Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation.” —Alasdair Gray.
“If these are the early days of a better nation, there must be hope, and a hope of peace is as good as any, and far better than a hollow hoarding greed or the dry lies of an aweless god.” —Graydon Saunders
Ken MacLeod’s blog, “The Early Days of a Better Nation,” takes its title from a quotation from Alasdair Gray. Obligingly, he provides that quotation, followed immediately by another quotation from Graydon Saunders that comments on the idea.
Who is Graydon Saunders? Eventually, I became curious, and found that he was, among other things, the author of a series of strikingly original fantasy novels, the Commonweal series.
And does the world’s greatest playwright have important things to say to libertarians, other freedom lovers and those millions still wrestling in the 21st century with tyranny, war, slavery and other poisonous fruits of statism?
As a veteran theater critic, I’d argue yes on both counts!
So does a thoughtful essay by Michael Lucchese reviewing and comparing two recent books about Shakespeare and his views on liberty and authority in the Law and Liberty journal.
Many sf and fantasy novels imagine different visions of free societies and how they might function in the future – including quite a few Prometheus Award finalists and winners.
In recent years, more authors seem to be incorporating future libertarian worlds into their novels, so many that it’s becoming harder to keep track of them all.
While few of these sf authors may be outright libertarians, they appear to be curious about exploring in fiction how future societies might be based on libertarian principles, in full or in part. They appreciate how that can provide fresh and interesting sf scenarios to explore dramatically – especially given inevitable human flaws and conflicts that tend to occur, no matter what kind of laws, customs and norms define different cultures.
One illustrative recent case in point: The Eleventh Gate, by Nancy Kress, an award-winning sf author known for space opera who previously has been nominated four times for a Prometheus Award for Best Novel.
Did something significant to science fiction – actually, unprecedented – just happen at the Academy Awards?
It wasn’t really highlighted in any media reports I came across, but isn’t Everything Everywhere All at Once the first outright science fiction film to win the Oscar for Best Picture?
And not only that, but the Best Picture winner is especially intriguing to consider from a libertarian futurist perspective: Is it possible that this year’s Academy Awards recognized one of the most pro-freedom films to ever win an Oscar for best picture?
Such questions are sparked by an intriguing column on Reason magazine’s blog: “Oscar-winning Everything Everywhere All At Once Celebrates individalism, Free Will.”
“What Bujold has done is to come up with a concept of an aristocratic society that isn’t based on coercion — and from a libertarian perspective, that’s an interesting and novel theme.”
By William H. Stoddard
After bringing the Vorkosigan series (including Prometheus Hall of Fame winner Falling Free) to an apparent conclusion, Lois McMaster Bujold turned to fantasy in two series: the loosely connected World of the Five Gods novels, and the Sharing Knife series, an actual tetralogy.
Both are set in invented worlds, where real-world political issues don’t arise, sparing the reader the sort of heavy-handed allegory that J.R.R. Tolkien famously objected to.
No book in either series was ever considered for a Prometheus Award. Indeed, the Sharing Knife series started out as a love story, seemingly reflected Bujold’s acknowledged fondness for authors such as Georgette Heyer. But having read it several times since its publication, I’ve come to feel that it has less obvious depths, some of which are potentially of interest to members of the Libertarian Futurist Society.
Billionaire blogger Bill Gates is highlighting a Prometheus Best Novel finalist among his favorite books of the year.
On the book page of Gates’ blog, he’s currently recommending Klara and the Sun, by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro.
Almost all the books Gates recommends on his blog are non-fiction, but occasionally a novel pops up – such as Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow or David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (an epic sf/fantasy perhaps best known for the ambitious film version of its multi-era reincarnation saga.)
Note: This is the latest Prometheus-blog review of our 2022 Best Novel finalists, following previously posted reviews of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun and Lionel Shriver’s Should We Stay Or Should We Go.
In Seize What’s Held Dear, the third volume of Karl Gallagher’s The Fall of the Censor series, the action returns to Corwynt, a planet controlled by the Censorate that the Fieran protagonists visited in the first volume. Much of the story develops in parallel tracks following the situation on the planet’s surface and the continuing struggle in space.
The primary conflict grows out of the Censorate’s basic rule that access to information is to be restricted as much as possible. In a fashion similar to China’s Qin Dynasty, access to historical works is prohibited, and their mere possession is a capital crime.
The result is a totalitarian society of a novel sort, different from those in classic dystopias. Fiera, the planet that opposes the Censorate after a hyperspatial route between them has reopened, has no such prohibition — and for that very reason the Censorate cannot tolerate its survival. Fiera doesn’t offer a model for a libertarian society, but it’s comparatively free and is struggling to preserve that freedom.
The sympathetic character at the center of Klara and the Sun is profoundly human in her caring, determination, curiosity, loyalty and observant intelligence.
And yet, Klara is an artificial being, an android branded and sold as an Artificial Friend in Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed novel, one of five 2022 Prometheus Best Novel finalists.
Set a generation or two into the future and strictly told from the highly limited point of view of Klara, the novel never fully answers the question of whether Klara has achieved full self-awareness (and thus should be treated as a person with rights.)
Yet, Ishiguro carefully drops enough clues and hints to make Klara and the Sun both a tantalizingly ambiguous mystery about the threshold of full consciousness and a haunting meta-libertarian parable about the foundations of rights and the tragedy that can occur when basic “humanity” and basic rights go unrecognized.