To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian works, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series of all past award-winners. Here is an Appreciation of C.M. Kornbluth’s The Syndic, one of two 1986 Prometheus Hall of Fame inductees for Best Classic Fiction.
By William H. Stoddard
C.M. Kornbluth’s novel The Syndicwas an early winner of the Hall of Fame Award, in 1986.
Originally published in 1953, it was an example both of what Isaac Asimov called “social science fiction,” envisioning a change in technology or human behavior and working out its cultural implications, and of “thought variant” fiction, seeking to explore provocative ideas.
Such ideas were supposed to stir up discussion by going against conventional beliefs, in the style Robert Heinlein envisioned in Space Cadet as a required seminar in “Doubt”:
The seminar leader would chuck out some proposition that attacked a value usually attacked as axiomatic. From there on anything could be said.
Kornbluth picked a really provocative premise: A future North America ruled by organized crime, with the government driven into exile, creating a freer and happier society than that of his own time. This led to a story with a lot of action, but one where social speculation was never far from sight.
To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series of all past award-winners that makes clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian in theme. Here is an Appreciation of Poul Anderson’s Trader to the Stars, a 1985 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.
By Michael Grossberg Trader to the Stars, part of Anderson’s interstellar and libertarian-themed Future History series written over four decades, offers three loosely interconnected and longer stories about the free-trade-oriented Polesotechnic League operating during a Terran Empire.
Blending adventure, mystery and sf with some swashbuckling heroism and vivid descriptions often evoking Norse sagas, this 1964 book centers on Nicholas van Rijn, a resourceful and clever Danish merchant-hero (Anderson was Danish-American).
Anderson, always a realist about humanity with a sensibility of a melancholy romantic, portrays both humans and aliens as self-interested, striving to make a buck and satisfy their various needs amid an imperfect world of struggling and flawed peoples – in short, a future just like today.
Novelist Sarah Hoyt, speaking from Colorado, discussed the importance of writing about liberty.
Astrid Anderson Bear, speaking from Washington, talked about her late father Poul Anderson and how to subvert authoritarian regimes.
Both women spoke eloquently at the Libertarian Futurist Society’s 2020 Prometheus Awards ceremony, presented Saturday Aug. 22 as a well-advertised highlight during the all-online Columbus North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC). (Editor’s note: This is the first of several planned Prometheus blog posts about the awards ceremony and related LFS panel.)
Hoyt, winner of the 2011 Prometheus for Best Novel for Darkship Thieves, had the honor of presenting the Prometheus Hall of Fame category for Best Classic Fiction.
Bear accepted the award for her late father, whose story “Sam Hall” was inducted into the 2020 Prometheus Hall of Fame.
The lifelong libertarian idealism of Neil Peart, the Rush songwriter-drummer who died Jan. 7 and whose passing the LFS noted in a previous blog, has been highlighted in several of the major media essays and obituaries that have followed his death at 67 after struggling privately for three years with cancer.
“Fan polls routinely agreed he was the greatest rock drummer of his time (or indeed of all time, I would argue, though some would go with Keith Moon). I’m not sure any rock track boasts drumming that can match Peart’s breathtaking work on the 1981 song “Tom Sawyer.”