Did something significant to science fiction – actually, unprecedented – just happen at the Academy Awards?
It wasn’t really highlighted in any media reports I came across, but isn’t Everything Everywhere All at Once the first outright science fiction film to win the Oscar for Best Picture?
And not only that, but the Best Picture winner is especially intriguing to consider from a libertarian futurist perspective: Is it possible that this year’s Academy Awards recognized one of the most pro-freedom films to ever win an Oscar for best picture?
Such questions are sparked by an intriguing column on Reason magazine’s blog: “Oscar-winning Everything Everywhere All At Once Celebrates individalism, Free Will.”
“What Bujold has done is to come up with a concept of an aristocratic society that isn’t based on coercion — and from a libertarian perspective, that’s an interesting and novel theme.”
By William H. Stoddard
After bringing the Vorkosigan series (including Prometheus Hall of Fame winner Falling Free) to an apparent conclusion, Lois McMaster Bujold turned to fantasy in two series: the loosely connected World of the Five Gods novels, and the Sharing Knife series, an actual tetralogy.
Both are set in invented worlds, where real-world political issues don’t arise, sparing the reader the sort of heavy-handed allegory that J.R.R. Tolkien famously objected to.
No book in either series was ever considered for a Prometheus Award. Indeed, the Sharing Knife series started out as a love story, seemingly reflected Bujold’s acknowledged fondness for authors such as Georgette Heyer. But having read it several times since its publication, I’ve come to feel that it has less obvious depths, some of which are potentially of interest to members of the Libertarian Futurist Society.
Billionaire blogger Bill Gates is highlighting a Prometheus Best Novel finalist among his favorite books of the year.
On the book page of Gates’ blog, he’s currently recommending Klara and the Sun, by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro.
Almost all the books Gates recommends on his blog are non-fiction, but occasionally a novel pops up – such as Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow or David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (an epic sf/fantasy perhaps best known for the ambitious film version of its multi-era reincarnation saga.)
Note: This is the latest Prometheus-blog review of our 2022 Best Novel finalists, following previously posted reviews of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun and Lionel Shriver’s Should We Stay Or Should We Go.
In Seize What’s Held Dear, the third volume of Karl Gallagher’s The Fall of the Censor series, the action returns to Corwynt, a planet controlled by the Censorate that the Fieran protagonists visited in the first volume. Much of the story develops in parallel tracks following the situation on the planet’s surface and the continuing struggle in space.
The primary conflict grows out of the Censorate’s basic rule that access to information is to be restricted as much as possible. In a fashion similar to China’s Qin Dynasty, access to historical works is prohibited, and their mere possession is a capital crime.
The result is a totalitarian society of a novel sort, different from those in classic dystopias. Fiera, the planet that opposes the Censorate after a hyperspatial route between them has reopened, has no such prohibition — and for that very reason the Censorate cannot tolerate its survival. Fiera doesn’t offer a model for a libertarian society, but it’s comparatively free and is struggling to preserve that freedom.
The sympathetic character at the center of Klara and the Sun is profoundly human in her caring, determination, curiosity, loyalty and observant intelligence.
And yet, Klara is an artificial being, an android branded and sold as an Artificial Friend in Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed novel, one of five 2022 Prometheus Best Novel finalists.
Set a generation or two into the future and strictly told from the highly limited point of view of Klara, the novel never fully answers the question of whether Klara has achieved full self-awareness (and thus should be treated as a person with rights.)
Yet, Ishiguro carefully drops enough clues and hints to make Klara and the Sun both a tantalizingly ambiguous mystery about the threshold of full consciousness and a haunting meta-libertarian parable about the foundations of rights and the tragedy that can occur when basic “humanity” and basic rights go unrecognized.
Note: The Prometheus Blog welcomes reviews by LFS members and freedom-lovers of all Prometheus Award nominees, not to mention other novels, stories or films of interest.
Here’s a review of one of the 16 2021 novels nominated for the next Prometheus Award for Best Novel. Over the next few months, we hope to publish more reviews of the nominees and the finalists, to be announced in April.
By Michael Grossberg Life, aging and death are difficult enough for most people to deal with, even when we strive to think and plan ahead and make the best choices we can about our senior years – including the possibilities of assisted living and even euthanasia.
Exploring those increasingly vital and common 21st-century issues in her kaleidoscopic 2021 novel Should We Stay or Should We Go, shrewd contrarian British novelist Lionel Shriver underscores how much worse the outcomes can be when oppressive laws, obtrusive welfare-state bureaucracy, socialized health care, forced medication, involuntary hospitalization, virtual imprisonment, anti-suicide laws, other bad government policies, abuses of power and even today’s dangerous trends of exploding federal debt and rising monetary inflation can damage lives further while undermining our ability to make our own decisions about end-of-life matters.
Several leading sf writers whose classic works have won Prometheus Awards are examined in a new anthology about science fiction’s New Wave.
Most notably, Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Marsh Mistress and Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed are among the libertarian sf works explored, contrasted and debated in Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950-1985.
Reason book editor Jesse Walker reviews the anthology of essays while noting its discussions of libertarian writers and libertarian-themed sf in the March 2022 issue of Reason magazine.
But a surprising amount of libertarian science fiction is free.
One freedom-loving sf fan has compiled an interesting list of 26 libertarian sf novels that are free in that other sense, of being available online without charge.
While one might appreciate the ancient truth that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” freedom-lovers of all stripes certainly can also appreciate a bargain when they see it – including the pleasant discovery that the price of a surprising variety of pro-freedom science fiction is zero. Such a deal!
The list of “The 26 Best Free Libertarian Novels,” published by author J.P. Meddled on the Art for Liberty website, explicitly references the Prometheus Awards and includes several Prometheus winners.
But the list is most intriguing for its range and for how it embraces a wide variety of fiction (virtually all science fiction) that explores libertarian themes from the positive benefits of individual choice, free markets, private property and the right of self-defense to the horrors of dictatorship, authoritarian abuses of power and the perennial threats to liberty inherent in the coercive foundations of government.