Slavery, liberty, personal responsibility and legacy: The Heinlein Trust and Heinlein Society acceptance speeches for Prometheus Hall of Fame winner Citizen of the Galaxy

The late great Robert Heinlein has received his eighth Prometheus Awards recognition over more than four decades, with his 1957 novel Citizen of the Galaxy recently inducted into the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Prometheus Hall of Fame.

Robert Heinlein, a drawing (Creative Commons license)

Although Heinlein passed in 1988, his fans are fortunate to have two organizations carrying on his legacy in related and cooperative ways: the Heinlein Trust, established by his wife Ginny after his death, and the Heinlein Society.

Art Dula, Trustee of the Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein Prize Trust, gave an eloquent and informative extemporaneous speech accepting the 2022 Prometheus Hall of Fame award in Heinlein’s name and memory. Like the entire 40-minute ceremony, broadcast and recorded Aug. 13 on Zoom, Dula’s speech is available to watch on YouTube.*

Meanwhile, John Tilden, president of the Heinlein Society, followed Dula in delivering an interesting and insightful second acceptance speech, for which we do have the text, which we share here for posterity:

It is my pleasure to provide a few remarks on this occasion of Citizen of the Galaxy being inducted into the Prometheus Award’s Hall of Fame. I add my thanks  to the Libertarian Futurist Society for this honor.

I’ve been a Heinlein fan since I was a pre-teen, and I’ve been involved with The Heinlein Society since its inception in 2000 as a charter member and now a lifetime member. I’ve served on its board since 2012, and as its President since 2019. Our charity exists to “Pay it Forward” through continued good works supporting the literary legacy of Robert A. Heinlein and those causes he supported during his lifetime.

Robert Heinlein (Creative Commons photo)

We were created with the initial support and guidance of Mrs. Virginia Heinlein, Robert’s widow, and as an all-volunteer organization depend on membership dues and donations to support our programs.  Those programs include discussing the significance of his works to both existing fans and helping to create new fans and keep Heinlein’s legacy alive.

So, let me get to Citizen’s place in the legacy of Heinlein’s work.  I don’t remember exactly when I first read it but I believe I came to it later, as I read most of Heinlein’s works after I graduated college.

This book is now classified and discussed as one of Heinlein’s “juveniles,” intended for a younger audience when first published in 1957.  I’ll note that the Heinlein Prize Trust has continued to put faith into this work being intended and accessible for younger readers, adapting it as a graphic novel in 2014 for today’s generation.

The themes of the book certainly resonate with those that have a libertarian philosophy. It’s highly structured, and, I think well-plotted, to show the main character Thorby’s growth in understanding as he moves through various phases in the circumstances of his life. It deals directly with the concept of personal responsibility and in several ways with the various ways slavery may exist within a culture.

Heinlein was himself heavily influenced by Rudyard Kipling’s Kim in writing this novel. If you had never realized those parallels or influences, now I’ve given you the perfect excuse for a re-read of both of those classics!

The Society published a review of Citizen some years ago by member Alan Milner, and I’d like to quote a few of Alan’s observations here now as he makes some points better than I think I ever could!

“On the surface, Citizen is an eye-opening experience specifically because it eschews the easy argument against slavery by race, and moves directly into the more difficult argument against slavery as an inappropriate invasion of personal rights by both the state and by economic entities.

Underneath that, however, Citizen is an impassioned plea for life-long education. In many of Heinlein’s books, a principal character is portrayed over time, beginning in relative ignorance, learning from experience, receiving the benefits of tutelage from an authoritative source, and then using those teachings to resolve subsequent problems. A formula, but one that works very well, repeatedly, in the hands of this master story teller….

Citizen of the Galaxy is one of those rare achievements, a book that actually focuses the reader’s mind and teaches him something worth knowing in the process.

If Starship Troopers is perennially on the official reading lists for our military service academies, then Citizen should be required reading for those training for careers in education, psychology, human development – and, of course, fatherhood.”

On that same note, and in closing, I will share something personal about this work.

I have a Christian faith, and when my son was baptized, we had a small celebration for him on the day of his ceremony with a small party afterwards. One of my good friends is not Christian, but is a Heinlein fan, and he gifted my son a copy of Citizen of the Galaxy as a token of the day and as an influence on his personal development when read at the right time.  Today, I can’t help but echo the earlier comments that the novel’s place in the Hall of Fame might serve a similar purpose for others.

Again, thank you for allowing me to be a part of this day.

Note: Check out the Prometheus Blog appreciation reviews of some of Robert Heinlein’s other Hall of Fame inductees: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Stranger in a Strange Land, Red Planet, Methuselah’s ChildrenTime Enough for Love, “Requiem” and “Coventry.”

Watch the 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.

* Prometheus winners: For the 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.

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, slavery and war and achieve universal liberty and justice 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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