Authoritarian imperialism vs. a functioning free-market anarchy in an interstellar future: An Appreciation of James P. Hogan’s Voyage From Yesteryear, the 1983 Best Novel winner

Here’s an Appreciation, for James P. Hogan’s Voyage to Yesteryear, the 1983 Prometheus winner for Best Novel:

By Michael Grossberg

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.

James P. Hogan signing autographs in 2005 at the Worldcon (Creative Commons photo)

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.)

* 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.


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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