Interstellar travel, mercantile networks, bureaucracy and decentralization: An Appreciation for Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky, the 2000 Prometheus Best Novel winner

As part of our series of Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, here’s a review-essay about Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky:

By William H. Stoddard and Michael Grossberg

   Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky is an exemplary example of the New Space Opera of the 1990s, and a fascinating and complex sequel to his Hugo-winning novel A Fire Upon the Deep.

Set in the inner Milky Way galaxy with fully realized characters, both alien and human, the story highlights the threats to civilization from centralized power while illuminating the civilizing dynamics of free-trade networks.

Vinge’s epic novel imagines a complex future with many human-inhabited planets that have developed over several thousand years through slower-than-light interstellar travel, terraforming, life-extension techniques, and advanced computer networks.

Yet many of these advanced societies repeatedly have collapsed into barbarism and decay through the failed dream of collectivism, statism, or subtle computational failures.
Continue reading Interstellar travel, mercantile networks, bureaucracy and decentralization: An Appreciation for Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky, the 2000 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Picaresque comedy, anti-authoritarian spirit and roguish individualism in an interstellar future: An Appreciation of John Varley’s The Golden Globe, the 1999 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and make clear what makes past winners deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for John Varley’s The Golden Globe:

A rare picaresque sf comedy among Best Novel winners, John Varley’s The Golden Globe follows the episodic adventures of a resilient itinerant actor living by his wits and thespian skills in the outer solar system.

Varley, clearly a fan of Shakespeare, updates the Bard in his 1998 novel to illustrate the theme that “if all the worlds (are) a stage – not world’s, but plural – then all the men and women in this are merely players… strutting, fretting and conniving through their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts….”

That everyman man is Kenneth “Sparky” Valentine, the fugitive central character and an interstellar con man, who’s been on the run for decades from planet to planet. successfully evading the State authorities. Resourceful and scrappy, Sparky survives through con jobs and his high-tech ability to transform his age, his body type/size and his gender by altering skin-deep magnetic implants.

Continue reading Picaresque comedy, anti-authoritarian spirit and roguish individualism in an interstellar future: An Appreciation of John Varley’s The Golden Globe, the 1999 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Identity, anarchy, robots with rights and space colonization: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal, the 1998 Prometheus Best Novel winner

To make clear why past winners deserve recognition as pro-freedom or anti-authoritarian sf/fantasy and how each fits our award, we’ve published review-essays of all past Prometheus Award-winners. Here’s the latest Appreciation for Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal, the 1998 Best Novel winner:

By Michael Grossberg

Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal ranges widely in its exploration of different political systems on different planets in a future marked by wars, revolutions, space colonization and a cyberworld in which people’s memories and personalities can be downloaded or uploading to clones on demand.

Among the many exciting ideas that MacLeod explores in his ambitious 1997 novel – Book 2 in his Fall Revolution series, but set earlier than The Cassini Division – are several of special interest to libertarian sf fans – including his complex and ambiguous depiction of capitalist anarchy on Earth, how free markets might develop on a terraformed planet in another solar system and the possibility of independent robots with individual rights.

The settings are far-flung, too, from 20th century Scotland to a 21st century extra-solar planet called New Mars with a free market. It’s a  future of longer life-spans but also new kinds of death.

Continue reading Identity, anarchy, robots with rights and space colonization: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal, the 1998 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Free enterprise in space: An Appreciation of Victor Koman’s Kings of the High Frontier, the 1997 Prometheus Best Novel winner

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s Appreciation series strives to make clear what libertarian futurists see in each of our past winners and how each fit the Prometheus award’s distinctive focus on freedom. Here’s our Appreciation for Victor Koman’s Kings of the High Frontier, the 1997 Best Novel winner.

By Michael Grossberg

Victor Koman’s 1997 novel dramatizes the dream of getting into space with an libertarian twist: The massive effort is achieved through the voluntary social cooperation of mutual trade and mutual aid through private enterprise.

Set in a subtly alternate reality, the story imagines a profit-enhanced competition to reach the stars, which anticipated the X Prize that saw Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne reach space in 2004.

Kings of the High Frontier highlights the shortsighted bureaucratic and political efforts of a government-run program like NASA, with its consequences in corruption, wasteful mismanagement and stagnation.

Continue reading Free enterprise in space: An Appreciation of Victor Koman’s Kings of the High Frontier, the 1997 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Ideological factions amid high-tech surveillance: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, the 1996 Prometheus Best Novel winner

The LFS’s Appreciation series aims to make clear what libertarian futurists see in each of our past winners and how they fit the distinctive focus of our award on liberty. Here’s our Appreciation for Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, the 1996 Best Novel winner:

By Michael Grossberg

The Star Fraction, a 1995 novel by Ken MacLeod, established the Scottish sf novelist’s international reputation for blending sf with a dizzying array of balkanized politics and ideological factions (including highly self-aware libertarians and socialists).

Set in a fragmented and conflicted mid-21st-century Britain beset by political factions and high-tech surveillance after a brief third world war and leftist Labour Party policies have led to economic and social decay, this is the first novel in MacLeod’s Fall Revolution series, which continued with The Stone Canal, The Cassini Division, and The Sky Road.

Among the interesting and unusual characters and forces affecting this future are a Christian-turned-atheist teenaged programmer eager to escape his fundamentalist subculture, a rogue computer program manipulating events, a woman scientist researching memory-enhancement drugs, and a communist security mercenary with a smart gun and information that might spark change.

Continue reading Ideological factions amid high-tech surveillance: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, the 1996 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Space exploration, A.I. and freedom: An Appreciation of Poul Anderson’s The Stars Are Also Fire, the 1995 Prometheus Best Novel winner

To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing a series of review-essays explaining why past winners deserved recognition and fit the distinctive focus of the award on Liberty vs. Power. Here’s our Appreciation for Poul Anderson’s The Stars Are Also Fire, the 1995 Prometheus Best Novel winner.

By Michael Grossberg and Victoria Varga

Poul Anderson’s 1994 novel offers a thought-provoking scenario in a distant future in which man-made artificial intelligences have come to dominate human beings, while many people still struggle for freedom and independence in a new era of space exploration.

The point of view of The Stars Are Also Fire alternates frequently over five centuries between an early 21st-century era of occupation of Earth’s moon and later Earth/moon conflicts as genetically-altered-human Lunarians seek independence from Earth’s World Federation and Peace Authority.
Continue reading Space exploration, A.I. and freedom: An Appreciation of Poul Anderson’s The Stars Are Also Fire, the 1995 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Looking back at Prometheus Awards history: What happened at the first awards ceremony in 1979 in Los Angeles – and why it was controversial

Today marks nearly the end of a pivotal year marking the 40th anniversary of the Prometheus Awards, so it’s interesting to take a moment in 2019 and look back at the birth of the awards with the very first Prometheus Awards ceremony in 1979.
First envisioned and launched by sf writer L. Neil Smith, the Prometheus Award was first presented in 1979 in a high-profile ceremony at the year’s biggest Libertarian convention, which attracted several thousand people in Los Angeles.

Writer Robert Anton Wilson announced the winner – F. Paul Wilson’s sf mystery Wheels Within Wheels– after announcing three finalists, including Poul Anderson’s The Avatarand James P. Hogan’s The Genesis Machine.
Here’s a glimpse of how the event was covered in Frontlines, a leading libertarian-movement-news newsletter published by Reason magazine’s foundation:
“The first-ever Prometheus Award was presented for the best libertarian science fiction novel of 1978. The finalists were Poul Anderson’s The Avatar, James P. Hogan’s The Genesis Machine and F. Paul Wilson’s Wheels within Wheels.

“Robert Anton Wilson did the honors, on behalf of the Prometheus Award Committee (an independent group of libertarian sf fans, who contributed the award), presenting the $2,500 in gold to (no relation) F. Paul Wilson. The prize (which has already increased significantly in value) is the largest award for science fiction given anywhere in the world.”

Continue reading Looking back at Prometheus Awards history: What happened at the first awards ceremony in 1979 in Los Angeles – and why it was controversial

Freedom-lovers and power-mongers on a terraformed asteroid: An Appreciation of L. Neil Smith’s Pallas, the 1994 Prometheus Best Novel winner

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s Appreciation series aims to make clear why each Prometheus winner deserves recognition as a notable pro-freedom or anti-authoritarian work. Here’s the Appreciation for L. Neil Smith’s Pallas, the 1994 Best Book winner:

By Michael Grossberg

Set in the 22nd century on the terra-formed and colonized asteroid of Pallas, L. Neil Smith’s Heinlein-esque novel imagines a believable future based on plausible scientific developments but one beset by familiar political divisions between freedom-lovers and power-mongers.

Two groups of colonists sharing the habitat in a 20th of Earth’s gravity come into conflict. The larger culture is a fully free gun-toting group of rugged individualists who live as they choose – but at their own expense, with strict accountability in “moon-is-a-harsh-mistress” respect for the harsh realities of asteroid existence in the outer solar system.

These colonists represent something of a libertarian utopia based on explicit consent, since all have signed a founding document modeled on the ideas of an Ayn-Rand-style woman philosopher.

Continue reading Freedom-lovers and power-mongers on a terraformed asteroid: An Appreciation of L. Neil Smith’s Pallas, the 1994 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Identity, mystery, bureaucrats, capitalists and green politics: An Appreciation of James P. Hogan’s The Multiplex Man, the 1993 Prometheus Best Novel winner

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s Appreciation series aims to make clear why each Prometheus winner deserves recognition as a notable pro-freedom or anti-authoritarian work. Here’s our Appreciation for James P. Hogan’s The Multiplex Man, the 1993 Best Book winner:

By Michael Grossberg

James Hogan’s 1992 hard-sf political thriller revolves around a polite schoolteacher who wakes up one day to discover he’s far from home and in a body not his own. Soon after returning home, he discovers that seven months have passed – and he can’t return to his old body or life because he died six months ago.
His suspenseful journey to solve multiple unfolding mysteries is set in an authoritarian future Earth where former Eastern/communist countries have exploited space resources to boost their economies over the faltering West, undermined by Green-dominated governments’ anti-industry regulations, education restrictions and propaganda.

In this cautionary tale, the State authorities control virtually everything about people’s lives and activities on Earth, while condemning as dangerous any dissent or unapproved behavior and viewing off-world colonies as enemies because of their competition for Earth resources.

Continue reading Identity, mystery, bureaucrats, capitalists and green politics: An Appreciation of James P. Hogan’s The Multiplex Man, the 1993 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Astronauts, environmentalists, sf fandom, global cooling and social regression: An Appreciation of Fallen Angels, the 1992 Prometheus Best Novel winner by Flynn, Niven and Pournelle

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s ongoing Appreciation series strives to make clear what libertarian futurists see in each of our past winners and how each fit the Prometheus award’s distinctive focus on freedom. Here’s our Appreciation for Fallen Angels, co-written by Michael Flynn, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle:

By Michael Grossberg

Fallen Angels, the 1992 Prometheus Best Novel winner, imagines a heroic struggle set against a dark future in which the United States and other countries are fighting a losing battle amidst the “global cooling” of a new Ice Age.

With the government turned anti-science and anti-technology in a coalition among Greens, feminists and religious fundamentalists, and federal officials focusing on persecuting science-fiction fans as subversives while ignoring the welfare of much of the population in some of the most affected parts of the weather-besieged country, this provocative 1992 novel might have been just a depressing cautionary tale.

But the novel’s co-authors Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn offer some genuine hope by focusing on a group of individualistic, science-loving and freedom-loving misfits. Continue reading Astronauts, environmentalists, sf fandom, global cooling and social regression: An Appreciation of Fallen Angels, the 1992 Prometheus Best Novel winner by Flynn, Niven and Pournelle