Did you know that fantasy is just as eligible as science fiction for Prometheus Awards recognition? (And that shouldn’t be news!)

By Michael Grossberg

Works of fantasy are eligible to consider for the Prometheus Awards, along with science fiction.

The Lord of the Rings, inducted in 2009 into the Prometheus Hall of Fame

Fantasy has always been eligible for nomination – which might be news to some.

Many falsely assume that the Prometheus Awards are exclusively focused on “libertarian science fiction.”

And many continue to do so, even though several notable works of fantasy have been selected this year as finalists in both annual categories for Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (the Prometheus Hall of Fame.)

Surprisingly, at least to me, many people (even some long-time Libertarian Futurist Society members) haven’t fully appreciated the broad range of speculative and fantastical fiction that can be considered for a Prometheus Award, so long as it also in some ways explores the virtues and benefits of liberty and/or the dangers and evils of tyranny and other forms of unchecked and abusive State power.

PROMETHEAN MISCONCEPTIONS

I consider that misperception to rank high among the biggest false beliefs commonly held about the Prometheus Awards – which admittedly aren’t the easiest of literary or sf/fantasy awards to comprehend, partly because of their dual focus on both liberty and quality within the speculative genres.

Yet, unlike many other misconceptions that tend to be based on limited understanding of or false beliefs about libertarianism and that mostly arise from sf/fantasy fans outside the Libertarian Futurist Society, the assumption that the Prometheus Awards focuses only on libertarian science fiction tends to arise within the LFS membership itself.

And somehow, that belief has persisted for decades, despite quite a few works of fantasy being nominated for a Prometheus Award over the decades – and in all three categories to boot.

THIS YEAR’S FANTASY FINALISTS

Not only that, quite a few fantasy works have become Prometheus finalists – including this year!


In fact, three of the four 2024 Prometheus Hall of Fame finalists are works of fantasy: Terry Pratchett’s comic novel The Truth, the Rush song “The Trees,” and the Harry Turtledove novel Between the Rivers.

(Poul Anderson’s Orion Shall Rise, the other Hall of Fame finalist, is science fiction.)

Meanwhile, Howard Andrew Jones’ Lord of a Shattered Land, an epic sword-and-sorcery novel, is one of five Best Novel finalists this year.

(The other four finalists are science fiction, though one of them, God’s Girlfriend, incorporates some fantasy and supernatural tropes.)

THE LORDS OF FANTASY

Not only that, but quite a few works of fantasy have become Prometheus finalists in various categories over the decades, and several outstanding works of fantasy have actually won our award.

One might go so far as to argue that one of the greatest works to be recognized by the Prometheus Awards is clearly fantasy, not to mention the masterwork and “ur-text” of modern fantasy: J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic trilogy The Lord of the Rings.

Among the other fantasy-themed classics that have been inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame: Hans Christian Andersen’s fable The Emperor’s New Clothes (the 2000 winner) and George Orwell’s parable Animal Farm (the 2011 winner).

Plus, arguably, Patrick McGoohan’s TV series The Prisoner incorporates fantasy and fantastical elements into its saga of individualism and resistance that were never fully explained via science fiction.

Moreover, one of the most appropriate Special Prometheus Awards ever presented, in my opinion, recognized writer-filksinger Leslie Fish for her fantasy novella “Tower of Horses” and related song “The Horsetamer’s Daughter” – which proves that genuine and lasting libertarian issues can arise plausibly and powerfully even within a primitive medieval-monarchy fantasy setting.

FANTASY NOMINEES FOR BEST NOVEL


By my rough count, about 22 fantasy novels have been nominated over the decades for the Prometheus Award for Best Novel – including several that went on to become Best Novel finalists.

Perhaps the most notable is Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch, a satirical work within his Discworld series that ingeniously and wittily retells and illuminates key aspects of human history and progress toward modern civilization. Night Watch deservedly won the 2003 Best Novel award.

Among other Best Novel-nominated fantasy novels: Larry Correia and Sarah Hoyt’s fantasy-horror-themed Monster Hunter Guardian, David Friedman’s Harald, Terry Goodkind’s Chainfire, Raymond Khoury’s Empire of Lies, and Karen Michalson’s Enemy Glory and Hecate’s Glory.

Also, Terry Pratchett’s Raising Steam, J. Neil Schulman’s Escape from Heaven, Thomas Sipos’ Vampire Nation, Charles Stross’ The Clan Corporate, The Hidden Family and The Revolution Business, F. Paul Wilson’s ghost-filled The Haunted Air and John Wright’s Last Guardian of Everness.

Admittedly, since the first Prometheus Award was presented in 1979, science fiction has been recognized far more often than fantasy.

Furthermore, as mentioned above, while several fantasy classics have been inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction over the decades, only one fantasy novel (Night Watch) has ever won for Best Novel.

Why has that pattern emerged? And why has science fiction continued to dominate the Prometheus Awards?

Several theories might help to explain that conundrum – but perhaps that’s the proper subject of another blog post. So stay tuned.

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE PROMETHEUS AWARDS:

* Prometheus winners: For the full list of Prometheus winners, finalists and nominees – including the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to all published essay-reviews in our Appreciation series explaining why each of more than 100 past winners since 1979 fits the awards’ distinctive dual focus on both quality and liberty.

* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.

Watch videos of past Prometheus Awards ceremonies (including the recent 2023 ceremony with inspiring and amusing speeches by Prometheus-winning authors Dave Freer and Sarah Hoyt), Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussions with noted sf authors and leading libertarian writers, and other LFS programs on the Prometheus Blog’s Video page.

* Check out the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Facebook page  for comments, updates and links to Prometheus Blog posts.

* Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards and support a cultural and literary strategy to appreciate and honor freedom-loving fiction, join the Libertarian Futurist Society, a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.

Libertarian futurists believe that culture matters! We understand that the arts and literature can be vital in envisioning a freer and better future – and in some ways can be even more powerful than politics in the long run, by imagining better visions of the future incorporating peace, prosperity, progress, tolerance, justice, positive social change, and mutual respect for each other’s rights, individuality and human dignity.

Through recognizing the literature of liberty and the many different but complementary visions of a free future via the Prometheus Awards, the LFS hopes to help spread ideas and ethical principles that help humanity overcome tyranny, end slavery, reduce the threat of war, repeal or constrain other abuses of coercive power and achieve universal liberty, respect for human rights and a better world (perhaps ultimately, worlds) for all.

 

Published by

Michael Grossberg

Michael Grossberg, who founded the LFS in 1982 to help sustain the Prometheus Awards, has been an arts critic, speaker and award-winning journalist for five decades. Michael has won Ohio SPJ awards for Best Critic in Ohio and Best Arts Reporting (seven times). He's written for Reason, Libertarian Review and Backstage weekly; helped lead the American Theatre Critics Association for two decades; and has contributed to six books, including critical essays for the annual Best Plays Theatre Yearbook and an afterword for J. Neil Schulman's novel The Rainbow Cadenza. Among books he recommends from a libertarian-futurist perspective: Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist & How Innovation Works, David Boaz's The Libertarian Mind and Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.

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