How and Why to Fight For Freedom: An Appreciation of Heinlein’s “Free Men,” the 2023 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction


As part of the LFS’ ongoing Appreciation series of review-essays explaining how each Prometheus Award-winner fits the distinctive libertarian and anti-authoritarian focus of the sf/fantasy award and why it deserved to win, here is an Appreciation by author Karl K. Gallagher (a frequent Best Novel finalist himself) of Robert Heinlein’s story “Free Men,” the 2023 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Karl K. Gallagher

Many writers have “trunk stories”—pieces rejected so many times that the writer shoves them into a trunk and stops sending them out again. “Free Men” seems to have been one of Heinlein’s trunk stories.

The Expanded Universe foreword says he wrote it in 1947, just a year after Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech. The story wasn’t published until 1966, in the Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein single-author collection.

I can understand why editors didn’t want it.

It’s a grim story, with the protagonist left bleeding out as his followers flee to a new hiding place.

The premise is a USA occupied after losing WWIII, by an enemy willing to nuke towns as reprisals against guerillas. The kind of story that makes readers put the terms “unpatriotic,” “defeatist,” or “advocating ‘better red than dead’” in the letters cancelling their subscriptions.

So why did Heinlein write it? And why do some readers love it?

Continue reading How and Why to Fight For Freedom: An Appreciation of Heinlein’s “Free Men,” the 2023 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction

Liberty and laughter: Which Special Award winners benefit from a sense of humor?

By Michael Grossberg

“Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight…”
— Lyrics from the opening song in Stephen Sondheim’s musical farce A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum

Of all the works recognized with Prometheus Awards, one of the funniest is rather unusual, even unique.

It’s not a novel, a novella or a story – the types of fiction that by far most commonly have won one of the two annual Prometheus awards for Best Novel or Best Classic Fiction.

Nor is it a movie or TV series, although several have won.

It’s a “webcomic” – and so far, the only one that’s ever received a Prometheus: Freefall (Chapter 1), created by Mark Stanley.

Continue reading Liberty and laughter: Which Special Award winners benefit from a sense of humor?

Making ‘em laugh: Which Hall of Fame winners best incorporate comedy?

By Michael Grossberg

Everyone has their favorites among the fiction works that have won the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.

And by everyone, I mean virtually everyone – since at least some of the 46 winning works are enjoyed by libertarians and non-libertarians alike, and by both science fiction/fantasy fans and those who don’t often read that genre.

But how many rank the comedies that high?

Continue reading Making ‘em laugh: Which Hall of Fame winners best incorporate comedy?

Making ‘em laugh for the sake of liberty: Which Best Novel winners best incorporate comedy?

By Michael Grossberg

If beauty is proverbially found in the eye of the beholder, then a sense of humor may be located in our funny bones.

Yet everyone’s sense of humor is a bit different. What you find hilarious may leave me cold (or at least lukewarm), while what fills some bellies with laughs may leave others with barely a smile on their faces.

Given how personal a sense of humor tends to be, it may be provocative but should be interesting to ask: Which Prometheus Award winners do you find most amusing?

Which are designed to make you smile, and laugh out loud – and achieve their goal?

Continue reading Making ‘em laugh for the sake of liberty: Which Best Novel winners best incorporate comedy?

Prometheus Blog progress: The LFS Appreciation series about past winners is now complete and accessible

If sci-fi fans or anyone else ever wants to know why the Libertarian Futurist Society presented a Prometheus Award to any work of fiction, and how that work reflects libertarian, classical liberal and anti-authoritarian themes, they now have an easy, quick and enjoyable way to find out.

Just visit the LFS website’s Prometheus Awards page, scroll down to any particular past winner of interest – for Best Novel, Best Classic Fiction or Special Awards – and click on the “Appreciation” link added next to its title.

To highlight and honor the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society celebrated in 2019, LFS members began writing review-essays about each past winner that summer.

Today, more than three years later, that series of informative essays is now complete:
Continue reading Prometheus Blog progress: The LFS Appreciation series about past winners is now complete and accessible

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

Liberty vs. equality: International magazine highlights timeless warnings of “Harrison Bergeron,” Vonnegut’s Prometheus-winning fable

By Michael Grossberg

Some Prometheus-winning fiction imagines a better, freer future for humanity, one that libertarian futurists yearn to see come true in some form.

Other Prometheus-winning fiction is more dystopian, offering cautionary warnings about totalitarian tendencies that their authors portray with hopes of preventing them from materializing.

“Harrison Bergeron,” Kurt Vonnegut’s now-classic 1961 short story, which falls into the latter category, satirically but seriously extrapolates the coercive, absurd and even monstrously inhuman possibilities of radical egalitarianism taken to extremes.

Read the Prometheus Blog Appreciation to appreciate why Vonnegut’s story deserved to be recognized by the Libertarian Futurist Society as the 2019 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner.

Overall and at least in theory, it’s a good thing to see outstanding fiction continue to resonate within the broader American and world culture – especially when it’s pro-liberty or anti-authoritarian sf/fantasy and has been recognized through the Prometheus awards.

Unfortunately, “Harrison Bergeron” is becoming all too timely.

Continue reading Liberty vs. equality: International magazine highlights timeless warnings of “Harrison Bergeron,” Vonnegut’s Prometheus-winning fable

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