Artistic freedom, creativity, individuality, self-expression, gay marriage, the evils of conscription and dystopia: An Appreciation of J. Neil Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza, the 1984 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 an Appreciation for J. Neil Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza, the 1984 Prometheus Best Novel winner:

Schulman’s romantic and passionate sf drama explores the power of art, the thirst for creativity and the threat to such individuality and self-expression in a future Brave New World dominated by a single world government.

Schulman was prescient and years ahead of his time in envisioning a positive future where gay marriage is normal and legal.
Yet, his complex story portrays a very mixed and disconcerting dystopian future where teenage women are drafted into government prostitution service for three years, clones are treated as inferior and a new underclass called Touchables are hunted for sport.

Schulman posits those among the unexpected and authoritarian consequences of a disturbing future in which men drastically outnumber women, with seven males to every female on Earth. The imbalance was the result of a new pharmacy drug, Adamine, which allows men to ensure that any offspring they may have will only be male – and a choice predominantly made by men around the world, especially in patriarchal cultures.  Among the horrific long-term unanticipated consequences for societies around the world, including the U.S., is a normalized rape epidemic.

J. Neil Schulman in 2017 (Photo by Arturo Ruggeroli. Creative Commons photo)

Yet, further social, political and pharmalogical developments eventually undercut that society and rebalanced the sexes, ushering in an era that in many ways seems at first blush to be utopian. But is it?

At the emotional core of Schulman’s path-breaking 1984 novel and what makes it inspiring for freedom-lovers amid its dystopian darkness, is the heroic battle for self-determination by women, especially a brilliant young woman artist who works within the new genre of laser concerts.
Still traumatized by a murder she witnessed as a child, the artist Eleanor  – who has a complicated relationship with her self-conceived twin daughter Vera – is torn between her desire to play music and pressures to become a plaything for male desires in a male-dominated society where men outnumber women seven to one.

Schulman weaves in libertarian feminist themes and dramatizes them with heroic feminist characters: “Vera was to have been Eleanor’s reply both to her grandparents – now living in the colonies – and to her own society. Eleanor had given Vera the opportunity and the encouragement to sample the world’s culture – to choose an ascending path for herself – and to demonstrate to the world that a mind and a spirit in a female body could equal or better any accomplishment a mind and a spirit in a male body could achieve.”

Ultimately, the artist’s struggle for independence amid her woundedness as well as the fascinating portrait of her artistry in a new medium underlines the evils and horrors of government control in a darkly cautionary tale about real trouble in an alleged “paradise” where even libertarian ideology has become corrupted by one-party rule.

* Read another Appreciation of The Rainbow Cadenza by Michael Grossberg, originally published as an afterword to the first paperback edition.

Note: Schulman (1953-2019) also won a Prometheus Hall of Fame award for his novel Alongside Night.
His novel Escape From Heaven was a Best Novel finalist in 2003. Most recently, Schulman’s novel The Fractal Man was a Best Novel finalist in 2019.

* See related introductory essay about the LFS’ 40thanniversary retrospective series of Appreciations of past Prometheus Awards winners, with an overview of the awards’ four-decade history.

* Read the Prometheus blog’s obit notice for Schulman, who died in August, 2019.

* Other Prometheus winners: For a full list of winners – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website.

* Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit volunteer association of libertarian sf/fantasy fans and freedom-lovers.
Libertarian futurists believe cultural change is as vital as political change (and often more fun!) in achieving universal individual rights and a better world (perhaps eventually, worlds) for all.



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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