the best advances from worlds that have come up with new inventions.

The story begins with the discovery of a non-human intelligence orbiting a mysterious star making its first radio signals. A Qeng Ho fleet rushes to investigate, only to be met by a fleet calling themselves Emergents. The Emergents come from an authoritarian society, as opposed to the free-trading meritocracy enjoyed by the Qeng Ho. The Emergents are not merely totalitarians. They have invented a unique technology that allows them to hijack human minds, and turn those humans into highly efficient automatons. This process called “focus” is a form of slavery, and appears to be more than a match for the sophisticated technological automation used by the Qeng Ho.

From the very first meeting of these two societies, there is tension. The two are competitors. Whoever is able to open trade first with the newly discovered race of “Spiders” on the planet below will enjoy unheard-of profits. Cooperation would benefit them both, but as in real life, authoritarians are not as interested in cooperation as they are in domination. Continue reading “A Deepness in the Sky: A Fable of Liberty and Tyranny”


This is a story I wrote a few years ago. This is so far my only foray into a type of science fiction I could describe as “horror.” It came from wondering about how a machine might react when given a purpose but no moral context with which to fulfill it. The lead character has had something terrible happen to him, but at first he does not know what. As he slowly recalls, he is forced to decide whether or not to tell his friends. Would they accept the kind of monster he has become — has always been?

You can purchase it at Amazon for a dollar, or download Former in MOBI or EPUB formats.

Andrew Horning gracefully, gently, dashes the hopes of Indiana Libertarians

lplogosmallI’m from Indiana, one of the Libertarian Party’s stronger states. Dan Drexler, Sean Sheppard, Chris Spangle and Andrew Horning are just a few of the people I know of in our movement who are tireless crusaders for liberty. While I don’t know half of them half as well as I should like, I like more than half of them half again better than half my Republican colleagues.

Believe it or not, even the Libertarian Party has partisan drama to deal with. I have adopted the Paul strategy and have been spending my time working among Republicans, so I have not been privy to the details of whatever is going on in the LPIN. I do happen to see when Andy Horning posts to Facebook and I’m glad I do. He’s one of the better advocates we have in the state, and he articulates the message very well.

Anyway, He is among the higher-profile libertarian Hoosiers, and there were some who wanted to see him as the state party chairman. In a recent post to Facebook, he said this:

When I first heard the rumor that I was running for the job of Chair of the Libertarian Party of Indiana, I assumed it was some sort of political trick and I scoffed it. As others I respect supported the idea, I considered it. I sent out some emails and started some discussions that I think were timely and important. I offered what I think are valid criticisms of the party, and a lot of responses (positive and not-so-much) came back. The responses were (how shall I say it?) con brio e fuoco.
All good. My skin is thick enough. We need to talk and I’m happy to have started a discussion that will continue, I think. I’ll be happy to continue that discussion.
…But not in the context of me running for the job of a partisan insider. I can see by what I know of my self (and what others in the party obviously think of me) that I’m most definitely not the guy for the job.
I actually never intended to start any fights. But if I pull my name out of the hat for LPIN Chair, I think the stressin’ will become something much more constructive.
So to all you who’d hoped I’d run, I’m sorry; I can’t. To all those who flared up; I’m sorry I offended your delicate sensibilities – now get back to work. To the rest of you, let’s consider our current situation, and find a better way forward.
Our political struggles are just beginning and we need all hands on deck.

With a call for unity and an apology for any divisions inadvertently caused, he bows out from a race he never entered.

During his multiple candidacies for Indiana government offices, he has been a stalwart advocate of strict constitutionalism. He has stuck to that principle with such fervor, even I sometimes thought he should probably try more palatable marketing line. But matters of taste aside, the truth of the matter is that if the Libertarian Party is going to distinguish itself at all, it needs such principled extremists.

I’m not a part of that party right now so my opinion hardly matters, but that’s the sort of person I’d like to see at the helm of the LPIN for a while. Nevertheless, he’s not in charge of the party, doesn’t want to be, and those who do have a different vision than he would… And that’s okay.

He is not unique in this type of conduct, by the way. Among my liberty-minded friends I see this attitude constantly. Libertarians are often viewed as overly vocal egoists who have a problem with authority. The reality is quite different. Among libertarians — the good ones, anyway — your self-worth does not come from how much power you have amassed, but by how well you respect the rights of others. You don’t become a libertarian because you crave power.

We’re repeatedly accused of having an “I got mine” mentality, as if individualism meant every man living like Robinson Crusoe minus Friday. To the contrary, respect for the individual makes genuine cooperation possible. If political rivals can’t find a way to coexist without ripping each other’s heads off, it’s going to be within the LP. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

From my perch in the GOP I’ll keep rooting for anyone who is constructively pursuing a freer world, no matter what party they are in. Particularly all of you in the Indiana LP, both party insiders and activist outsiders. It would be a darker world without you.