How do the 2024 Best Novel finalists fit the distinctive focus of the Prometheus Awards?

The Prometheus Awards are distinctive among literature-oriented awards, including within the sf/fantasy field, for having a dual focus – on both overall literary quality and on libertarian/anti-authoritarian ideas.

As LFS awards press releases summarize and define our award:

“The Prometheus Awards recognize outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between liberty and power and champion cooperation over coercion as the root of civility and social harmony.

Such works may critique or satirize authoritarian trends, expose abuses of power by the institutionalized coercion of the State, imagine what forms a fully free society might take, and/or uphold individual rights and freedom for all as the only moral and practical foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, civility and civilization itself.

Here are capsule descriptions of the Best Novel finalists, explaining how each fits our awards’ distinctive focus:

 Swim Among the People, by Karl. K. Gallagher (Kelt Haven Press) – The fifth novel in Gallagher’s Fall of the Censor series (following Captain Trader Helmsman Spy and three other previous Best Novel finalists) continues the struggle between a freer polity of planets and a much larger interstellar empire that maintains totalitarian control by censorship, the suppression of history, destruction of older books and other memory-holing to cement power.

This sequel focuses on how a subjugated people on a reconquered planet can continue to pursue and preserve knowledge while resisting an occupying authoritarian regime through voluntary covert organization.

Of fresh interest: an exploration of a previously unrevealed society of Jewish culture, maintaining its customs in hiding for centuries; and an early discussion of liquid democracy, as parliamentary candidates seek enough support from some minimum percentage of voters to get a seat with no restrictions on party or geography.

• God’s Girlfriend, by Dr. Insensitive Jerk (AKA Gordon Hanka) (Amazon) — Subversive and satirical, the fifth and final novel in the Gaia’s Wasp series (and sequel to 2023 Best Novel finalist A Beast Cannot Feign) offers a mixture of Christian eschatology and unorthodox libertarian provocation amid taboo-smashing clashes of two cultures: Earth humans and Wyrms, human refugees from another planet.

The story revolves around the rising tensions and increasing likelihood of nuclear war between Earth governments, desperate to preserve their power, and the Wyrms, genetically modified to resist disease and political-psychological control.

As Wyrms settle Western Australia’s desert, building a radically free colony to survive the End Times, Earth’s rulers scheme to avert social collapse from the loss of millions of the world’s most productive men emigrating to this “Galt’s Gulch.”

The novel raises thorny questions about coercion, consent, sainthood, morality, masculinity, femininity, the use of weapons of mass destruction and the boundaries of self-defense.

 • Theft of Fire, by Devon Eriksen (Devon Eriksen LLC) — Taking place mostly on an asteroid-mining ship diverted to reach what may be hidden alien technology, this space opera is set within an anarchocapitalist-style frontier where industrialization and colonization have spread throughout the solar system.

Both formal and informal contracts are central here, with free-market innovations and alien artifacts unleashing vast wealth and progress as independent Belters conflict with enforcers hired by corporate elites.

Conflicts (and sexual tensions) develop between the ship’s stubborn captain (a resourceful loner operating as an occasional pirate) and the robot-protected, super-smart, pintsized SpaceX heiress who has taken over his ship and locked him out of its computer controls.

Notable for the originality and plausibility of Leela, an A.I. character, the novel offers a complex portrait of the pros and cons of its free-wheeling future while offering insights into agency, ethics, free will, contracts, property rights and other human rights.

• Lord of a Shattered Land,  by Howard Andrew Jones (Baen Books) – This epic and episodic sword-and-sorcery novel, first of a projected trilogy, revolves around Hanuvar, a grief-stricken former general risking his life to free the enslaved remnants of his peace-loving, free-trading people as he finds allies and travels through a brutal empire filled with human and inhuman dangers.

Rather than seeking revenge, Hanuvar embraces a libertarian ethic of non-aggression while striving to avoid harming the innocent.

Woven into its rich, far-flung narrative are more than a dozen key scenes underlining the meaning of freedom and why it motivates so many to try to achieve it for themselves and others.

Loosely inspired by the conflict between imperial Rome and Hannibal’s defeated Carthage, the saga illuminates the deep passion for liberty while underlining the evils of slavery, the horrors of mind control, the cruelties of tyranny and the temptations of absolute power.

• Critical Mass, by Daniel Suarez (Dutton) – Set in the inner solar system, this fast-paced sci-fi thriller follows engineer-entrepreneurs striving against the odds to use space-mined materials to build infrastructure in space for commercial development.

Heroic characters risk their lives in an audacious mission to complete a space station, allowing construction of a nuclear-powered spaceship and rescue of stranded crew members on the distant asteroid Ryugu.

The resourceful band must achieve their goals amid shortsighted opposition, censorship, shifting alliances and international tensions of Earth governments.

Unusually realistic in depicting the perils of living and working in space, Suarez achieves a high level of plausible engineering speculation.

Government is shown as the problem and cooperation through free enterprise as part of a space-based solution to problems on Earth.

Included is a plausible depiction of the creation of a functional, private, decentralized currency beyond the reach of Earth, relevant in this era of inflationary government fiat money.

OTHER BEST NOVEL NOMINEES

Seventeen 2023 novels were nominated by LFS members for this year’s award – a near-record, the highest number in this century and the most since the first few years of the award in the early 1980s.

Also nominated: Futureproof, by Stephen Albrecht (Hybrid Global Publishing); Queen Wallis, by C.J. Carey (Sourcebooks Landmark);  The Long View, by Mackey Chandler (Amazon); Liberty’s Daughter, by Naomi Kritzer (Fairwood Press); Prophet Song, by Paul Lynch (Atlantic Monthly Press); Julia, by Sandra Newman (Harper Collins’ Mariner Books); House of Gold,  by C.T. Rwizi (47North);  Victory City, by Salman Rushdie (Random House); Trail of Travail, by R.H. Snow (Rosa de Oro); Black Hats, by Steve Wire (Plaintext Publishing); Hacking Galileo, by Fenton Wood (Amazon); and Misplaced Threats, by Alan Zimm (BookMarketeers.)

The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established and first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently given in sf. The Prometheus Hall of Fame category for Best Classic Fiction, launched in 1983, is presented annually with the Best Novel category.

For more about the 2024 Best Novel finalists and the planned August Zoom awards ceremony, read the full LFS press release.

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.

* 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,  jointhe Libertarian Futurist Society, a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.

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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