Slavery, liberty, racism and the lessons of history: An Appreciation of Delia Sherman’s The Freedom Maze, a 2012 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear what makes each winner deserve recognition as notable pro-freedom sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society is presenting weekly Appreciations of past award-winners. Our anniversary series was launched in 2019 – 40 years after the first Prometheus Award was presented – starting with appreciation/reviews of the earliest winners in the original Best Novel category, and continuing in chronological order.
Here’s the latest Appreciation for Delia Sherman’s The Freedom Maze, one of two 2012 Prometheus Award winners for Best Novel:

By Michael Grossberg
Some stories teach the young and remind their elders of core truths about civilization, justice and humanity – such as the goodness of liberty and the evils of slavery.
One of the best is Delia Sherman’s The Freedom Maze, a young-adult historical fantasy novel that focuses on an adolescent girl of 1960 who is magically sent back in time to 1860 when her family owned slaves on a Louisiana plantation.

Sophie, 13, explores a maze while spending the summer at her grandmother’s old Bayou house, part of an old pre-Civil-War plantation, and makes an impulsive wish for escape and grand adventure. Thanks to a mysterious and tricky spirit, her wish is granted and she finds herself unexpectedly stranded a century into the past.

Continue reading Slavery, liberty, racism and the lessons of history: An Appreciation of Delia Sherman’s The Freedom Maze, a 2012 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel

Heinleinesque adventure, romance, bioengineered humans and anarchy in the asteroids: An Appreciation of Sarah Hoyt’s Darkship Thieves, the 2011 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ history and track record while making clear what makes each winner deserve recognition as pro-freedom or anti-authoritarian sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society is presenting weekly Appreciations of past award-winners.
Our anniversary series was launched in 2019 – 40 years after the first Prometheus Award was presented – starting in chronological order with appreciation/reviews of the earliest winners in the original Best Novel category.
Here’s the latest Appreciation for Sarah Hoyt’s Darkship Thieves, the 2011 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel:

By Anders Monsen and Michael Grossberg

Few sf/fantasy novels attempt to envision a fully free future, and only a fraction of those efforts prove fruitful and plausible, not to mention gripping in narrative and appealing in characters.

Darkship Thieves, with central characters to care about and a suspenseful, fast-paced plotis especially intriguing to libertarians for its plausible portrait of a high-tech anarchist society among the asteroids.

With this 2010 novel, Sarah Hoyt launched a series of novels in the same future solar-system-wide scenario focusing on a heroic woman from an anarchist colony in the asteroid belt who must fight for her freedom and identity against a tyrannical Earth.

Hoyt, a deft master of many genres, blends science fiction with romance, adventure, political intrigue and individualist-feminist themes.

Continue reading Heinleinesque adventure, romance, bioengineered humans and anarchy in the asteroids: An Appreciation of Sarah Hoyt’s Darkship Thieves, the 2011 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel

Self-ownership and Liberty: An Appreciation of Dani and Eytan Kollin’s The Unincorporated Man, the 2010 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear what makes each winner deserve recognition as notable pro-freedom sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society is presenting weekly Appreciations of past award-winners. Our anniversary series was launched in 2019 – 40 years after the first Prometheus Award was presented – starting with appreciation/reviews of the earliest winners in the original Best Novel category, and continuing in chronological order.  Here’s the latest Appreciation for Dani and Eytan Kollin’s The Unincorporated Man, the 2010 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel:

By Michael Grossberg

The Unincorporated Man, an ingenious and imaginative debut novel by the Kollin brothers, was the first book in a planned trilogy that ultimately developed into an ambitious, complex and far-flung tetralogy.

The 2019 novel’s interesting and unusual premise is that education and personal development could be funded by allowing investors to take a share of one’s future income. The novel explores the ways this arrangement would affect those who do not own a majority of the stock in themselves.

For instance, often ones’ investors would have control of a person’s choices of where to live or work. The desire for power as an end unto itself and the negative consequences of the raw lust for power are shown in great detail.

Just as intriguing to many libertarians, who view self-ownership as a foundational principle in modern libertarian thought that by extension grounds human rights in property rights, is the thrilling and poignant struggle for self-ownership that emerges in this novel and its three sequels.

Continue reading Self-ownership and Liberty: An Appreciation of Dani and Eytan Kollin’s The Unincorporated Man, the 2010 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel

The National-Security State and government repression: An Appreciation of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, the 2009 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards,  and make clear what libertarian futurists saw and see in each of our past winners that make them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sci-fi/fantasy, we’re continuing our series of weekly Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our original category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, the 2009 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel:

In Little Brother, Cory Doctorow offers a powerful cautionary tale about threats to liberty from the National Security State.

His bestselling 2008 novel, now widely considered a modern classic in the coming-of-age and dystopian genres, revolves around a high-school student and his techno-geek friends who are rounded up in the hysteria following a terrorist attack.

Doctorow focuses on the consequences and costs of the repression by government agencies in the aftermath of the attack as teen Marcus Yallow and four techno-geek friends are forced to defend themselves against the Department of Homeland Security’s attacks on the Bill of Rights when they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time as San Francisco is targeted for a terrorist attack.
Continue reading The National-Security State and government repression: An Appreciation of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, the 2009 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel

Atwood’s The Testaments, Cherryh and Fancher’s Alliance Rising, Patrick Edwards’ Ruin’s Wake, Ian McDonald’s Luna: Moon Rising and Marc Stiegler’s Ode to Defiance selected as 2020 Prometheus Award finalists for Best Novel

Whether set on Earth, on the Moon, or throughout interstellar space and whether taking place in the near-future or distant future, novels dramatizing fights for freedom and threats of tyranny can achieve a timeless and universal relevance.

Recognizing the perennial tensions between Liberty and Power, the Libertarian Futurist Society presents its annual Prometheus Awards for outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy.

The five 2019 novels that the LFS has just selected as its finalists in the Best Novel category of the 2020 Prometheus Awards certainly range widely in setting, era, plot, character and style. Yet, each sheds fascinating light on the enduring human themes and challenges that inspire each generation’s struggle for freedom amid recurring threats of dictatorship, war, plague, pandemic, powerlust and other ills.

Continue reading Atwood’s The Testaments, Cherryh and Fancher’s Alliance Rising, Patrick Edwards’ Ruin’s Wake, Ian McDonald’s Luna: Moon Rising and Marc Stiegler’s Ode to Defiance selected as 2020 Prometheus Award finalists for Best Novel

Alternate history as a fruitful genre for re-imagining themes of Liberty versus Power: An Appreciation and Comparison of Harry Turtledove’s The Gladiator and Jo Walton’s Ha’Penny, co-winners of the 2008 Prometheus Award for Best Novel

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation – and an intriguing comparison – of Harry Turtledove’s The Gladiator and Jo Walton’s Ha’Penny, co-winners of the 2008 Prometheus Award for Best Novel:

By William H. Stoddard

The year 2008 saw, for the first time, a tie between two Prometheus Award nominees for Best Novel: Harry Turtledove’s The Gladiator (in his Crosstime Traffic series from Tor Books) and Jo Walton’s Ha’Penny (in her Small Change series, also from Tor Books).

Ordinarily, each winner would merit its own entry; but there are interesting parallels between the two, which make it especially fitting that they shared the award, and illuminating to examine them together.

Turtledove has been known primarily as an author of alternate history, making his mark with early works such as A Different Flesh (1988), set on an Earth where the Americas are inhabited by surviving Homo erectus, and The Guns of the South, in which South African engineers help Robert E. Lee to victory, with surprising results. The six volumes of Crosstime Traffic are a young adult series about trade between parallel Earths.

Walton’s oeuvre has been more varied, but Small Change is definitely alternate history, set in a timeline where the United Kingdom came to terms with Germany in the 1930s.

It belongs to a subgenre that’s not usually considered science fictional: the cozy mystery, commonly set in a domain of wealthy and privileged people (not very different from the setting of the Jeeves and Wooster stories!) and keeping overt violence and the cruder sorts of crime offstage.

Walton mixes this with a different subgenre, the police procedural, making her continuing protagonist a Scotland Yard investigator. The science-fictional aspect comes from Walton’s careful exploration of the cultural divergence to be expected in her alternate timeline.
Continue reading Alternate history as a fruitful genre for re-imagining themes of Liberty versus Power: An Appreciation and Comparison of Harry Turtledove’s The Gladiator and Jo Walton’s Ha’Penny, co-winners of the 2008 Prometheus Award for Best Novel

Personal identity, liberty, gender and power: An Appreciation of Charles Stross’ Glasshouse, the 2007 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Charles Stross’ Glasshouse, the 2007 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel:

Charles Stross’ 2006 novel explores themes of ubiquitous State surveillance and the struggle of individuals to survive in the face of severe pressure to conform.

Set in a distant future and taking place in the same universe as Stross’ novel Accelerando, though at a much later point in its history, Glasshouse revolves around un-rehabilitated war criminals using every tool at their disposal to build a society that they can control absolutely.

At the center of the story, set in the 27th century when interstellar travel is by teleport gate, is Robin, an ex-spy who wakes up in a clinic with most memories missing. Soon, he realizes that he’s a demobilized soldier from a civil war that’s ended, and that someone is trying to kill him because of something that his earlier self knew.

Pursued by a dangerous enemy and desperate to find somewhere to hide, the post-human Robin volunteers to participate in the Glasshouse, an experimental simulation of a pre-accelerated culture in which participants are assigned anonymized identities.

Continue reading Personal identity, liberty, gender and power: An Appreciation of Charles Stross’ Glasshouse, the 2007 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel

First contact, alien cultures, social contracts, private colonization, slavery and freedom: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s Learning the World, the 2006 Best Novel winner

To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear why past winners deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Ken MacLeod’s Learning the Worldthe 2006 Prometheus Best Novel winner:

MacLeod’s inventive first-contact novel explores the politics and uncertainties involved from two perspectives: the natives of the planet and the “alien” (human) visitors.

In some ways modeled on classic Heinlein juveniles and a departure from his other future-Earth-solar-system novels exploring the implications of libertarian and Marxist ideas, Learning the World offers as a primary viewpoint character a teen girl living on an interstellar colony ship about to enter a new solar system.

Continue reading First contact, alien cultures, social contracts, private colonization, slavery and freedom: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s Learning the World, the 2006 Best Novel winner

Free trade, private property, civil liberties, classical liberalism and modern libertarianism: An Appreciation of Neal Stephenson’s The System of the World, the 2005 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Neal Stephenson’s The System of the World, the 2005 Prometheus Best Novel winner:

By William H. Stoddard

The development in the late 1600s and early 1700s of the modern world’s classical liberal institutions, which paved the way for modern libertarianism, is explored in Neal Stephenson’s epic 2004 novel, the climax of the author’s ambitious Baroque Cycle trilogy (preceded by Quicksilver and The Confusion), which has been hailed by Entertainment Weekly as “the definitive historical-sci-fi-epic-pirate-comedy-punk love story.”

In the complex, multi-threaded plot of The System of the World, Stephenson traces the distant ancestors of many key characters from his earlier novel Cryptonomicon through encounters with major figures in the science and politics of the era, among whom Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz are key figures. In effect, this is a secret history of the origins of experimental natural science, the British monetary system, and the antislavery movement, among other elements of modernity.


The Baroque Cycle – which touches upon the development in the 1700s of such classical-liberal institutions as the rule of law, limited government, due process, civil liberties, free trade, private property, and separation of church and state – can be read as a straightforwardly historical novel drawing on such sources as the French Annales school of historiography — if a wildly inventive one that fully lives up to the label “baroque.”

Continue reading Free trade, private property, civil liberties, classical liberalism and modern libertarianism: An Appreciation of Neal Stephenson’s The System of the World, the 2005 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Genetic engineering, emerging sentient species and ‘human’ rights: An Appreciation of F. Paul Wilson’s Sims, the 2004 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and make clear why past winners deserved recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for F. Paul Wilson’s Sims, the 2004 Prometheus Best Novel winner:

Paul Wilson’s 2003 novel Sims, set in a plausible near-future, explores the struggle of the sims, a genetically engineered cross between humans and chimpanzees, for freedom and respect.

After impressive advances in genetics research that have made possible the elimination of many genetically transmitted diseases, the SimGen Corporation has created the transgenic species of sims or Humanzees (human-chimp hybrids).

Continue reading Genetic engineering, emerging sentient species and ‘human’ rights: An Appreciation of F. Paul Wilson’s Sims, the 2004 Prometheus Best Novel winner