The Libertarian Futurist Society, Prometheus Awards, LFS writers hailed in Quillette article about the persistence of libertarian sf as a key strand in mainstream science fiction

By Michael Grossberg

Libertarian science fiction has always been a seminal strand in the ever-evolving genre of science fiction and fantasy – and in significant and honorable ways, that socially conscious and liberty-loving subgenre continues as a force today, even amid regressive and reactionary forces flirting with the perennial temptations of statism, authoritarianism and centralized, institutionalized coercion on the Left and Right.

Libertarian futurists – within and outside the Libertarian Futurist Society (not to mention other organizations within the far broader libertarian movement, from Reason and Liberty magazines to the Cato Institute)  – have understood that for a long time.

Yet, it’s salutary and newsworthy when our understanding of the broader intellectual and artistic currents that have helped shape the four-decade-plus history and diversity of the Prometheus Awards is shared and appreciated by an international, cosmopolitan publication outside the libertarian movement.

The cover illustration of the Quillette article on Libertarian Science Fiction Photo: a Quillette illustration, copied here to help people find the article on their website

Such a relatively rare occasion has materialized this month (June 2020) with a fair-minded, open-minded, rich and rewarding essay on “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction” published in Quillette, an influential web-magazine that embraces what modern libertarians might generally recognize as classically liberal principles.

According to its mission statement, Quillette offers “a platform for free thought. We respect ideas, even dangerous ones. We also believe that free expression and the free exchange of ideas help human societies flourish and progress.”

Indeed, LFS members might say as much, using virtually the same words, to uphold important Bill of Rights aspects of our libertarian vision of a fully free future in which people strive to respect other people’s rights and live together through the voluntary cooperation and enterprise of a free society and a free market while steadfastly abjuring violence, the initiation of force or fraud and the institutionalized coercion of the unchecked State.

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Aliens, clashing cultures, and communism vs. anarchocapitalism: An Appreciation of L. Neil Smith’s The Forge of the Elders, the 2001 Prometheus Best Novel winner

To make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy and how they fit our award, Appreciations of all past Prometheus Award-winners have been published. Here’s the appreciation for L. Neil Smith’s The Forge of the Elders, the 2001 Prometheus winner for Best Novel:

By Michael Grossberg

Rollicking adventure, mystery, a sense of humor and explicit libertarian ideology mark L. Neil Smith’s The Forge of the Elders.

The novel was reworked from two previously published novels Contact And Commune (retitled First Time The Charm) and Converse And Conflict (retitled Second To One), and combined with the story’s finale (Third Among Equals), belatedly published a decade later.

Set in the late 21st century within our solar system and beyond, this fun 2000 novel concerns the culture clash and political differences between the human members of an expedition to asteroid 5023 Eris, and the multitude of aliens they find when they arrive.
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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.

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An Appreciation of No Award, the 1985 Prometheus Best Novel choice

Our Appreciation series highlights the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards. Here’s an Appreciation for No Award, the 1985 winner in the Best Novel category.

By William H. Stoddard

When the Libertarian Futurist Society started giving regular awards for Best Novel, ballots mailed to members offered the option of voting for None of the Above.

In 1985, None of the Above won, for the first and – up to now – the only time.

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Rambunctious adventure, Jeffersonian vs. Hamiltonian conflicts in a multiverse: An Appreciation of L. Neil Smith’s The Probability Broach, the 1982 Best Novel winner

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 fits the Prometheus award’s distinctive focus on Liberty vs. Power. Here’s our appreciation for L. Neil Smith’s The Probability Broach, the 1982 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel:

By Michael Grossberg

Rollicking and fun-loving, L. Neil Smith’s The Probability Broach was one of the most influential books of the Libertarian movement as its ideas were spreading in the early 1980s.

Smith’s imaginative sci-fi multiverse adventure imagines alternate time lines accessible through the probability broach, a portal to many worlds.

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A 40th Anniversary Retrospective: Introducing a Reader’s Guide to the Prometheus Award Winners

By Michael Grossberg

To highlight and honor the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society is celebrating in 2019, we are providing a reader’s guide with capsule Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, starting with the Best Novel category.

If you’ve ever wondered why a particular work of fiction has been recognized with a Prometheus Award and what libertarian sf fans see in these award-winning works, then our upcoming series of Appreciations should be must reading – as well as informative and illuminating!

Or, if you’re simply  looking for something enjoyable and stimulating to read within the realm of science fiction and fantasy, which also illuminates abiding questions about the perennial tensions between Liberty and Power, an excellent place to begin is with this recommended reading list of award-winning fiction (to be published here on a regular weekly (or biweekly) schedule, starting now (September 2019).

These capsule appreciations are being written and edited by LFS members (including LFS founder Michael Grossberg, LFS President William H. Stoddard, and veteran LFS leaders and board members Chris Hibbert, Tom Jackson, Anders Monsen, Eric Raymond, and others). In a few cases, the Appreciations will be based in part on reviews printed in the Prometheus quarterly (1982-2016) or the Prometheus blog (2017-today).

Since 1979, a wide array of novels, novellas, stories, films, TV series and other works of fiction have won Prometheus awards by highlighting in fascinatingly different ways the value of voluntary social cooperation over institutionalized State coercion, the importance of respecting human rights (even for that smallest minority, the individual), and the evils of tyranny (whether on the Left or the Right).


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Interview: LFS founder Michael Grossberg on how he became a writer, critic, sf fan & helped save the Prometheus Awards

 

Michael Grossberg, 2016 Photo courtesy of M.G.

Note: In this wide-ranging autobiographical interview, Grossberg shares his encounters, conversations and/or connections with Timothy Leary, George R.R. Martin, L. Neil Smith, Bruce Sterling, David Brin, Sissy Spacek, Gore Vidal, Ray Bradbury, Roy Rogers, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Roberto Rossellini, Nicholas Ray, Marianne Williamson, Susan Sontag, Roy Childs Jr., James Hogan and Robert Heinlein, among others.

TOM JACKSON: Could you tell us about yourself, including how you became a writer and arts critic?
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Interview: L. Neil Smith on his work, the Prometheus Award and his influences

L. Neil Smith in June 2019. (Photo courtesy L. Neil Smith).

L. Neil Smith is a libertarian activist and pundit, a musician, the founder of the Prometheus Award, a firearms enthusiast and a longtime Colorado resident. (Born in Denver, he grew up all over as an Air Force brat but eventually returned to Colorado for good.)

But he’s perhaps best known as a prolific science fiction writer, who often incorporates libertarian ideas into his novels, which usually have plenty of action and humor. He has written more than 35 books, including many science fiction novels, but also graphic novels, a vampire novel and political/philosophical commentary.

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L. Neil Smith news roundup

Science fiction writer L. Neil Smith is staying busy with a bunch of writing projects. Ares, the latest book of his Ngu Family Saga, will be out soon from Smith’s publisher, Arc Manor.  Smith’s Only the Young Die Good, the sequel to his 2011 vampire novel, Sweeter Than Wine, also will be out before too long, and Smith has begun work on the next Ngu novel, Rosalie’s World. 

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Some love for L. Neil Smith at Tor.com

As part of a “bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books,” Alan Brown writes an appreciation of The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith for Tor.com. (Smith won the Prometheus Award for the book in 1982.)

Brown writes, “Smith’s writing voice is witty, snarky, and entertaining, and there is always plenty of action to keep the story moving.”

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