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 our third Appreciation, for James P. Hogan’s Voyage to Yesteryear, following recent Appreciations for F. Paul Wilson’s Wheels within Wheels and L. Neil Smith’s The Probability Broach:
Two human civilizations, long separated across light years, confront significant philosophical and political differences when they make renewed contact decades after a World War III devastated the Earth and led to the rise of widespread authoritarian governments there.
When the Earth’s three superpower governments engage in a space race to renew contact with the lost colony on Chiron in the Alpha Centauri system colony’s descendants, the Americans arrive first with an authoritarian goal of invasion and domination.
Meanwhile, the Chiron colonists – sent from Earth generations before in a ship with babies raised by robots in order to start fresh and avoid the bad habits and prejudices of Earth – have developed a radically free libertarian society founded on the belief that each individual has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Hogan’s fast-paced and idea-oriented utopian/dystopian novel dramatizes the differences between libertarian and authoritarian perspectives and cultures, and highlights the consequences when ships from Earth arrive to take over Chiron only to be shocked by the colonists’ independent-minded and liberty-loving attitudes.
The novel, in part, is one of the few depictions of a libertarian anarchist society, along with such other Prometheus winners as J. Neil Schulman’s Alongside Night and L. Neil Smith’s The Probability Broach.
In portraying the Old Earth characters often as fumbling or clueless bureaucrats, Hogan injects some humor into an implicit critique of our actual world culture.
Hogan, who died in 2010, was concerned about the bureaucratic and statist trends in the late 20thcentury – which sadly and ominously, in some ways have continued and worsened in the 21stcentury with its disturbing and regressive authoritarian/populist tendencies visible on the Left and Right.
Note: Hogan (1941-2010), a British sf writer who moved to the United States for much of his adult writing career, also won the 1993 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for The Multiplex Man.
Other Hogan books were Best Novel finalists in 1990 (Mirror Maze), 1991 (The Infinity Gambit), 1997 (Paths to Otherwhere) and 2000 (Cradle of Saturn.)
* Coming up soon on the Prometheus Blog: A 40thAnniversary Celebration and Appreciation of the fourth novel to be recognized with a Prometheus Award: J. Neil Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza, the 1984 winner for Best Novel.
* 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.
* 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.