Robot rights, practical autonomy and character-driven comedy: An appreciation of Mark Stanley’s webcomic Freefall, the 2017 Special Prometheus Awardwinner

With this review-essay of the 2017 Special Prometheus Award winner, we complete the Appreciation series of past Prometheus winners, launched in 2019 with the Best Novel category, continued in 2020 with the Hall of Fame category and concluded* in 2022 with this final appreciation of our Special Prometheus Award-winners.

By William H. Stoddard

As the Libertarian Futurist Society began giving awards to works other than novels, one of the questions we faced was how to decide if a series was eligible.

It obviously wasn’t appropriate to give an award to an open-ended series, or to one that hadn’t been completed yet (though we might recognize a single volume, story, or episode). We were prepared to recognize a series that had been completed, such as Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner. We also decided that we were prepared to recognize a bounded part of a series, such as one season of a television show. This decision proved applicable in 2017, when after nearly 20 years of publication, Mark Stanley announced that the first chapter of his webcomic Freefall had been completed with installment 2834.

Libertarian fiction’s philosophical or ideological content makes a lot of it serious, or even didactic, with characters discussing politics and economics in long speeches. Freefall, 2017 winner of a Special Prometheus Award, proved to be a happy exception.

Continue reading Robot rights, practical autonomy and character-driven comedy: An appreciation of Mark Stanley’s webcomic Freefall, the 2017 Special Prometheus Awardwinner

Robots, rights & moral panics: Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn’s graphic novel Alex + Ada, the 2016 Special Prometheus Award winner

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s Appreciation series continues with review-essays about  fiction that has won Special Prometheus Awards. Here’s an appreciation of the graphic novel Alex + Ada, the 2016 Special Prometheus Award winner.

By William H. Stoddard

Libertarians describing their legal and political goals often use the original wording of the Declaration of Independence, referring to rights to life, liberty, and property. The order is important: on one hand, property rights grow out of the liberty to use and appropriate material objects without interference from others; on the other, liberty rights implement the right to life, seen not as a passive state of endurance but as an active process of self-creation and self-sustenance.

A central question for libertarian thought is which beings have rights to life and liberty? Libertarians influenced by Ayn Rand’s idea that freedom is a requirement for rational beings tend to think that every rational being has rights: rather than applying only to human beings, they would extend to such science fictional entities as aliens, enhanced animals —and robots.

In Alex + Ada, a graphic novel in three volumes (published in 2013-2015 by Image Comics), artist Jonathan Luna and writer Sarah Vaughn explore the question of robot rights, not through abstract philosophical analysis, or through a story of political conflict, but in an intensely personal narrative.

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A song of community and resistance to tyranny, and the novella it inspired: An appreciation of Leslie Fish’s “The Horsetamer’s Daughter” and “Tower of Horses,” the 2014 Special Prometheus Award winner

Here is an appreciation of writer-songwriter-singer Leslie Fish’s song “The Horseman’s Daughter” and related novella “Tower of Horse,” together recognized with a 2014 Special Prometheus Award.

By Steve Gaalema and Michael Grossberg

“Tower of Horses,” Leslie Fish’s rich Darkover novella, may be one of the most libertarian stories ever recognized with a Prometheus Award.

With its very believable and human characters, suspenseful plot and resonant coming-of-age and temptations-of-power themes, Fish’s novella is certainly one of the most satisfying, and emotionally involving.

Together with Fish’s epic folk-song “The Horsetamer’s Daughter,” the novella received a Special Prometheus Award in 2014 – the first time within the history of the awards that a song was recognized, and the first time that a paired song and novella have received a joint award.

Continue reading A song of community and resistance to tyranny, and the novella it inspired: An appreciation of Leslie Fish’s “The Horsetamer’s Daughter” and “Tower of Horses,” the 2014 Special Prometheus Award winner

A dystopian action film with radical and libertarian ideas: V for Vendetta, the 2007 Prometheus Special Award winner

Only two films have been recognized with Special Prometheus Awards since that occasional awards category was first presented more than two decades ago: Serenity and V for Vendetta.

Here is an appreciation of V for Vendetta, the 2007 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner:

V for Vendetta, a Warner Bros. Pictures feature film released in 2006, offers a powerful and poignant indictment of totalitarianism as a brutal denial of not only our liberty but our very humanity.

“Some movies fade on repeated viewings while others maintain their brilliance. V for Vendetta is a stellar example of the latter…. The movie  is simply brilliant,” Fred Curtis Moulton wrote in his rave review, printed in the Spring 2007 issue of Prometheus, the LFS’ quarterly newsletter.

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Self-reliance and libertarian ideals on the frontier: Prometheus-winning novelist Travis Corcoran on Joss Whedon’s Serenity, the 2006 Prometheus Special Award winner.

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a notable pro-freedom work, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 an ongoing Appreciation series of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation by Prometheus-winning novelist Travis Corcoran for writer-director Joss Whedon’s film Serenity, which received a Prometheus Special Award in 2006.

By Travis Corcoran

Like almost every science fiction fan, and like almost every libertarian, I was a fan of the TV series Firefly from the first episode of it I saw.

Firefly, and later Serenity, are about several things that are near and dear to the hearts of liberty-lovers: the frontier, voluntary – not coercive – exchange, an uneasy relationship with authority, self-reliance, and the trade-offs that inevitably come from uncompromising moral codes, nonconformism, and a healthy skepticism for the default paths through life.

Continue reading Self-reliance and libertarian ideals on the frontier: Prometheus-winning novelist Travis Corcoran on Joss Whedon’s Serenity, the 2006 Prometheus Special Award winner.

Bold imagination, colorful visuals, dystopian tyranny and a libertarian alternate-reality: An appreciation of The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel, a 2005 Prometheus Special Awardwinner

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s ongoing Appreciation series of Prometheus winners continues in 2022 with review-essays about the fiction recognized with Special Awards.

By Michael Grossberg

Adaptations of classic or popular literature into graphic novels have become increasingly popular. Reflecting this modern trend, the Prometheus Awards recognized its first graphic novel when The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel (published in 2004 by Big Head Press) received a Special Prometheus Award in 2005.

Visually colorful and boldly imaginative, this accessible and fun version of one of the most explicitly libertarian sf novels achieves its distinctive style and stirring impact from the fertile collaboration between libertarian author L. Neil Smith and libertarian artist Scott Bieser.

The deft combination of words and visuals helps bring to life Smith’s zestful and suspenseful sf adventure novel, which imagines alternate time lines accessible through the probability broach, a portal to many worlds.

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A preview of 2022 blogs, as our Appreciation Series approaches a milestone of 100 review-essays illuminating past Prometheus Award winners

As an eventful year ends, the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS) is approaching a milestone: 100 Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, all posted on this LFS/Prometheus blog.

That’s a milestone to savor, especially given the ongoing efforts and commitments by LFS leaders and contributors over the past 30 months to write and post these informative and insightful review-essays.

Here’s an overview of our progress, an explanation of why the Appreciations are important (including tips on how you can use and refer to them), and a preview of some of the upcoming articles you can expect from the Prometheus Blog in 2022.

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SF anthology ‘Visions of Liberty’ imagines future worlds without government: Part Two of an Appreciation of the 2005 Special Prometheus Award winner

By Michael Grossberg

Before you can build and sustain a fully free society, in earth or in space, you have to be able to fully imagine it.

Positive and persuasive visions of liberty – that can capture people’s imaginations as both desirable and feasible – are crucial to help sustain  free and diverse societies where people flourish. And whatever their differing perspectives, such visions must have plausibility, practicality and legitimacy.

That’s where science fiction can play a vital role – and Visions of Liberty, an anthology exploring different futuristic scenarios of freedom, fulfills that goal with fascinating, engrossing and surprisingly plausible stories.

Continue reading SF anthology ‘Visions of Liberty’ imagines future worlds without government: Part Two of an Appreciation of the 2005 Special Prometheus Award winner

SF anthology Give Me Liberty imagines future freedom fighters: Part One of an Appreciation of the 2005 Special Prometheus Award winner

“Give me liberty or give me death.”
— Patrick Henry’s speech to the Second Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775, at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia

By Michael Grossberg

Give Me Liberty, an anthology of freedom-loving science fiction, is one of two linked Baen Books anthologies recognized together with a 2005 Special Prometheus Award.

Give Me Liberty and Visions of Liberty, both co-edited by veteran libertarian Mark Tier and veteran sf editor Martin H. Greenberg, make an apt pair of bookends of freedom-loving sf anthologies.

Continue reading SF anthology Give Me Liberty imagines future freedom fighters: Part One of an Appreciation of the 2005 Special Prometheus Award winner

Exploring freedom on the frontiers of Free Space, the first explicitly libertarian sf anthology and first Prometheus Special Award winner

 

“Now we dare the great
Promethean sin
And bring fire back to heaven
on our rockets.”
– Robert Anton Wilson
“Free at Last,” from Free Space

By Michael Grossberg

Free Space, the first Special Prometheus Award-winner in 1998, has the distinction of being the first explicitly libertarian sf anthology.

Published in 1997 by TOR Books and edited by Brad Linaweaver and Ed Kramer, Free Space generated immense excitement among libertarian sf fans.

Today, almost a quarter century later, quite a few of its stories remain worth reading (or worth rereading) by freedom-lovers and, for that matter, anyone who enjoys interesting and imaginative sf speculations about humankind’s future in space.

The 352-page collection, dedicated to Robert and Ginny Heinlein, offers a wide range of stories and short fiction by 20 writers reflecting several generations and multiple perspectives.

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