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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Finding free ebooks by Robert Shea

By Tom Jackson

Writer Robert Shea (1933-1994) was a member of the Libertarian Futurist Society, a Playboy magazine editor and the co-author of Illuminatus!, which won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1986.

He also wrote several entertaining historical novels, and his literary executor and son, Mike Shea, has decided to concentrate on distributing them as widely as possible. You can purchase them as used books and as ebooks, but Mike Shea also has made them available as free ebooks under a Creative Commons license. Here is a guide to what is available.

All Things Are Lights 

Set in the 12th century, All Things Are Lights is about a knight and troubadour named Roland. He gets himself into many adventures, including participating rather against his well in Crusades against the Cathars in southern France and the Muslims of Egypt, and also has a complicated love life.

As I’ve implied, All Things Are Lights can be read as a straightforward action novel. But as I’ve written elsewhere, “there is rather more material than I expected about secret societies and secret occult teachings. The Templars and Cathars feature prominently in the book, and Gnosticism, paganism, sexual tantra and the Assassins also are referenced. The book’s hero, Roland de Vency, has a skeptical attitude toward authority and an agnostic attitude toward religions.”

Simon Moon in Illuminatus! explains Shea’s title: “”An Irish Illuminatus of the ninth century, Scotus Ergina, put it very simply— in five words, of course —when he said Omnia quia sunt, lumina sunt: ‘All things that are, are lights.’ ”

I’ve read quite a few historical novels, and All Things Are Lights is one of my favorites. You can download it as an HTML file, which formats nicely on a Kindle ebook reader. The opening of the book draws you in.


A frontier novel that focuses on Native Americans. Available as a free download in various formats from Project Gutenberg.

Saracen: Land of the Infidel and its sequel Saracen: The Holy War

The son of the main characters in All Things Are Lights is one of the characters in these two related novels. Available as free ebooks at Project Gutenberg.

Shike: Time of the Dragons and Shike: Last of the Zinja

Both of these books are set in medieval Japan.

Although it isn’t publicized on, the Wikipedia article on the Shike books has a link to a Creative Commons version of the two books.

(From a similar post at, which has other articles on Shea).