Hall of Fame finalist review: Poul Anderson’s Orion Shall Rise offers masterful social-scientific world-building in clash of cultures (including a libertarian society)

By William H. Stoddard

One of the things Poul Anderson was known for throughout his literary career was world-building. Much of this was planetary design, based on the natural sciences, in which he started out with stellar type, planetary mass, orbital radius, and elemental abundances and worked out the geology, meteorology, and biology of a world.

Anderson was certainly one of the masters of this, up there with Hal Clement and Vernor Vinge. But he put equal effort into social scientific worldbuilding, creating economies, polities, and cultures, and developing plots for his stories from the conflicts they gave rise to.

Orion Shall Rise, a 2024 Prometheus Hall of Fame finalist for Best Classic Fiction, is a nearly pure example of social scientific world-building, set not in a distant solar system but on a future Earth.

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Check out the Atlas Society’s animated Atlas Shrugged video

Have you seen the Atlas Society’s animated video highlighting Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged?

The video, which has received more than 600,000 viewings on You Tube, is billed as the “first-of-its-kind book trailer for Rand’s masterpiece novel.”

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Columnist Ed West on Eugene Zamyatin, author of the first classic dystopian novel of the 20th century

By Michael Grossberg

When it comes to the birth and development of dystopian literature, Russian dissident writer Eugene (Yevgeny) Zamyatin may have the dubious distinction of being one of the most overlooked novelists of that disturbingly timely and emerging 20th-century genre.

Zamyatin’s We was the first dystopian novel of the 20th century, helping to pave the way for others, most notably George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four and Ayn Rand’s similarly-themed Anthem.

Yet, sadly, references to Zamyatin are rare in today’s culture, media and magazines.

So it’s nice to see an insightful column that not only mentions Zamyatin but offers revealing commentary about his fiction and places him within the historical and literary context of Russia in the early 1900s.

Continue reading Columnist Ed West on Eugene Zamyatin, author of the first classic dystopian novel of the 20th century

Taibbi on Bradbury: How Fahrenheit 451 remains relevant and resonant today as a cautionary tale of lost liberty

By Michael Grossberg

Ray Bradbury envisioned in his classic novel Fahrenheit 451 a dystopian future of censorship and destruction of literature – a paradoxically chilling world in which firemen paradoxically don’t put out fires but set them to burn books.

However haunting in its literary power, Bradbury’s dystopian vision sadly may not be as widely referenced in popular culture these days as George Orwell’s widely quoted 1984 and Animal Farm or Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged or perhaps even Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical story “Harrison Bergeron.”

All of the above works have been inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame over the decades. Yet, not all are equally remembered and applauded as still-resonant cautionary tales with vital lessons that still should be heeded in the 21st century.

That’s why it’s a pleasure to report that Matt Taibbi, a prominent journalist and independent-minded columnist, has referenced Bradbury’s novel and poignant themes in a recent essay posted on his Racket News platform.

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Author’s update: HarperCollins has published Mania, two-time Best Novel finalist Lionel Shriver’s alternate-history novel critiquing radical egalitarianism

By Michael Grossberg

Maverick bestselling novelist Lionel Shriver is at it again, skewering popular shibboleths of elite culture and critiquing false ideologies through her imaginative and insightful fiction.

Author Lionel Shriver in 2006 Photo: Walnut Whippet, Creative Commons license

Shriver, recognized twice over the past decade as a Prometheus Best Novel finalist, has written Mania, a new 286-page alternate-history novel published April 9 by HarperCollins Publishers.

The publisher’s description highlights a theme that seems promising from the perspective of the Prometheus Awards:

“With echoes of Philip Roth’s The Human Stain, told in Lionel Shriver’s inimitable and iconoclastic voice, Mania is a sharp, acerbic, and ruthlessly funny book about the road to a delusional, self-destructive egalitarianism that our society is already on.”

Continue reading Author’s update: HarperCollins has published Mania, two-time Best Novel finalist Lionel Shriver’s alternate-history novel critiquing radical egalitarianism

Ultimate Conclusions: Karl K. Gallagher’s first short-story collection on verge of publication

Karl K. Gallagher, a frequent Prometheus Best Novel finalist, is about to publish Ultimate Conclusions, his first collection of short stories.

 

Most stories in the anthology will be stories Gallagher has published in other collections or webzines, but several will be new.

“They range from the tale of an Amish boy on the Moon to visits with a Norse God and Death himself,” Gallagher said on Kickstarter, where he has been getting support for the project.

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Review: Queen Wallis an inventive, suspenseful sequel to the dystopian alternate history of Carey’s Widowland

By Michael Grossberg

Sequels can be tricky and often disappointing, falling short of the originals in potentially all sorts of ways.

So it’s nice to report that C.J. Carey’s Queen Wallis (published by Sourcebooks in the U.S. and Quercus in the U.K.) is a worthy sequel that in several ways improves on Widowlandher 2023 Prometheus Best Novel finalist.

Overall, this feminist dystopian novel is one of the most enjoyable works of alternate history I’ve read in years.

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Review: Sandra Newman’s Julia a worthy companion to Orwell’s 1984

By Michael Grossberg

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four remains one of the seminal novels of the past century.

An early inductee (appropriately enough, in 1984) into the Prometheus Hall of Fame, Orwell’s cautionary tale was inspired by the totalitarian horrors of Soviet Communism, yet remains a far broader warning about the perils of tyranny, no matter its variants and extremes of Left or Right.

Given the acclaim and reputation that Orwell’s classic has attained and deserves, it would seem foolhardy for anyone to dare to write a sequel. After all, how could it possibly measure up?

Yet, Orwell’s estate authorized novelist Sandra Newman to do just that with Julia – or more precisely, offer “a retelling of George Orwell’s 1984” (as subtitled on its hardback-book cover.)

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RIP Vernor Vinge [UPDATED]

Vernor Vinge 

Science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, a longtime star in the field, has died. He was 79, the science fiction news site File 770 reports.

Vince (1944-2024) won the Hugo Award multiple times: For the novels A Fire Upon the Deep, A Deepness in the Sky and Rainbows End, and for the novellas Fast Times at Fairmont High and The Cookie Monster.

He also won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Libertarian Futurist Society, won the Prometheus Award for A Deepness in the Sky and Marooned in Realtime, and won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for “True Names” and “The Ungoverned.”

“True Names,” inducted in 2004 into the Hall of Fame, is often cited as the first work of science fiction to depict cyberspace.

Updates:

David Brin on Vernor Vinge.

Tribute from John Scalzi.  

 

Continue reading RIP Vernor Vinge [UPDATED]

TOR Books founder Tom Doherty wins Heinlein Award

 

Publisher-editor Tom Doherty, who founded TOR Books, has won the 2024 Robert A. Heinlein Award.

Robert Heinlein (Photo courtesy of the Heinlein Trust)

The award, funded by the Heinlein Society and named after the Grand Master who has won more Prometheus Awards than anyone else, is bestowed for outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings that inspire the human exploration of space.

According to a Heinlein Society press release, the Heinlein award was given to Doherty in recognition of his work “in bringing the inspiring books of hundreds of authors writing about our future in Space to public awareness.”

One of the leading publishers of sf/fantasy, TOR Publishing Group has won every major award in the sf field – including Hugo, Nebula and Prometheus awards.

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