Prometheus Awards honors first Australian sf writer; Dave Freer wins Best Novel for Cloud-Castles

Science fiction and fantasy is written all over the world – and LFS members have nominated fiction from several continents and many countries over the decades.

More than ever, the Prometheus Awards have become truly international.

For the first time, the Libertarian Futurist Society has recognized an Australian writer as winner of the Prometheus Award for Best Novel.

Dave Freer (Photo courtesy of author)

Dave Freer, an Australian who lives in Tasmania, has won the 2023 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for novels published in 2022.

Freer won for Cloud-Castles, a zestful and often funny coming-of-age adventure set on diverse habitats floating above a gas-giant planet.

The satirical and far-flung story charts the progress of a mis-educated, socially awkward and well-meaning young man, brilliant but naive, who is thrust into a succession of strange human and alien cultures and life- and liberty-threatening situations.

With help from a street-smart sidekick, he escapes imprisonment and slavery and forges innovative, profitable businesses with decentralized, stateless people scattered through the planet’s clouds.

Among the human societies that Freer plausibly portrays are some that were clearly inspired by the independence, individualism and decentralized but cooperative resourcefulness of Australia’s “outback” frontier ulture.

Through such entrepreneurship, cooperative individualism and fish-out-of-water encounters with a frontier culture reflecting the Australian novelist’s own heritage, the story (formally a comedy in structure according to the classic Greek definition) reveals how markets work, why profits are moral and necessary in a free society and how societies flourish through reinvestment and market innovation.

The Prometheus awards previously have recognized works by North American and European writers – including winning authors from Canada, England, Finland and Scotland and Wales.

Johanna Sinisalo (Credit: Creative Commons photo)

Among past Best Novel winners from outside the United States:

* Johanna Sinisalo, a well-known Finnish writer, who won the Best Novel category in 2017 for The Core of the Sun, a libertarian feminist novel set in Finland.

Sinisalo imagines a dystopian eugenics-dominated alternate history of Finland. While coping with strong feelings about her lost sister, the heroine battles an oppressive, manipulative and male-dominated regime that makes women subservient housewives and mothers and bans alcohol, mind-altering drugs, caffeine and hot peppers.

* Jo Walton, a Welsh-Canadian fantasy/sf writer and poet, who won Best Novel in 2008 for Ha’ Pennya dystopian novel that was a sequel to Farthing, published in 2006.

Walton’s novels are set in an alternate-history Britain that made peace with Hitler in 1941 and has slowly been turning more fascist itself. In Ha’penny, Scotland Yard Inspector Peter Carmichael is assigned to investigate an explosion in a London Suburb that leads to evidence of a conspiracy. The story portrays the fall of a society into totalitarianism, emphasizing subtle moral corruption rather than overt brutality.

* Ken MacLeod, a Scottish sf writer, has won the Best Novel category three times.

His most recent win came in 2006 for Learning the World, an inventive first-contact novel that explores the politics involved from two perspectives: the natives of the planet and the “alien” (human) visitors.

Ken MacLeod (Creative Commons photo)

MacLeod also won in 1996 for The Star Fraction and in 1998 for The Stone Canal.

The Star Fractionthe first novel in MacLeod’s Fall Revolution series, imagines a balkanized 21st century future with high-tech surveillance after a brief third world war and complex politics dominated by highly self-aware libertarian and socialist factions in Britain.

The Stone Canal – the kaleidoscopic sequel to The Star Fraction and part of the Fall Revolution series along with The Cassini Division and The Sky Road – explores identity, anarchy, free markets (including how they might develop on a terraformed planet in another solar system), the politics of space colonization, robots with rights, and a cyberworld in which people’s personalities and memories can be downloaded or uploaded to clones on demand.

Terry Pratchett in 2012. Creative Commons license

* Terry Pratchett, the British satirical fantasy writer, whose Night Watch won in 2003.

Pratchett’s satirical fantasy, widely hailed as one of the best novels in his Discworld series, weaves a deep understanding of history, economics and how our civilization, institutions and markets actually developed into an amusing but realistic tale about the building of a more modern police force in one of the most unruly cities in fiction.

Moreover, writers from Australia, Canada and China have had works recognized as Prometheus finalists over the decades.

Among them: Canadian writer Margaret Atwood (both for The Handmaid’s Tale and its 2019 sequel The Testaments), Australian writer Helen Dale (whose Kingdom of the Wicked – including Rules: Book One and Order: Book Two – was a 2019 finalist) and Chinese writer Liu Cixin (whose The Three-Body Problem was a 2015 finalist).

In addition, far more international authors have been recognized with induction of their works into the Prometheus Hall of Fame – most notably, the British writers George Orwell (for both Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm); J.R.R. Tolkien (for The Lord of the Rings); Anthony Burgess (for A Clockwork Orange);  and E.M. Forster (for his story “The Machine Stops.”)

Hans Christian Anderson statue in Copenhagen

Special mention should be made of Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson (1805-1875), whose classic anti-authoritarian fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes” was inducted in 2000 into the Hall of Fame.

Yet, until now, the Prometheus Award has never been won by a writer from the Southern Hemisphere.

So congratulations to Dave Freer and to Australia, for his unprecedented achievement in winning this year’s Prometheus Award 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.

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 better visions of the future that help humanity overcome tyranny, end slavery and war and achieve universal liberty, respect for human rights and a better world (perhaps eventually, 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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