Looking back at Prometheus Awards history: What happened at the first awards ceremony in 1979 in Los Angeles – and why it was controversial

Today marks nearly the end of a pivotal year marking the 40th anniversary of the Prometheus Awards, so it’s interesting to take a moment in 2019 and look back at the birth of the awards with the very first Prometheus Awards ceremony in 1979.
First envisioned and launched by sf writer L. Neil Smith, the Prometheus Award was first presented in 1979 in a high-profile ceremony at the year’s biggest Libertarian convention, which attracted several thousand people in Los Angeles.

Writer Robert Anton Wilson announced the winner – F. Paul Wilson’s sf mystery Wheels Within Wheels– after announcing three finalists, including Poul Anderson’s The Avatarand James P. Hogan’s The Genesis Machine.
Here’s a glimpse of how the event was covered in Frontlines, a leading libertarian-movement-news newsletter published by Reason magazine’s foundation:
“The first-ever Prometheus Award was presented for the best libertarian science fiction novel of 1978. The finalists were Poul Anderson’s The Avatar, James P. Hogan’s The Genesis Machine and F. Paul Wilson’s Wheels within Wheels. Robert Anton Wilson did the honors, on behalf of the Prometheus Award Committee (an independent group of libertarian sf fans, who contributed the award), presenting the $2,500 in gold to (no relation) F. Paul Wilson. The prize (which has already increased significantly in value) is the largest award for science fiction given anywhere in the world.”

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40th Anniversary Prometheus Celebration: An Appreciation of F. Paul Wilson’s Wheels within Wheels, the first award winner in 1979

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 and moving forward to today.
Here’s the first Appreciation for F. Paul Wilson’s Wheels within Wheels, which won the first Prometheus Award in 1979.
At the end, we also include a few recent comments by Wilson, looking back 40 years at the very-different era and context in which he wrote his novel.

By Michael Grossberg
   An sf murder mystery hailed by the Library Journal for its “cleverly planted clues” and “all the satisfaction of a good Agatha Christie,” this 1978 novel was the first work of fiction to receive the Prometheus Award, initially established by writer L. Neil Smith to recognize more libertarian sf fiction.

With the benefit of hindsight, looking back at Wilson’s work from the perspective of the 40thanniversary of the Prometheus Awards in 2019, one appreciates this novel even more as part of a fascinating larger whole: Wilson’s LaNague Federation series, set in an interstellar future in which an imperialist central State is toppled by a decentralized libertarian social order that unleashes an era of peace, prosperity, progress and broad respect for individual rights.

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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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Tor.com looks at the Prometheus Award on its 40th anniversary

James Davis Nicoll, a recent nominee for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, writes about “40 Years of the Prometheus Award,” for Tor.com.  He concludes that “following this particular award can be rewarding for readers of all stripes. Probably not every work above will be to your taste, but certainly some will be.”

The comments, including back and forth between Nicoll and readers, also are interesting.
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