Forge of the Elders

Capitalist Monsters from Outer Space!

Just when the 21st century thought it was safe to throw Marxism on the ash heap of history once and for all, a worldwide economic collapse suddenly made freedom seem less desirable than security, and the Total State turned out to be the comeback kid. In the US, where the power elite had long shown heartfelt affection for collectivism and making the trains (nationalized, of course) run on time, communism had a second coming. Which meant that Earth was now the Red Planet. The few holdouts and counterrevolutionaries would be dealt with in good time.

Of course, collectivization only made the worldwide depression worse. But then the People's Astronomers noticed an asteroid with unusual spectrographic properties, seemingly a treasure trove of valuable minerals that might rejuvenate the Earth's economy. So three aged NASA shuttles were pulled out of mothballs. crewed by a team of handpicked misfits whom no one would miss, and sent to the asteroid.

However, someone else was there first, under an airtight canopy made by genetically engineered trees. And they weren't human, even if they were from Earth. The Elders were "nautiloids," like intelligent giant squids in Volkswagen-sized shells, from a parallel universe where they were Earth's dominant species. Worst of all, they were CAPITALISTS!


Writing in the libertarian tradition of Robert A. Heinlein, L. Neil Smith may be the most widely-published and prolific living libertarian author in the world, with over 20 books to his credit, two of them winners of the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian Fiction: The Probability Broach and Pallas. He has also published numerous short stories and articles, has contributed gags to such comic strips as "Ziggy" and "Frank and Ernest," and has lectured annually in the Colorado State University Physics Department on the physics of alternative realities. He attended the same university 1964-69, majoring in philosophy and psychology. He has served as a reserve police officer for the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, is a skilled competitive shooter, and is a Life Member of the National Rifle Association. Smith was born in Denver, Colorado on May 12, 1946 to an Air Force family, which led to his growing up all over North America. A highly prophetic author, his writings have predicted, among other things, the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the internet as we now know it, and the digital watch. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife Cathy, his daughter Rylla, and two cats, Amber and Ambrose.

Illustration and cover design by Bob Eggleton
Cover Design by Carol Russo


This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

First printing, April 2000

Distributed by Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

Printed in the United States of America

ISBN: 0-671-57859-6

Copyright © 2000 by L. Neil Smith

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

A Baen Books Original
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Electronic version by WebWrights