A ‘Mad Genius’ commentary: Best Novel finalist Dave Freer on Prometheus as trickster and role model of ingenuity

“As a monkey, the idea of a trickster and mischief-maker, who none-the-less is the champion of mankind, stealing fire from the gods for them, has always been something of a beau ideal and role model for me. I am not very large or powerful, and my only tool is ingenuity against various gods.”

“While I always thought Hanuman as my kind of trickster, Prometheus is a good role model, down to the bit about that bastard Zeus binding him to a rock and having eagles attack his liver for helping humans with technology….”

If there were an award for most unusual, charming and amusing response to being recognized with a Prometheus Awards nomination, then Australian science fiction/fantasy writer Dave Freer would be a strong contender.

The above quotes are how Freer began his enthusiastic blog post about being nominated for the Prometheus award for his 2022 novel Cloud-Castles.

Author Dave Freer (Creative Commons license)

Freer was certainly just as pleased later on, when he learned that his novel was selected as one of five finalists for this year’s Prometheus Award for Best Novel.

His reaction upon being notified of the good news was very positive – and virtually immediate, with his email reply from his residence in Tasmania arriving from the other side of the planet within minutes of the notification. (What an amazing world we live in today, very much a world of science fiction become fact, with so much that we tend to take for granted.)

Yet, perhaps nothing Freer could say could possibly top his initial reaction to his nomination, which he posted last fall on the Mad Genius Club blog.

Prometheus, the light bringer (Creative Commons license)

After his vivid opening lines quoted above, which journalists call a “delayed lead,” Freer continued in his own entertaining and autobiographical way:

“I am quite used to the establishment gods of the literary world wanting my liver devoured. Anyway, the ancient Greeks had the liver as the source of emotions, and what writer worth his salt does not have those ripped out by each book?

“Besides, Mary Shelley – whose Frankenstein is considered by many as one the foundations of modern sf had as her sub-title to the book ‘A modern Prometheus’. Additionally, there was the bit in Prometheus Unbound about him causing blind hope to live in the hearts of men — a noble goal for any writer… Finally, he literally was the god of forethought — a treasure among men (and ambulance officers) and a perfect choice for representing science-fiction – which is after all, often about the future.

“As the more perceptive among you have probably guessed, this panegyric about Prometheus is because Cloud-Castles has been nominated for the 2022 Prometheus Award’s best-novel category.

“I have made the finalists list in the Dragon Awards twice (in two different categories), and the Prometheus is probably the only other award around I have any real interest in winning – as most of the others will probably reduce sales or at least narrow the audience to the kind of people that wouldn’t like my sort of book, anyway.

“Awards tend to be recognized as an imprimatur of value for a book depending on the repute of books by previous winners.

“And as this one has in its 40-year history Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Bujold’s Falling Free, Ellison’s “REPENT HARLEQUIN,” Said The Ticktockman, Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and Sarah Hoyt’s Darkship Thieves,  to name books I feel outclassed by… it’s odd to have even made the cut.

“Still, I am as chuffed as can be, and, well Cloud-Castles is a political satire of sorts, with a distinctly libertarian borderline -narchist society as well a failed authoritarian one. I suppose it (pushes) me out of the political closet. Besides, it makes people laugh.”

The Mad Genius Club, by the way, is a blog and website that represents a loose affiliation of published sf/fantasy writers and others.

Among them: Sarah Hoyt, Kate Paulk, Amanda S. Green, Cedar Sanderson, Dorothy Grant, Peter Grant, Pam Uphoff, Brad R. Torgersen, Karen Myers and Alma T.C. Boykin and Freer.

Freer’s post sparked 17 lively comments, mostly congratulations but also a few observations worth quoting here:

“There would then be two Prometheans in the Club, yes?”, a commenter named Writing Observer wrote (and also, yes, observed.)

That would be correct, sir.

Sarah Hoyt won her Prometheus Award for Best Novel for Darkship Thieves, the 2011 winner.

Another commenter, named Seawriter, helpfully posted his own reviews of two of the Best Novel finalists – Cloud Castles and John Van Stry’s Summers End (Baen Books.)

(For capsule-review descriptions of all five of this year’s Best Novel finalists, read the LFS press release.)

And one commenter even worried a bit about the finances of the Libertarian Futurists, especially with regard to the rising price of gold coins.

“I wonder about the acquisition of the gold coins,” he wrote.

“Today, one ounce of gold bullion is $2025.60, which may be the highest price EVER. If they had purchased a month ago, they could have gotten at a spot cost of $1841.10/ounce. But surely, Libertarian Futurists would have planned for that, right?”

Let the LFS take this opportunity to reassure you: That’s right.

LFS board members do stockpile enough gold coins to sustain our award and its related gold prize – and we have successfully planned ahead and sustained our award for more than four decades.

Of course, any freedom-loving sf/fantasy fan is welcome to join the LFS, participate in nominating and awards voting, and help support and sustain the Prometheus Awards for decades more to come.

So if you’re that worried, please join us!

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, end slavery and war and achieve universal liberty, respect for 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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