Anderson, Heinlein, Tolkien, Hoyt, Pratchett and other favorite authors: The Prometheus interview (part 4) with Dave Freer

The Prometheus Award for Best Novel has been won over the decades by writers from the United States, England, Scotland and Finland – with Best Novel finalists from China, Japan, Canada and many other countries.

Dave Freer with his 2023 Prometheus Awards Best Novel plaque for Cloud-Castles (Photo courtesy of Freer)

But Dave Freer is the first writer from the Southern Hemisphere to win a Prometheus Award for Best Novel.

Here is the fourth and final part of the Prometheus Interview with the Australian/Tasmanian author, the 2023 winner of the Prometheus for Best Novel for Cloud-Castles.

 Q: Do you have any favorites among Prometheus Award winners?

A: It’s a good reading list, isn’t it?  I think I have just about everything in the Hall of Fame.

 

Poul Anderson (Creative Commons license)

Freer: I was always a major Poul Anderson fan because he saw the power of economics and trade and of independence.

(Editor’s note: The LFS has recognized Anderson (1926-2001), the first sf author to be honored with a Special Prometheus Award for Lifetime Achievement, many times, with his story “Sam Hall” most recently inducted in 2020 into the Hall of Fame. Anderson won his first competitive Prometheus award for his novel Trader to the Stars, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985. He also wrote The Stars Are Also Fire, the 1995 Prometheus winner for Best Novel; and “No Truce with Kings,” a story inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame in 2010.)

Freer: (Robert) Heinlein obviously had a major impact… not that I always agreed with his points entirely. I think for instance the tyranny of making someone pay for that which they do want, because you think it good for them is a tyranny – but not the worst tyranny.

“For their own good/society’s good” is at the heart of every tyranny, but I think I find the tyranny of caging the independence of thought possibly the most deadly.

Robert Heinlein (Photo courtesy of the Heinlein Prize Trust)

(Editor’s note: Heinlein (1907-1988) is the author most recognized by the Prometheus Awards, with a record eight awards as of 2022. His novel Citizen of the Galaxy was inducted in 2022 into the Hall of Fame.  Other Heinlein works inducted into the Hall of Fame include his bestselling novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (in 1983), Stranger in a Strange Land  (in 1987), the novel Red Planet  (in 1996), the novel Methuselah’s Children (in 1997), the novel Time Enough for Love (in 1998), the story “Requiem” (in 2003) and the story “Coventry” in 2017.)

Q: Any other favorite Prometheus-winning writers?

Freer: I love (Terry) Pratchett because he wove the possibility of technology and how it affects society into his fiction so seamlessly and without them being obvious.

(Editor’s note: Pratchett, a British writer, won the 2003 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for Night Watch. His 2000 novel The Truth was a 2023 Prometheus Hall of Fame finalist.)

(Lois McMaster) Bujold – she has thinking heroes, not just brave or strong but problem solving.

(Note: Bujold’s novel Falling Free was inducted in 2014 into the Hall of Fame.)

And I love (Sarah) Hoyt’s concept of what liberty means… I could go on for a long time on the books in that list.

(Editor’s note: Hoyt won the 2011 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for Darkship Thieves.)

Writer Sarah Hoyt. Creative Commons license)


Other books in her Darkship series also have been recognized, with Darkship Renegades a 2013 Best Novel finalist, A Few Good Men a 2014 Best Novel finalist, and Darkship Revenge a 2018 Best Novel finalist.)

Freer: Even being on the finalist list is like being self-taught kid with an oil-can guitar, finding himself on stage with Eric Clapton.

Q: Looking over just the Prometheus Hall of Fame track record of Best Classic Fiction winners (at lfs.org), which one or two works in particular do you most recommend for your fans to read?

A bust of JRR Tolkien. File photo

A: Fantasy: if you have never read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, it’s really one of the foundational books of the genre, and its subtext of ideas is vast. It’s a liberty versus authoritarianism story, de facto.

SF: Eric Frank Russell (The Great Explosion, a 1985 Prometheus Hall of Fame inductee) is someone I recommend often to people, simply because his works are something people have not heard of. You can see the impact he had on my writing quite easily.

Russell took ideas and twisted them – approached them from a different perspective. It’s a way of thinking we need. Besides, I enjoy it.

Q: Which Prometheus winning work(s) would you recommend to sf/fantasy fans – or general readers as the best introduction to the “literature of liberty”?

A: Once again it depends on how direct an approach – which is determined by the individual – you want to subject them to.

To someone expressing curiosity about libertarianism – L. Neil Smith’s The Probability Broach or Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

For a less direct approach, Poul Anderson’s Trader to the Stars.

For accessibility, Sarah Hoyt’s Darkship Thieves.

Q: When writing within the sf/fantasy genre, is it easier in some ways to weave in political/social themes that uphold the value of personal liberty?

A: It’s certainly easier to weave ANY political/social themes into sf/fantasy. After all, both require some degree of the suspension of disbelief, so you are already past the outer wall, as it were.

Read the previously published Part One, Part Two and Part Three of the Prometheus Interview with Dave Freer.

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.

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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