Robots, rights & moral panics: Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn’s graphic novel Alex + Ada, the 2016 Special Prometheus Award winner

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s Appreciation series continues with review-essays about  fiction that has won Special Prometheus Awards. Here’s an appreciation of the graphic novel Alex + Ada, the 2016 Special Prometheus Award winner.

By William H. Stoddard

Libertarians describing their legal and political goals often use the original wording of the Declaration of Independence, referring to rights to life, liberty, and property. The order is important: on one hand, property rights grow out of the liberty to use and appropriate material objects without interference from others; on the other, liberty rights implement the right to life, seen not as a passive state of endurance but as an active process of self-creation and self-sustenance.

A central question for libertarian thought is which beings have rights to life and liberty? Libertarians influenced by Ayn Rand’s idea that freedom is a requirement for rational beings tend to think that every rational being has rights: rather than applying only to human beings, they would extend to such science fictional entities as aliens, enhanced animals —and robots.

In Alex + Ada, a graphic novel in three volumes (published in 2013-2015 by Image Comics), artist Jonathan Luna and writer Sarah Vaughn explore the question of robot rights, not through abstract philosophical analysis, or through a story of political conflict, but in an intensely personal narrative.

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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).

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Identity, anarchy, free markets, robots with rights and the politics of space colonization: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal, the 1998 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 what made past winners deserve recognition as pro-freedom or anti-authoritarian sf/fantasy, we’re continuing 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 The Stone Canal, by Ken MacLeod:

Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal ranges widely in its exploration of different political systems on different planets in a future marked by wars, revolutions, space colonization and a cyberworld in which people’s memories and personalities can be downloaded or uploading to clones on demand.

Among the many exciting ideas that MacLeod explores in his ambitious 1997 novel – Book 2 in his Fall Revolution series, but set earlier than The Cassini Division – are several of special interest to libertarian sf fans – including his complex and ambiguous depiction of capitalist anarchy on Earth, how free markets might develop on a terraformed planet in another solar system and the possibility of independent robots with individual rights.

The settings are far-flung, too, from 20thcentury Scotland to a 21stcentury extra-solar planet called New Mars with a free market. It’s a  future of longer life-spans but also new kinds of death.

Continue reading Identity, anarchy, free markets, robots with rights and the politics of space colonization: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal, the 1998 Prometheus Best Novel winner