Free trade, entrepreneurship and a swashbuckling merchant-hero: Poul Anderson’s Trader to the Stars, a 1985 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

The Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series of past award-winners that makes clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian in theme. Here is an Appreciation of Poul Anderson’s Trader to the Stars, a 1985 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg
    Trader to the Stars, part of Anderson’s interstellar and libertarian-themed Future History series written over four decades, offers three loosely interconnected and longer stories about the free-trade-oriented Polesotechnic League operating during a Terran Empire.

Blending adventure, mystery and sf with some swashbuckling heroism and vivid descriptions often evoking Norse sagas, this 1964 book centers on Nicholas van Rijn, a resourceful and clever Danish merchant-hero (Anderson was Danish-American).

Anderson, always a realist about humanity with a sensibility of a melancholy romantic, portrays both humans and aliens as self-interested, striving to make a buck and satisfy their various needs amid an imperfect world of struggling and flawed peoples – in short, a future just like today.

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Non-violence, Gandhian resistance and MYOB: Eric Frank Russell’s The Great Explosion, a 1985 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ diverse four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as pro-freedom, anti-authoritarian or dystopian sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series of all past award-winners.
Here is an Appreciation of Eric Frank Russell’s The Great Explosion, a 1985 Prometheus Hall of Fame co-winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg
The power of peaceful behavior and non-violent resistance is explored in The Great Explosion.

British author Eric Frank Russell’s satirical 1962 novel, which incorporates in its final third section his classic golden-age-sf 1951 short story “…And Then There Were None,” is set in an expansive interstellar future in which millions have used a faster-than-light transport system to escape an increasingly bureaucratic and statist Earth and have settled countless planets.

When ships with soldiers and bureaucrats and pompous officials from a still-statist and aggressively imperialist Earth arrive four centuries to visit and take over three of the planets, they find a penal colony with a corrupt and despotic government on the first, health and fitness fanatic nudists on the second and no signs of human life on the third planet, colonized by a religious group.

But they face their biggest mystery – and largest challenge – on a final fourth planet, filled with people who calls themselves Gands (after Gandhi) and whose agrarian culture and economy have embraced a classless libertarian anarchy based on passive resistance to unjust authority.

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How to subvert authoritarian regimes? Astrid Bear’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech for Poul Anderson’s “Sam Hall”; NASFiC presenter Sarah Hoyt on writing about liberty

Astrid Anderson Bear, speaking from Washington, talked about her late father Poul Anderson and how to subvert authoritarian regimes, while novelist Sarah Hoyt, speaking from Colorado, discussed the importance of writing about liberty.

Both women spoke eloquently at the Libertarian Futurist Society’s 2020 Prometheus Awards ceremony, presented Saturday Aug. 22 as a well-advertised highlight during the all-online Columbus North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC).

Hoyt, winner of the 2011 Prometheus for Best Novel for Darkship Thieves, had the honor of presenting the Prometheus Hall of Fame category for Best Classic Fiction.

This Poul Anderson collection includes his short story “Sam Hall.”

Bear accepted the award for her late father, whose story “Sam Hall” was inducted into the 2020 Prometheus Hall of Fame.

Continue reading How to subvert authoritarian regimes? Astrid Bear’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech for Poul Anderson’s “Sam Hall”; NASFiC presenter Sarah Hoyt on writing about liberty

Book-burning, history, memory, individualism and rebellion: An Appreciation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a 1984 co-winner of the Prometheus Hall of Fame

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 and dystopian sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society has published Appreciations of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a 1984 Prometheus Hall of Fame co-winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg

One of the most widely admired classics of science fiction is Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury’s poignant 1953 novel makes an eloquent case (both libertarian and classical liberal) against censorship and book-burning as a blow not only to basic individual rights but as a devastating wound to history, memory and civilization itself.

Bradbury’s best-known novel offers an exemplary cautionary fable about an illiberal future society in which books are outlawed and burned to destroy them and any remnant of literacy, memory, deep culture and independent thinking.

Those who still love and read books become criminals, hunted down by “firemen” and at high risk of having their homes invaded, their books and houses burned and their lives destroyed by the omnipresent State.

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Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak & memory holes: George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, a 1984 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian/dystopian sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 a weekly series of Appreciations of all past award-winners, beginning with the first category for Best Novel and now focusing on the Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.

Here is an Appreciation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, a co-winner of the 1984 Prometheus Hall of Fame award for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg
“Big Brother is Watching” is just one phrase that’s become widely known from Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s cautionary 1948 novel about a future totalitarian society in which almost everyone is caught up in the power-worshiping cult of the charismatic ruler.

Few works of fiction have connected so deeply to popular culture that they introduce even one catchphrase or line of dialogue that still resonates today, but Orwell’s cautionary tale generated several that even in the 21st century haven’t yet been flushed down the “memory hole” of popular culture.

Among the neologisms that continue to be quoted widely and resonate through American and world culture: Thought Police, Newspeak, “proles,” “thoughtcrime,” “doublethink,” Room 101, Two Minutes Hate, and “unperson.”

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Lunar revolution, rational anarchism & TANSTAAFL: An Appreciation of Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, a 1983 Prometheus Hall of Fame co-winner for Best Classic Fiction

Here is an Appreciation of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein’s 1966 Hugo-winning novel, a bestseller that popularized the libertarian slogan TANSTAAFL (“There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch”) as a rallying cry in a story imagining an American-Revolution-style revolt for liberty on the moon.

By William H. Stoddard

Science fiction writers have been exploring ideas that we now call “libertarian” since before the genre was named. Rudyard Kipling, E.E. Smith, Robert Heinlein, C.M. Kornbluth, Eric Frank Russell, Poul Anderson, Edgar Pangborn, and others presented such ideas – along with other, unlibertarian ideas such as Smith’s portrayal of a literal War on Drugs.

But it was Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress that established libertarian science fiction as a distinct genre. Nothing could have been more fitting than its being one of the first two books elected to the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Hall of Fame.

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Action, passion, humor, mystery, sf, the evils of evasion & the liberating power of facing reality: Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a 1983 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

 

By Michael Grossberg

Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, a millions-selling bestseller that has remained in print since its original 1957 publication, offers the combined satisfactions of mystery, science fiction, romance and suspense thriller.

Yet Atlas Shrugged, in setting up and solving its intricate and interrelated mysteries, also resonates as an innovative, unconventional and philosophical novel about the power of ideas, for good and bad. Its fierce and noble focus is on the distinctive role played by free minds, free markets and free women and men in sustaining society and genuine life-affirming progress based on cooperation, not coercion.

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Rationality, a mysterious new motor and civilization collapse: Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, the first co-winner of the Prometheus Hall of Fame in 1983

The Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing review-essays to make clear why each Prometheus Award winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom sf/fantasy. Here is our appreciation of the first Hall of Fame co-winner: Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, inducted in 1983 along with Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress:

By William H. Stoddard

If any novelist was central to the emergence of the libertarian movement, it was Ayn Rand.

She wasn’t simply an adherent of ideas such as strict adherence to the Constitution or economic freedom, which were common among adherents of the “old right” at the time. She was also the source of such distinctive formulations as the concept of being a “radical for capitalism” (rather than a conservative) and the principle of noninitiation of force, which have been defining elements in libertarianism for half a century. And those ideas first came to widespread attention in her last and largest novel, Atlas Shrugged.

Was Atlas Shrugged “science fiction”? It certainly was received as such; it was reviewed in Astounding Science Fiction not once, but twice, by P. Schuyler Miller (who saw little value in it) and by John W. Campbell, the editor of Astounding (who praised it—particularly for its insight into the cultural and psychological mechanisms that make political repression work).

It influenced some science fiction writers; in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, for example, the self-aware computer Mycroft is described as the “John Galt”of the Lunar revolution. It’s filled with marvelous inventions; not just the central ones, Rearden Metal and John Galt’s motor, but half a dozen ingenious minor devices, any one of which might have been the basis for a story in Astounding – and the Xylophone, a weapon of mass destruction based on new principles of energy transmission that plays a crucial role at the novel’s climax. And if Rand doesn’t go into detail on the scientific principles behind these inventions, or into the unexpected side effects of their use, a lot of science fiction doesn’t either.

Continue reading Rationality, a mysterious new motor and civilization collapse: Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, the first co-winner of the Prometheus Hall of Fame in 1983