Rising up against universal surveillance and the imperial state: Poul Anderson’s story “Sam Hall,” the 2020 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

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

Here is an Appreciation for Poul Anderson’s story “Sam Hall,” the 2020 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By William H. Stoddard

In “Sam Hall,” published in 1953 in Astounding Science Fiction, Poul Anderson offers one of the earlier visions of a dystopian possibility based on the computers that had been invented only a few years before: a society with ubiquitous surveillance.

This is our age’s version of the panopticon described by Jeremy Bentham – one not confined to local sites such as prisons, but having an entire nation, or an entire planet, in its view. Anderson’s vision of computer technology is primitive, with a gigantic machine in a central government office that receives and stores information on punched cards. It has no hint of artificial intelligence, or of the ability to interpret voice or vision. But the job he sees it as doing is still the stuff of our nightmares.

Continue reading Rising up against universal surveillance and the imperial state: Poul Anderson’s story “Sam Hall,” the 2020 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

Egalitarianism taken to coercive extremes in attacks on excellence: Kurt Vonnegut’s story “Harrison Bergeron,” the 2019 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as anti-authoritarian or pro-freedom, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation for Kurt Vonnegut’s story “Harrison Bergeron,” the 2019 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg
The government’s Handicapper General enforces new constitutional amendments mandating that no one can be stupider, uglier, weaker, slower – or in any way better – than anyone else.

To enforce this authoritarian and radical egalitarian edict, perfectly capable people are forced to accept and wear various disabling devices that handicap their capabilities and basic humanity.

Leave it to the great American novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr. to come up with such a classic cautionary fable about a dystopian future in the United States in which coercive egalitarianism – a close cousin of progressivism – is taken to such radical and inhuman extremes in a perverse authoritarian revolt against personal excellence.

Continue reading Egalitarianism taken to coercive extremes in attacks on excellence: Kurt Vonnegut’s story “Harrison Bergeron,” the 2019 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

Robots, liberty and the tyranny of “benevolence”: Jack Williamson’s novelette “With Folded Hands…,” the 2018 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

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 has been publishing since 2019 an Appreciation series of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation for Jack Williamson’s “With Folded Hands…,” the 2018 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By William H. Stoddard

Jack Williamson’s novelette “With Folded Hands . . .” illustrates one of the distinctive characteristics of science fiction: its tendency to a kind of dialogue, in which one author’s stories comment on earlier stories by other authors. (Poul Anderson was noteworthy for this kind of writing, in stories such as “Journeys End,” which offered a different view of relationships between telepaths, and “The Man Who Came Early,” which questioned the assumptions of “castaways in time” stories such as Lest Darkness Fall.)

In 1947, when Williamson’s novelette appeared in Astounding Science Fiction, the idea of essentially benevolent robots was well established there; Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics (which Astounding’s editor, John W. Campbell, played a part in formulating) had been explicitly stated in Asimov’s novelette “Runaround” five years before, in 1942. What Williamson did was not to revert to the older theme of monstrous and hostile robots (which Asimov had called “the Frankenstein complex”), but to look at Asimov’s own vision of robots from a different angle.

Continue reading Robots, liberty and the tyranny of “benevolence”: Jack Williamson’s novelette “With Folded Hands…,” the 2018 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

Self-discovery, crime, law, anarchy, the social compact and social sf: Robert Heinlein’s Coventry, the 2017 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s Appreciation series, launched in 2019 to celebrate the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history, is publishing review-essays of all past award-winners that make clear why each deserves recognition as a pro-freedom work.
Here’s an appreciation for Robert Heinlein’s story “Coventry,” the 2017 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg and Jesse Markowitz

What is the ideal society? Is utopia even possible?

How close has the United States come to an ideal society, even with the inevitable flaws that beset every country and culture?

These are among the perennial questions explored and dramatized in Robert Heinlein’s classic story Coventry.

Related questions also emerge: How do you build a utopia and who do you build it for? Is it possible, fair and just to build a utopian alternative for some, but not for others?

Continue reading Self-discovery, crime, law, anarchy, the social compact and social sf: Robert Heinlein’s Coventry, the 2017 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

A great and logical heterotopia, with libertarian insights into optimization: Donald Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite, the 2016 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade-plus history and make clear why each winner deserves our recognition, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 a series of Appreciations of all past award-winners. Here is an Appreciation of Donald Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite, the 2016 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By William H. Stoddard

As an opening epigraph in Glory Road, Robert Heinlein quotes some lines by Bernard Shaw that include the sentence “He is a barbarian, and thinks the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.” One of the things science fiction can do for its readers is to jar us out of such complacency, by portraying worlds with customs other than ours – not utopias or dystopias, but heterotopias, “other places.” Donald M. Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite is one of the great heterotopias.

Continue reading A great and logical heterotopia, with libertarian insights into optimization: Donald Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite, the 2016 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

Civil disobedience challenging repressive authority: Harlan Ellison’s subversive and satirical story “Repent Harlequin!’, Said the Ticktockman,” the 2015 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade-plus history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian work, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 a series of Appreciations of past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation of Harlan Ellison’s “Repent Harlequin!’, Said the Ticktockman,” the 2015 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg

The ticking of a clock and a tight schedule controls the future world in “Repent Harlequin!’, Said the Ticktockman,” one of Harlan Ellison’s best and most iconic stories.

The satirical and dystopian tale, which opens with quotes from Henry David Thoreau’s classic work on Civil Disobedience, lampoons the excesses and absurdities of regimentation.

Continue reading Civil disobedience challenging repressive authority: Harlan Ellison’s subversive and satirical story “Repent Harlequin!’, Said the Ticktockman,” the 2015 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

A cyberspace, cyberpunk landmark in sf history: Vernor Vinge’s True Names, a 2007 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ diverse four-decade-plus history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian work of sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 a series of Appreciations of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation of Vernor Vinge’s story “True Names,” a 2007 Prometheus Hall of Fame co-winner for Best Classic Fiction.
By Michael Grossberg  
 and Chris Hibbert

“True Names” is a seminal work of the cyberpunk genre.

A landmark when it was published in 1981, Vernor Vinge’s now-classic story gave the public their first glimpse of cyberspace and showed how the struggle for control might penetrate the new medium.

One of the earliest works of fiction to present a fully detailed concept of cyberspace, the story also explores themes of anarchism and trans-humanism that are of great interest to libertarian futurists.

The story follows the progress of a group of computer hackers who keep their true identities secret while being among the first to adopt a new full-immersion virtual-reality technology. They do so out of curiosity or an entrepreneurial desire to profit – both respectable and even laudable motivations from the libertarian perspective that appreciates the crucial role of innovation and free markets in advancing human progress, prosperity, well-being and knowledge.

Continue reading A cyberspace, cyberpunk landmark in sf history: Vernor Vinge’s True Names, a 2007 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

Free will, self-ownership and the foundations of humanity: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Falling Free, the 2014 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade-plus history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian work, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 a series of Appreciations of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Falling Free,
the 2014 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction:

By Michael Grossberg
   Falling Free is a Nebula-award-winning sf novel that explores free will and self-ownership, two important concepts at the foundation of our humanity and liberty that also happen to be at the core of modern libertarianism and classical liberalism.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s 1988 (1987) novel, part of her bestselling Vorkosigan Saga, considers the legal and ethical implications of human genetic engineering.

In particular, the story conveys the personal impact on the rights and liberties of “manufactured beings” owned by corporations – a theme also explored in F. Paul Wilson’s Prometheus-winning novel Sims.

Continue reading Free will, self-ownership and the foundations of humanity: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Falling Free, the 2014 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction

Cryptology, privacy, and a free society’s adaptability: Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, the 2013 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade-plus history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian work, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 a series of Appreciations of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation of Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, the 2013 Prometheus Hall of Fame co-winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Tom Jackson

One of Neal Stephenson’s most-memorable novels, Cryptonomicon, was inspired by developments in cryptography during World War Two.

Published in 1999, Cryptonomicon won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 2013. Given the novel’s focus on topics such as electronic money and cryptography, it seems prescient in anticipating the current moment’s obsession with cryptocurrencies.

Continue reading Cryptology, privacy, and a free society’s adaptability: Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, the 2013 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

Collapse of a dystopia of isolation and ubiquitous communication: E. M. Forster’s The Machine Stops, the 2012 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ diverse four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian sf, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing a series of Appreciations of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation of E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops,” the 2012 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction:

By Chris Hibbert
E. M. Forster’s short story “The Machine Stops” is very appropriate for the time of the pandemic. Forster wrote about a society of enforced physical isolation where everyone can be in constant communication via the Machine.

Continue reading Collapse of a dystopia of isolation and ubiquitous communication: E. M. Forster’s The Machine Stops, the 2012 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner