Real-world entrepreneurship advancing humanity across our solar system: An Appreciation of Wil McCarthy’s Rich Man’s Sky, the 2022 Prometheus Best Novel winner

By Michael Grossberg

Rich Man’s Sky, the 2022 Prometheus winner for Best Novel, brims with the excitement, adventure, uncertainties and anxieties of real-world entrepreneurship.

Wil McCarthy’s kaleidoscopic novel, which thrillingly ventures beyond our Earth to chart the exploration, colonization and industrialization of our solar system, realistically and insightfully portrays the inevitably messy and risky progress of free men and women pursuing various goals through the cooperation of free markets.

Yet, the 291-page Baen Books novel – which launches a projected trilogy – also perceptively contrasts markets, warts and all, with the grimier and darker realities of politics – which unlike the voluntary transactions of the marketplace, unavoidably involves various forms and degrees of coercion, outright violence or the threat of violence and thus leads to some benefiting unjustly at the expense of others.

Continue reading Real-world entrepreneurship advancing humanity across our solar system: An Appreciation of Wil McCarthy’s Rich Man’s Sky, the 2022 Prometheus Best Novel winner

A probing work of “social sf” and libertarian praxis: An appreciation of Barry Longyear’s The Hook, the 2021 Prometheus Best Novel winner

By Michael Grossberg

Many people have viewed science fiction as all about futuristic technology – starships, robots, interstellar travel, space habitats, vast mega-engineering feats, etc.

Yet, some of the best so-called “sf” of the past century has been what is sometimes called “social science fiction.”

Such works may incorporate various speculative forms of advanced technology, especially to work out how such technology affects people and changes culture.

Yet the most interesting aspects of such “social sf” is how it illuminates the various socio-political, economic and cultural implications of new ideas, different attitudes or fundamental changes in how a society’s norms, laws and system of government work.

In the rare and exemplary case of Barry Longyear’s The Hook, the 2021 Prometheus Best Novel winner, the dramatic and fascinating focus is on what happens to a society when its government is abolished – but other governments continue to threaten its freedom and independence.

Continue reading A probing work of “social sf” and libertarian praxis: An appreciation of Barry Longyear’s The Hook, the 2021 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Slavery, family, and a fight for liberty in a “juvenile” for all readers: An appreciation of Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy, the 2022 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

By William H. Stoddard

From his first stories published in Astounding Science Fiction to such late novels as Friday and Job, Robert Heinlein was recognized as an outstanding science fiction writer.

For many of us, though, our introduction to his writing, and often to science fiction as a genre, came from the twelve novels he published through Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Categorized as “juvenile” and aimed at an audience ranging from boys in junior high school to young men in the armed forces, these books in fact speak to a far wider audience, and are more sophisticated both in literary technique and in the ideas they present, than almost any other boys’ books and indeed than many books for adults.

And those ideas are often relevant to libertarian concerns.

Continue reading Slavery, family, and a fight for liberty in a “juvenile” for all readers: An appreciation of Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy, the 2022 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

Appreciation series update: Review-essays of Special Prometheus Award fiction winners now available, linked

Three anthologies.
Two films.
Two graphic novels.
A related novella and filk song.
Plus, a webcomic about a sentient robot and his pals.

If you’ve ever wondered why the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Special Prometheus Awards have recognized all of the above, then wonder no longer.

You can check it out on the LFS website’s Prometheus Awards page, which now has convenient links to Appreciation review-essays about all 10 works that have won recognition since the occasional Special Awards category of was established in 1998.

Continue reading Appreciation series update: Review-essays of Special Prometheus Award fiction winners now available, linked

Robot rights, practical autonomy and character-driven comedy: An appreciation of Mark Stanley’s webcomic Freefall, the 2017 Special Prometheus Awardwinner

With this review-essay of the 2017 Special Prometheus Award winner, we complete the Appreciation series of past Prometheus winners, launched in 2019 with the Best Novel category, continued in 2020 with the Hall of Fame category and concluded* in 2022 with this final appreciation of our Special Prometheus Award-winners.

By William H. Stoddard

As the Libertarian Futurist Society began giving awards to works other than novels, one of the questions we faced was how to decide if a series was eligible.

It obviously wasn’t appropriate to give an award to an open-ended series, or to one that hadn’t been completed yet (though we might recognize a single volume, story, or episode). We were prepared to recognize a series that had been completed, such as Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner. We also decided that we were prepared to recognize a bounded part of a series, such as one season of a television show. This decision proved applicable in 2017, when after nearly 20 years of publication, Mark Stanley announced that the first chapter of his webcomic Freefall had been completed with installment 2834.

Libertarian fiction’s philosophical or ideological content makes a lot of it serious, or even didactic, with characters discussing politics and economics in long speeches. Freefall, 2017 winner of a Special Prometheus Award, proved to be a happy exception.

Continue reading Robot rights, practical autonomy and character-driven comedy: An appreciation of Mark Stanley’s webcomic Freefall, the 2017 Special Prometheus Awardwinner

Robots, rights & moral panics: Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn’s graphic novel Alex + Ada, the 2016 Special Prometheus Award winner

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s Appreciation series continues with review-essays about  fiction that has won Special Prometheus Awards. Here’s an appreciation of the graphic novel Alex + Ada, the 2016 Special Prometheus Award winner.

By William H. Stoddard

Libertarians describing their legal and political goals often use the original wording of the Declaration of Independence, referring to rights to life, liberty, and property. The order is important: on one hand, property rights grow out of the liberty to use and appropriate material objects without interference from others; on the other, liberty rights implement the right to life, seen not as a passive state of endurance but as an active process of self-creation and self-sustenance.

A central question for libertarian thought is which beings have rights to life and liberty? Libertarians influenced by Ayn Rand’s idea that freedom is a requirement for rational beings tend to think that every rational being has rights: rather than applying only to human beings, they would extend to such science fictional entities as aliens, enhanced animals —and robots.

In Alex + Ada, a graphic novel in three volumes (published in 2013-2015 by Image Comics), artist Jonathan Luna and writer Sarah Vaughn explore the question of robot rights, not through abstract philosophical analysis, or through a story of political conflict, but in an intensely personal narrative.

Continue reading Robots, rights & moral panics: Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn’s graphic novel Alex + Ada, the 2016 Special Prometheus Award winner

A song of community and resistance to tyranny, and the novella it inspired: An appreciation of Leslie Fish’s “The Horsetamer’s Daughter” and “Tower of Horses,” the 2014 Special Prometheus Award winner

Here is an appreciation of writer-songwriter-singer Leslie Fish’s song “The Horseman’s Daughter” and related novella “Tower of Horse,” together recognized with a 2014 Special Prometheus Award.

By Steve Gaalema and Michael Grossberg

“Tower of Horses,” Leslie Fish’s rich Darkover novella, may be one of the most libertarian stories ever recognized with a Prometheus Award.

With its very believable and human characters, suspenseful plot and resonant coming-of-age and temptations-of-power themes, Fish’s novella is certainly one of the most satisfying, and emotionally involving.

Together with Fish’s epic folk-song “The Horsetamer’s Daughter,” the novella received a Special Prometheus Award in 2014 – the first time within the history of the awards that a song was recognized, and the first time that a paired song and novella have received a joint award.

Continue reading A song of community and resistance to tyranny, and the novella it inspired: An appreciation of Leslie Fish’s “The Horsetamer’s Daughter” and “Tower of Horses,” the 2014 Special Prometheus Award winner

A dystopian action film with radical and libertarian ideas: V for Vendetta, the 2007 Prometheus Special Award winner

Only two films have been recognized with Special Prometheus Awards since that occasional awards category was first presented more than two decades ago: Serenity and V for Vendetta.

Here is an appreciation of V for Vendetta, the 2007 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner:

V for Vendetta, a Warner Bros. Pictures feature film released in 2006, offers a powerful and poignant indictment of totalitarianism as a brutal denial of not only our liberty but our very humanity.

“Some movies fade on repeated viewings while others maintain their brilliance. V for Vendetta is a stellar example of the latter…. The movie  is simply brilliant,” Fred Curtis Moulton wrote in his rave review, printed in the Spring 2007 issue of Prometheus, the LFS’ quarterly newsletter.

Continue reading A dystopian action film with radical and libertarian ideas: V for Vendetta, the 2007 Prometheus Special Award winner

Self-reliance and libertarian ideals on the frontier: Prometheus-winning novelist Travis Corcoran on Joss Whedon’s Serenity, the 2006 Prometheus Special Award winner.

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a notable pro-freedom work, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 an ongoing Appreciation series of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation by Prometheus-winning novelist Travis Corcoran for writer-director Joss Whedon’s film Serenity, which received a Prometheus Special Award in 2006.

By Travis Corcoran

Like almost every science fiction fan, and like almost every libertarian, I was a fan of the TV series Firefly from the first episode of it I saw.

Firefly, and later Serenity, are about several things that are near and dear to the hearts of liberty-lovers: the frontier, voluntary – not coercive – exchange, an uneasy relationship with authority, self-reliance, and the trade-offs that inevitably come from uncompromising moral codes, nonconformism, and a healthy skepticism for the default paths through life.

Continue reading Self-reliance and libertarian ideals on the frontier: Prometheus-winning novelist Travis Corcoran on Joss Whedon’s Serenity, the 2006 Prometheus Special Award winner.

Bold imagination, colorful visuals, dystopian tyranny and a libertarian alternate-reality: An appreciation of The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel, a 2005 Prometheus Special Awardwinner

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s ongoing Appreciation series of Prometheus winners continues in 2022 with review-essays about the fiction recognized with Special Awards.

By Michael Grossberg

Adaptations of classic or popular literature into graphic novels have become increasingly popular. Reflecting this modern trend, the Prometheus Awards recognized its first graphic novel when The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel (published in 2004 by Big Head Press) received a Special Prometheus Award in 2005.

Visually colorful and boldly imaginative, this accessible and fun version of one of the most explicitly libertarian sf novels achieves its distinctive style and stirring impact from the fertile collaboration between libertarian author L. Neil Smith and libertarian artist Scott Bieser.

The deft combination of words and visuals helps bring to life Smith’s zestful and suspenseful sf adventure novel, which imagines alternate time lines accessible through the probability broach, a portal to many worlds.

Continue reading Bold imagination, colorful visuals, dystopian tyranny and a libertarian alternate-reality: An appreciation of The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel, a 2005 Prometheus Special Awardwinner