Artistic freedom, creativity, conscription and gay marriage: An Appreciation of J. Neil Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza, the 1984 Prometheus Best Novel winner

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s ongoing Appreciation series strives to make clear what LFS members and other libertarian sf/fantasy fans see in each of our past winners and how each fit the Prometheus award’s distinctive focus on Liberty vs. Power. Here’s our Appreciation for J. Neil Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza, the 1984 Prometheus Best Novel winner:

Romantic and passionate, J. Neil Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza 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 one 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 essay 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.

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE PROMETHEUS AWARDS:

* Prometheus winners: For the full list of Prometheus winners, finalists and nominees – including 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 all published essay-reviews in our Appreciation series explaining why each of more than 100 past winners since 1979 fits the awards’ distinctive dual focus on both quality and liberty.

* 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 (including the recent 2023 ceremony with inspiring and amusing speeches by Prometheus-winning authors Dave Freer and Sarah Hoyt),Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussions with noted sf authors and leading libertarian writers, and other LFS programs on the Prometheus Blog’s Video page.

* Check out the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Facebook page  for comments, updates and links to Prometheus Blog posts.

Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards and support a cultural and literary strategy to appreciate and honor freedom-loving fiction,  jointhe Libertarian Futurist Society, 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 in envisioning a freer and better future – and in some ways can be even more powerful than politics in the long run, by imagining better visions of the future incorporating peace, prosperity, progress, tolerance, justice, positive social change, and mutual respect for each other’s rights, individuality and human dignity.

 

 

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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