Looking for libertarian fiction to read over the holidays?
Fiction that dramatizes the value of freedom and/or exposes the tragic horrors and injustices of tyranny, slavery and other forms of extreme statism isn’t published every day, but there’s more of it than many liberty lovers may know about.
Of course, the Prometheus Awards constitute such a list, with a focus on science fiction and fantasy. That’s always a good place to start looking, because the awards have racked up an impressive track record of Best Novel winners since 1979 and of Best Classic Fiction works inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame since 1983.
But in addition to that, other recommended-reading lists exist – including a just-updated and expanded article at www.artforliberty.com that mades interesting rationales for listing “The 26 Best Free Libertarian Novels.”
This annotated list, by “ADuckNamedJoe” (a pen name for writer J.B. Medved) focuses on fiction available free – and often online,, available for downloading without charge. (The list was just updated Dec. 14, 2020 to include three new novels.)
“Let’s face it, novels celebrating the free market and individual rights are pretty hard to come by. Most everything in the fiction section of your local bookstore is some paean to collectivism, or diatribe against the evils of capitalism and the “soul killing” nature of consumerism. But you don’t believe that stuff,” Medved writes.
“You know capitalism, mixed with a political system that protects individual rights, has been the single greatest force for good on the planet, lifting billions out of crushing poverty. You don’t want to read all that bilge about how you’re a bad, bad person for supporting it.
So what is a wayward libertarian to do? Especially when so much of your money is stolen by the government each year that you have very little left over to buy books?”
Among the works recommended: A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, a “hacker-cum-anarchocapitalist” novel by Paul A. Rosenberg; Freehold, a 2004 novel by Michael Z. Williamson and described as “one of the most explicitly libertarian sci-fi books to be published by a traditional publisher (Baen) since Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress; and A Second Opinion, Medved’s novella about a doctor in a near-future America where the health-care system has fallen entirely under government control.
Among the other works listed: Freedom Engineering, by Bob Woods; On the Steppes of Central Asia, by “Matt Stone” (Richard D. Fuerle); The Driver, by Garet Garrett; A Most Sacred Right, The Place to Stand and The Secret American Revolution, by Robert Lukens; and Minerva, by Bob Murphy.
Yet, for all the reasons explored in the 2020 Quillette article on “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” sf is prominent on the list, which naturally overlaps to some extent with our own website lists of past Prometheus Award winners, and of Prometheus finalists and nominees.
Among the Prometheus winners recommended:
* Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother and Homeland, which respectively won the Best Novel awards for 2009 and 2014 and which are set in the same near-future world with overlapping characters. (Check out our Appreciations here and here.)
* J. Neil Schulman’s Alongside Night, the 1989 inductee into the Prometheus Hall of Fame. (Check out our Appreciation here.)
* Ayn Rand’s Anthem, a poetic and concise dystopian novel inducted in 1987 into the Prometheus Hall of Fame. (Check out our Appreciation here.)
* Eric Frank Russell’s novella And Then There Were None, which Russell later expanded into the classic sf novel The Great Explosion, inducted in 1985 into the Prometheus Hall of Fame. (Check out our Appreciation here.)
* We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin, the pioneering first major dystopian novel of the 20th century and inspired by the dictatorial horrors of the Soviet Union, was inducted in 1985 into the Prometheus Hall of Fame. (Check out our Appreciation here.)
Also on the list is a work nominated in 2020 for the Prometheus Hall of Fame award, although it didn’t make the judging committee’s cut to become a finalist: Time Will Run Back, by noted free-market economist and journalist Henry Hazlitt (who wrote the bestselling free-market primer, Economics in One Lesson.)
By the way, it’s nice to see the article acknowledges the Prometheus award. For instance, Carl Bussjaeger’s Net Assets is identified as a 2003 Prometheus Award nominee. That novel, along with Bussjaeger’s Bargaining Position, seem to be among the works most recently added to the list.
Finally, here are brief descriptions of a few of the lesser-known or more recently published novels that you might not have heard about before:
* #agora: a novel?, by Anonymous, is described as a novel of cryptoanarchy, bitcoin, temporary autonomous zones, “notels’ and underground markets in silver and gold that carry on “the fine tradition of J. Neil Schulman’s Alongside Night… in portraying how the practice of black market counter-economics (“agorism”) can weaken the state and carve out bubbles of freedom for its practitioners.”
* Withur We, Matthew Alexander’s debut novel, described as a “sci-fi romp” through the colonized worlds of human space that explores the nature of government and the ambiguous value of idealism.
* Coming up soon on the Prometheus Blog: Anders Monsen’s Appreciation of Robert Heinlein’s Methuselah’s Children, the 1997 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner.
* See related introductory essay about the LFS’ 40thanniversary retrospective series of Appreciations of past Prometheus Awards winners, with an overview of the awards’ four-decade history.
* Other 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.
* 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.
* Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit volunteer association of libertarian sf/fantasy fans and freedom-lovers.
Libertarian futurists believe cultural change is as (or more) vital as political change in achieving universal individual rights and a better world (perhaps eventually, worlds) for all.