What’s the value of liberty?
How does culture and politics affect science fiction?
Why do the Prometheus Awards matter – perhaps more today than ever?
All those intriguing questions were explored by a variety of authors, leaders and sf fans in the recent 43rd annual Prometheus Awards ceremony.
Airing live Aug. 19, 2023, to an international audience, the hourlong ceremony honored Dave Freer, winner of the 2023 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for Cloud-Castles, and the late great Robert Heinlein, whose 1966 story “Free Men” was inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.
Here is the video of the 43rd Prometheus Awards ceremony:
The video has now been posted on YouTube and on the LFS website’s Video page. Check it out!
Here are a few excerpts from the award winners’ and award presenters’ speeches to whet your appetite, and make clear why the 2023 Prometheus Awards ceremony is worth a look and a listen:
Past Prometheus winner Sarah Hoyt (Darkship Thieves) presented the Best Novel award to Freer, her friend.
“I can’t express how strange it is to be presenting the same award that marked the most important moment of my career to one of my best writing buddies, one who has walked with me through all the hard points, and celebrated with me at all the high points,” Hoyt said.
In his acceptance speech, Freer discussed his winning novel and what inspired it.
“Because I am a new Australian and intensely interested and proud of the heritage of the country that offered me a home, a refuge, I used something which is very much part of the history of Australia for my book: the settlement by convict transports,” Freer said.
“My human colonists in this story are themselves imports from an Australia of the future – crash landed onto a tiny landing point on a world with no habitable land – onto an alien relic – a few square miles of anti-gravity plate, once the meeting place and trading station of two inimical alien empires.”
“You see: Cloud-Castles was set on this gas dwarf world, in the habitable zone of the upper atmosphere, not just because it was a fascinating biome but because it offered the ultimate libertarian environment: one in which bondage was very difficult once you got out among the floating vegetation of ‘the outback’.”
Art Dula, primary trustee of the Heinlein Trust, and Heinlein Society president John Tilden discussed Heinlein’s life and legacy in accepting the Hall of Fame award.
Fascinatingly, Dula also commented on and read excerpts from a lengthy autobiographical 1947 letter by Heinlein – long buried in the Trust’s voluminous archives – that offers revelations about Heinlein’s career and vision of the future.
“It’s a remarkable early document in Heinlein’s life,” Dula said, observing that the letter was written after Heinlein had published several stories but had not yet published his first novel.
“He typed the title of that novel in the letter, then overstruck it and inserted Rocket Ship Galileo. Read the letter to find out what his original title was,” Dula said.
While the speeches were mostly serious, offering insights about culture, history, literature and liberty, there also were welcome moments of humor.
For instance, both Hoyt (a Portuguese-American) and Freer (an Australian who lives in Tasmania) kicked off their speeches with some humorous self-deprecation and competitive rivalry about their distinctive respective accents.
Both Prometheus winners went on to eloquently and passionately discuss their careers as science fiction/fantasy writers, and explain what liberty and the Prometheus Awards mean to them.
“The Prometheus award is so named for the Greek Titan who stole the fire from the gods and gave it to the humans. The poor sod paid for it too, by having his liver eternally eaten by an eagle,” Hoyt said. “This is an interesting choice and as good a representation of freedom as I’ve ever heard of.”
Both Freer and Hoyt discussed and described Cloud-Castles in some depth and detail, enriching our understanding and appreciation for Freer’s satirical yet serious and suspenseful coming-of-age sf-adventure.
WHY LIBERTY AND THE PROMETHEUS AWARDS MATTER MORE TODAY
LFS President William H. Stoddard, who emceed the ceremony, discussed the cycles of American history – including the darker eras of authoritarian regress – and the recent passing of many leading libertarian sf writers.
But his sobering speech also offered perspective and hope about the value of the Libertarian Futurist Society sustaining the Prometheus Awards for more than four decades.
Stoddard returned, later in the ceremony, as chair of the Prometheus Hall of Fame finalist-judging committee, to present the Best Classic Fiction category.
“When the Prometheus Awards began, the cultural climate was one of increased support for liberty: for free minds, free markets, and the subordination of government to law. But the United States sees recurrent outbreaks of unrestrained governmental power, such as the bipartisan Progressivism of the early twentieth century, which gave us press censorship, the prohibition of alcohol and other drugs, and forced sterilizations, or the New Deal, which created the administrative state,” Stoddard said.
“This new century faces another such outbreak, when liberty is once again threatened. But we are also seeing increasing resistance to that threat,” he said.
“And this is a time when the Prometheus Award is more urgently needed. The LFS is founded on the idea that culture comes before politics; that we need visions of liberty, and authors who can provide them. In giving recognition to such authors, the Prometheus Award supports the continued survival of libertarian science fiction, and, we may hope, of liberty itself.”
THE NATURE OF THE STATE
LFS co-founder Michael Grossberg, who chairs the Prometheus Best Novel finalist-judging committee, offered a historical overview of both the Best Novel category and explained why this award matters.
“When LFS members search for eligible works to nominate for our Awards, we don’t just seek well-written works of imaginative fiction that dramatize positive libertarian themes about the ethical and practical benefits of freedom in promoting peace, prosperity, progress, innovation and greater cooperation,” Grossberg said.
“We also seek sf and fantasy exploring anti-authoritarian and dystopian themes, especially underscoring the great evils of tyranny, slavery, war and genocide – the worst dangers and predictable excesses of unlimited government,” he said.
“The historian Max Weber, widely hailed as the father of sociology, first clearly defined the nature of government roughly a century ago. The State is an especially dangerous institution, ripe for abuse of power, because as Weber explained, it’s the only human institution that successfully claims a legitimized monopoly over violence and the use of force within a defined geographical area.”
“This year’s slate of Best Novel finalists represent a wide range of fiction by authors who understand the great harm that the institutionalized coercion of the State can do – as well as the great potential for free men and women to address and resolve the very real challenges of living on this planet.”
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE:
* 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, individuality and human dignity.