Transformation, interstellar liberation and “a Randian hero run amok”: Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination, the 1988 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom or anti-authoritarian works, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing an Appreciation series of all award-winners in chronological order by category. Here is an Appreciation of Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination, the 1988 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination explores themes of transformation and liberation.

Set in our solar system in a distant future on the verge of interstellar travel and colonization and written in beautifully stylized and lyrical language, this classic 1956 novel revolves around a lazy, gutter-talking spaceman described by LFS Director Victoria Varga in her 1994 review for the Prometheus quarterly as “a Randian hero run amok.”

Adrift with no ambition, Gully Foyle is abandoned in space with his pleas for help ignored. Consumed by a burning passion for revenge, Foyle embarks on a quest that propels a raging torrent of events.

“In the process of transformation he awakens the people of the worlds, and gives them back the right to think, dream, grow, and take command of their own lives,” Varga wrote.

Continue reading Transformation, interstellar liberation and “a Randian hero run amok”: Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination, the 1988 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

Rediscovery of the self amid post-apocalyptic primitivism: Ayn Rand’s dystopian Anthem, the 1987 Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ history, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series to make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom works.
Here’s an Appreciation of Ayn Rand’s Anthem, a 1987 Prometheus Hall of Fame inductee for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg

For those who’ve never read Ayn Rand, Anthem is a good place to start.

Imaginative and inspirational with a tone of reverence and discovery, Anthem ranks as one of the great dystopian works of 20th century literature, but also as the shortest and most poetic.

Its powerful and poignant theme: the rediscovery of the self. In Rand’s mythic and post-apocalyptic future of a primitive and very tribal society, the rediscovery of the self is tantamount to a revolutionary act amid the collectivism of forced servitude, ignorance, fear, stifling conformity and primitivism.

Continue reading Rediscovery of the self amid post-apocalyptic primitivism: Ayn Rand’s dystopian Anthem, the 1987 Hall of Fame winner

Authority, responsibility and a “man from Mars”: Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, a 1987 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing review-essays of past award-winners that make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom work.  Here is an Appreciation of Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, inducted into the 1987 Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.

By William H. Stoddard
Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land wasn’t just a best seller, and the book that made publishers take science fiction seriously as a commercial proposition; it was a major influence on the hippie movement, the counterculture more generally, and neo-pagan and New Age thought.

Given all this, it seemed paradoxical to some readers that Heinlein was also the author of Starship Troopers,with its praise of military service and especially, as Heinlein said, of the “poor bloody infantry” — the foot-soldiers who stood between their native planets and the desolation of war. Heinlein himself saw no such paradox; he said, in fact, that the two books reflected the same ethical and political ideas.

What did these two seemingly disparate works have in common? At the deepest level, the answer is “a sort of libertarianism”: not advocacy of the free market, or of specific constitutional arrangements, or of constitutional goverment as such (though such ideas appear in Heinlein’s other works), but a basic ethical principle.

Continue reading Authority, responsibility and a “man from Mars”: Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, a 1987 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

Conspiracies, Discordianism & post-modernist satire: Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus!, a 1986 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing Appreciations of all past award-winners that make clear why each winner deserves recognition as pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian in theme.
Here’s an Appreciation of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus! trilogy, a 1986 Prometheus Hall of Fame inductee for Best Classic Fiction.


By Tom Jackson
I recently came across convincing evidence that Alice Walker, the famous American novelist and author of The Color Purple, believes that we are ruled by a “lizard Illuminati.”

An article at Vox.com helpfully explained that Walker is a fan of David Icke, and “Icke is best known for arguing that the world is run by a secret cabal of alien lizard people, many of whom are Jewish.”

Which brings me to Illuminatus!, and my attempt to explain a rather unusual literary work, one that won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1986, in a tie with Cyril Kornbluth’s The Syndic.

Continue reading Conspiracies, Discordianism & post-modernist satire: Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus!, a 1986 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

Interview (part 2): William Stoddard on the challenges, rewards and future of the Prometheus Hall of Fame

“I think a full understanding of justice also has to include honoring and rewarding worthy acts and accomplishments. ” – William H. Stoddard

Here is part 2 of the Prometheus Blog interview with LFS President William H. Stoddard.

Editor-writer William H. Stoddard in his library, with his GURPS book on Fantasy, published in 2004 (Photo courtesy of Stoddard)

This part of the interview focuses on the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction, which Stoddard has been closely involved with for two decades.

As chair of the Hall of Fame finalist judging committee, Stoddard leads a group of LFS members who read, discuss and rank the annual nominees to select a slate of typically five finalists for the entire LFS membership to rank and vote on. The winner is inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame, established in 1983.

 

Continue reading Interview (part 2): William Stoddard on the challenges, rewards and future of the Prometheus Hall of Fame

Interview: LFS President William H. Stoddard on fandom, freedom, favorite novels and the power of language

Few individuals have made more of a difference to the Libertarian Futurist Society and the Prometheus Awards in the 21st century than William H. Stoddard.

Bill, as he’s known to friends and fellow LFS members, has led the nonprofit, all-volunteer group of freedom-loving sf fans for more than a decade as president of the board of directors.

William H. Stoddard (File photo)

But Stoddard has done far more for many years, writing reviews of sf/fantasy for the Prometheus newsletter and more recently, this blog, and serving for decades as a key judge on both finalist-judging committees for the Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction categories of the Prometheus Award.

Here is LFS Secretary Michael Grossberg’s interview with Stoddard about how he became an sf fan, a libertarian and an active LFS member and what are some of his favorite writers and Prometheus-winning works.

Q: What Prometheus Award winners especially excited you or pleased you when they won for Best Novel?

A: For the Best Novel Award, I’d name two.

Michael Flynn’s In the Country of the Blind (1991 award) asked “what if Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine had come into use in the nineteenth century?” in the form, not of an alternate history, but of a hidden history where multiple secretive groups used predictive social science (made possible by Analytical Engines) to create the actual history of the twentieth century from behind the scenes; it was one of my main influences when I wrote GURPS Steampunk for Steve Jackson Games in 2000.

Continue reading Interview: LFS President William H. Stoddard on fandom, freedom, favorite novels and the power of language

How far can struggles against tyranny go without becoming tyrannical? C.M. Kornbluth’s The Syndic, a 1986 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian works, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series of all past award-winners. Here is an Appreciation of C.M. Kornbluth’s The Syndic, one of two 1986 Prometheus Hall of Fame inductees for Best Classic Fiction.

By William H. Stoddard

C.M. Kornbluth’s novel The Syndic was an early winner of the Hall of Fame Award, in 1986.

Originally published in 1953, it was an example both of what Isaac Asimov called “social science fiction,” envisioning a change in technology or human behavior and working out its cultural implications, and of “thought variant” fiction, seeking to explore provocative ideas.

Such ideas were supposed to stir up discussion by going against conventional beliefs, in the style Robert Heinlein envisioned in Space Cadet as a required seminar in “Doubt”:

The seminar leader would chuck out some proposition that attacked a value usually attacked as axiomatic. From there on anything could be said.

Kornbluth picked a really provocative premise: A future North America ruled by organized crime, with the government driven into exile, creating a freer and happier society than that of his own time. This led to a story with a lot of action, but one where social speculation was never far from sight.

Continue reading How far can struggles against tyranny go without becoming tyrannical? C.M. Kornbluth’s The Syndic, a 1986 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

Free trade, entrepreneurship and a swashbuckling merchant-hero: Poul Anderson’s Trader to the Stars, a 1985 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series of all past award-winners that makes clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian in theme. Here is an Appreciation of Poul Anderson’s Trader to the Stars, a 1985 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg
    Trader to the Stars, part of Anderson’s interstellar and libertarian-themed Future History series written over four decades, offers three loosely interconnected and longer stories about the free-trade-oriented Polesotechnic League operating during a Terran Empire.

Blending adventure, mystery and sf with some swashbuckling heroism and vivid descriptions often evoking Norse sagas, this 1964 book centers on Nicholas van Rijn, a resourceful and clever Danish merchant-hero (Anderson was Danish-American).

Anderson, always a realist about humanity with a sensibility of a melancholy romantic, portrays both humans and aliens as self-interested, striving to make a buck and satisfy their various needs amid an imperfect world of struggling and flawed peoples – in short, a future just like today.

Continue reading Free trade, entrepreneurship and a swashbuckling merchant-hero: Poul Anderson’s Trader to the Stars, a 1985 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

Non-violence, Gandhian resistance and MYOB: Eric Frank Russell’s The Great Explosion, a 1985 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ diverse four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as pro-freedom, anti-authoritarian or dystopian sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series of all past award-winners.
Here is an Appreciation of Eric Frank Russell’s The Great Explosion, a 1985 Prometheus Hall of Fame co-winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg
The power of peaceful behavior and non-violent resistance is explored in The Great Explosion.

British author Eric Frank Russell’s satirical 1962 novel, which incorporates in its final third section his classic golden-age-sf 1951 short story “…And Then There Were None,” is set in an expansive interstellar future in which millions have used a faster-than-light transport system to escape an increasingly bureaucratic and statist Earth and have settled countless planets.

When ships with soldiers and bureaucrats and pompous officials from a still-statist and aggressively imperialist Earth arrive four centuries to visit and take over three of the planets, they find a penal colony with a corrupt and despotic government on the first, health and fitness fanatic nudists on the second and no signs of human life on the third planet, colonized by a religious group.

But they face their biggest mystery – and largest challenge – on a final fourth planet, filled with people who calls themselves Gands (after Gandhi) and whose agrarian culture and economy have embraced a classless libertarian anarchy based on passive resistance to unjust authority.

Continue reading Non-violence, Gandhian resistance and MYOB: Eric Frank Russell’s The Great Explosion, a 1985 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

How does sf lend itself to exploring freedom & other ideas? Watch the NASFIC 2020 Prometheus Awards and “Visions of SF, Liberty & Human Rights” panel with authors Hoyt, Wilson; surprise guests Cherryh & Fancher; & LFS leaders

Serendipity and seized opportunity enhanced the star power and appeal of the Libertarian Futurist Society’s panel discussion at the 2020 online North American Science Fiction Convention.

Unexpectedly but delightfully, the Hugo-winning Grand Master novelist C.J. Cherryh and her partner Jane. S. Fancher joined past Prometheus winners Sarah Hoyt and F. Paul Wilson and several LFS veteran leaders including LFS President William H. Stoddard in answering a variety of thought-provoking questions during the NASFiC/LFS panel on “Visions of SF, Liberty, Human Rights: The Prometheus Awards Over Four Decades, from F. Paul Wilson and Robert Heinlein to Today.”

When panel moderator Tom Jackson noticed that
Cherryh and Fancher were still hanging out within the Zoom “meeting room” after accepting their 2020 Best Novel award for co-writing Alliance Rising to watch the post-ceremony panel discussion, he noted their presence and ability to participate.

Tom Jackson

After a few questions to the other panelists, Jackson invited Cherryh and Fancher to come into the discussion with their comments.

Which they graciously did, and fascinatingly so.

Thus, the long-planned NASFiC panel celebrating the recent 40th anniversary of the Prometheus Awards – first presented by L. Neil Smith to F. Paul Wilson in 1979 – expanded into an event with interesting comments from not two but four bestselling, Prometheus-award-winning novelists.

Here is the full panel discussion, part of an 80-minute two-part NASFiC/LFS video that begins with the 2020 Prometheus Awards ceremony, including Cherryh and Fancher’s Best Novel acceptance speech and Astrid Anderson Bear’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech for her late father Poul Anderson; and concludes with the 50-minute panel discussion:

 

Continue reading How does sf lend itself to exploring freedom & other ideas? Watch the NASFIC 2020 Prometheus Awards and “Visions of SF, Liberty & Human Rights” panel with authors Hoyt, Wilson; surprise guests Cherryh & Fancher; & LFS leaders