An Appreciation and Comparison of Harry Turtledove’s The Gladiator and Jo Walton’s Ha’Penny, co-winners of the 2008 Prometheus Award for Best Novel

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation – and an intriguing comparison – of Harry Turtledove’s The Gladiator and Jo Walton’s Ha’Penny, co-winners of the 2008 Prometheus Award for Best Novel:

By William H. Stoddard

The year 2008 saw, for the first time, a tie between two Prometheus Award nominees for Best Novel: Harry Turtledove’s The Gladiator (in his Crosstime Traffic series from Tor Books) and Jo Walton’s Ha’Penny (in her Small Change series, also from Tor Books).

Ordinarily, each winner would merit its own entry; but there are interesting parallels between the two, which make it especially fitting that they shared the award, and illuminating to examine them together.

Turtledove has been known primarily as an author of alternate history, making his mark with early works such as A Different Flesh (1988), set on an Earth where the Americas are inhabited by surviving Homo erectus, and The Guns of the South, in which South African engineers help Robert E. Lee to victory, with surprising results. The six volumes of Crosstime Traffic are a young adult series about trade between parallel Earths.

Walton’s oeuvre has been more varied, but Small Change is definitely alternate history, set in a timeline where the United Kingdom came to terms with Germany in the 1930s.

It belongs to a subgenre that’s not usually considered science fictional: the cozy mystery, commonly set in a domain of wealthy and privileged people (not very different from the setting of the Jeeves and Wooster stories!) and keeping overt violence and the cruder sorts of crime offstage.

Walton mixes this with a different subgenre, the police procedural, making her continuing protagonist a Scotland Yard investigator. The science-fictional aspect comes from Walton’s careful exploration of the cultural divergence to be expected in her alternate timeline.
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An Appreciation of Charles Stross’ Glasshouse, the 2007 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Charles Stross’ Glasshouse, the 2007 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel:

Charles Stross’ 2006 novel explores themes of ubiquitous State surveillance and the struggle of individuals to survive in the face of severe pressure to conform.

Set in a distant future and taking place in the same universe as Stross’ novel Accelerando, though at a much later point in its history, Glasshouse revolves around un-rehabilitated war criminals using every tool at their disposal to build a society that they can control absolutely

At the center of the story, set in the 27th century when interstellar travel is by teleport gate, is Robin, an ex-spy who wakes up in a clinic with most memories missing. Soon, he realizes that he’s a demobilized soldier from a civil war that’s ended, and that someone is trying to kill him because of something that his earlier self knew.

Pursued by a dangerous enemy and desperate to find somewhere to hide, the post-human Robin volunteers to participate in the Glasshouse, an experimental simulation of a pre-accelerated culture in which participants are assigned anonymized identities.

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Prometheus Awards Celebration series: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s Learning the World, the 2006 Best Novel winner

To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Ken MacLeod’s Learning the Worldthe 2006 Prometheus Best Novel winner:

MacLeod’s inventive first-contact novel explores the politics and uncertainties involved from two perspectives: the natives of the planet and the “alien” (human) visitors.

In some ways modeled on classic Heinlein juveniles and a departure from his other future-Earth-solar-system novels exploring the implications of libertarian and Marxist ideas, Learning the World offers as a primary viewpoint character a teen girl living on an interstellar colony ship about to enter a new solar system.

Continue reading Prometheus Awards Celebration series: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s Learning the World, the 2006 Best Novel winner

An Appreciation of Neal Stephenson’s The System of the World, the 2005 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Neal Stephenson’s The System of the World, the 2005 Prometheus Best Novel winner:

By William H. Stoddard
   The development in the late 1600s and early 1700s of the modern world’s classical liberal institutions, which paved the way for modern libertarianism, is explored in Neal Stephenson’s epic 2004 novel, the climax of the author’s ambitious Baroque Cycle trilogy (preceded by Quicksilver and The Confusion), which has been hailed by Entertainment Weekly as “the definitive historical-sci-fi-epic-pirate-comedy-punk love story.”

In the complex, multi-threaded plot of The System of the World, Stephenson traces the distant ancestors of many key characters from his earlier novel Cryptonomicon through encounters with major figures in the science and politics of the era, among whom Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz are key figures. In effect, this is a secret history of the origins of experimental natural science, the British monetary system, and the antislavery movement, among other elements of modernity.


The Baroque Cycle – which touches upon the development in the 1700s of such classical-liberal institutions as the rule of law, limited government, due process, civil liberties, free trade, private property, and separation of church and state – can be read as a straightforwardly historical novel drawing on such sources as the French Annales school of historiography — if a wildly inventive one that fully lives up to the label “baroque.”

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An Appreciation of F. Paul Wilson’s Sims, the 2004 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for F. Paul Wilson’s Sims, the 2004 Prometheus Best Novel winner:

Paul Wilson’s 2003 novel Sims, set in a plausible near-future, explores the struggle of the sims, a genetically engineered cross between humans and chimpanzees, for freedom and respect.

After impressive advances in genetics research that have made possible the elimination of many genetically transmitted diseases, the SimGen Corporation has created the transgenic species of sims or Humanzees (human-chimp hybrids).

Continue reading An Appreciation of F. Paul Wilson’s Sims, the 2004 Prometheus Best Novel winner

An Appreciation of Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch, the 2003 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch, the 2003 Prometheus winner for Best Novel:

Night Watch, the 29th book in Terry Pratchett’s bestselling Discworld series and widely hailed as one of the best, focuses in his usual tongue-in-cheek style on what it takes to build a more-modern police force that eventually will be able to keep the peace and fight violent crime in one of the most unruly cities in fiction.

Filled with individualistic, anti-authoritarian and pragmatically libertarian themes that resonate with the actual history of our own planet and how market economies and modern civilization developed, this ingenious 2002 satirical fantasy blends political intrigue and police drama in a plot that also involves time travel back to the start of a legendary street rebellion.

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An Appreciation of Donald Kingsbury’s Psychohistorical Crisis, the 2002 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Donald Kingsbury’s Psychohistorical Crisis, the 2002 Prometheus winner for Best Novel:

By William H. Stoddard and Michael Grossberg
    Donald Kingsbury’s Psychohistorical Crisis, an expansion of the Canadian-American sf writer’s 1995 novella “Historical Crisis,” reimagines and critiques the statist and technocratic assumptions of Isaac Asimov’s classic Foundation series.

Set in the 761st century, long after the events of that series, as the galactic empire is failing, the clever, complex and suspenseful 2001 novel offers a perceptive and implicitly libertarian critique of Asimov’s books, especially their determinism and political centralization.

At the center of the vast landscape of the Second Galactic Empire, which has spread to millions of worlds throughout the Milky Way galaxy but without any nonhuman intelligences except for genetically enhanced talking dogs, is a 30-year-old psychohistorian who committed a crime he can’t remember.
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An Appreciation of L. Neil Smith’s The Forge of the Elders, the 2001 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for L. Neil Smith’s The Forge of the Elders, the 2001 Prometheus winner for Best Novel:

Rollicking adventure, mystery, a sense of humor and explicit libertarian ideology mark L. Neil Smith’s The Forge of the Elders.

The novel was reworked from two previously published novels Contact And Commune (retitled First Time The Charm) and Converse And Conflict (retitled Second To One), and combined with the story’s finale (Third Among Equals), belatedly published a decade later.

Set in the late 21st century within our solar system and beyond, this fun 2000 novel concerns the culture clash and political differences between the human members of an expedition to asteroid 5023 Eris, and the multitude of aliens they find when they arrive.
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LFScon III planned for 2020 North American Science Fiction Convention: F. Paul Wilson announced as Columbus NASFiC’s Prometheus Awards guest of honor

The North American Science Fiction Convention will be held Aug. 20-23, 2020 in Columbus, Ohio – and guess who will be among the guests of honor and speaker-panelists?

The Columbus 2020 NASFiC has announced on its Facebook page that bestselling sf/fantasy/horror novelist F. Paul Wilson – the first Prometheus Award winner and a Special Prometheus Lifetime Achievement award recipient – will attend the Columbus NASFiC as the Prometheus Awards Guest of Honor.

F. Paul Wilson. Photo courtesy of author

Wilson’s appearances, talks, panel discussions and author signings will be a centerpiece of the Libertarian Futurist Society’s third LFScon (dubbed LFScon III), which will run as an informal “mini-con” within the larger North American Science Fiction Convention. Several main-program-track panel discussions are being planned, devoted to themes of broad interest to freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans, libertarian futurists and general attendees.

The LFS also will present our 2020 Prometheus Awards ceremony during the NASFiC’s biggest single event: it’s Saturday-night Masquerade.

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An Appreciation for Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky, the 2000 Prometheus winner for Best Novel

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky:

By William H. Stoddard and Michael Grossberg

   Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky is an exemplary example of the New Space Opera of the 1990s, and a fascinating and complex sequel to his Hugo-winning novel A Fire Upon the Deep.

Set in the inner Milky Way galaxy with fully realized characters, both alien and human, the story highlights the threats to civilization from centralized power while illuminating the civilizing dynamics of free-trade networks.

Vinge’s epic novel imagines a complex future with many human-inhabited planets that have developed over several thousand years through slower-than-light interstellar travel, terraforming, life-extension techniques, and advanced computer networks.

Yet many of these advanced societies repeatedly have collapsed into barbarism and decay through the failed dream of collectivism, statism, or subtle computational failures.
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