Alternate history, progress, markets, satire and how fantasy can illuminate reality: An Appreciation of Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch, the 2003 Prometheus Best Novel winner

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s ongoing Appreciation series of review-essays strives to make  clear what libertarian futurists see in each of our past winners and how they fit the libertarian focus of the Prometheus Awards. Here’s an Appreciation for Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch, the 2003 Prometheus winner for Best Novel:

By William H. Stoddard and Michael Grossberg

Night Watch, the 29th book in Terry Pratchett’s bestselling Discworld series and widely hailed as one of the best, focuses in his usual tongue-in-cheek style on what it takes to build a more-modern police force that eventually will be able to keep the peace and fight violent crime in one of the most unruly cities in fiction.

Filled with individualistic, anti-authoritarian and pragmatically libertarian themes that resonate with the actual history of our own planet and how market economies and modern civilization developed, this ingenious 2002 satirical fantasy blends political intrigue and police drama in a plot that also involves time travel back to the start of a legendary street rebellion.

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Galactic empires, central planning & the technocratic fallacy: An Appreciation of Donald Kingsbury’s Psychohistorical Crisis, the 2002 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Donald Kingsbury’s Psychohistorical Crisis, the 2002 Prometheus winner for Best Novel:

By William H. Stoddard and Michael Grossberg
    Donald Kingsbury’s Psychohistorical Crisis, an expansion of the Canadian-American sf writer’s 1995 novella “Historical Crisis,” reimagines and critiques the statist and technocratic assumptions of Isaac Asimov’s classic Foundation series.

Set in the 761st century, long after the events of that series, as the galactic empire is failing, the clever, complex and suspenseful 2001 novel offers a perceptive and implicitly libertarian critique of Asimov’s books, especially their determinism and political centralization.

At the center of the vast landscape of the Second Galactic Empire, which has spread to millions of worlds throughout the Milky Way galaxy but without any nonhuman intelligences except for genetically enhanced talking dogs, is a 30-year-old psychohistorian who committed a crime he can’t remember.
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Aliens, clashing cultures, and communism vs. anarchocapitalism: An Appreciation of L. Neil Smith’s The Forge of the Elders, the 2001 Prometheus Best Novel winner

To make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy and how they fit our award, Appreciations of all past Prometheus Award-winners have been published. Here’s the appreciation for L. Neil Smith’s The Forge of the Elders, the 2001 Prometheus winner for Best Novel:

By Michael Grossberg

Rollicking adventure, mystery, a sense of humor and explicit libertarian ideology mark L. Neil Smith’s The Forge of the Elders.

The novel was reworked from two previously published novels Contact And Commune (retitled First Time The Charm) and Converse And Conflict (retitled Second To One), and combined with the story’s finale (Third Among Equals), belatedly published a decade later.

Set in the late 21st century within our solar system and beyond, this fun 2000 novel concerns the culture clash and political differences between the human members of an expedition to asteroid 5023 Eris, and the multitude of aliens they find when they arrive.
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LFS considers online Prometheus awards show for pandemic-canceled 2020 North American Science Fiction Convention: F. Paul Wilson announced as Columbus NASFiC’s Prometheus Awards guest of honor

May 15, 2020 update: Due to the “uncertain health situation” regarding the ongoing pandemic and the unreliable travel restrictions, the Columbus 2020 NASFiC organizers have announced with a “heavy heart” that the long-awaited Columbus event has been canceled.
As of May, the organizers are exploring the possibility of planning and presenting a virtual event with various speakers and panels during that same Aug. 20-23, 2020 weekend – including programming and perhaps an online version of the annual Prometheus Awards ceremony.
The organizers also are planning to publish an online souvenir book for all attending and supporting members.
The LFS will post additional updates as we learn more and plans are solidified.

The North American Science Fiction Convention will be held Aug. 20-23, 2020 in Columbus, Ohio – and guess who will be among the guests of honor and speaker-panelists?

The Columbus 2020 NASFiC has announced on its Facebook page that bestselling sf/fantasy/horror novelist F. Paul Wilson – the first Prometheus Award winner and a Special Prometheus Lifetime Achievement award recipient – will attend the Columbus NASFiC as the Prometheus Awards Guest of Honor.

F. Paul Wilson. Photo courtesy of author

Wilson’s appearances, talks, panel discussions and author signings will be a centerpiece of the Libertarian Futurist Society’s third LFScon (dubbed LFScon III), which will run as an informal “mini-con” within the larger North American Science Fiction Convention. Several main-program-track panel discussions are being planned, devoted to themes of broad interest to freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans, libertarian futurists and general attendees.

The LFS also will present our 2020 Prometheus Awards ceremony during the NASFiC’s biggest single event: it’s Saturday-night Masquerade.

Continue reading LFS considers online Prometheus awards show for pandemic-canceled 2020 North American Science Fiction Convention: F. Paul Wilson announced as Columbus NASFiC’s Prometheus Awards guest of honor

Interstellar travel, mercantile networks, bureaucracy and decentralization: An Appreciation for Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky, the 2000 Prometheus Best Novel winner

As part of our series of Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, here’s a review-essay about Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky:

By William H. Stoddard and Michael Grossberg

   Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky is an exemplary example of the New Space Opera of the 1990s, and a fascinating and complex sequel to his Hugo-winning novel A Fire Upon the Deep.

Set in the inner Milky Way galaxy with fully realized characters, both alien and human, the story highlights the threats to civilization from centralized power while illuminating the civilizing dynamics of free-trade networks.

Vinge’s epic novel imagines a complex future with many human-inhabited planets that have developed over several thousand years through slower-than-light interstellar travel, terraforming, life-extension techniques, and advanced computer networks.

Yet many of these advanced societies repeatedly have collapsed into barbarism and decay through the failed dream of collectivism, statism, or subtle computational failures.
Continue reading Interstellar travel, mercantile networks, bureaucracy and decentralization: An Appreciation for Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky, the 2000 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Picaresque comedy, anti-authoritarian spirit and roguish individualism in an interstellar future: An Appreciation of John Varley’s The Golden Globe, the 1999 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and make clear what makes past winners deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for John Varley’s The Golden Globe:

A rare picaresque sf comedy among Best Novel winners, John Varley’s The Golden Globe follows the episodic adventures of a resilient itinerant actor living by his wits and thespian skills in the outer solar system.

Varley, clearly a fan of Shakespeare, updates the Bard in his 1998 novel to illustrate the theme that “if all the worlds (are) a stage – not world’s, but plural – then all the men and women in this are merely players… strutting, fretting and conniving through their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts….”

That everyman man is Kenneth “Sparky” Valentine, the fugitive central character and an interstellar con man, who’s been on the run for decades from planet to planet. successfully evading the State authorities. Resourceful and scrappy, Sparky survives through con jobs and his high-tech ability to transform his age, his body type/size and his gender by altering skin-deep magnetic implants.

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Identity, anarchy, robots with rights and space colonization: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal, the 1998 Prometheus Best Novel winner

To make clear why past winners deserve recognition as pro-freedom or anti-authoritarian sf/fantasy and how each fits our award, we’ve published review-essays of all past Prometheus Award-winners. Here’s the latest Appreciation for Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal, the 1998 Best Novel winner:

By Michael Grossberg

Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal ranges widely in its exploration of different political systems on different planets in a future marked by wars, revolutions, space colonization and a cyberworld in which people’s memories and personalities can be downloaded or uploading to clones on demand.

Among the many exciting ideas that MacLeod explores in his ambitious 1997 novel – Book 2 in his Fall Revolution series, but set earlier than The Cassini Division – are several of special interest to libertarian sf fans – including his complex and ambiguous depiction of capitalist anarchy on Earth, how free markets might develop on a terraformed planet in another solar system and the possibility of independent robots with individual rights.

The settings are far-flung, too, from 20th century Scotland to a 21st century extra-solar planet called New Mars with a free market. It’s a  future of longer life-spans but also new kinds of death.

Continue reading Identity, anarchy, robots with rights and space colonization: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal, the 1998 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Rush songwriter-drummer Neil Peart widely remembered for his libertarian idealism, individualism

The lifelong libertarian idealism of Neil Peart, the Rush songwriter-drummer who died Jan. 7 and whose passing the LFS noted in a previous blog, has been highlighted in several of the major media essays and obituaries that have followed his death at 67 after struggling privately for three years with cancer.

Neil Peart, Rush drummer and songwriter Credit: Creative Commons

In  a short note titled “Farewell to Rock’s Greatest Drummer (and Randian),” NR writer and New York Post columnist Kyle Smith offered high praise about the Canadian musician’s talent, positive ideas and legacy:

“Fan polls routinely agreed he was the greatest rock drummer of his time (or indeed of all time, I would argue, though some would go with Keith Moon). I’m not sure any rock track boasts drumming that can match Peart’s breathtaking work on the 1981 song “Tom Sawyer.”

Continue reading Rush songwriter-drummer Neil Peart widely remembered for his libertarian idealism, individualism

Neil Peart has died

Neil Peart behind his drumkit. (Creative Commons photo)

Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart, 67, has died of brain cancer. The Rolling Stone obituary notes that Peart “was one of rock’s greatest drummers.”

Peart’s death comes as one of the band’s songs, “The Trees,” from the Hemispheres album, currently is listed as one of the five finalists this year for the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.

Peart’s lyrics were influenced by Ayn Rand and the band was loved by many libertarians; see for example this posting by Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution. 

Rush was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. It was obviously a well-deserved honor, as the band has been a staple of rock music and classic rock radio stations for many years.

 

Free enterprise in space: Victor Koman’s Kings of the High Frontier, the 1997 Prometheus Best Novel winner

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s Appreciation series strives to make clear what libertarian futurists see in each of our past winners and how each fit the Prometheus award’s distinctive focus on freedom. Here’s our Appreciation for Victor Koman’s Kings of the High Frontier, the 1997 Best Novel winner.

By Michael Grossberg

Victor Koman’s 1997 novel dramatizes the dream of getting into space with an libertarian twist: The massive effort is achieved through the voluntary social cooperation of mutual trade and mutual aid through private enterprise.

Set in a subtly alternate reality, the story imagines a profit-enhanced competition to reach the stars, which anticipated the X Prize that saw Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne reach space in 2004.

Kings of the High Frontier highlights the shortsighted bureaucratic and political efforts of a government-run program like NASA, with its consequences in corruption, wasteful mismanagement and stagnation.

Continue reading Free enterprise in space: Victor Koman’s Kings of the High Frontier, the 1997 Prometheus Best Novel winner