Picaresque comedy, anti-authoritarian spirit and rebellious, roguish individualism in an interstellar future: An Appreciation of John Varley’s The Golden Globe, the 1999 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 makes past winners 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 John Varley’s The Golden Globe:

A rare picaresque sf comedy among Best Novel winners, John Varley’s The Golden Globe follows the episodic adventures of a resilient itinerant actor living by his wits and thespian skills in the outer solar system.

Varley, clearly a fan of Shakespeare, updates the Bard in his 1998 novel to illustrate the theme that “if all the worlds (are) a stage – not world’s, but plural – then all the men and women in this are merely players… strutting, fretting and conniving through their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts….”

That everyman man is Kenneth “Sparky” Valentine, the fugitive central character and an interstellar con man, who’s been on the run for decades from planet to planet. successfully evading the State authorities. Resourceful and scrappy, Sparky survives through con jobs and his high-tech ability to transform his age, his body type/size and his gender by altering skin-deep magnetic implants.

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A 40th Anniversary Retrospective: Introducing a Reader’s Guide to the Prometheus Award Winners

By Michael Grossberg

To highlight and honor the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society is celebrating in 2019, we are providing a reader’s guide with capsule Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, starting with the Best Novel category.

If you’ve ever wondered why a particular work of fiction has been recognized with a Prometheus Award and what libertarian sf fans see in these award-winning works, then our upcoming series of Appreciations should be must reading – as well as informative and illuminating!

Or, if you’re simply  looking for something enjoyable and stimulating to read within the realm of science fiction and fantasy, which also illuminates abiding questions about the perennial tensions between Liberty and Power, an excellent place to begin is with this recommended reading list of award-winning fiction (to be published here on a regular weekly (or biweekly) schedule, starting now (September 2019). These capsule appreciations are being written and edited by LFS members (including LFS founder Michael Grossberg, LFS President William H. Stoddard, Tom Jackson and Anders Monsen), in a few cases based on reviews printed in the Prometheus quarterly (1982-2016) or the Prometheus blog (2017-today).

Since 1979, a wide array of novels, novellas, stories, films, TV series and other works of fiction have won Prometheus awards by highlighting in fascinatingly different ways the value of voluntary social cooperation over institutionalized State coercion, the importance of respecting human rights (even for that smallest minority, the individual), and the evils of tyranny (whether on the Left or the Right).


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