Comedy, coming of age and forging freedom high above a gas-giant: An Appreciation of Dave Freer’s Cloud-Castles, the 2023 Prometheus Best Novel winner

By Michael Grossberg

Few Prometheus Award winners are as much fun to read as Cloud-Castles.

The 2023 Prometheus Awards plaque and gold coin


Zestful and often funny but also imaginative and insightful in its visions of freedom, Dave Freer’s often satirical coming-of-age novel deservedly won the 2023 Best Novel award for its entertaining blend of adventure, comedy, sci-fi,  likable characters and nifty world-building.

The novel’s settings, distinctive and ingenious, offer ripe possibilities for varied, cross-cultural exploration of different human and alien environments. And Freer delivers.

Continue reading Comedy, coming of age and forging freedom high above a gas-giant: An Appreciation of Dave Freer’s Cloud-Castles, the 2023 Prometheus Best Novel winner

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

Review: Sexuality, spirituality and reflections on the human soul in J. Neil Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza, the 1984 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Here is an Appreciation of J. Neil Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza, the 1984 Prometheus Best Novel winner.

Also included below: Schulman’s Prometheus Awards acceptance speech, presented Aug. 31, 1984 before an audience of more than 2,000 sf fans at LACon, the 42nd annual World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles, Calif.

By Michael Grossberg

“If nothing is sacred the human body is sacred.” – Walt Whitman, “Children of Adam”

Much of the sexuality in The Rainbow Cadenza deeply disturbs, shocking readers with its graphic intensity, Yet this unusually adult coming-of-age novel, boasting some of the most scatological material to be found this side of Krafft-Ebing, arguably has no gratuitous sex scenes.

Instead, J. Neil Schulman integrates his disquieting eroticism into a complex narrative about a future Earth where birth-control advances have had a radical and damaging effect on human relationships, sexual equality and personal rights.

Given the development of such an unbalanced society, the novel’s often perverse sexuality should not surprise us. After all, the sexual act is a mirror. In reflecting consciousness and character, it offers a highly revealing glimpse of its participants’ humanity (or inhumanity).

At its best, of course, the sexual act can be a deeply satisfying expression of romantic love and spiritual intimacy, or at least a mutually enjoyable experience between consenting adults.

At its worst, the sexual act can be perverted into a neurotic and symbolic act, communicating hostility instead of affection, revenge instead of respect, dominance and submission instead of acceptance, anger and range instead of bon fide sexul passion. All this, and more, can be found in the diverse sexuality of The Rainbow Cadenza, a morality play in which those who allow themselves to be corrupted by powerlust soon find their sexual lusts corrupted as well in the inevitable workings of karmic justice.

Continue reading Review: Sexuality, spirituality and reflections on the human soul in J. Neil Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza, the 1984 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Liberty, evolving self-government and the Rights of Man: C.J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher’s Alliance Rising, the 2020 Prometheus winner for Best Novel

Here is an Appreciation for C.J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher’s Alliance Rising, the 2020 Prometheus winner for Best Novel.

“The rights of man, in a nonfigurative sense, are what this novel is about.” – William H. Stoddard

By William H. Stoddard

Set in Cherryh’s Alliance-Union universe, Alliance Rising explores its backstory; it appears to take place at an earlier date than any other novel in the series.

Cherryh’s future history assumes that the new societies founded by outward migration will become politically dominant; its two great powers are the Alliance, based at Tau Ceti, and the Union, centered on Lalande 46650, with the whole of Earth as a less powerful backwater.

Alliance Rising, which Cherryh co-wrote with Jane S. Fancher, explores the emergence of this configuration of interstellar powers, taking place not long after the discovery of faster-than-light travel in the twenty-third century by a Union physicist, at a time when Earth is struggling to catch up and preserve its power by building a new ship at Alpha Station, in the solar system of Barnard’s Star.

The new ship’s name, The Rights of Man, offers a pointed bit of symbolism — but one that takes on an ironic quality when the ship’s first test run is a dismal failure that has to be aborted, largely because of the crew’s lack of practical experience.

Continue reading Liberty, evolving self-government and the Rights of Man: C.J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher’s Alliance Rising, the 2020 Prometheus winner for Best Novel

Free will, self-ownership and the essence of humanity: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Falling Free, the 2014 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction

Here is the Prometheus Blog Appreciation of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Falling Free,
the 2014 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction:

By Michael Grossberg

Falling Free 
is a Nebula-award-winning sf novel that explores free will and self-ownership, two important concepts at the foundation of our humanity and liberty that also happen to be at the core of modern libertarianism and classical liberalism.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s 1987 novel, part of her bestselling Vorkosigan Saga, considers the legal and ethical implications of human genetic engineering.

In particular, the story conveys the personal impact on the rights and liberties of “manufactured beings” owned by corporations – a theme also explored in F. Paul Wilson’s Prometheus-winning novel Sims.

Continue reading Free will, self-ownership and the essence of humanity: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Falling Free, the 2014 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction

Burgeoning tech options of modern publishing – online, audio and print – made possible the Prometheus Award slate of 2021 Best Novel finalists

By Michael Grossberg

The 2021 Prometheus Awards slate of Best Novel finalists, just announced, reflects an interesting first in the four-decade-plus history of the award.

See if you can identify this first – hint: a reflection of a long-term trend in modern publishing – from scanning this list of the finalist novels, their authors and publishers:

Who Can Own the Stars?  by Mackey Chandler (Amazon Kindle)
* Storm between the Starsby Karl K. Gallagher (Kelt Haven Press)
* The War Whisperer, Book 5: The Hook, by Barry B. Longyear (Enchanteds)
* Braintrust: Requiem, by Marc Stiegler (LMBPN Publishing)
* Heaven’s River, by Dennis E. Taylor (An Audible Original, print and ebook editions The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency)

Continue reading Burgeoning tech options of modern publishing – online, audio and print – made possible the Prometheus Award slate of 2021 Best Novel finalists

Anarcho-capitalism on the Moon, intelligent nonhumans and libertarian sf: Travis Corcoran’s The Powers of the Earth & Causes of Separation, the 2018 and 2019 Prometheus Award winners for Best Novel

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s Appreciation series aims to make  clear why each Prometheus winner deserved recognition as pro-freedom or anti-authoritarian sf/fantasy. Here is William H. Stoddard’s combined Appreciation of Travis Corcoran’s The Powers of the Earth and Causes of Separation, the 2018 and 2019 Prometheus Award winners for Best Novel:

By William H. Stoddard

In 2017, Travis Corcoran funded the publication of two books through Kickstarter, and released the first, Powers of the Earth, which won the Prometheus Award for Best Novel. In 2018, he released the second, Causes of Separation. The two volumes are described as the first half of a planned four-volume series, Aristillus (named for a lunar crater), but they actually make up an integrated and self-contained story: Had they both appeared the same year, they could have been nominated as a single work.

It’s long been the policy of the Libertarian Futurist Society to give awards to “the work, not the author”: A book can win Best Novel even if its author doesn’t self-identify as a libertarian, so long as its theme is pro-liberty. A corollary of this is that “pro-liberty” doesn’t mean adhering tightly to a specific interpretation of libertarianism.

If a novel illuminates the meaning of individual rights and a free society, or suggests a way to establish them, or explores the functioning of such a society, or warns against the evils of authoritarianism, or critiques or deconstructs an ideology opposed to liberty – then it can be considered for a Prometheus award. Nonetheless, books whose vision is wholeheartedly libertarian are welcome discoveries, and the Aristillus novels were such a discovery.

Continue reading Anarcho-capitalism on the Moon, intelligent nonhumans and libertarian sf: Travis Corcoran’s The Powers of the Earth & Causes of Separation, the 2018 and 2019 Prometheus Award winners for Best Novel

Chili peppers, drugs, desire and dictatorship: Johanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun, the 2017 Prometheus Award Best Novel winner

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s Appreciation series aims to make clear why each Prometheus winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom sf/fantasy. Here’s our Appreciation for Johanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun, the 2017 Best Novel winner:

By Michael Grossberg

The Core of the Sun, 
by well-known Finnish writer Johanna Sinisalo, is both feminist and libertarian in its evocative themes.

In the quirky and imaginative 2016 novel, translated by Lola Rogers from the Finnish language and published by Grove Press/Black Cat, Sinisalo vividly imagines a dystopian alternate history of Finland in which a patriarchal and authoritarian government enforces a social system, a War-on-Drugs Prohibition of individualistic pleasure and a eugenics program that breeds and virtually enslaves compliant women.

Set in 21st century Finland after a century of male-dominated government breeding and cultural reinforcement of its women to be slower-witted and more childlike, the fast-paced story unfolds in short chapters with epistolary and personal interludes that evoke a struggle of women within an alternate-reality Finnish culture somewhat evocative of The Stepford Wives (a cautionary feminist novel by Ira Levin, the Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for his dystopian novel This Perfect Day.)

Social stability and public health, along with a War-on-Drugs Prohibition, are strongly enforced and favored over social change, creativity, personal expression, self-fulfillment, curiosity and diversity – the latter, of course, all part of the constellation of values and attitudes that we know flourish much more under a classical liberal/libertarian polity.

Continue reading Chili peppers, drugs, desire and dictatorship: Johanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun, the 2017 Prometheus Award Best Novel winner

Reason, voluntary private cooperation and entrepreneurship versus politics, irrationality and power-lust in facing apocalypse and extinction: An Appreciation of Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, the 2016 Prometheus for Best Novel

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society is presenting weekly Appreciations of past award-winners. Here’s the latest Appreciation for Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, the 2016 Best Novel winner:

By Michael Grossberg
Seveneves, an epic hard-science-fiction novel, focuses on a cataclysmic event that threatens human civilization and the planet Earth, and its long aftermath.

Neal Stephenson’s sprawling 2015 novel avoids ideology while dramatizing how a lust for power almost wipes out our species.

More impressively and much less common in such fiction these days, Stephenson also shows how the courage to face reality and tackle overwhelming problems through reason, individual initiative and the voluntary cooperation of private enterprise help tip the balance towards survival.

Especially inspiring, for advocates of reason and liberty, are Stephenson’s portrayals of the heroic efforts against terrific odds by a small group — including some of Earth’s bravest and richest entrepreneurs — who spend their fortunes and risk their lives to save humanity from extinction.
Continue reading Reason, voluntary private cooperation and entrepreneurship versus politics, irrationality and power-lust in facing apocalypse and extinction: An Appreciation of Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, the 2016 Prometheus for Best Novel