Guess the Prometheus-winning favorite: Reason Magazine’s new crossword features LFS in a clue

Reason Magazine has started a weekly crossword. The second puzzle starts with this clue for 1 across:

1. With 19-across, sci-fi author beloved of the Libertarian Futurist Society

Before clicking on the link above, take a moment to have fun and guess which author is being referred to in Reason’s latest libertarian-themed crossword puzzle.

Continue reading Guess the Prometheus-winning favorite: Reason Magazine’s new crossword features LFS in a clue

A treasure trove of wisdom, wit and gratitude: Memorable Prometheus Award winners’ speeches

By Chris Hibbert

One of the things I do in my spare time is bring old issues of Prometheus onto the web. Prometheus, the LFS’ former print quarterly, was published from 1982 to 2015, and there are lots of articles of lasting value in this collection.  Well more than half the issues are now available on the web.

One thing I noticed a little while ago is that we have transcripts of many of the Prometheus Award acceptance speeches that have been given over the years, and they are worth reading again. We also have recordings of several of the ceremonies, but uploading those will be a separate project.

Here’s a quick guide to all the speeches that appeared in Prometheus:

Continue reading A treasure trove of wisdom, wit and gratitude: Memorable Prometheus Award winners’ speeches

Collapse of a dystopia of isolation and ubiquitous communication: E. M. Forster’s The Machine Stops, the 2012 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ diverse four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian sf, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing a series of Appreciations of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation of E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops,” the 2012 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction:

By Chris Hibbert
E. M. Forster’s short story “The Machine Stops” is very appropriate for the time of the pandemic. Forster wrote about a society of enforced physical isolation where everyone can be in constant communication via the Machine.

Continue reading Collapse of a dystopia of isolation and ubiquitous communication: E. M. Forster’s The Machine Stops, the 2012 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

“With Folded Hands …” Hall of Fame Award received by Williamson Collection

The Hall of Fame award for  “With Folded Hands …” by Jack Williamson has been received by the Jack Williamson Science Fiction Collection at the Eastern New Mexico University library. They just moved into a newly remodeled building, and will add it to their permanent display when they get more settled. For now, it’s comfortably resting between Williamson’s two Nebula awards.

The Encylopedia of Science Fiction has a long entry for Jack Williamson.

Review: Walkaway by Cory Doctorow

By Chris Hibbert

Walkaway by Cory Doctorow

I really enjoyed reading Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway, though it was more the setting than the story that had me entranced.

Doctorow envisions a relatively high tech future with a strong upper class with strict controls on many aspects of society, but there’s an informal, unsupported safety valve that makes it possible for people to get out from under the plutocrats (called Zottas here). Doctorow’s society is fraying around the edges, so there are lots of abandoned industrial facilities and vacant land that people who are fed up can Walkaway to. Once there they create informal voluntary societies, and exploit the abandoned wealth they find around them. As with Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom this is a reputation based society, but many of the people who fuel this iteration explicitly reject the ideas of ratings and rankings and tracking contributions. People work together for the joy of it, and record their ideas and plans so others can replicate what works and improve on what doesn’t.
Continue reading Review: Walkaway by Cory Doctorow

LFS Special Award for Freefall, a webcomic

The membership of the Libertarian Futurist Society has selected the first chapter of Freefall, a Webcomic by Mark Stanley, to receive a Special Prometheus Award in 2017.

Freefall is set on a planet in another solar system, Jean, colonized by a small number of human beings and a large number of robots. Its main characters are a squidlike intelligent alien, Sam Starfall; a robot, Helix; and a genetically enhanced humanoid wolf, Florence Ambrose. The strip is largely humorous, but a major storyline has explored the rights and legal status of created beings.

The first installment appeared on March 30, 1998. Installment 2835, on July 11, 2016, announced the completion of the first chapter, making it eligible for nomination as a completed work. (An index of all episodes can be found at http://freefall.purrsia.com/fcdex.htm.)

In addition to the annual Prometheus Awards for Best Novel and Hall of Fame (Best Classic Fiction), the Libertarian Futurist Society gives a Special Award when an outstanding work with pro-freedom themes appears in a different form or medium.

Freefall, chapter one, is the first Webcomic to be honored, and the third graphic narrative work (following The Probability Broach in 2005 and Alex + Ada in 2016).

Mark Stanley will receive a plaque commemorating the award, and bearing a gold coin, a symbol of free minds and free markets.

Questions may be addressed to William H. Stoddard, president of the LFS, at President@lfs.org.

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit www.lfs.org. Membership in the Libertarian Futurist Society is open to any science fiction fan interested in how fiction can promote an appreciation of the value of liberty.

Review: The Corporation Wars: Insurgence, by Ken MacLeod

By Chris Hibbert

Ken MacLeod’s The Corporation Wars: Insurgence is the second book of a trilogy. It (along with the first book in the series, Dissidence, is a finalist for the Prometheus award this year.

Insurgence continues the story of awakened robots struggling for freedom, and uploaded human ex-combatants fighting to retake the planetary system the robots had been mining and exploring.

This installment focuses less on the robots’ claim to be agents worthy of separate respect, and more on the uploaded warriors struggle to figure out the nature of the reality they inhabit while mostly following orders to fight the battles their supervisors are pursuing.

Continue reading Review: The Corporation Wars: Insurgence, by Ken MacLeod

Ken MacLeod at Edinburgh International Book Festival

Ken MacLeod blogged about being asked to host a series of talks and interviews at the annual Edinburgh Festival (“The largest festival of its kind in the world”).

He brought in luminaries like Stephen Baxter, as well as several Prometheus winning and nominated authors, including Charles Stross, Jo Walton, and Ada Palmer.

Ken MacLeod (Creative Commons photo)

If you will be in the vicinity, consider stopping by.

Review: The Corporation Wars: Dissidence, by Ken MacLeod

By Chris Hibbert

Ken MacLeod’s The Corporation Wars: Dissidence is the first book of a trilogy. It (along with the second book in the series, Insurgence) is a finalist for the Prometheus award this year.

Book CoverThe story starts with a scene in which a pair of mining robots exploring an asteroid (in a distant solar system) and representing different corporate interests have an encounter, which leads them to realize they have opposing interests, which leads them each to recognize that they have interests, which leads them to self-awareness.

The corporations are in a tenuous situation, trying to assert their ownership of the robots, trying to be civil about their contractual cooperation, but objecting strenuously to breaches by the opposing robots.

Continue reading Review: The Corporation Wars: Dissidence, by Ken MacLeod

Review: The Core of the Sun, by Johanna Sinisalo

By Chris Hibbert

book coverJohanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun is a finalist for the Prometheus Award this year.   It has enough SF elements to qualify as standard near-future fiction, and provides biting social commentary. In feel, it reminds me a lot of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but I liked this better in several ways.

The story takes place in a future Finland that has managed to selectively breed its women so that they’re either docile sex dolls and mothers (“eloi”), or sterile, powerless but competent workers (“morlocks”). They’ve also outlawed psycho-active drugs from alcohol to heroin, and somehow included capsaicin (hot peppers) on that list. The protagonist, Vanna, is a morlock who was raised as an eloi, which allows her to pass in polite company. She’s also hooked on hot peppers, and has started dealing in whole, dried, and preserved peppers in order to afford her next fix.

Compared with Handmaid’s Tale, the viewpoint character is a more active agent, with more freedom to act for her own interests and to undermine the system; her allies against the state are more fully bought into the fight; and the state she fights has taken more reprehensible steps, though it seems to have less thorough control of its subjugated females.

The story is told with a mix of present-tense action and recollections by Vanna of how she got to her present situation, mostly written as letters to her long-lost eloi sister, Manna. The two were raised away from the city by their eccentric aunt, which gave Vanna the opportunity to act naturally most of the time, and mimic her sister when visitors were around. This gave her the tools to pass as eloi when she grew up.

After the aunt dies, Manna finds a husband Vanna suspects to be after the family farm, since neither Manna nor Vanna (passing as an eloi) can legally hold title to it. Vanna finds a man to partner with who values her for her unusual intellect and her ability to act independently (a useful tool for his black-market activities).

Vanna pursues the secrets behind her sister’s disappearance until events force her to escape with her partner. I found the prose (and occasional poetry) to be delightful and very evocative. The characters were convincing, and Vanna’s struggle to be her own person in the face of societal expectations was heartbreaking.

(Chris Hibbert is treasurer and past board president of the Libertarian Futurist Society. He works as a software engineer in Silicon Valley.)

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.

* Prometheus winners: For the 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.

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.