40th Anniversary Prometheus Celebration: An Appreciation of F. Paul Wilson’s Wheels within Wheels, the first award winner in 1979

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society is celebrating in 2019, we are posting a series of weekly Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our earliest Best Novel awards and moving forward to today.
Here’s the first Appreciation for F. Paul Wilson’s Wheels within Wheels, which won the first Prometheus Award in 1979.
At the end, we also include a few recent comments by Wilson, looking back 40 years at the very-different era and context in which he wrote his novel.

By Michael Grossberg
   An sf murder mystery hailed by the Library Journal for its “cleverly planted clues” and “all the satisfaction of a good Agatha Christie,” this 1978 novel was the first work of fiction to receive the Prometheus Award, initially established by writer L. Neil Smith to recognize more libertarian sf fiction.

With the benefit of hindsight, looking back at Wilson’s work from the perspective of the 40thanniversary of the Prometheus Awards in 2019, one appreciates this novel even more as part of a fascinating larger whole: Wilson’s LaNague Federation series, set in an interstellar future in which an imperialist central State is toppled by a decentralized libertarian social order that unleashes an era of peace, prosperity, progress and broad respect for individual rights.

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A 40th Anniversary Retrospective: Introducing a Reader’s Guide to the Prometheus Award Winners

By Michael Grossberg

To highlight and honor the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society is celebrating in 2019, we are providing a reader’s guide with capsule Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, starting with the Best Novel category.

If you’ve ever wondered why a particular work of fiction has been recognized with a Prometheus Award and what libertarian sf fans see in these award-winning works, then our upcoming series of Appreciations should be must reading – as well as informative and illuminating!

Or, if you’re simply  looking for something enjoyable and stimulating to read within the realm of science fiction and fantasy, which also illuminates abiding questions about the perennial tensions between Liberty and Power, an excellent place to begin is with this recommended reading list of award-winning fiction (to be published here on a regular weekly (or biweekly) schedule, starting now (September 2019). These capsule appreciations are being written and edited by LFS members, in some cases based on reviews printed in the Prometheus quarterly (1982-2016) or the Prometheus blog (2017-today).

Since 1979, a wide array of novels, novellas, stories, films, TV series and other works of fiction have won Prometheus awards by highlighting in fascinatingly different ways the value of voluntary social cooperation over institutionalized State coercion, the importance of respecting human rights (even for that smallest minority, the individual), and the evils of tyranny (whether on the Left or the Right).


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Honoring Kurt Vonnegut for Harrison Bergeron: Hall of Fame acceptance speeches

Kurt Vonnegut’s cautionary fable “Harrison Bergeron” was inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame at the 2019 Worldcon in Dublin, Ireland – where acceptance statements by the late Vonnegut’s family and by the Vonnegut Museum and Library were read.

In ‘Harrison Bergeron,’ first published in 1961 in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Vonnegut blends a satirical and tragic tone in depicting a dystopian future in the United States where constitutional amendments and a Handicapper General mandate that no one can be stupider, uglier, weaker, slower (or better) than anyone else. Vonnegut dramatizes the destruction of people’s lives and talents and the obliteration of basic humanity via a denial of emotions and knowledge that leaves parents unable to mourn a son’s death. ‘Harrison Bergeron’ exposes and mourns the chilling authoritarian consequences of radical egalitarianism taken to an inhuman and Orwellian extreme that denies individuality, diversity and the opportunity to excel.

The sons and daughters of Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) sent a short statement, in the wry self-deprecating spirit of their father, which was read at the ceremony:
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R.I.P., Prometheus-winning author J. Neil Schulman has died

Very sad news: The Prometheus-winning author J. Neil Schulman, a veteran libertarian activist for decades, has died Aug. 10, 2019.

Schulman most recently was recognized for his surreal semi-autobiographical novel The Fractal Man, a 2019 Prometheus Award finalist for Best Novel.

Schulman wrote scripts for episodes of The Twilight Zone and wrote and directed several independent films, including most recently an adaptation of his Prometheus-winning novel Alongside Night.
Continue reading R.I.P., Prometheus-winning author J. Neil Schulman has died

Tor.com looks at the Prometheus Award on its 40th anniversary

James Davis Nicoll, a recent nominee for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, writes about “40 Years of the Prometheus Award,” for Tor.com.  He concludes that “following this particular award can be rewarding for readers of all stripes. Probably not every work above will be to your taste, but certainly some will be.”

The comments, including back and forth between Nicoll and readers, also are interesting.
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Sf giant Harlan Ellison has died

Harlan Ellison (Creative Commons photo)

Award-winning author Harlan Ellison has died. He was 84. Wikipedia biography here. 

Ellison won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 2015 for his short story, “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman.” He made a gracious video to thank us. 

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Karen Anderson has died

Karen Anderson around 1965, from Astrid Anderson’s Facebook post. 

Karen Anderson has died. She was the widow of Poul Anderson, and co-authored a number of books with her husband.

Anderson is believed to be the first person to use the term “filk music” in print. She was active in costuming. The Andersons’ daughter Astrid Anderson, who is married to SF author Greg Bear, also has been active in costuming.

From Astrid Bear’s posting on Facebook: “My mother, Karen Anderson, died last night. It was a peaceful and unexpected passing — she died in her bed and was found by the Sunday visiting nurse. Thank you to Martin Tays for being on the ground and being there today. Memorial gathering plans to be announced later, but in the meantime, raise a glass to the memory of a fine woman. If you are moved to make a donation, please consider the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund or the UCLA Medical School.”

Karen Anderson attended the first LFScon in 2001 in Columbus, Ohio, as part of Marcon, to speak on LFS panels and also to accept the Prometheus Special Lifetime Achievement Award for her ailing husband Poul Anderson, who at the last minute couldn’t make the trip because of illness.

“With her personal warmth, big smile, intelligence, insight and broad knowledge and perspective on golden-age sf and the legendary authors who wrote it, Karen made a memorable impression on those who attended LFScon/Marcon,” said Michael Grossberg, who organized the first LFScon in 2001.

 

Author Victor Milán has died

Author Victor Milán, who won the Prometheus Award in 1986 for Cybernetic Samurai, died on Feb. 13, age 63.

Locus has posted an obituary, and author George R.R. Martin has posted a warm appreciation. 

“I first met Vic not long after I moved to Santa Fe in 1979. Outgoing, funny, friendly, and incredibly bright, he was one of the cornerstones of the New Mexico SF crowd for decades, a regular at Bubonicon in Albuquerque, the perennial masquerade host at Archon in St. Louis, a fan, a lover of ferrets and collector of guns, a gamer (I can’t tell you how many times we stayed up till dawn playing Superworld, Call of Cthulhu, and other RPGs with Vic, and laughing at the outrageous antics of the characters he created). But above all, he was a writer,” Martin writes.

“He wrote all sorts of things, in and out of our genre: westerns, historicals, men’s action adventure, more books than I could possibly list… but it was in science fiction that he did his best work. CYBERNETIC SAMURAI and CYBERNETIC SHOGAN were two of the best known from the old days. More recently, he was finding new readers by the score all around the world with his DINOSAUR LORDS series,” Martin wrote.

 

Ursula K. LeGuin has died


Ursula K. LeGuin (with Harlan Ellison) at Westercon in Portland, Oregon, in 1984. Creative Commons photo by Pip R. Lagenta. 

Ursula K. LeGuin, who has died at age 88, wrote a variety of fiction and poetry. She preferred to be known as an “American novelist.” But we science fiction fans can claim her, too, as the above photograph illustrates. Her awards included a Hugo and Nebula for The Left Hand of Darkness, but she also won our Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1993, for The Dispossessed.

Of related interest: Reason magazine on our fight over ‘The Dispossessed’

Article on Robert Heinlein now available online

Robert Heinlein signs autographs at the 1976 Worldcon. (Creative Commons photo).

The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, a project of the Cato Institute, has now been published online. 

As a result, the article on science fiction author Robert Heinlein by academic and LFS member Dr. Amy Sturgis, originally published in 2008, is now available to everyone.

Sturgis argues that The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is his chief work. “Heinlein here offered a loose retelling of the American Revolution, with the revolt against tyranny set on the moon. The ‘Loonies’ rebel against the iron control of the authorities on Earth and in the process learn the lesson that ‘there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch’ or, as Heinlein states it in the novel, TANSTAAFL. Ultimately, the Loonies, like the colonials after whom they were modeled, achieve an independence of sorts, but not without great cost,” she writes.

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress won a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1983, the first year the award was given.

— Tom Jackson