To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing a series of Appreciations of past award-winners.
With the series of Best-Novel appreciations now completed after a 10-month weekly run, the LFS has begun its next series of appreciations of each of our Hall of Fame winners for Best Classic Fiction – a Prometheus Awards category first presented in 1983.
If you’ve missed any of the weekly Best-Novel appreciations, all are available to read now with links from the Prometheus Awards page of the LFS website (lfs.org). Just click on the word “Appreciation” next to each winning title.
Alternatively, on the Prometheus Blog itself, just scroll down the left side of the page past the list of most-recent blog posts, the daily update of the most-popular posts read each day and our comprehensive Archives of monthly posts to the Categories (which includes handy access to Interviews, Essays, Award Standards, Best of the Blog, News, Reviews, Tributes, Obits, Author Updates and much more). Then click on Appreciations (or the Best Novel subhead) to access all past blogs in that category in one scroll.
Meanwhile, here is our first Hall of Fame appreciation, by William H. Stoddard, of our first Hall of Fame co-winner: Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, which was inducted in 1983 along with Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress:
If any novelist was central to the emergence of the libertarian movement, it was Ayn Rand. She wasn’t simply an adherent of ideas such as strict adherence to the Constitution or economic freedom, which were common among adherents of the “old right” at the time. She was also the source of such distinctive formulations as the concept of being a “radical for capitalism” (rather than a conservative) and the principle of noninitiation of force, which have been defining elements in libertarianism for half a century. And those ideas first came to widespread attention in her last and largest novel, Atlas Shrugged.
Was Atlas Shrugged “science fiction”? It certainly was received as such; it was reviewed in Astounding Science Fiction not once, but twice, by P. Schuyler Miller (who saw little value in it) and by John W. Campbell, the editor of Astounding (who praised it—particularly for its insight into the cultural and psychological mechanisms that make political repression work).
It influenced some science fiction writers; in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, for example, the self-aware computer Mycroft is described as the “John Galt”of the Lunar revolution. It’s filled with marvelous inventions; not just the central ones, Rearden Metal and John Galt’s motor, but half a dozen ingenious minor devices, any one of which might have been the basis for a story in Astounding – and the Xylophone, a weapon of mass destruction based on new principles of energy transmission that plays a crucial role at the novel’s climax. And if Rand doesn’t go into detail on the scientific principles behind these inventions, or into the unexpected side effects of their use, a lot of science fiction doesn’t either.