Libertarianism and science fiction have been closely connected since their early history, a rich topic often explored here on the Prometheus Blog.
Libertarian sf fan Tom Jackson explores their connections anew in his recently published essay “Heinlein’s Children: Libertarians in fandom.”
Published in “Amazing Storage,” William Brieding’s sf fanzine, Jackson’s interesting and historically knowledgeable article offers a very readable introduction to the subject for the fanzine’s “The Great Sercon Issue Part One.”
Tor.com, a leading online sf magazine, has published an intriguing article about bestselling writer C.S. Lewis. That’s welcome news to Lewis’ fans, including sf readers and Libertarian Futurist Society members.
The positive attention comes as LFS members are considering the 2022 Prometheus Hall of Fame finalists – which include That Hideous Strength, the third and final novel of Lewis’ Space Trilogy.
(For the record, the three other Hall of Fame 2022 finalists are Robert Heinlein’s novel Citizen of the Galaxy, Barry B. Longyear’s collection of stories in Circus World, and the Rush song “The Trees.”)
Sequels to classic works of literature by deceased authors rarely measure up to the originals, but that doesn’t stop different authors and publishers from trying.
Yet, the new novels often spark interest, especially by fans of the earlier works, and sometimes they even become bestsellers – only to fade while the original works continue to be celebrated. (Does anyone today remember Scarlett, a popular sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s still-read Gone with the Wind?)
The latest effort, recently announced and of special interest to Libertarian Futurist Society members, will offer a retelling of a Prometheus award-winner that ranks among the 20th century’s most influential and best-known novels: George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Julia, an upcoming novel by Sandra Newman, will refocus the events of the dystopian tale of totalitarian dictatorship, propaganda, mind control, newspeak and doublethink from the perspective of Winston Smith’s illicit love interest.
But a surprising amount of libertarian science fiction is free.
One freedom-loving sf fan has compiled an interesting list of 26 libertarian sf novels that are free in that other sense, of being available online without charge.
While one might appreciate the ancient truth that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” freedom-lovers of all stripes certainly can also appreciate a bargain when they see it – including the pleasant discovery that the price of a surprising variety of pro-freedom science fiction is zero. Such a deal!
The list of “The 26 Best Free Libertarian Novels,” published by author J.P. Meddled on the Art for Liberty website, explicitly references the Prometheus Awards and includes several Prometheus winners.
But the list is most intriguing for its range and for how it embraces a wide variety of fiction (virtually all science fiction) that explores libertarian themes from the positive benefits of individual choice, free markets, private property and the right of self-defense to the horrors of dictatorship, authoritarian abuses of power and the perennial threats to liberty inherent in the coercive foundations of government.
By Michael Grossberg
Libertarian futurists dream of unleashing the potential of every person to flourish, cooperate, innovate, progress, profit and pursue their happiness in peace and freedom – both here on earth, and perhaps eventually, beyond.
Yet, the politicization of society and increasingly, of our culture and arts, threatens that goal – and in the long run, undermines civility and could destroy civilization itself if this disturbing trend approaches authoritarian extremes.
In a thought-provoking article “Enslaving Art to Politics,” published recently in American Purpose magazine, writer Daniel Ross Goodman argues persuasively against the “politicization of literature.”
His essay should interest Libertarian Futurist Society members, even when Goodman makes some points about particular works and artists that we might respectfully disagree with.
“The best novelists, like all great artists, are not narrow-minded agenda-driven partisans but adventurers in the unbounded universe of the human imagination, who, through their fictions, help us better perceive vital truths about ourselves and our reality,” Goodman wrote in late September in the online magazine.
Ray Bradbury, a soulful romantic and ardent lover of American civil liberties, was one of the most celebrated American writers of the 20th century.
Perhaps best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, one of the earliest and most deserving works inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame, and the many film and TV versions of his stories and novels, Bradbury continues to rank high in the pantheon of the greatest short-story writers and leading golden-age sci-fi/fantasy authors.
Yet, how long might his well-deserved reputation as a storyteller last amid the dismaying anti-liberal and authoritarian worldwide trends of the early 21st century?
A just-published essay in The Spectator, a British weekly magazine on politics, culture and current affairs, asks that worrisome question – while also making a powerful case for Bradbury as an enduring writer and champion of liberty.
The 2021 Prometheus Awards slate of Best Novel finalists, just announced, reflects an interesting first in the four-decade-plus history of the award.
See if you can identify this first – hint: a reflection of a long-term trend in modern publishing – from scanning this list of the finalist novels, their authors and publishers:
* Who Can Own the Stars? by Mackey Chandler (Amazon Kindle) * Storm between the Stars, by Karl K. Gallagher (Kelt Haven Press)
* The War Whisperer, Book 5: The Hook, by Barry B. Longyear (Enchanteds) * Braintrust: Requiem, by Marc Stiegler (LMBPN Publishing)
* Heaven’s River,by Dennis E. Taylor (An Audible Original, print and ebook editions The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency)
“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.
Libertarian science fiction has always been a seminal strand in the ever-evolving genre of science fiction and fantasy – and in significant and honorable ways, that socially conscious and liberty-loving subgenre continues as a force today, even amid regressive and reactionary forces flirting with the perennial temptations of statism, authoritarianism and centralized, institutionalized coercion on the Left and Right.
Libertarian futurists – within and outside the Libertarian Futurist Society (not to mention other organizations within the far broader libertarian movement, from Reason and Libertymagazines to the Cato Institute) – have understood that for a long time.
Yet, it’s salutary and newsworthy when our understanding of the broader intellectual and artistic currents that have helped shape the four-decade-plus history and diversity of the Prometheus Awards is shared and appreciated by an international, cosmopolitan publication outside the libertarian movement.
Such a relatively rare occasion has materialized this month (June 2020) with a fair-minded, open-minded, rich and rewarding essay on “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction” published in Quillette, an influential web-magazine that embraces what modern libertarians might generally recognize as classically liberal principles.
According to its mission statement, Quillette offers “a platform for free thought. We respect ideas, even dangerous ones. We also believe that free expression and the free exchange of ideas help human societies flourish and progress.”
Indeed, LFS members might say as much, using virtually the same words, to uphold important Bill of Rights aspects of our libertarian vision of a fully free future in which people strive to respect other people’s rights and live together through the voluntary cooperation and enterprise of a free society and a free market while steadfastly abjuring violence, the initiation of force or fraud and the institutionalized coercion of the unchecked State.