Billionaire blogger Bill Gates gives a thumbs up to a 2022 Best Novel finalist

By Michael Grossberg

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.)

To my mind, that makes Gates’ rare thumb ups for works of fiction – especially when they fall into the genre of science fiction – even more notable and worth mentioning.
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Robots, liberty and the tyranny of “benevolence”: Jack Williamson’s novelette “With Folded Hands…,” the 2018 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a notable pro-freedom work, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 an Appreciation series of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation for Jack Williamson’s “With Folded Hands…,” the 2018 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By William H. Stoddard

Jack Williamson’s novelette “With Folded Hands . . .” illustrates one of the distinctive characteristics of science fiction: its tendency to a kind of dialogue, in which one author’s stories comment on earlier stories by other authors. (Poul Anderson was noteworthy for this kind of writing, in stories such as “Journeys End,” which offered a different view of relationships between telepaths, and “The Man Who Came Early,” which questioned the assumptions of “castaways in time” stories such as Lest Darkness Fall.)

In 1947, when Williamson’s novelette appeared in Astounding Science Fiction, the idea of essentially benevolent robots was well established there; Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics (which Astounding’s editor, John W. Campbell, played a part in formulating) had been explicitly stated in Asimov’s novelette “Runaround” five years before, in 1942. What Williamson did was not to revert to the older theme of monstrous and hostile robots (which Asimov had called “the Frankenstein complex”), but to look at Asimov’s own vision of robots from a different angle.

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Review: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Annalee Newitz (Creative Commons photo)

By William H. Stoddard

Annalee Newitz has had a successful career as a print and online journalist, and has published several books, but until Autonomous, all of these were nonfiction. It was a happy discovery for me that her first venture into fiction showed real mastery of the craft. I laughed at her epigraph from “The Last Saskatchewan Pirate,” and promptly tracked the song down and bought it; and the opening page of her narrative hooked me and kept me reading. Both her handling of characterization and plot, and the quality of her prose, were the kind of thing I hope for when I glance at a new book and ask if I want to read it.
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