To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade-plus history and make clear why each winner deserves our recognition, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 a series of Appreciations of all past award-winners. Here is an Appreciation of Donald Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite, the 2016 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.
As an opening epigraph in Glory Road, Robert Heinlein quotes some lines by Bernard Shaw that include the sentence “He is a barbarian, and thinks the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.” One of the things science fiction can do for its readers is to jar us out of such complacency, by portraying worlds with customs other than ours – not utopias or dystopias, but heterotopias, “other places.” Donald M. Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite is one of the great heterotopias.
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.
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.
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 saw 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 Donald Kingsbury’s Psychohistorical Crisis, the 2002 Prometheus winner for Best Novel:
By William H. Stoddard and Michael Grossberg Donald Kingsbury’s Psychohistorical Crisis, an expansion of the Canadian-American sf writer’s 1995 novella “Historical Crisis,” reimagines and critiques the statist and technocratic assumptions of Isaac Asimov’s classic Foundation series.
Set in the 761st century, long after the events of that series, as the galactic empire is failing, the clever, complex and suspenseful 2001 novel offers a perceptive and implicitly libertarian critique of Asimov’s books, especially their determinism and political centralization.