40th Anniversary Celebration: An Appreciation of Fallen Angels, the 1992 Prometheus Best Novel winner by Flynn, Niven and Pournelle

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society is celebrating in 2019, we launched in September, 2019, a series of weekly Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our Best Novel category.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Fallen Angels, co-written by Michael Flynn, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle:

Fallen Angels imagines a heroic struggle set against a dark future in which the United States and other countries are fighting a losing battle amidst the “global cooling” of a new Ice Age.

With the government turned anti-science and anti-technology in a coalition among Greens, feminists and religious fundamentalists, and federal officials focusing on persecuting science-fiction fans as subversives while ignoring the welfare of much of the population in some of the most affected parts of the weather-besieged country, this provocative 1992 novel might have been just a depressing cautionary tale.
But the three co-authors offer some hope by focusing on a group of individualistic, science-loving and freedom-loving misfits.

The title refers to two astronauts from NASA’s stranded and closed-down space station who fall to earth while on one of their desperate flights to beef up the station’s diminishing gas supplies by scooping up nitrogen gases from the Earth’s outer atmosphere. Such missions have sparked the ire of the Greens, who view the astronauts’ actions as simply more theft of Earth’s resources and as “inappropriate science” – the new no-no in a reactionary and regressive society that puritanically condemns any consumption of energy as polluting and wasteful.

The two “fallen angels” struggle to evade capture and try to return to their space station, which has made progress toward self-sufficiency. In a subplot that seems consciously aimed at science-fiction fans, the astronauts fall to Earth the day before the annual science-fiction convention, prompting a group of sf fans to decide to rescue them.

Yet, the authors also find much humor in the contrast of cultures between the practical, reality-oriented astronauts and the romantic, idealistic fans, whose optimism somehow carries them through obstacles to help solve the crisis.

Jerry Pournelle (Creative Commons license)

Note: Michael Flynn also won the 1991 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for In the Country of the Blind.

Jerry Pournelle (1933-2017) edited The Survival of Freedom, a 1981 anthology of short stories and essays (co-edited with John F. Carr) that was inducted in 2001 into the Prometheus Hall of Fame.

Larry Niven, meanwhile, is best known for his award-winning novel Ringworld and its sequels, all part of his interlinked stories and novels set within the same  interstellar future within his Tales of Known Space.

Larry Niven (Creative Commons license)

* Check out the previous Appreciation for Michael Flynn’s In the Country of the Blind.

* Coming up soon on the Prometheus Blog: A 40thAnniversary Celebration and appreciation of the next novel to be recognized with a Prometheus Award: James P. Hogan’s The Multiplex Man, the 1993 winner for Best Novel.

* See related introductory essay about the LFS’ 40thanniversary retrospective series of Appreciations of past Prometheus Awards winners, with an overview of the awards’ four-decade history.

* Other Prometheus winners: For a full list of winners – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the recently updated and enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website.

* Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit volunteer association of libertarian sf/fantasy fans and freedom-lovers.
Libertarian futurists believe cultural change is as vital as political change (and often more fun!) in achieving universal individual rights and a better world (perhaps eventually, worlds) for all.

Published by

Mike Grossberg

Michael Grossberg, who founded the LFS in 1982 to help sustain the Prometheus Awards, has been a writer, arts critic, speaker and award-winning journalist for five decades. Most recently, Michael won the 2019 Ohio SPJ awards for Best Critic in Ohio (for theater reviews) and Best Arts Reporting (which he’s won seven times). He's written for Reason and Libertarian Review magazines, was a regional columnist for years for Backstage weekly, helped lead the American Theatre Critics Association for two decades and has contributed to six books, including critical essays for the annual Best Plays Theatre Yearbook and an afterword/essay for the first paperback edition of J. Neil Schulman's novel The Rainbow Cadenza. Among the books he recommends to inform a libertarian-futurist perspective: Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist, David Boaz's The Libertarian Mind and Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *