Of the writers who’ve won the most Prometheus Awards, which of their works should you read first?

By Michael Grossberg

The Prometheus Award has been presented more than 100 times, but which authors have won the most? And which of their winning works should you read first, if you aren’t familiar with them?

In the original Best Novel annual category, which I’ll focus on here, only 10 authors have won more than one – and only four writers have won as many as three.

(Try to guess their names, just for fun, without taking a peek at the LFS website’s Prometheus Awards page, which lists all past winners.)

In this blog, part of an occasional series about patterns in the track record of the Prometheus Awards, I’ll take a look at the history and statistics related to the Prometheus Award – starting with the first annual category for Best Novel. (Later blogs will examine the history of the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.)

Here’s are the most frequent winners in the Best Novel category:
* Cory Doctorow
* Victor Koman
* Ken MacLeod
* L. Neil Smith

Each of the above authors has won three Prometheus Awards.

Of these authors, one has passed (Smith) and one hasn’t published fiction in several decades (Koman), but the other two (Doctorow and MacLeod) remain active, continuing to write fresh novels every year or two. So it’s theoretically possible, at least, that either might be the first author some day to win a record four Prometheus awards for Best Novel.

So what works did each of the above authors write that have received such significant Prometheus Award recognition?

Victor Koman (Photo courtesy of author)

Victor Koman won in 1988 for The Jehovah Contract, in 1990 for Solomon’s Knife and in 1997 for Kings of the High Frontier.

Koman, a hard-core libertarian activist, has the distinction of being the first author to win a Prometheus for a novel (Kings) that first was published as a then-new ebook.

Ken MacLeod (Creative Commons photo)

Ken MacLeod won in 1996 for The Star Fraction, in 1998 for The Stone Canal and in 2006 for Learning the World.

MacLeod, a Scottish sf writer, was the first Prometheus-winning author outside the United States.

MacLeod is notable for weaving both libertarian and socialist characters and arguments into his future-history universe about humanity expanding into our solar system amid socio-political conflicts.

Cory Doctorow (Creative Commons license)

Doctorow won in 2009 for Little Brother,  in 2013 for Pirate Cinema and in 2014 for Homeland, Little Brother’s sequel.

With his most recent Prometheus award, Doctorow achieved a first: No author had previously won awards for both a novel and its sequel. (That’s despite the fact that quite a few sequels to Prometheus winners have been nominated, and several of them have reached the status of Best Novel finalists.)

L. Neil Smith (Creative Commons photo)

L. Neil Smith won in 1983 for The Probability Broach, in 1994 for Pallas and in 2001 for The Forge of the Elders.

Within the libertarian movement, The Probability Broach is considered a classic and a bestseller – one that sparked many sequels set in the same alternate-history future in which a fully libertarian and peaceful society without government evolved in a variant of American Revolutionary history.


If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading any of the Prometheus-winning novels mentioned above, which ones might you want to read first?

That depends on the type of science fiction you most enjoy, of course. But in my opinion, here is the best Prometheus-winning novel to read first, for each of these writers:

* For Doctorow, I’d suggest you start with Little Brother, loosely inspired by Orwell and a cautionary tale of incipient modern techn-tyranny by the national-security state.

It’s also come to rank high among modern sf classics, with an extra appeal to younger readers, too, as a coming-of-age tale revolving around teenagers (but still a novel of great interest to adults.)

* For Smith, start with The Probability Broach.

If you discover you enjoy Smith’s zestful sense of Wild-West style adventure and sense of humor, then you might try one of his other novels set in that same alternate-history universe, perhaps The American Zone,a direct sequel and a later Best Novel finalist.

* For MacLeod, that’s actually a tougher question to answer.

Partly because many of his novels are parts of larger series, I’d suggest starting with a self-contained, inventive and satisfying novel that’s not part of his larger series: Learning the World, an especially fresh first-contact story told from an unusual perspective.

* For Koman, start with Kings of the High Frontier.

In my opinion, it’s the most exciting and optimistic of his three winning novels, and with its focus on space travel and private enterprise, probably the most mainstream sf novel that Koman has written.

Coming up on the Prometheus blog: An examination of the works of six authors who have won two Prometheus Awards each for Best Novel.


* 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.

Watch  videos of past Prometheus Awards ceremonies, Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussions with noted sf authors and leading libertarian writers, and other LFS programs on the Prometheus Blog’s Video page.

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.

Libertarian futurists believe that culture matters! We understand that the arts and literature can be vital, and in some ways even more powerful than politics in the long run, by sparking innovation, better ideas, positive social change, and mutual respect for each other’s rights and differences


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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