Censorship, book-burning, history, memory, individualism and rebellion: An Appreciation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a 1984 co-winner of the Prometheus Hall of Fame

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ diverse four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian and dystopian sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 a weekly series of Appreciations of past award-winners, beginning with the first category for Best Novel and now focusing on the Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.

Here is an Appreciation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the other 1984 Prometheus Hall of Fame co-winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg

One of the most widely admired classics of science fiction is Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury’s poignant 1953 novel makes an eloquent case (both libertarian and classical liberal) against censorship and book-burning as a blow not only to basic individual rights but as a devastating wound to history, memory and civilization itself.

Bradbury’s best-known novel offers an exemplary cautionary fable about an illiberal future society in which books are outlawed and burned to destroy them and any remnant of literacy, memory, deep culture and independent thinking.

Those who still love and read books become criminals, hunted down by “firemen” and at high risk of having their homes invaded, their books and houses burned and their lives destroyed by the omnipresent State.

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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.

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God, atheism, philosophical speculation and a dying assassin in an irreverent sci-fi private-eye noir fantasy: An Appreciation of Victor Koman’s The Jehovah Contract, the 1988 Prometheus Best Novel winner

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

Here’s the eighth Appreciation for Victor Koman’s The Jehovah Contract, following appreciations for novels by F. Paul Wilson, L. Neil Smith, J. Neil Schulman, James P. Hogan, Victor Milan and Vernor Vinge:

Victor Koman’s audacious 1987 thriller-noir-fantasy The Jehovah Contract centers on dying atheistic assassin Del Ammo – masquerading as a private detective, and living in the ruins of a terrorist-bombed skyscraper – who’s given a contract to kill God. Yes, God!

Clever philosophical speculations by Koman, a veteran libertarian, accent his suspenseful and prescient story, set in a near-future Los Angeles, as the assassin finds a way to excise the concept of God from the minds of humanity and enable a more laissez-faire “Creatrix” to return to power.
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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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