CoNZealand, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention and the first Worldcon in history to be presented entirely online, pulled off the unprecedented feat with impressive organization and the dedication of countless volunteers and organizers.
In the process, the July 29 to Aug. 1 event offered the annual Hugo Awards ceremony and a dizzying variety of interesting panel discussions – including one suggested by the Libertarian Futurist Society to honor the Prometheus Awards’ recent 40thanniversary.
With a vast and potentially larger worldwide online audience watching from many countries on Zoom and Discord platforms but avoiding direct physical contact for safety during the pandemic, the New Zealand Worldcon seized the potential to be seen more widely. One happy consequence was raising the visibility worldwide of the Libertarian Futurist Society and the Prometheus Awards.
Before describing below the LFS panel, its speakers and intriguing array of questions (and quoting one complete answer), here is a brief mention of two other unexpected pluses of the 2020 Worldcon for our awards and award winners:
First, during the Hugo ceremony, quite delightfully, the Prometheus Awards were mentioned positively by host George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) as representative of the sf/fantasy field along with the Nebulas, the World Fantasy honors and other long-lasting and widely known awards.
Second, that attitude of inclusion and respect also was reflected in the printed CoNZealand program book mailed to all Worldcon members.
For instance, in the listing of all the notable sf/fantasy authors, editors, artists and fans who passed during the previous year, two Prometheus-winning authors who died last year were not overlooked: J. Neil Schulman (Alongside Night, The Rainbow Cadenza) and Brad Linaweaver (Moon of Ice, Anarquia).
Both early Prometheus winners died in August, 2019 and are sorely missed by libertarian futurists. It’s nice to see them remembered, among others, on the “in memoriam” pages of the ConZealand program.
FREEDOM IN SF: FORTY YEARS OF THE PROMETHEUS AWARDS
Thanks to the initiative of LFS board member Tom Jackson, who suggested an LFS outreach event at the Worldcon, and the hospitality and cooperation of the ConZealand organizers, the Libertarian Futurist Society was able to put together and present a timely anniversary panel discussion on “Freedom in SF: Forty Years of the Prometheus Awards.”
The star of the panel was bestselling novelist F. Paul Wilson, a winner of four competitive Prometheus Awards (two each for Best Novel and the Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction) and a Special Prometheus Award-winner for Lifetime Achievement.
Jackson served as a very professional moderator, asking questions of Wilson and of journalist Michael Grossberg, who founded the LFS in 1981-1982 to help sustain the Prometheus Awards, which L. Neil Smith conceived and first presented in 1979 to Wilson, for his novel Wheels Within Wheels, part of his LaNague Federation trilogy.
Among the questions that Wilson answered:
* What was that first Prometheus Awards ceremony like, when you got the award from another Wilson, Robert Anton Wilson? And how did it affect you to get an award?
* Do your fans come from identifiable groups, i.e. do you have “libertarian fans,” “horror fans” and so on, or do you more often run into F. Paul Wilson fans who just read all your stuff?
* How do you feel about being known in some circles, at least, as a “libertarian science fiction writer”?
* Paul, you’ve written a very popular series of suspense/horror novels about Repairman Jack, an individualist mercenary hero fighting great evil. And years ago, one of your other horror novels, The Keep, was made into a Hollywood feature film. So when can we expect the “Repairman Jack” movie?
Among the panel questions that Tom Jackson asked of both Wilson and Grossberg:
* Why should there be a Prometheus Award? What good is it?
* What’s your personal favorite Prometheus Award winner?
* L. Neil Smith has suggested that the Hugos have become a leftwing award, and that the Prometheus Awards provide an award for writers who otherwise would not have a chance to win, no matter how good they are. Does he have a point?
Among the questions that Grossberg answered:
* In its early years, the Prometheus Award for Best Novel usually went to self-declared libertarian writers, but increasingly over the decades the award increasingly has gone to men and women who don’t identify as libertarians, both inside the United States and around the world. Have we sold out, have we become “more literary” or “more cosmopolitan” or all three?
* Has any writer refused the award or expressed displeasure at getting it?
* Have any Prometheus-winning writers been especially gracious?
* How has the Prometheus Award generally been treated by Worldcons?
For a variety of interesting answers, go ahead and watch the whole 50-minute video (now free, and no longer restricted to registered Worldcon guests, thanks to the gracious cooperation of CoNZealand).
But as a teaser, here is how Grossberg answered one question:
Q: After four decades, how have public perceptions of the Prometheus Awards evolved?
A: It’s been great to see nominated authors and libertarian sf fans take it seriously from the start. Pretty quickly, publishers respected it enough to put the words “Prometheus Awards winner” or even Prometheus Awards finalist on the covers or backs of the paperbacks of winners, and it’s often mentioned in author’s bios and blogs.
In recent years, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by several major articles that have been published in respected publications that favorably mention the LFS and the Prometheus Awards – most notably, a recent article on “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction” in Quillette, a very cosmopolitan and international online magazine championing science, reason and liberty from a maverick and classical liberal and/or civil libertarian perspective.
Let me quote from Jordan Alexander Hill’s June 2020 article on quillette.com:
“It is 2020, and though socialism is again in vogue… libertarian SF is showing no signs of waning…. Libertarian-leaning authors have had an outsized, lasting influence on the field. Libertarians even have their own SF literature awards. Each year, the Prometheus and Prometheus Hall of Fame awards are given out by the Libertarian Futurist Society, a tradition dating back to the late 1970s. Instead of a trophy, winners are given a one-ounce gold coin “representing free trade and free minds.”
“The soil of speculative fiction has the right nutrients for the flourishing of libertarian values…Unlike most ideologies that advocate forms of protectionism and Luddite restrictionism, the libertarian outlook values choice, freedom, and market solutions…. Another element (in sf), certainly, is a general openness to radical new ideas and an instinctive rejection of stale convention and custom… Perhaps this is why so much of SF expresses itself as dystopian fiction, a genre which, by its very nature, cannot but take on a libertarian flavor. Totalitarianism, war, and wide-scale oppression is almost always carried out by state force. Liberation, accordingly, must come in the form of negative rights — that is, “freedom from” — and voluntarism.”
Also, notably, Tor.com has recognized the Prometheus Awards favorably.
Here’s an excerpt from James Davis Nicoll’s article “40 Years of the Prometheus Award”:
“The Prometheus Award is an interesting case … Four decades is an impressive achievement. The current process is an interesting mixture of popular award (all members of the Society can nominate works for any category) and juried (committees for each category use ranked ballots to produce the finalist slate) … The results are as remarkable as the award’s longevity … the LFS ranges far outside the borders of conventional American libertarian thought … with equally diverse selections on the nominee lists. (Recent lists of winners and finalists) are a reminder of just why following this particular award can be rewarding for readers of all stripes.”
“Both articles came as very pleasant surprises, sparked more visits to our lfs.org website and Prometheus Blog, and raised our visibility,” Grossberg said.
Coming up soon on the Prometheus Blog: Appreciations of Eric Frank Russell’s The Great Explosion and Poul Anderson’s Trader to the Stars, the 1985 co-winners of the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.
* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the June 2020 issue of the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the modern genre.
* Prometheus winners: For a full list of winners – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the recently updated and enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website. (This page contains convenient direct clickable links to each Appreciation for Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction, as they are published on the Prometheus blog.)
* Read the introductory essay about the LFS’ 40th anniversary retrospective series of Appreciations of past Prometheus Awards winners, with an overview of the awards’ four-decade history that launched the series in 2019 with review-essays about more than 40 Best Novel winners and that continues most weeks in 2020 with appreciations of the more than 40 Best Classic Fiction winners in the Prometheus Hall of Fame. If you’ve ever wondered why some fiction is recognized with a Prometheus, this series will help you better understand what LFS members see as the libertarian and anti-authoritarian themes in each winner.
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 . Libertarian futurists believe upholding and advancing culture is as vital as politics (and often more fulfilling, positive and productive in the longer run) in spreading positive visions of the future, achieving a flourishing society based on cooperation instead of coercion and a better, free-er world (perhaps eventually, worlds) for all.