Bruce Sommer, R.I.P. – Veteran Prometheus judge, board member helped sustain the LFS and its annual awards for decades

Libertarian Futurist Society leaders are remembering Bruce Sommer, a stalwart West Coast science-fiction fan and left-libertarian who helped sustain the Prometheus Awards for many years.

Bruce Sommer (File photo)

Bruce made a big difference as one of the earliest LFS members – and one of the few Life members – who remained active year after year, reading potential award candidates, weighing the pros and cons of nominees and serving for years as a board member.

Yet, even after disability and ongoing health issues began to limit Bruce’s energy and ability to work full-time, he expressed his love of science-fiction fandom and his libertarian ideals of a better and more just, peaceful and cooperative world by reading widely and diligently year after year to find science fiction and fantasy novels that might fit the distinctive pro-liberty and anti-authoritarian focus of the Prometheus Awards.

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Free sf books about freedom: An Arts for Liberty recommended reading list highlights Prometheus winners and other libertarian sf fiction

Freedom isn’t free.

But a surprising amount of libertarian science fiction is free.

One freedom-loving sf fan has compiled an interesting list of 26 libertarian sf novels that are free in that other sense, of being available online without charge.

While one might appreciate the ancient truth that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” freedom-lovers of all stripes certainly can also appreciate a bargain when they see it – including the pleasant discovery that the price of a surprising variety of pro-freedom science fiction is zero. Such a deal!

The list of “The 26 Best Free Libertarian Novels,” published by author J.P. Meddled on the Art for Liberty website, explicitly references the Prometheus Awards and includes several Prometheus winners.

But the list is most intriguing for its range and for how it embraces a wide variety of fiction (virtually all science fiction) that explores libertarian themes from the positive benefits of individual choice, free markets, private property and the right of self-defense to the horrors of dictatorship, authoritarian abuses of power and the perennial threats to liberty inherent in the coercive foundations of government.

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Nerds, jocks and sf fans: LFS/Reason panelists explore why some people embrace libertarian ideas (and why some don’t)

Contrary to some perceptions, science fiction fans – and paradoxically, both nerds and jocks – are more likely to come to appreciate the benefits of freedom and voluntary cooperation and more often begin to see the dangerous defects in authoritarian systems of the Left or Right.

That insight was one of the richer and more unexpected subjects explored by prominent panelists during a recent Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussion.

With Reason magazine as the media sponsor, the online panel followed the 2021 Prometheus Awards ceremony, in which Barry B. Longyear and F. Paul Wilson won awards.

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LFS judges weigh slate of Best Novel nominees

Eleven novels have been nominated by Libertarian Futurist Society members for the 2021 Prometheus Award for Best Novel.

These novels, published 2020, reflect a wide range of subjects, styles and settings – from the day after tomorrow to the distant future, and from right here on Earth to far-flung solar systems.

Yet, each novel in some way illuminates the value and meaning of freedom, explores the ethics and benefits of cooperation over coercion, and/or dramatizes the dangers of tyranny, aggression, war and authoritarianism in its myriad forms of the Left or Right.

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Prometheus winners recognized on broader recommended-reading list of libertarian fiction

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?”

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A viewer’s guide to the new LFS Videos page of panel discussions, podcasts, and acceptance speeches by Cherryh, Corcoran, Doctorow, Ellison, Hoyt, MacLeod, Weir, Wilson, other writers and LFS leaders

Here is a handy guide to viewing the Libertarian Futurist Society’s recorded programs – and a welcome to our new Videos page.

Below is an overview, with links and descriptions, of LFS panel discussions, podcasts, interviews and awards ceremonies over the past decade at various Worldcons (World Science Fiction Conventions) and NASFiCs (North American Science Fiction Conventions).

But first, take a look to your left – to the new VIDEOS link at the top of the left-side column of the Prometheus blog. Here is where you can go, from now on, to check out all LFS videos and podcasts, including each year’s Prometheus Awards ceremonies and related speeches and Worldcon panel discussions, as they are recorded and added each year. (The LFS is already looking forward to making plans to present our 2021 Prometheus Awards ceremony at DisCon II, the 79th Worldcon set to run Aug. 25-29, 2021, in Washington, D.C.)

In these LFS panels, podcasts and Prometheus award speeches, bestselling sf novelists and LFS members have discussed a wide variety of timely and timeless subjects that inspired their stories and novels.

Cory Doctorow (Creative Commons license)

Among the speakers: novelists C.J. Cherryh, Travis Corcoran, Cory Doctorow, Harlan Ellison, Jane Fancher, Sarah Hoyt, John Hunt, Ken MacLeod, Ramez Naam, Andy Weir, and F. Paul Wilson and LFS leaders Steve Gaalema, Michael Grossberg, Tom Jackson and LFS president William H. Stoddard.

C.J. Cherry (Creative Commons license)

Unlike typical awards acceptance speeches at the Oscars, Tonys, Grammys or Emmys, which tend to be laundry lists of names to thank, most Prometheus-Ceremony speeches tend to be wide-ranging, fascinating, thoughtful (and longer) explorations of ideas, ideals and libertarian themes, often combined with personal stories – and thus, rewarding to view even years later.

Here, in this overview of LFS videos, the most recent events are listed first, with brief descriptions of speakers and subjects,  interesting excerpts and links.

Continue reading A viewer’s guide to the new LFS Videos page of panel discussions, podcasts, and acceptance speeches by Cherryh, Corcoran, Doctorow, Ellison, Hoyt, MacLeod, Weir, Wilson, other writers and LFS leaders

Libertarian Futurist Society raises visibility at CoNZealand, the first all-online World Science Fiction Convention, with Prometheus-winning novelist F. Paul Wilson leading timely panel (watch it here!) on “Freedom in SF: Forty Years of the Prometheus Awards”

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.

 

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Big Brother, hacking, civil liberties and high-tech abuse of power: An Appreciation of Cory Doctorow’s Homeland, a 2014 Prometheus winner for Best Novel

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society is presenting weekly Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Cory Doctorow’s Homeland, a 2014 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel:

Cory Doctorow’s 2014 novel offers a timely drama about an ongoing struggle for civil liberties against the invasive National-Security State.

Homeland follows the continuing adventures of Marcus Yallow, a government-brutalized young leader of a movement of tech-savvy hackers who previously had been detailed arbitrarily and brutalized by the U.S. government after a terrorist attack on San Francisco.

This sequel to Doctorow’s Prometheus-winning and best-selling Little Brother  is set several years later after California’s economy has collapsed while the government’s powers have only grown.

Nineteen-year-old Yallow and his fellow hackers, all tech-savvy teen-agers, are still fighting against the high-tech tyranny of the intrusive Big Brother-style federal government.

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Artistic liberty, Internet freedom, downloading, State surveillance, copyright and government control: An Appreciation of Cory Doctorow’s Pirate Cinema, the 2013 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 a series of weekly Appreciations of past award-winners.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Cory Doctorow’s Pirate Cinema, the 2013 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel, along with excerpts from Doctorow’s illuminating acceptance speech:

In Pirate Cinema, an optimistic young-adult novel, Cory Doctorow explores themes of artistic freedom, Internet freedom and peaceful social change – key issues for modern libertarians, especially the latter, since non-aggression is the fundamental axiom in libertarianism as a political and social philosophy affirming cooperation over coercion and voluntary private interactions over the force and enforcement entailed by the institutionalized violence of the unbridled State.

The story also sheds light on other libertarian issues of copyright and government surveillance in its focus on a young pirate filmmaker whose Internet activity threatens his family with government reprisals and who learns to fight back against outdated forms of control.

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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.
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