The Probability Broach and my site
by Mike Baron
The Probability Broach
Writer: L. Neil Smith
Artist: Scott Bieser
Publisher: Big Head Press, Price: $19.95 US
The Probability Broach is a graphic novel with the heft of a Quad Cities phone book. At a hundred and eighty-five densely packed pages it takes days to read. L. Neil Smith cites Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein as inspirations, and the book reads like their bastard son. Like The Fountainhead, Brave New World, 1984, and The Sheep Look Up, Broach is ideology-driven science fiction, entertainment in the service of libertarianism, or "Propertarianism," as it's known in the book. It's a Rorschach blot that will infuriate some and enthrall others. It is action-packed. Protagonists argue the pros and cons of a government-free society between wild dust-ups, shoot-outs, and car chases. It requires the use of brain muscles not normally employed while reading comics.
© 2004 Big Head Press
Smith specializes in alternate realities based on an exhaustive knowledge of history. He loves spinning historical figures into bizarre doppelgangers. He reviles Hamilton and celebrates Jefferson. Broach's primary villain is based on Baron Von Richthofen. The hero is a Ute Indian police detective in a fictional Denver where the Nanny State has taken over, robbing people of dignity and security. It is the type of book that rewards avid readers of the Federalist Papers and Jeffersonian scholars. It will delight Second Amendment absolutists.
"Wear a gun to somebody's house, you're saying, 'I'll defend this home as if it were my own.' Anyone who objects levels the deadliest insult possible: 'I won't trust you until you render yourself harmless.'" And that's just for starters. Smith defends the right of children to pack arms. Handing this graphic novel to a liberal pal would be like handing him a live grenade. It will explode in his face. Then he will explode in your face.
Lib-simp Denver cop Win Bear argues with his alternate-reality doppelganger Ed: "To die in the streets of starvation and disease? You need government, Ed, to." Ed: "Wrong way around, Win. Governments need misery, which they create in abundance, to justify their existence. Government is a disease masquerading as its own cure."
Smith goes to the mat for his gun-happy society. Extreme is a polite way to describe it. As Win and two heavily armed buddies prepare to board a plane, the flight attendant checks their ammunition to make sure it's "Frangibles at under 900 feet per second." I'm not sure I buy it. We all know people we wouldn't trust with a sharp pencil, let alone a gun. Smith posits a society where these people simply don't make it-they either die of their own stupidity or are killed off by righteous citizens. Based on his 1980 novel, it predates the advent of the suicide bomber. How would Smith's society deal with religious fanatics willing to blow themselves up because of their hatred of freedom? As an exercise in utopianism, this is outstanding fiction. Any society will work if you fill it with like-minded people. As fiction, it's sui generic. Smith never forgets to entertain. Memorable characters drip from every page, including talking apes and porpoises.
Congresswoman Lucy Kropotkin is a feisty cracker-barrel philosopher who dominates an intense continental congress, a wild set piece with elements of courtroom drama, murder mystery, and video game, but mainly an experiment in participatory democracy.
Scott Bieser's art is a synthesis of George Metzger and Dave Gibbons. His facial expressions achieve an effortless emotional authenticity, and his big scenes of future skylines and inventions are convincing. Stylistically and thematically, The Probability Broach reminded me of Watchmen. The difference, of course, is that Alan Moore's primary intent was to entertain. Smith's is to entertain and convince readers of the virtues of libertarianism. Smith's is by far the harder job. That he succeeds at all is a phenomenon. That he succeeds at such a level is a miracle. Smith will cheerfully engage your synapses at his website, www.lneilsmith.com. Be sure to read the "Letter to a Bureaucrat."
The Bloody Red Baron site is up!
"Mike, why don't you have a website?" Even my dog has a website. Now I have one too thanks to webmaster Marcus Fusilier. www.bloodyredbaron.com is a work in progress, and we're just getting started. Lots of news coming up, guest essays, crackpot essays, and eventually, shit to sell. I am negotiating with a Hong Kong toy company to produce vinyl Fat Elvis dolls. The seventies guy with the bulging paunch, white leather fringed jumpsuit, and hair like a black shag carpet. Admit it, folks. This is the Elvis you've been waiting for.
At my dog's suggestion, I am also negotiating to provide a wide range of doggie chew toys fashioned after famous celebrities. Britney Spears, Barbara Streisand, Omarosa, Michael Savage, Donald Trump, Dr. Phil, and Simon from American Idol will all be available for doggie masticating.
Click on "NEWS" for my essay on the state of pop music.
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