By Michael Grossberg Almost three quarters of a century after the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the influence and prophetic power of George Orwell hasn’t faded.
Quite the contrary.
With the rise of “cancel culture” and various online-sparked mob panics increasingly common in our so-called enlightened modern era and with such dystopian experiments as the recent failed roll-out of the current administration’s “Disinformation Governance Board,” it’s become virtually impossible to read informed commentary across a broad spectrum of opinion magazines and columnists without coming across Orwellian references and warnings these days.
By Michael Grossberg
Libertarian futurists dream of unleashing the potential of every person to flourish, cooperate, innovate, progress, profit and pursue their happiness in peace and freedom – both here on earth, and perhaps eventually, beyond.
Yet, the politicization of society and increasingly, of our culture and arts, threatens that goal – and in the long run, undermines civility and could destroy civilization itself if this disturbing trend approaches authoritarian extremes.
In a thought-provoking article “Enslaving Art to Politics,” published recently in American Purpose magazine, writer Daniel Ross Goodman argues persuasively against the “politicization of literature.”
His essay should interest Libertarian Futurist Society members, even when Goodman makes some points about particular works and artists that we might respectfully disagree with.
“The best novelists, like all great artists, are not narrow-minded agenda-driven partisans but adventurers in the unbounded universe of the human imagination, who, through their fictions, help us better perceive vital truths about ourselves and our reality,” Goodman wrote in late September in the online magazine.
If you haven’t browsed through back issues of Prometheus, you should.
You’re missing out on a lot of fascinating and insightful stuff – with ideas and insights that often remain timely and surprisingly timeless.
A treasure trove of articles, essays, reviews, interviews, debates, acceptance speeches, con reports and letters was published between 1982 and 2016 in Prometheus, the journal of the Libertarian Futurist Society. (The Prometheus blog, launched in 2017, replaced the printed quarterly.)
The Prometheus page of the LFS website is being updated and made more accessible – thanks to the efforts of Chris Hibbert, Anders Monsen and other past Prometheus editors.
In an ongoing effort, Hibbert and other veteran LFS leaders have been volunteering their time to steadily digitize the Prometheus back issues. Most are now available to read free, either with direct HTML links to each article or with a PDF link to the entire issue.
Check out all the back issues and articles on the Prometheus Index page.
WORLDCON SF AUTHORS ON LIBERTY, LIBERALISM AND LIBERTARIANISM
To whet your appetite, here is a fascinating and still-relevant excerpt from one of the earliest Worldcon reports ever published in Prometheus, which sheds light on sf, liberty and the complex relationship between libertarianism and liberalism.
To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian/dystopian sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 a weekly series of Appreciations of all past award-winners, beginning with the first category for Best Novel and now focusing on the Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.
Here is an Appreciation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, a co-winner of the 1984 Prometheus Hall of Fame award for Best Classic Fiction.
By Michael Grossberg
“Big Brother is Watching” is just one phrase that’s become widely known from Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s cautionary 1948 novel about a future totalitarian society in which almost everyone is caught up in the power-worshiping cult of the charismatic ruler.
Few works of fiction have connected so deeply to popular culture that they introduce even one catchphrase or line of dialogue that still resonates today, but Orwell’s cautionary tale generated several that even in the 21st century haven’t yet been flushed down the “memory hole” of popular culture.
Among the neologisms that continue to be quoted widely and resonate through American and world culture: Thought Police, Newspeak, “proles,” “thoughtcrime,” “doublethink,” Room 101, Two Minutes Hate, and “unperson.”
Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, and make clear what libertarian futurists saw and see in each of our past winners that make them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sci-fi/fantasy, we’re continuing our series of weekly Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our original category for Best Novel.
Here’s the latest Appreciation for Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, the 2009 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel:
In Little Brother, Cory Doctorow offers a powerful cautionary tale about threats to liberty from the National Security State.
His bestselling 2008 novel, now widely considered a modern classic in the coming-of-age and dystopian genres, revolves around a high-school student and his techno-geek friends who are rounded up in the hysteria following a terrorist attack.
To highlight and honor the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society is celebrating in 2019, we are providing a reader’s guide with capsule Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, starting with the Best Novel category.
If you’ve ever wondered why a particular work of fiction has been recognized with a Prometheus Award and what libertarian sf fans see in these award-winning works, then our upcoming series of Appreciations should be must reading – as well as informative and illuminating!
Or, if you’re simply looking for something enjoyable and stimulating to read within the realm of science fiction and fantasy, which also illuminates abiding questions about the perennial tensions between Liberty and Power, an excellent place to begin is with this recommended reading list of award-winning fiction (to be published here on a regular weekly (or biweekly) schedule, starting now (September 2019).
These capsule appreciations are being written and edited by LFS members (including LFS founder Michael Grossberg, LFS President William H. Stoddard, and veteran LFS leaders and board members Chris Hibbert, Tom Jackson, Anders Monsen, Eric Raymond, and others). In a few cases, the Appreciations will be based in part on reviews printed in the Prometheus quarterly (1982-2016) or the Prometheus blog (2017-today). Since 1979, a wide array of novels, novellas, stories, films, TV series and other works of fiction have won Prometheus awards by highlighting in fascinatingly different ways the value of voluntary social cooperation over institutionalized State coercion, the importance of respecting human rights (even for that smallest minority, the individual), and the evils of tyranny (whether on the Left or the Right).