Bruce Sommer, R.I.P. – Veteran Prometheus judge, board member helped sustain the LFS and its annual awards for decades

Libertarian Futurist Society leaders are remembering Bruce Sommer, a stalwart West Coast science-fiction fan and left-libertarian who helped sustain the Prometheus Awards for many years.

Bruce Sommer (File photo)

Bruce made a big difference as one of the earliest LFS members – and one of the few Life members – who remained active year after year, reading potential award candidates, weighing the pros and cons of nominees and serving for years as a board member.

Yet, even after disability and ongoing health issues began to limit Bruce’s energy and ability to work full-time, he expressed his love of science-fiction fandom and his libertarian ideals of a better and more just, peaceful and cooperative world by reading widely and diligently year after year to find science fiction and fantasy novels that might fit the distinctive pro-liberty and anti-authoritarian focus of the Prometheus Awards.

Many LFS members had a chance to get to know Bruce in person when he was able to fly from the Bay Area to Columbus, Ohio to attend the first LFScon in May 2001 and meet such Prometheus-award-winning authors as F. Paul Wilson, L. Neil Smith, Vernor Vinge, J. Neil Schulman and Brad Linaweaver as part of Marcon, Ohio’s oldest and largest sf/fantasy multimedia convention. (Sadly, several of those authors – Smith, Schulman and Linaweaver – have since passed, too.)

Bruce’s growing mobility and health issues prevented him from returning to join other LFS members at a later LFScon, but he steadfastly kept in touch with fellow judges and board members through occasional long phone calls and hundreds – no, thousands – of observant and insightful emails.

For example, here’s a peek – with Bruce’s posthumous blessing, I’m sure, having known him for many years – at an excerpt from his insightful email review-comment he made some years ago of Radicalized, a 2019 collection of four novellas by Cory Doctorow, a three-time Prometheus Award winner (including for Little Brother and its sequel Homeland.)

“The novellas are a reminder of why Cory Doctorow is one of my favorite authors. They are both liberty-oriented and anti-authoritarian,” Sommer wrote.

“In “Unauthorized Bread”, the novella focuses on Immigration and Intellectual Property as affected by the DMCA and Contracts of Adhesion. There will be conflicting views on this depending on where the readers fall in their beliefs regarding IP and immigration policy and the bureaucracy surrounding it. It should be noted that, in the history of the arts and sciences, copyright is a recent occurrence granted by the state to encourage the publishing of more diverse subject matter. This novella is an example of where the actions of the state, and those in which the state grants exclusive license, are something to be questioned and — in an example of Agorism — an obstacle to be circumvented. As far as character development goes, this novella is wonderful.”

“In “Model Minority”, the novella focuses on Police Brutality, Absolute Immunity, Predictive Policing, Civil Liberties and Lockean Equality — which “involves not merely equality before legislators, judges, and police, but, far more crucially, equality with legislators, judges, and police”, something especially favored by left-libertarians — and how it affects the disadvantaged and the marginalized,” Bruce wrote.

Most people never know how seriously LFS members and LFS judges take their responsibilities in selecting nominees and finalists for the Prometheus Award – or how much time it takes to thoughtfully read and report on an endless variety of new books. But the above is a small but telling glimpse into Bruce’s intelligence and insight and how seriously he took his volunteer work helping to sustain the quality and longevity of the Prometheus Awards.

Sadly, Bruce died at 55, way too young. (And even more sadly, and partly due to the severe disruptions of the pandemic over the past two years, we didn’t realize until recently that Bruce had passed in early 2020.)

Rest in peace, Bruce. Your fellow libertarian science-fiction fans remember your thoughtful and quiet presence and the big difference you made behind the scenes within the LFS for so many decades.

Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer international association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans on several continents.

Libertarian futurists believe that culture matters! We understand that the arts and literature can be vital, and more powerful than politics in the long run, in 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 visions of a free future via the Prometheus Awards, the LFS hopes to help spread better visions of the future that help humanity 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.

2 thoughts on “Bruce Sommer, R.I.P. – Veteran Prometheus judge, board member helped sustain the LFS and its annual awards for decades”

  1. I am so sorry to hear of his passing, but how wonderful that you included his written words in this tribute. The written word is thought made eternal – and in his words, Bruce lives. Thank you for sharing his legacy with us.

  2. This is a double tragedy. I knew Bruce and mourn his passing, as well as the COVID disruptions that meant I had no idea he passed away nearly two years ago.

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