Appreciating Victor Koman’s Kings of the High Frontier, the 1997 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 see 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 Victor Koman’s Kings of the High Frontier:

Victor Koman’s 1997 novel dramatizes the dream of getting into space with an libertarian twist: The massive effort is achieved through the voluntary social cooperation of mutual trade and mutual aid through private enterprise.

Set in a subtly alternate reality, the story imagines a profit-enhanced competition to reach the stars, which anticipated the X Prize that saw Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne reach space in 2004.

Kings of the High Frontier highlights the shortsighted bureaucratic and political efforts of a government-run program like NASA, with its consequences in corruption, wasteful mismanagement and stagnation.


Explicitly libertarian, the story indicts NASA for its political pressures that partly led to the space shuttle Challenger’s explosion.
Yet, the thrust of the story is fundamentally positive and hopeful in its portrayal of a better alternative: resourceful and heroic efforts of private enterpreneurs to make better and faster progress in human space travel.

The stakes are raised with the urgency of the quest intensified by an impending United Nations bill that would impose strict UN control over all travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

The imaginative and suspenseful story also explores basic questions affecting the future of space travel: Who owns space? Will moon colonists have to pay taxes to Earth governments? What about those who live in orbit?

First published online at pulpless.com and only later published in print, this novel set a Libertarian Futurist Society milestone when it became the first online (non-print) “ebook” novel to win the Prometheus Award.

Note: Koman, a California-based writer and agorist, previously won the Prometheus Award for Best Novel for The Jehovah Contract (1988) and Solomon’s Knife (1990).

Victor Koman

His novel Kings of the High Frontier won the 1997 award over the Prometheus finalists Forester, by Michael Flynn; Wildside,by Steven Gould;  Paths to Otherwhere, by James P. Hogan; and Sliders, by Brad Linaweaver.

Interestingly, during the LFS awards voting that year, Brad Linaweaver sent out a letter endorsing Kings of the High Frontier – then only available in the then-new online eBook format, and the first online-only novel to be nominated for the Prometheus Award.

Linaweaver’s letter was shared by Prometheus editor Anders Monsen in a mailing to LFS members that included the Best Novel finalist ballot.

Linaweaver (who died in August 2019) remarkably and admirably urged LFS members to vote for Koman’s novel over his own finalist, writing: “While I appreciate anybody voting for me, I think that Kings of the High Frontier is such a breakthrough novel that I appreciate it more if they vote for Kings instead. I think it is the most important libertarian sf novel in years and it is a holy crusade that we get this book honored, because that might make the difference in getting a print publisher to bring this out.”

Koman’s short stories have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Galaxy Science Fiction and several anthologies (including Weird Menace, The King is Dead: Tales of Elvis Post-Mortem and Free Space, a libertarian sf anthology, edited by Brad Linaweaver and Edward E. Kramer, that received the first Special Prometheus Award in 1998.

* Coming up soon on the Prometheus Blog: A 40thAnniversary Celebration and Appreciation of the next novel to be recognized with a Prometheus Award: Ken MacLeod’sThe Stone Canal, the 1998 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.

* Also see our previously published Appreciations of Victor Koman’s two other Prometheus-winning novels: Solomon’s Knifethe 1990 winnerand The Jehovah Contract, the 1988 winner.

* 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.

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