Rising up against universal surveillance and the imperial state: Poul Anderson’s story “Sam Hall,” the 2020 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian work, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 an Appreciation series of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation for Poul Anderson’s story “Sam Hall,” the 2020 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By William H. Stoddard

In “Sam Hall,” published in 1953 in Astounding Science Fiction, Poul Anderson offers one of the earlier visions of a dystopian possibility based on the computers that had been invented only a few years before: a society with ubiquitous surveillance.

This is our age’s version of the panopticon described by Jeremy Bentham – one not confined to local sites such as prisons, but having an entire nation, or an entire planet, in its view. Anderson’s vision of computer technology is primitive, with a gigantic machine in a central government office that receives and stores information on punched cards. It has no hint of artificial intelligence, or of the ability to interpret voice or vision. But the job he sees it as doing is still the stuff of our nightmares.

Continue reading Rising up against universal surveillance and the imperial state: Poul Anderson’s story “Sam Hall,” the 2020 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

Aliens, clashing cultures, alternate history and communism vs. anarchocapitalism: An Appreciation of L. Neil Smith’s The Forge of the Elders, the 2001 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 L. Neil Smith’s The Forge of the Elders, the 2001 Prometheus winner for Best Novel:

Rollicking adventure, mystery, a sense of humor and explicit libertarian ideology mark L. Neil Smith’s The Forge of the Elders.

The novel was reworked from two previously published novels Contact And Commune (retitled First Time The Charm) and Converse And Conflict (retitled Second To One), and combined with the story’s finale (Third Among Equals), belatedly published a decade later.

Set in the late 21st century within our solar system and beyond, this fun 2000 novel concerns the culture clash and political differences between the human members of an expedition to asteroid 5023 Eris, and the multitude of aliens they find when they arrive.
Continue reading Aliens, clashing cultures, alternate history and communism vs. anarchocapitalism: An Appreciation of L. Neil Smith’s The Forge of the Elders, the 2001 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Steampunk, Victorian technology, computers, secret history, alternate history and freedom of choice: An Appreciation of Michael Flynn’s In the Country of the Blind, the 1991 Prometheus Best Novel winner

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.

Here’s the 11th appreciation/review of Michael Flynn’s In the Country of the Blind, the 1992 Prometheus winner for Best Novel, following recent appreciations for award-winning novels by (among others) F. Paul Wilson, L. Neil Smith, Vernor Vinge, Victor Koman and Brad Linaweaver:

By William H. Stoddard

Michael Flynn’s In the Country of the Blind came out in 1990, the same year as William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine. While the word “steampunk” was somewhat older (coined in 1987 by K.W. Jeter for Victorian fantasies generally), these two novels gave the genre one of its central themes: the use of Victorian technology and social transformation as an analog of (then-) recent computer technology, making steampunk parallel to cyberpunk.

For both novels, a central technology was Charles Babbage’s “analytical engine,” a proposed machine that would have been fully programmable in the manner of an electronic computer.

Gibson and Sterling made the analytical engine the basis for an alternate history – a literal “difference engine.” Flynn did something subtler: He made the analytical engine the basis for an only minimally fictionalized version of real-world history.

Most of his novel was set in the present or the near future; the actual Victorian past appeared only in short prologues to its three sections -though strikingly evocative prologues. Rather than an “alternate history,” Flynn presented a “secret history”: a tale of striking events hidden unsuspected within the known past (a genre later put to epic use in Neal Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle).

Continue reading Steampunk, Victorian technology, computers, secret history, alternate history and freedom of choice: An Appreciation of Michael Flynn’s In the Country of the Blind, the 1991 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Alternate history, warped ideology, Hitler’s national socialism, anarchism, a maverick heroine and the perennial struggle against the omnipotent State: An Appreciation of Brad Linaweaver’s Moon of Ice, the 1989 Prometheus Best Novel winner

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.

Following recent appreciations for novels by F. Paul Wilson, L. Neil Smith, James P. Hogan, J. Neil Schulman, No Winner (the 1985 choice), Victor Milan, Vernor Vinge and Victor Koman, here is the ninth Appreciation for Brad Linaweaver’s Moon of Ice, the 1989 Best Novel winner:

Brad Linaweaver conceived and wrote a richly detailed, provocative, and acclaimed alternate-history saga in Moon of Ice.

The meticulously researched 1988 novel – expanded from a 1981 novella published in Amazing Stories and nominated in 1982 for the Nebula Award – imagines an increasingly libertarian United States that provides a refuge for those fighting the evils of statism and collectivism.

Continue reading Alternate history, warped ideology, Hitler’s national socialism, anarchism, a maverick heroine and the perennial struggle against the omnipotent State: An Appreciation of Brad Linaweaver’s Moon of Ice, the 1989 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Rambunctious adventure, detective drama and Jeffersonian vs. Hamiltonian conflicts in a rollicking multiverse: An Appreciation of L. Neil Smith’s The Probability Broach, the 1982 Best Novel winner

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS) 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. (The first Appreciation, posted recently on this blog, focused on F. Paul Wilson’s Wheels within Wheels, which won the first Prometheus Award in 1979.)

This second Appreciation focuses on L. Neil Smith’s The Probability Broach, the 1982 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel presented by the Libertarian Futurist Society:

By Michael Grossberg
L. Neil Smith’s rollicking, fun-loving sf adventure novel, one of the most influential books of the Libertarian movement as its ideas were spreading in the early 1980s, imagines alternate time lines accessible through the probability broach, a portal to many worlds.

Continue reading Rambunctious adventure, detective drama and Jeffersonian vs. Hamiltonian conflicts in a rollicking multiverse: An Appreciation of L. Neil Smith’s The Probability Broach, the 1982 Best Novel winner