Sexuality, spirituality and reflections on the human soul in J. Neil Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza, the 1984 Prometheus Best Novel winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ history and make clear the distinctive focus of the award, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series of past award-winners in all categories.

Here is another Appreciation of J. Neil Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza, the 1984 Prometheus Best Novel winner.

Also included below: Schulman’s Prometheus Awards acceptance speech, presented Aug. 31, 1984 before an audience of more than 2,000 sf fans at LACon, the 42nd annual World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles, Calif.

By Michael Grossberg

“If nothing is sacred the human body is sacred.” – Walt Whitman, “Children of Adam”

Much of the sexuality in The Rainbow Cadenza deeply disturbs, shocking readers with its graphic intensity, Yet this unusually adult coming-of-age novel, boasting some of the most scatological material to be found this side of Krafft-Ebing, arguably has no gratuitous sex scenes.

Instead, J. Neil Schulman integrates his disquieting eroticism into a complex narrative about a future Earth where birth-control advances have had a radical and damaging effect on human relationships, sexual equality and personal rights.

Given the development of such an unbalanced society, the novel’s often perverse sexuality should not surprise us. After all, the sexual act is a mirror. In reflecting consciousness and character, it offers a highly revealing glimpse of its participants’ humanity (or inhumanity).

At its best, of course, the sexual act can be a deeply satisfying expression of romantic love and spiritual intimacy, or at least a mutually enjoyable experience between consenting adults.

At its worst, the sexual act can be perverted into a neurotic and symbolic act, communicating hostility instead of affection, revenge instead of respect, dominance and submission instead of acceptance, anger and range instead of bon fide sexul passion. All this, and more, can be found in the diverse sexuality of The Rainbow Cadenza, a morality play in which those who allow themselves to be corrupted by powerlust soon find their sexual lusts corrupted as well in the inevitable workings of karmic justice.

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A cyberspace, cyberpunk landmark in sf history: Vernor Vinge’s True Names, a 2007 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ diverse four-decade-plus history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian work of sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 a series of Appreciations of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation of Vernor Vinge’s story “True Names,” a 2007 Prometheus Hall of Fame co-winner for Best Classic Fiction.
By Michael Grossberg  
 and Chris Hibbert

“True Names” is a seminal work of the cyberpunk genre.

A landmark when it was published in 1981, Vernor Vinge’s now-classic story gave the public their first glimpse of cyberspace and showed how the struggle for control might penetrate the new medium.

One of the earliest works of fiction to present a fully detailed concept of cyberspace, the story also explores themes of anarchism and trans-humanism that are of great interest to libertarian futurists.

The story follows the progress of a group of computer hackers who keep their true identities secret while being among the first to adopt a new full-immersion virtual-reality technology. They do so out of curiosity or an entrepreneurial desire to profit – both respectable and even laudable motivations from the libertarian perspective that appreciates the crucial role of innovation and free markets in advancing human progress, prosperity, well-being and knowledge.

Continue reading A cyberspace, cyberpunk landmark in sf history: Vernor Vinge’s True Names, a 2007 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner