A celebration of old and new: The 2022 Prometheus Awards recognize Heinlein, McCarthy novels

The 2022 Prometheus Awards, to be presented Aug. 13 in an online ceremony, will honor “something old” and “something new.”

In a wedding of circumstance and happy coincidence, a first-time Prometheus-nominated author (the “something new” according to wedding custom) has been declared the winner in the Best Novel category, while the golden-age sf author most honored in the four-decade-plus history of this award is recognized anew.

Novelist Wil McCarthy (Photo courtesy of Baen Books)

Wil McCarthy, a prolific sf writer nominated for the first time for this award, has been selected by Libertarian Futurist Society members as winner of the Best Novel category for Rich Man’s Sky.

Meanwhile, the late great Robert Heinlein – a Prometheus favorite – will be recognized for his novel Citizen of the Galaxy, which will be inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.

Robert Heinlein (Creative Commons license)

Heinlein (1907-1988), now an eight-time Prometheus Award winner, has won more Prometheus awards than any other writer, living or deceased.

Fittingly, Heinlein’s zestful spirit of adventure – championing scientific and social progress against tyranny and oppression and exploring libertarian possibilities of the future – is reflected in both of this year’s winners.

Best Novel winner: McCarthy’s Rich Man’s Sky

Rich Man’s Sky, published in 2021 by Baen Books, offers an imaginative sf adventure exploring human expansion throughout the solar system, propelled by four billionaires, in a suspenseful mosaic of epic conflicts and maneuvers between governments and markets and among politicians, soldiers, spies and entrepreneurs.

As a team of elite military women infiltrate and aim to violently undercut the billionaires’ visionary space projects before they change the world for good or ill, the story reveals some of the super-rich “Four Horsemen” to be admirable, and some decidedly not, but McCarthy makes all four real and human as they spearhead innovative private-enterprise projects that governments aren’t capable or willing to do.

Overall, this Heinlein-esque tale of State-threatened market innovations persuasively counters stereotypes from what free-market economist Ludwig von Mises dubbed “the anti-capitalist mentality.”

The other 2022 Best Novel finalists were Between Home and Ruin and Seize What’s Held Dear by Karl K. Gallagher (Kelt Haven Press); Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro; and Should We Stay or Should We Go by Lionel Shriver (Harper Collins).

As both a nominee and winner, Rich Man’s Sky reflects the first Prometheus Award recognition for McCarthy, a high-tech and space entrepreneur and author of 11 novels and additional stories that blend a Heinlein-esque flair for action and adventure with hard-science extrapolations, interesting characters and plausible futuristic scenarios.

Classic Fiction winner: Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy

Speaking of Heinlein-esque, Citizen of the Galaxy is arguably the best of Heinlein’s “juvenile” novels, written in the 1950s and 1960s at a shorter page length to appeal to the then-very-young market of sf readers.

The 1957 novel strongly dramatizes an anti-slavery theme while exploring the meaning of freedom and defending the right to use force in self-defense.

The epic, planet-hopping saga revolves about a young man’s coming of age amid repeated displacement into new societies and situations (including one intriguing libertarian group of Free Traders) in a rich and complex interstellar future.

With the 2022 induction of Citizen of the Galaxy into the Prometheus Hall of Fame, Heinlein has been recognized in the Prometheus awards more than any other writer, living or deceased. (The late great Poul Anderson is the runner-up.)

Other Heinlein works inducted into the Hall of Fame include his bestselling novels The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (in 1983), Stranger in a Strange Land  (in 1987), Red Planet  (in 1996), Methuselah’s Children (in 1997) and Time Enough for Love (in 1998) and the stories Requiem  (in 2003) and Coventry (in 2017.)

Citizen of the Galaxy won over three other Prometheus Hall of Fame finalists, which in this category may return as future nominees: That Hideous Strength, a 1945 novel by C.S. Lewis; Circus World, a 1981 collection of linked stories by Barry B. Longyear; and “The Trees,” a 1978 song by the rock group Rush.

While the Best Novel category is limited to novels published in English for the first time during the previous calendar year (or so), Hall of Fame nominees – which must have been published at least 20 years ago — may be in any narrative or dramatic form, including novels, novellas, stories, films, television series or episodes, plays, musicals, graphic novels, song lyrics, or verse.

Travis Corcoran wins his first Prometheus Award Photo: Courtesy of author

The Libertarian Futurist Society will present the 42nd annual Prometheus Awards, with multiple-Prometheus-winning authors Travis Corcoran and F. Paul Wilson as presenters, online at 2-3 p.m. Saturday Aug. 13 (EDT) in a Zoom awards ceremony.

F. Paul Wilson. Photo credit courtesy of author

For more information about the awards ceremony presenters and participants, see this recent Prometheus blog article.

See the official LFS press release announcing the 2022 Prometheus winners.

Read the Prometheus Blog review of Rich Man’s Sky.

* 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.

* Watch the 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.

* 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.

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.

Through recognizing the literature of liberty and the many different but complementary visions of a free future via the Prometheus Awards, the LFS hopes to help spread better visions of the future that help humanity overcome tyranny, slavery and war and achieve universal liberty and human 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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