Bruce Sommer, R.I.P. – Veteran Prometheus judge, board member helped sustain the LFS and its annual awards for decades

Libertarian Futurist Society leaders are remembering Bruce Sommer, a stalwart West Coast science-fiction fan and left-libertarian who helped sustain the Prometheus Awards for many years.

Bruce Sommer (File photo)

Bruce made a big difference as one of the earliest LFS members – and one of the few Life members – who remained active year after year, reading potential award candidates, weighing the pros and cons of nominees and serving for years as a board member.

Yet, even after disability and ongoing health issues began to limit Bruce’s energy and ability to work full-time, he expressed his love of science-fiction fandom and his libertarian ideals of a better and more just, peaceful and cooperative world by reading widely and diligently year after year to find science fiction and fantasy novels that might fit the distinctive pro-liberty and anti-authoritarian focus of the Prometheus Awards.

Continue reading Bruce Sommer, R.I.P. – Veteran Prometheus judge, board member helped sustain the LFS and its annual awards for decades

A preview of 2022 blogs, as our Appreciation Series approaches a milestone of 100 review-essays illuminating past Prometheus Award winners

As an eventful year ends, the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS) is approaching a milestone: 100 Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, all posted on this LFS/Prometheus blog.

That’s a milestone to savor, especially given the ongoing efforts and commitments by LFS leaders and contributors over the past 30 months to write and post these informative and insightful review-essays.

Here’s an overview of our progress, an explanation of why the Appreciations are important (including tips on how you can use and refer to them), and a preview of some of the upcoming articles you can expect from the Prometheus Blog in 2022.

Continue reading A preview of 2022 blogs, as our Appreciation Series approaches a milestone of 100 review-essays illuminating past Prometheus Award winners

SF anthology Give Me Liberty imagines future freedom fighters: Part One of an Appreciation of the 2005 Special Prometheus Award winner

“Give me liberty or give me death.”
— Patrick Henry’s speech to the Second Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775, at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia

By Michael Grossberg

Give Me Liberty, an anthology of freedom-loving science fiction, is one of two linked Baen Books anthologies recognized together with a 2005 Special Prometheus Award.

Give Me Liberty and Visions of Liberty, both co-edited by veteran libertarian Mark Tier and veteran sf editor Martin H. Greenberg, make an apt pair of bookends of freedom-loving sf anthologies.

Continue reading SF anthology Give Me Liberty imagines future freedom fighters: Part One of an Appreciation of the 2005 Special Prometheus Award winner

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.

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

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.

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

Interview: LFS President William H. Stoddard on fandom, freedom, favorite novels and the power of language

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.

William H. Stoddard (File photo)

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.

Continue reading Interview: LFS President William H. Stoddard on fandom, freedom, favorite novels and the power of language

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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Interstellar travel, mercantile networks, bureaucracy and decentralization: An Appreciation for Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky, the 2000 Prometheus Best Novel winner

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 Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky:

By William H. Stoddard and Michael Grossberg

   Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky is an exemplary example of the New Space Opera of the 1990s, and a fascinating and complex sequel to his Hugo-winning novel A Fire Upon the Deep.

Set in the inner Milky Way galaxy with fully realized characters, both alien and human, the story highlights the threats to civilization from centralized power while illuminating the civilizing dynamics of free-trade networks.

Vinge’s epic novel imagines a complex future with many human-inhabited planets that have developed over several thousand years through slower-than-light interstellar travel, terraforming, life-extension techniques, and advanced computer networks.

Yet many of these advanced societies repeatedly have collapsed into barbarism and decay through the failed dream of collectivism, statism, or subtle computational failures.
Continue reading Interstellar travel, mercantile networks, bureaucracy and decentralization: An Appreciation for Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky, the 2000 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Advanced technology, global politics, authoritarianism, monopoly power and centuries of struggle for liberty: An Appreciation of Vernor Vinge’s Marooned in Real Time, the 1987 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 are posting a series of weekly Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our earliest Best Novel awards.

Here’s the seventh Appreciation for Vernor Vinge’s Marooned in Real Time, following recent appreciations for novels by J. Neil Schulman, F. Paul Wilson, L. Neil Smith and James P. Hogan, No Award (the 1985 choice) and Victor Milan:

By William H. Stoddard

In 1985, Vinge’s The Peace War lost out to No Award in the Prometheus voting. In 1987, its sequel, Marooned in Realtime, was recognized as Best Novel — the first of several Best Novel and Hall of Fame awards to the author.

The Peace War had shown a market-oriented and anarchistic society in a future central California. But it wasn’t portrayed in detail, and existed within a larger world that was decidedly NOT libertarian, controlled by the repressive Peace Authority. And one of the viewpoint characters was a military officer who considered the libertarian society that Vinge sketched unsustainable.

In contrast, Marooned in Realtime’s characters look back to a past in which libertarian values had triumphed, and the central character is widely admired for his role in bringing down one of the Earth’s last states (a story told in “The Ungoverned,” a novella that won the LFS’s 2004 Hall of Fame Award).

The libertarianism stands out more.
Continue reading Advanced technology, global politics, authoritarianism, monopoly power and centuries of struggle for liberty: An Appreciation of Vernor Vinge’s Marooned in Real Time, the 1987 Prometheus Best Novel winner

40th Anniversary Celebration: An Appreciation of No Award, the 1985 Prometheus Best Novel choice

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

Here’s the fifth Appreciation, for No Award (1985), following recent appreciations for novels by F. Paul Wilson, L. Neil Smith, James Hogan and J. Neil Schulman:

By William H. Stoddard

When the Libertarian Futurist Society started giving regular awards for Best Novel, ballots mailed to members offered the option of voting for None of the Above.

In 1985, None of the Above won, for the first and – up to now – the only time.

Continue reading 40th Anniversary Celebration: An Appreciation of No Award, the 1985 Prometheus Best Novel choice