Interview: LFS President William H. Stoddard on fandom, freedom, favorite novels and the power of language

Few individuals have made more of a difference to the Libertarian Futurist Society and the Prometheus Awards in the 21st century than William H. Stoddard.

Bill, as he’s known to friends and fellow LFS members, has led the nonprofit, all-volunteer group of freedom-loving sf fans for more than a decade as president of the board of directors.

William H. Stoddard (File photo)

But Stoddard has done far more for many years, writing reviews of sf/fantasy for the Prometheus newsletter and more recently, this blog, and serving for decades as a key judge on both finalist-judging committees for the Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction categories of the Prometheus Award.

Here is LFS Secretary Michael Grossberg’s interview with Stoddard about how he became an sf fan, a libertarian and an active LFS member and what are some of his favorite writers and Prometheus-winning works.

Q: What Prometheus Award winners especially excited you or pleased you when they won for Best Novel?

A: For the Best Novel Award, I’d name two.

Michael Flynn’s In the Country of the Blind (1991 award) asked “what if Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine had come into use in the nineteenth century?” in the form, not of an alternate history, but of a hidden history where multiple secretive groups used predictive social science (made possible by Analytical Engines) to create the actual history of the twentieth century from behind the scenes; it was one of my main influences when I wrote GURPS Steampunk for Steve Jackson Games in 2000.

Continue reading Interview: LFS President William H. Stoddard on fandom, freedom, favorite novels and the power of language

NASFiC acceptance speech: How C.J. Cherryh built her Alliance-Union Universe, & the launch of a prequel trilogy with Alliance Rising, the 2020 Prometheus Best Novel

If you’re a fan of C.J. Cherryh in general and her vast, complex, economically literate Alliance-Union Universe in particular, the full text of Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher’s Prometheus Awards acceptance speech is a fascinating must-read.

Cherry and Fancher co-wrote Alliance Rising, billed as the first prequel in a projected Hinder Stars trilogy exploring how her – now, their – future history develops.


The Libertarian Futurist Society, which presented its 2020 Prometheus Awards ceremony Saturday at the all-online North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC), chose Alliance Rising as its 2020 Best Novel winner partly because of the plausible realism with which Cherryh and Fancher weave a portrait of how the emergence of an interstellar trade network with private property and active markets tends to reduce conflicts, violence and the threat of war while sustaining peace, prosperity and progress.

“Its not so much that we set out to write a novel about the link between freedom and economics,” Cherryh said in her acceptance remarks, “but that when you start telling a story about human civilization, it goes with the territory.”

Continue reading NASFiC acceptance speech: How C.J. Cherryh built her Alliance-Union Universe, & the launch of a prequel trilogy with Alliance Rising, the 2020 Prometheus Best Novel

Prometheus Awards 40th anniversary panel set with F. Paul Wilson, LFS leaders, for online-only New Zealand Worldcon; Sarah Hoyt and Wilson to lead LFS panel and awards ceremony at North American Science Fiction Convention

The Libertarian Futurist Society will raise its visibility online and around the world this summer with events and Prometheus-winning speakers and LFS leaders at both the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) and the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC).

Everything will take place safely during these “virtual cons,” set up to protect online participants and viewers during the pandemic – which means that LFS members and the public will be able to watch, participate and ask questions from the comfort of their own homes via computers, smart TVs, tablets or smart phones.

WORLDCON PROMETHEUS PANEL
Bestselling, Prometheus-winning novelist F. Paul Wilson (An Enemy of the State, Sims, Healer, Wheels within Wheels, Repairman Jack series) will headline the LFS’ Worldcon panel on “Freedom in SF: Forty Years of the Prometheus Award.”

Celebrating the recent 40thanniversary of the awards, the Worldcon panel will explore the distinctive focus and impressive track record of the many diverse winners of one of the oldest continuing fan-based awards in the sf/fantasy field after the Hugo and Nebula awards.

(To find out who has won the 2020 Prometheus Awards, read the LFS press release posted on the LFS website.)

Continue reading Prometheus Awards 40th anniversary panel set with F. Paul Wilson, LFS leaders, for online-only New Zealand Worldcon; Sarah Hoyt and Wilson to lead LFS panel and awards ceremony at North American Science Fiction Convention

Guide for LFS voters: Where to find the 2020 Prometheus Awards finalists for Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame)

The 2020 Prometheus Awards are now in the final weeks of voting by Libertarian Futurist Society members across the continent – but where can you find and read each of the finalists?
That’s commonly not a problem with the annual Best Novel category, since all five finalists are widely available, typically published in the preceding year.
Yet, it can be challenging to find some of the older finalists in the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.
That’s because the Prometheus Awards’ other annual category is wide open to any work of fiction first published, broadcast, staged or screened 20 or more years ago.
But this year, for the first time, two Hall of Fame finalists – a story and a song – can be found in full online and for free!

So accessibility of this year’s Prometheus  award finalists is in some ways easier than ever – and this guide should help LFS Members find and consider every finalist before voting.

Continue reading Guide for LFS voters: Where to find the 2020 Prometheus Awards finalists for Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame)

The Libertarian Futurist Society, Prometheus Awards, LFS writers hailed in Quillette article about the persistence of libertarian sf as a key strand in mainstream science fiction

By Michael Grossberg
Libertarian science fiction has always been a seminal strand in the ever-evolving genre of science fiction and fantasy – and in significant and honorable ways, that socially conscious and liberty-loving subgenre continues as a force today, even amid regressive and reactionary forces flirting with the perennial temptations of statism, authoritarianism and centralized, institutionalized coercion on the Left and Right.

Libertarian futurists – within and outside the Libertarian Futurist Society (not to mention other organizations within the far broader libertarian movement, from Reason and Liberty magazines to the Cato Institute)  – have understood that for a long time.

Yet, it’s salutary and newsworthy when our understanding of the broader intellectual and artistic currents that have helped shape the four-decade-plus history and diversity of the Prometheus Awards is shared and appreciated by an international, cosmopolitan publication outside the libertarian movement.

The cover illustration of the Quillette article on Libertarian Science Fiction Photo: a Quillette illustration, copied here to help people find the article on their website

Such a relatively rare occasion has materialized this month (June 2020) with a fair-minded, open-minded, rich and rewarding essay on “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction” published in Quillette, an influential web-magazine that embraces what modern libertarians might generally recognize as classically liberal principles.

According to its mission statement, Quillette offers “a platform for free thought. We respect ideas, even dangerous ones. We also believe that free expression and the free exchange of ideas help human societies flourish and progress.”

Indeed, LFS members might say as much, using virtually the same words, to uphold important Bill of Rights aspects of our libertarian vision of a fully free future in which people strive to respect other people’s rights and live together through the voluntary cooperation and enterprise of a free society and a free market while steadfastly abjuring violence, the initiation of force or fraud and the institutionalized coercion of the unchecked State.

Continue reading The Libertarian Futurist Society, Prometheus Awards, LFS writers hailed in Quillette article about the persistence of libertarian sf as a key strand in mainstream science fiction

Atwood’s The Testaments, Cherryh and Fancher’s Alliance Rising, Patrick Edwards’ Ruin’s Wake, Ian McDonald’s Luna: Moon Rising and Marc Stiegler’s Ode to Defiance selected as 2020 Prometheus Award finalists for Best Novel

Whether set on Earth, on the Moon, or throughout interstellar space and whether taking place in the near-future or distant future, novels dramatizing fights for freedom and threats of tyranny can achieve a timeless and universal relevance.

Recognizing the perennial tensions between Liberty and Power, the Libertarian Futurist Society presents its annual Prometheus Awards for outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy.

The five 2019 novels that the LFS has just selected as its finalists in the Best Novel category of the 2020 Prometheus Awards certainly range widely in setting, era, plot, character and style. Yet, each sheds fascinating light on the enduring human themes and challenges that inspire each generation’s struggle for freedom amid recurring threats of dictatorship, war, plague, pandemic, powerlust and other ills.

Continue reading Atwood’s The Testaments, Cherryh and Fancher’s Alliance Rising, Patrick Edwards’ Ruin’s Wake, Ian McDonald’s Luna: Moon Rising and Marc Stiegler’s Ode to Defiance selected as 2020 Prometheus Award finalists for Best Novel

Free enterprise in outer space, or reaching the stars through profit-enhanced competition rather than government bureaucracy: Appreciating Victor Koman’s Kings of the High Frontier, the 1997 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 to make clear what libertarian futurists see in each of our past winners that made them 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 Victor Koman’s Kings of the High Frontier:

Victor Koman’s 1997 novel dramatizes the dream of getting into space with an libertarian twist: The massive effort is achieved through the voluntary social cooperation of mutual trade and mutual aid through private enterprise.

Set in a subtly alternate reality, the story imagines a profit-enhanced competition to reach the stars, which anticipated the X Prize that saw Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne reach space in 2004.

Kings of the High Frontier highlights the shortsighted bureaucratic and political efforts of a government-run program like NASA, with its consequences in corruption, wasteful mismanagement and stagnation.

Continue reading Free enterprise in outer space, or reaching the stars through profit-enhanced competition rather than government bureaucracy: Appreciating Victor Koman’s Kings of the High Frontier, the 1997 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Ideology, libertarian and socialist factions, high-tech surveillance and a balkanized 21st century future: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, the 1996 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 to make clear what libertarian futurists see in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom or anti-authoritarian 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 The Star Fraction, by Ken MacLeod:

The Star Fraction, a 1995 novel by Ken MacLeod, established the Scottish sf novelist’s international reputation for blending sf with a dizzying array of balkanized politics and ideological factions (including highly self-aware libertarians and socialists).

Set in a fragmented and conflicted mid-21st-century Britain beset by political factions and high-tech surveillance after a brief third world war and leftist Labour Party policies have led to economic and social decay, this is the first novel in MacLeod’s Fall Revolution series, which continued with The Stone Canal, The Cassini Division, and The Sky Road.
Among the interesting and unusual characters and forces affecting this future are a Christian-turned-atheist teenaged programmer eager to escape his fundamentalist subculture, a rogue computer program manipulating events, a woman scientist researching memory-enhancement drugs, and a communist security mercenary with a smart gun and information that might spark change.

Continue reading Ideology, libertarian and socialist factions, high-tech surveillance and a balkanized 21st century future: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, the 1996 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Identity, mystery, body-transfer technology, bureaucrats, capitalists and green politics in a hard-sf political thriller: An Appreciation of James P. Hogan’s The Multiplex Man, the 1993 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Introduction: To highlight the 40-year history of the Prometheus Awards, a landmark which the Libertarian Futurist Society is celebrating in 2019, we’ve launched a series of weekly Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our earliest Best Novel awards.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for James P. Hogan’s The Multiplex Man, the 1993 Best Book winner:

James Hogan’s 1992 hard-sf political thriller revolves around a polite schoolteacher who wakes up one day to discover he’s far from home and in a body not his own. Soon after returning home, he discovers that seven months have passed – and he can’t return to his old body or life because he died six months ago.
His suspenseful journey to solve multiple unfolding mysteries is set in an authoritarian future Earth where former Eastern/communist countries have exploited space resources to boost their economies over the faltering West, undermined by Green-dominated governments’ anti-industry regulations, education restrictions and propaganda.

In this cautionary anti-authoritarian story, the State authorities control virtually everything about people’s lives and activities on Earth, while condemning as dangerous any dissent or unapproved behavior and viewing off-world colonies as enemies because of their competition for Earth resources.

Continue reading Identity, mystery, body-transfer technology, bureaucrats, capitalists and green politics in a hard-sf political thriller: An Appreciation of James P. Hogan’s The Multiplex Man, the 1993 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Astronauts, environmentalists, sf fandom, global cooling, anti-science factions and social regression in a dark future: An Appreciation of Fallen Angels, the 1992 Prometheus Best Novel winner by Flynn, Niven and Pournelle

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society is celebrating in 2019, we launched in September, 2019, a series of weekly Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our Best Novel category.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Fallen Angels, co-written by Michael Flynn, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle:

Fallen Angels imagines a heroic struggle set against a dark future in which the United States and other countries are fighting a losing battle amidst the “global cooling” of a new Ice Age.

With the government turned anti-science and anti-technology in a coalition among Greens, feminists and religious fundamentalists, and federal officials focusing on persecuting science-fiction fans as subversives while ignoring the welfare of much of the population in some of the most affected parts of the weather-besieged country, this provocative 1992 novel might have been just a depressing cautionary tale.
But the three co-authors offer some hope by focusing on a group of individualistic, science-loving and freedom-loving misfits. Continue reading Astronauts, environmentalists, sf fandom, global cooling, anti-science factions and social regression in a dark future: An Appreciation of Fallen Angels, the 1992 Prometheus Best Novel winner by Flynn, Niven and Pournelle