2023 induction of “Free Men” into Hall of Fame confirms Robert Heinlein as a Prometheus Award all-time favorite

By Michael Grossberg

Quite a few writers have won more than one Prometheus award since the awards were launched in the 1970s, but nobody has won more than the late great Robert Heinlein.

Robert Heinlein, a drawing (Creative Commons license)

Libertarian Futurist Society members proved anew how much they remain ardent fans of Heinlein (1907-1988) by voting his 1966 novelette “Free Men” the 2023 Best Classic Fiction winner and thereby inducting it into the Prometheus Hall of Fame.

That marks the ninth novel, novelette or story by Heinlein to be recognized with a Prometheus Award – a record.

First published in his collection The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein and later collected in Expanded Universe, “Free Men” offers a strong defense of freedom and American ideals.

The novelette focuses on the aftermath of an invasion and U.S. occupation after a nuclear “20 Minute War” and how a small band of heroic but practical guerrilla fighters survive, adapt and resist tyranny at great cost.

With this latest Prometheus Award, Heinlein has received more Prometheus Awards than any other author.

Last year, his novel Citizen of the Galaxy was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Heinlein was also one of the first two authors to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, when it was first established in 1983.

Heinlein’s classic Hugo-winning novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was inducted along with Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

Here is the list of Heinlein’s nine Prometheus Award winners, along with the year they were inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame:

1983: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
1987: Stranger in a Strange Land
1996: Red Planet
1997: Methuselah’s Children
1998: Time Enough for Love
2003: “Requiem”
2017: “Coventry”
2022: Citizen of the Galaxy
2023: “Free Men”

Why has Heinlein retained his appeal with so many sf fans – including LFS members?

To get the best sense of the complex answer, it’s probably best to read all of the Prometheus Blog appreciations for his past winners.

Yet, one might start to answer that question by pointing to Heinlein’s great story-telling, his appreciation for both individual freedom and creative innovation and his ahead-of-his-time respect for individuality and diversity by portraying so many empowered women and men as sympathetic and admirable, even heroic characters.


Only four other authors have come close to Heinlein’s level of Prometheus Award recognition.


Poul Anderson (Creative Commons license)POUL ANDERSON

The author coming closest to Heinlein’s level of Prometheus recognition is Poul Anderson (1926-2001), a six-time Prometheus winner.

Anderson won the Prometheus for Best Novel in 1995 for The Stars Are Also Fire.

His Prometheus Hall of Fame winners for Best Classic Fiction include Trader to the Stars (inducted in 1985), The Star Fox (inducted in 1995), “No Truce with Kings” (inducted in 2010) and “Sam Hall” (inducted in 2020.)

Anderson was the first author to receive a Special Prometheus Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2001.

F. Paul Wilson (Creative Commons license)


Wilson has won a Prometheus Award five times.

He was the first author to win a Prometheus in 1979 for Wheels Within Wheels, an sf murder mystery set in his far-future interstellar LaNague Federation series.

His novels Healer and An Enemy of the State – both parts of his LaNague trilogy along with Wheels within Wheels – respectively were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990 and 1991.

Wilson’s satirical story “Lipidleggin’” was inducted in 2021 into the Hall of Fame.

In 2015, Wilson received a Special Prometheus Award for Lifetime Achievement.

L. Neil Smith in the 1980s (Creative Commons license)


L. Neil Smith (1946-2021), who established the Prometheus Award in the 1970s to highlight and encourage more libertarian science fiction, has won a Prometheus Award five times.

Smith won the Prometheus for Best Novel three times – for The Probability Broach(in 1982), Pallas (in 1994) and The Forge of the Elders(in 2001).
Smith and illustrator Scott Bieser received a 2005 Special Award for co-creating The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel.

Smith received a Special Prometheus Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2016.


Vernor Vinge (Creative Commons license)

Vernor Vinge has won a Prometheus Award five times.

He won Best Novel awards for Marooned in Realtime in 1986 and A Deepness in the Sky in 2000, while his stories “The Ungoverned” and “True Names” were inducted respectively in 2004 and 2007 into the Prometheus Hall of Fame..

Vinge also received a Special Prometheus Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2014.

For more information about the 2023 Prometheus Award winners, see the LFS press release.


* Prometheus winners: For the full list of Prometheus winners, finalists and nominees – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to the full set of published appreciation-reviews of past winners.

* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.

Watch  videos of past Prometheus Awards ceremonies, Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussions with noted sf authors and leading libertarian writers, and other LFS programs on the Prometheus Blog’s Video page.

Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.

Libertarian futurists believe that culture matters! We understand that the arts and literature can be vital, and in some ways even more powerful than politics in the long run, by sparking innovation, better ideas, positive social change, and mutual respect for each other’s rights and differences

Published by

Michael Grossberg

Michael Grossberg, who founded the LFS in 1982 to help sustain the Prometheus Awards, has been an arts critic, speaker and award-winning journalist for five decades. Michael has won Ohio SPJ awards for Best Critic in Ohio and Best Arts Reporting (seven times). He's written for Reason, Libertarian Review and Backstage weekly; helped lead the American Theatre Critics Association for two decades; and has contributed to six books, including critical essays for the annual Best Plays Theatre Yearbook and an afterword for J. Neil Schulman's novel The Rainbow Cadenza. Among books he recommends from a libertarian-futurist perspective: Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist & How Innovation Works, David Boaz's The Libertarian Mind and Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.

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