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.
To celebrate 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 our recognition as pro-freedom.
Here is an Appreciation for Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, the 1994 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.
By Michael Grossberg We imagines a world of repressive conformity and stagnant stasis within a totalitarian State.
With his landmark novel Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin bravely pioneered and imagined what later came to be known as dystopian literature – for better and worse, a dark and cautionary new genre inspired by the millions of innocent people whose lives were destroyed by the Russian Revolution under Lenin’s communism or later, by all the other statist-collectivist variants (from socialism to national socialism and fascism) whose authoritarian excesses and violent extremes of dictatorship, war, famine, poverty and social collapse so brutally marked and disfigured the 20thcentury.
We, written in 1920-1921 by the Russian writer and first published in English translation in 1924 in New York, was so critical of collectivist authoritarianism that it wasn’t published in the Soviet Union until 1988, when the era of glasnost led to its first appearance with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. A year later, the two dystopian novels were published together in a combined edition.
To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a notable pro-freedom work, the Libertarian Futurist Society began publishing in 2019 an Appreciation series of all past award-winners.
Here’s an Appreciation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, the 1993 inductee into the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction (and perhaps the most controversial work to ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame.)
By Michael Grossberg
Two alleged utopias are explored and contrasted in The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1974 novel about a rebel who leaves one world for the other.
As befits any intelligent observer of the 20th and 21st century who must take into account the emergence of dystopian fiction as a major subgenre in response to the authoritarian and collectivist horrors of socialism, communism, national socialism and fascism in Russia, China, Germany, Italy and elsewhere, Le Guin underlines her complex theme by subtitling her novel “An Ambiguous Utopia.”
To celebrate the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom work, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series of all past award-winners. Here’s an appreciation for Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day, the 1992 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner:
By Michael Grossberg
Bestselling novelist Ira Levin may be best remembered for genre novels and plays adapted into quite a few popular movies.
Among them: Rosemary’s Baby (modern horror), The Stepford Wives (satirical feminist horror-fantasy), The Boys from Brazil (conspiratorial political-spi medical-genetics thriller), A Kiss Before Dying (romantic crime drama), and Deathtrap (mystery-comedy), his long-running Broadway play.
Yet, one of Levin’s least-known novels, This Perfect Day, may rank among his best. (It’s also one of the few Levin novels left that hasn’t yet been adapted into a Hollywood movie. Hint, hint….)
To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing Appreciations of past award-winners that make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom work.
Here is a combined Appreciation of F. Paul Wilson’s Healer, the 1990 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner, and Wilson’s An Enemy of the State, the 1991 Hall of Fame winner.
“There used to be high priests to explain the ways of the king – who was the state – to the masses. Religion is gone, and so are kings. But the state remains, as do the high priests in the guise of Advisors, Secretaries of Whatever Bureau, public relations people, and sundry apologists. Nothing changes.”– From THE SECOND BOOK OF KYFHO
When the first Prometheus Award was presented in 1979 to F. Paul Wilson for Wheels within Wheels, few realized that the sf mystery novel was an absorbing piece of what would become a much larger future-history saga.
Together with Wheels within Wheels,An Enemy of the State and Healer– respectively the 1990 and 1991 Prometheus Hall of Fame inductees for Best Classic Fiction – formone of the most libertarian sf trilogies ever written.
Set in a positive but realistically flawed interstellar future in which human beings have spread among the stars, the LaNague Federation trilogy focuses on an imperialist central State and empire that is toppled by Peter LaNague, a far-sighted revolutionary who abjures violence in favor of a subtle, long-term plan based on a sophisticated understanding of economics, markets, money and inflation.
To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom works, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series of past award-winners. Here’s an Appreciation of J. Neil Schulman’s Alongside Night, the 1989 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner:
Milton Friedman, Anthony Burgess, Thomas Szasz, Poul Anderson, Jerry Pournelle and Ron Paul were among the prominent writers, fellow freedom-lovers or libertarians who highly praised Alongside Night when it was published in 1979.
Friedman, a world-famous Nobel-laureate economist, endorsed J. Neil Schulman’s sf novel on its cover as “an absorbing novel – science fiction, yet also a cautionary tale with a disturbing resemblance to past history and future possibilities.”
Szasz, a leading psychologist in the libertarian movement, called it “engrossing” and wrote that “it might be, and ought to be, the Atlas Shrugged of the ‘80s.”
Anderson called it “a frightening and all too plausible picture of the near future. America is already a long way down the road that leads to it. yet there is also a hopefulness in the story, for the author develops a philosophy, in considerable practical detail, that we could begin living by today, if we will choose to be free.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.