Most years tend to see at least some continuity in the annual Prometheus Hall of Fame , since any eligible work can be renominated if it doesn’t win.
Since 1983, when the first classic works were inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame, it’s become common for works to be nominated repeatedly, often with returning nominees dominating the list of selected finalists.
Not this year, notable for several fresh contenders.
The Libertarian Futurist Society has selected five finalists for the 2023 Hall of Fame Award for Best Classic Fiction from a larger slate of nominations by LFS members.
And a majority, just selected by LFS members serving on the Hall of Fame finalist judging committee, were nominated in this category for the first time this year.
That includes two short stories – both coincidentally first published in 1966 – and a Terry Pratchett novel.
Overall, this year’s five Prometheus Hall of Fame finalists were first published over the span of 1945 and 2000.
The type of works selected as finalists also varies considerably, including two novels, one novelette, one story and a collection of linked stories.
Here are capsule descriptions of the shorter works, perhaps the least familiar to libertarian sf fans and LFS members:
HEINLEIN’S ‘FREE MEN’
* “Free Men,” a 1966 novelette by Robert Heinlein first published in his collection “The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein” and later collected in “Expanded Universe,” offers a strong defense of freedom and American ideals.
The novelette focuses on the aftermath of an invasion and U.S. occupation after a nuclear “20 Minute War” and how a small band of heroic but practical guerrilla fighters survive, adapt and resist tyranny at great cost.
LAFFERTY’S ‘PRIMARY EDUCATION OF THE CAMIROI’
* “Primary Education of the Camiroi,” a 1966 short story by R.A. Lafferty, collected in the anthology The Best of R.A. Lafferty, reports on a fact-finding trip by an Earth delegation to study education practices on the planet Camiroi.
The story offers a scathing and satirical critique of the top-down approach and lack of rigor in public/government education, arguably more relevant now than when it was first published.
Besides incorporating flashes of Lafferty’s deadpan original voice and distinctive brand of humor, the story shows how to train youth to be competent and capable adults – rather than serfs – who can accept liberty and its concomitant responsibilities.
PRATCHETT’S THE TRUTH
* The Truth, Terry Pratchett’s 2000 novel is part of his satirical but historically informed Discworld series.
With his usual tongue-in-cheek style, this novel focuses on politics and the development of newspapers, when a struggling scribe who’s the son of a privileged family conceives the notion of producing his newsletter with a new printing press.
All too timely in its focus on misinformation and its theme of freedom of speech and press, the novel portrays how journalists report the facts (or not) and communicate “the truth” amid pressure from competing political factions.
This is the first time this Pratchett novel has been nominated for the Hall of Fame. After all, it only recently became eligible for nomination in this category. (Standard Hall of Fame eligibility rules include a requirement that at least 20 years must pass after the initial publication, broadcast, screening, staging or recording of an sf/fantasy work before it can be nominated in this Best Classic Fiction category.)
However, The Truth was previously considered by LFS members, when it was first published, in the Best Novel category of the Prometheus Award. And it was selected one of five Best Novel finalists in 2001 (along with Michael Flynn’s Lodestar, Ken MacLeod’s The Sky Road, Steve White’s Eagle Against the Stars and last but not least L. Neil Smith’s Forge of the Elders, which ended up winning the 2001 award.)
Under long-established Prometheus Award rules, no work, once selected a Prometheus winner, can be nominated again in any category. (The concern, back in the 1980s, was that if we didn’t establish this rule early on, then ultimately there would be a risk of the Hall of Fame category collapsing to some extent over the decades into a belated duplication of some significant part of the list of winners in the Best Novel category. Plus, we felt that once the LFS fully recognized any work as “best” in its category that year, that such recognition should be sufficient.)
However, if a previously nominated work hasn’t won a Prometheus Award and is eligible to be considered in another category (most obviously the Prometheus Hall of Fame, after 20 years), then it can be considered again – even if it ranked as a finalist when first nominated years ago.
So far, only one Best Novel finalist has later been selected for induction into the Prometheus Hall of Fame: Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. So it can happen; it just doesn’t happen very often.
So that’s “the truth” about why The Truth was eligible to be considered again, among this year’s Hall of Fame finalists.
Only two of the 2021 Hall of Fame finalists have returned as finalists this year – and both were relatively “fresh” in 2021, not having been nominated in 2020.
LEWIS’ THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH
* That Hideous Strength, This 1945 novel by C.S. Lewis (Book 3 of his loosely linked Space Trilogy, following Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra), revolves around a sociologist and his wife who discover a totalitarian conspiracy.
They struggle against diabolical powers scheming to take control of humanity, in the guise of a progressive-left, Nazi-like organization working for a centrally planned pseudo-scientific society literally hell-bent to control all human life.
Lewis’ novel cautions about the therapeutic state and the rising ideology of scientism (science not as the value-free pursuit of truth, but as an elitist justification for social control) seem prescient today.
LONGYEAR’S CIRCUS WORLD
* Circus World, This 1981 collection of linked stories by Barry B. Longyear imagines how Earth’s circus troupes have evolved on a far-distant planet into a circus- and magic-defined culture without a government.
Instead, the society, its stability, civility and progress rely on a strongly individualistic culture reinforced by voluntary and cooperative social norms .
There is only a widely respected One Law, designed to make it nearly impossible to impose government regulations or other legislation – which helps the planet’s citizens peacefully cooperate in resistance against a coercive human invasion from Earth and its efforts at statist tyranny.
In addition to these nominees, the Prometheus Hall of Fame Finalist Judging Committee considered three other works: The End of Eternity, a 1955 novel by Isaac Asimov; “The Trees,” a 1978 song by Neal Peart and Rush; and “Or Give Me Death,” a 1955 short story by Donald Westlake.
The final vote will take place in mid-2023. All Libertarian Futurist Society members are eligible to vote. The award will be presented at a major science fiction convention and/or online, to be announced.
All LFS members are eligible to nominate. Nominees may be in any narrative or dramatic form, including prose fiction, stage plays, film, television, other video, graphic novels, song lyrics, or epic or narrative verse; they must explore themes relevant to libertarianism and must be science fiction, fantasy, or related genres.
First presented in 1979 (for Best Novel) and presented annually since 1982, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor private social cooperation over legalized coercion, expose abuses and excesses of obtrusive government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or champion individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, civility, and civilization itself.
* Prometheus winners: For the full list of Prometheus winners, finalists and nominees – for 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 the full set of published appreciation-reviews of past winners.
* 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.
* Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.