Egalitarianism taken to coercive extremes in attacks on excellence: Kurt Vonnegut’s story “Harrison Bergeron,” the 2019 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

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

Here is an Appreciation for Kurt Vonnegut’s story “Harrison Bergeron,” the 2019 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg
The government’s Handicapper General enforces new constitutional amendments mandating that no one can be stupider, uglier, weaker, slower – or in any way better – than anyone else.

To enforce this authoritarian and radical egalitarian edict, perfectly capable people are forced to accept and wear various disabling devices that handicap their capabilities and basic humanity.

Leave it to the great American novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr. to come up with such a classic cautionary fable about a dystopian future in the United States in which coercive egalitarianism – a close cousin of progressivism – is taken to such radical and inhuman extremes in a perverse authoritarian revolt against personal excellence.

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A dystopian landmark & cautionary tale about the murderous fruits of the Russian Revolution: Yevgeny Zamyatin’s pioneering We, the 1994 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To celebrate the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing Appreciations of all past award-winners, that make clear why each winner deserves our recognition as pro-freedom.
Here is an Appreciation for Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, the 1994 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg
We imagines a world of repressive conformity and stagnant stasis within a totalitarian State.

With his landmark novel Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin bravely pioneered and imagined what later came to be known as dystopian literature.

For better and worse, that dark and cautionary new genre was inspired by the millions of innocent people whose lives were destroyed by the Russian Revolution under Lenin’s communism. The genre took on even more moral weight after the world witnessed the horrors of all the other statist-collectivist variants (from socialism to national socialism and fascism) whose authoritarian excesses and violent extremes of dictatorship, war, famine, poverty and social collapse so brutally marked and disfigured the 20thcentury.

We, written in 1920-1921 by the Russian writer and first published in English translation in 1924 in New York, was so critical of collectivist authoritarianism that it wasn’t published in the Soviet Union until 1988, when the era of glasnost led to its first appearance with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. A year later, the two dystopian novels were published together in a combined edition.

Continue reading A dystopian landmark & cautionary tale about the murderous fruits of the Russian Revolution: Yevgeny Zamyatin’s pioneering We, the 1994 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

Interview (part 2): William Stoddard on the challenges, rewards and future of the Prometheus Hall of Fame

“I think a full understanding of justice also has to include honoring and rewarding worthy acts and accomplishments. ” – William H. Stoddard

Here is part 2 of the Prometheus Blog interview with LFS President William H. Stoddard.

Editor-writer William H. Stoddard in his library, with his GURPS book on Fantasy, published in 2004 (Photo courtesy of Stoddard)

This part of the interview focuses on the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction, which Stoddard has been closely involved with for two decades.

As chair of the Hall of Fame finalist judging committee, Stoddard leads a group of LFS members who read, discuss and rank the annual nominees to select a slate of typically five finalists for the entire LFS membership to rank and vote on. The winner is inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame, established in 1983.

 

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Videos: The 2019 Prometheus Award ceremony at the Worldcon in Dublin

The Prometheus Award this year went to Causes of Separation by Travis Corcoran, while the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award was won by “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

The awards were presented at the 77th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Dublin, Ireland, August 15-19 2019, by two members of the Libertarian Futurist Society, Fred Moulton and John Christmas.
If you didn’t make it to the Worldcon, you can watch our (three) videos to witness the event.
Continue reading Videos: The 2019 Prometheus Award ceremony at the Worldcon in Dublin

Honoring Kurt Vonnegut for Harrison Bergeron: Hall of Fame acceptance speeches

Kurt Vonnegut’s cautionary fable “Harrison Bergeron” was inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame at the 2019 Worldcon in Dublin, Ireland – where acceptance statements by the late Vonnegut’s family and by the Vonnegut Museum and Library were read.

In ‘Harrison Bergeron,’ first published in 1961 in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Vonnegut blends a satirical and tragic tone in depicting a dystopian future in the United States where constitutional amendments and a Handicapper General mandate that no one can be stupider, uglier, weaker, slower (or better) than anyone else. Vonnegut dramatizes the destruction of people’s lives and talents and the obliteration of basic humanity via a denial of emotions and knowledge that leaves parents unable to mourn a son’s death. ‘Harrison Bergeron’ exposes and mourns the chilling authoritarian consequences of radical egalitarianism taken to an inhuman and Orwellian extreme that denies individuality, diversity and the opportunity to excel.

The sons and daughters of Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) sent a short statement, in the wry self-deprecating spirit of their father, which was read at the ceremony:
Continue reading Honoring Kurt Vonnegut for Harrison Bergeron: Hall of Fame acceptance speeches