A cyberspace, cyberpunk landmark in sf history: Vernor Vinge’s True Names, a 2007 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ diverse four-decade-plus history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian work of sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 a series of Appreciations of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation of Vernor Vinge’s story “True Names,” a 2007 Prometheus Hall of Fame co-winner for Best Classic Fiction.
By Michael Grossberg  
 and Chris Hibbert

“True Names” is a seminal work of the cyberpunk genre.

A landmark when it was published in 1981, Vernor Vinge’s now-classic story gave the public their first glimpse of cyberspace and showed how the struggle for control might penetrate the new medium.

One of the earliest works of fiction to present a fully detailed concept of cyberspace, the story also explores themes of anarchism and trans-humanism that are of great interest to libertarian futurists.

The story follows the progress of a group of computer hackers who keep their true identities secret while being among the first to adopt a new full-immersion virtual-reality technology. They do so out of curiosity or an entrepreneurial desire to profit – both respectable and even laudable motivations from the libertarian perspective that appreciates the crucial role of innovation and free markets in advancing human progress, prosperity, well-being and knowledge.

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Smart self-defense in an anarcho-capitalist society: Vernor Vinge’s “The Ungoverned,” the 2004 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

The Libertarian Futurist Society is celebrating the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade-plus history by publishing an Appreciation series of review-essays that strive to make clear why each award-winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom work.

Here’s an appreciation of Vernor Vinge’s story “The Ungoverned,” the 2004 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg

“The Ungoverned” is one of the rare sf stories to portray a plausible and fully libertarian society. Moreover, Vernor Vinge does so with intelligence, subtlety, vision and enjoyable narrative twists.

Set in the ungoverned lands of a recovering future Kansas after a social collapse, Vernor Vinge’s 1985 novella focuses on what happens when New Mexico’s statist government tries to invade anarchist-libertarian Kansas with unexpected results.

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Championing cooperation over coercion: A Tor.com survey of some of the most intriguing sf, fantasy that finds alternatives to violence as the plot solution

Libertarian futurists champion peaceful, non-violent behavior over acts of aggression, whether committed by individuals, groups or governments.
In fact, modern libertarian political philosophy is based on the principle of non-aggression – coupled with self-ownership (and self-defense against aggression) as the core of property rights, the strongest and most practical base for all human rights, properly understood.
So it’s fascinating to read science fiction and fantasy that explores such themes.
In the latest issue of Tor.com, writer James Davis Nicoll surveys the sf/fantasy literature and offers several examples of works that fit that focus in “SFF Works In Which Violence is Not the Solution.”

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