A rock song, a linked collection of stories, a classic sf juvenile novel and the culmination of a trilogy of novels will be considered for induction into the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.
Four works have been selected as finalists for the 2022 award, to be determined by Libertarian Futurist Society members over the next half year.
Moreover, this year’s slate of finalists reflects a good deal of change and variety, compared to last year slate of finalists, with only one of those five finalists reappearing on this year’s ballot. In addition, one of this year’s finalists was nominated for the first time, while two others had not been nominated in quite a few years.
Here are this year’s finalists, in alphabetical order by author, along with their and their author’s history in the Prometheus Awards:
* Citizen of the Galaxy, a 1957 novel by Robert Heinlein, and arguably the best of his “juveniles,” that strongly dramatizes an anti-slavery theme while exploring the meaning of freedom and defending the right to use force in self-defense. The epic, wide-ranging, planet-hopping saga revolves about a young man’s coming of age amid repeated displacement into new societies and situations (including one intriguing libertarian group of Free Traders) in a rich and complex interstellar future.
Heinlein (1907-1988), still the author recognized with the most Prometheus Awards (although Poul Anderson is approaching that level of recognition), has had seven previous works inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame.
Among them: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (one of the first two Best Classic Fiction winners in 1983), Stranger in a Strange Land (inducted in 1987), Red Planet (in 1996), Methuselah’s Children (in 1997), Time Enough for Love (in 1998), the story “Requiem” (in 2003) and the story “Coventry” (in 2017.)
Yet, surprisingly, Citizen of the Galaxy, one of his most acclaimed “juvenile” sf novels, has never been nominated before for the Hall of Fame.
* That Hideous Strength, a 1945 novel by C. S. Lewis (Book 3 of his Space Trilogy), revolves around a sociologist and his wife who discover a totalitarian conspiracy and diabolical powers scheming to take control of humanity, in the guise of a progressive-left, Nazi-like organization working for a centrally planned pseudo-scientific society literally hell-bent to control all human life.
Its cautions about the Therapeutic State and the rising ideology of scientism (science not as the value-free pursuit of truth, but as an elitist justification for greater social/political control) seem all too prescient today.
* C.S. Lewis (1898-1963, hailed by the late Prometheus-winning author J. Neil Schulman as the leading “Christian libertarian” philosopher and artist of the 20th century and one of Schulman’s seminal influences, rarely wove political themes into his fiction.
The major exception was Lewis’ Space Trilogy, which includes Out of the Silent Planet (set on Mars), Perelandra (set on Venus) and That Hideous Strength (set on Earth.) The latter novel was previously nominated for Best Classic Fiction in 2019, 2018, 2016 and 2015. This is the first time LFS judges have ranked it among the finalists.
Best known for his classic children’s series The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis wrote other fiction for adults (most notably, the moral parable The Screwtape Letters and The Space Trilogy) as well as non-fiction religious apologetics. (Of his many non-fiction books, the one that may come closest to the themes in That Hideous Strength is The Abolition of Man, an indictment of moral relativism, post-modernism and authoritarian politics and an affirmation of courage, character, virtue and independent thinking.)
* Circus World, a 1981 collection of linked stories by Barry B. Longyear that imagines how Earth’s circus troupes have evolved on a far-distant planet into a circus- and magic-defined culture without a government but with strongly individualistic, voluntary and cooperative social norms and only One Law, designed to make it nearly impossible to impose government regulations or other legislation, that helps the planet’s citizens peacefully cooperate in resistance against coercive human invasion and statist tyranny.
Longyear (1942 – ) won the 2021 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for The Hook: The War Whisperer, Book 5 and has had works nominated several times over the years for the Prometheus Hall of Fame.
Circus World previously was nominated in 2015, 2011, 2010 and in 2006 (along with Infinity Hold, his 1989 novel, in 2006).
Before the year 2000, Longyear was nominated for both Circus World and Elephant Song (a circus-themed book set in the same imagined future and circus-colonized planet as Circus World and City of Baraboo.)
* “The Trees,” a 1978 fantasy-themed song with pointed lyrics by Rush (released on the Canadian rock group’s album Hemispheres), concisely and poetically presents a fable of envy, revolution, and coercive egalitarianism that threatens the survival and individuality of different kinds of trees that make up a forest with a “noble law” that keeps the trees “equal by hatchet, axe and saw.”
Rush, whose most-enduring members included Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neal Peart (who died in 2020), was an individualistic, libertarian-leaning and Ayn-Rand-influenced Canadian rock group that performed and recorded from 1968 through 2015).
Rush has been nominated several times over the decades for the Prometheus Hall of Fame. Their album 2112 was nominated most recently in 2018 and also in 2016, 2013, 2012 and 2007.
The song “The Trees,” first nominated in 2020, also was a Hall of Fame finalist in 2020 and 2021.
Nominees for the Hall of Fame may be in any narrative or dramatic form, including prose fiction, stage plays, film, television, other video, graphic novels, song lyrics, or epic or narrative verse; they must explore themes relevant to libertarianism and must be science fiction, fantasy, or related genres.
First presented in 1979 (for Best Novel) and presented annually since 1982, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor private social cooperation over legalized coercion, expose abuses and excesses of obtrusive government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or champion individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, civility, and civilization itself.
Unlike newly published novels eligible for nomination just once for the annual Prometheus Award for Best Novel, the wide variety of fictional works published, staged or broadcast at least 20 years ago that are eligible for the Prometheus Hall of Fame may be nominated again in future years because they continue to remain eligible until they win.
For more information about the Hall of Fame and this year’s nominees, read the LFS press release posted on the LFS website “Press Releases” page.
* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.
* Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.