Editor’s introduction: Dave Freer, 2023 Prometheus winner for Best Novel for Cloud-Castles, is the first author from the Southern Hemisphere to win a Prometheus Award.
An Australian who lives in Tasmania, Freer delivers his acceptance speech from Cambridge, England, where he was visiting his son. Freer’s speech was part of the 43rd annual Prometheus Awards ceremony, which aired live Aug. 19 internationally via Zoom, with Prometheus-winning author Sarah Hoyt presenting Freer with his award. Here is the transcript of his speech:
BY DAVE FREER
Firstly, I would like to apologise for my accent. I come from a polyglot of origins, or, as rural Australians would yell it, “Yer a bloody mongrel, yer drongo.”
That’s a very accurate description, as it allows for hybrid vigour, and no pretentions of grandeur or delusions of good behaviour. I do feel rather like the scruffy mongrel who has slipped the leash, stolen a slab of bacon and a string of sausages from a butcher’s shop, and run, hotly pursued, into the midst of the hallowed halls of the Crufts dog show. There I have jumped up onto the winner’s podium, panting and grinning, to enjoy my ill-gotten gains, while the judges and former winners look on in horror.
Here I am, a Tasmanian, from a little remote island off the end of Australia, looking at the grand list of honourees and wondering ‘what the hell have I done to be among this lot of thoroughbreds?’
I take some comfort from the fact that this is the Prometheus Award, and Prometheus himself was a stroppy bastard who stole fire from the gods to give to mankind, rebelling thus against the autocracy of Olympus.
If you know anything about Australia, you’ll know Tasmania, or as it was called ‘Van Dieman’s Land’, was where the British transported the worst of irredeemable rebel prisoners, to live, and hopefully, for the British Imperial authorities, to die, in de facto slavery.
If there’s one corner of Australia that ought to be a natural place for anti-authoritarian rebels, it’s there. I started my writing career about the maximum sentence ago – voluntarily, I admit. And “A rebel I came… and I am still the same.”
I gather I am the first Australian to be honoured with this award: Well, as this award really is about promoting liberty: I hope I can persuade you that liberty should not be confined, should not become insular… and people who have had it restricted can become its fiercest partisans. We know the alternatives.
So: I was told I needed give a speech about this and that ‘thank you very much’ was a little inadequate. Humpf! It was good enough for Bilbo Baggins, surely it is good enough for me? I am about the same height and do have hairy feet, after all. But I set about working on it, looking at the videos, reading what I could and trying to learn from my betters.
I got a little into (LFS President) William Stoddard’s fine (2022 awards ceremony) introductory speech and discovered that the Prometheus strives to build a Freer universe… This left me looking at the screen like a stunned mullet. I have to cavil.
Trust me on this, we all want freedom to thrive and grow, but no one in their right mind – or even their wrong mind — – wants to live in a Freer Universe. The places are only good for hunting Snarks and is entirely filled with chasms and crags. Besides, you should have your own universes.
Yes. I am the guy who would make bad jokes when dealing with serious things. I’ve been around somewhat more than my fair share of deadly-serious things, alongside some the finest people the human race has thrown up. The Medical Corps. Mountain rescue, and now the Volunteer Ambulance crowd. I can remember, clearly, as a young man on mountain rescue, a helicopter and body bags…. The kind of jokes that get told would have the morality police having fits.
Yet, often the tellers have been giving everything they had to give, risking their own lives, for days, to save lives and … not always succeeding. Dealing with the
worst outcome… in a way that meant next time they COULD do it again.
It’s a coping mechanism. We need it because, yes, actually, I do believe we’re in a deadly David-and-Goliath scale war with authoritarian forces that would crush freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of any kind, underneath their heel.
They want us in bondage, and they will take liberty from others by any means possible. They’re skilled at finding reasons, which they always justify as ‘for our own good.’ Fortunately, humor is alien to them, and not only a way to cope, but to fight back.
My own credo on the foundation of human liberty is that it rests on freedom of thought.
If ideas can be constrained, prescribed, or better still, from the authoritarian point of view, never exist at all in the minds of those subjugated, they win.
It is not what a book makes you think about, it’s that it makes you think at all, or question, even disagree with it, that makes it the enemy of authoritarianism. And if spreading that fire to mankind is your idea of what should be done, well, as they say, you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
An entertaining story, which makes folk laugh or at least smile, is more likely to give the writer a chance to plant those ideas. They may not be the thoughts I wanted people to have… but they are thoughts, and often thoughts questioning, by logic, things which have simply been accepted wisdom.
Actually, there is far less wisdom than most people realise. Like truth, it’s mostly diluted with BS and tall stories.
Ah. Tall stories: That leads me into talking about CLOUD-CASTLES.
Note: Stay tuned for the second half of Dave Freer’s 2023 acceptance speech.
Coming up on the Blog: Every few days over the next several weeks, we will be following up with several posts about our 43rd annual Prometheus Awards ceremony – which aired live on Zoom Aug. 19 and will be posted soon on Youtube and on the LFS website’s Video page. Among the posts:
* Acceptance speeches for Robert Heinlein’s “Free Men,” the 2023 Prometheus Hall of Fame inductee for Best Classic Fiction,” from Art Dula, primary trustee of the Heinlein Trust, and John Tilden, president of The Heinlein Society;
* Prometheus winner and Best Novel presenter Sarah Hoyt’s speech about freedom, science fiction, her old friend Dave Freer and his novel Cloud-Castles.
* A sobering but inspiring introductory speech by LFS President William H. Stoddard, emcee of the 43rd annual awards ceremony, about the cycles of liberty and history and why the Prometheus Awards matter more today, even amid today’s disturbing authoritarian trends and regressions.
* An introductory overview of the Prometheus Awards and its Best Novel category by LFS co-founder Michael Grossberg, who chairs the 12-member LFS Prometheus Best Novel finalist-judging committee and who introduced Hoyt during the awards ceremony.
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE:
* 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.
* 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, Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussions with noted sf authors and leading libertarian writers, and other LFS programs on the Prometheus Blog’s Video page.
* 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.