Just how important are the engineers in Atlas Shrugged?
More vital – and central to Rand’s novel (and her other fiction) – than even her fans might imagine.
According to a well-researched essay published online in The Savvy Street, Rand’s bestselling magnum opus is in many ways a “literary celebration” of engineering.
Writer Peter Saint-Andre argues persuasively that virtually every significant character is an engineer of some kind in Rand’s epic novel about the role of the mind and the importance of rationality and liberty in sustaining human civilization.
Even those who believe they are fully familiar with Atlas Shrugged – inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame in the very first year of that award category in 1983 – are likely to find the essay both surprising and compelling in adding a crucial dimension of understanding about Rand’s classic work.
Many “bests” lists or ranked-reading lists tend to be matters of opinion, even if objective merit remains a meaningful standard of rational evaluation. Yet isn’t it interesting to compare favorite books and novels and discover that some our favorites also rank high on other lists?
For those libertarian sci-fi/fantasy fans who have the curiosity and time to look beyond our own Prometheus Awards track record of 100 past winners in all categories, an online list compiled of “Books to understand the world” makes for interesting reading….
…Especially because two of the most notable Prometheus Award winners are prominently featured on the list.
KGB Banker, a contemporary financial-political thriller co-written by author and LFS Best Novel finalist judge John Christmas, has recently been recognized by the Best Thrillers website as the “Best Conspiracy Thriller of 2022.”
Meanwhile, Christmas’ first novel was Democracy Society, a futuristic and satiric libertarian novel about fighting corrupt government.
“My experience as a writer helps me as a judge. And, my experience as a judge helps me as a writer.” – John Christmas
LFS member John Christmas, a published novelist, has served as a Prometheus Best Novel judge for about a decade now.
Christmas co-wrote KGB Banker, a contemporary political thriller recently recognized by Best Thrillers as the “Best Conspiracy Thriller of 2022.”
Christmas’s first novel was Democracy Society, a futuristic libertarian novel about fighting a corrupt government.
In this interview, Christmas discusses some of his favorite Prometheus-winning novels, how his creative writing has helped him be a better awards judge, and how serving as a Best Novel judge has benefited him as a writer.
The Christmas interview also seems timely in how it sheds light on the awards-judging process, since the Best Novel finalist judging committee is currently reading and discussing more than a dozen nominees and candidates for nomination in the final month or two before voting to select the annual slate of finalists.
“What Bujold has done is to come up with a concept of an aristocratic society that isn’t based on coercion — and from a libertarian perspective, that’s an interesting and novel theme.”
By William H. Stoddard
After bringing the Vorkosigan series (including Prometheus Hall of Fame winner Falling Free) to an apparent conclusion, Lois McMaster Bujold turned to fantasy in two series: the loosely connected World of the Five Gods novels, and the Sharing Knife series, an actual tetralogy.
Both are set in invented worlds, where real-world political issues don’t arise, sparing the reader the sort of heavy-handed allegory that J.R.R. Tolkien famously objected to.
No book in either series was ever considered for a Prometheus Award. Indeed, the Sharing Knife series started out as a love story, seemingly reflected Bujold’s acknowledged fondness for authors such as Georgette Heyer. But having read it several times since its publication, I’ve come to feel that it has less obvious depths, some of which are potentially of interest to members of the Libertarian Futurist Society.
In the current century, publishers have brought out previously unseen material by Robert Heinlein.
Some of it is simply alternate versions of familiar novels, such as Podkayne of Mars, The Puppet Masters, Red Planet, and Stranger in a Strange Land.
But we’ve also see works that he didn’t publish, but that he later quarried for the material of later works: For Us, the Living, which supplied a secondary character to Beyond This Horizon and several thematic elements to the Future History, and The Pursuit of the Pankera, which was radically rewritten to give us The Number of the Beast.
With the compilation of the Virginia Edition, not only all of Heinlein’s previously published works have been made available, but various less known ones, such as decades of his letters. Among these are various ventures into scriptwriting for movies and television. Destination Moon is well known, but his proposals for television series were never produced, and only with the Virginia Edition have they become available.
The last of these, Century XXII, was mainly worked on in 1963, and he abandoned it in 1964 after clashes with Howie Horowitz, who proposed the project to him. After that, Heinlein gave up on writing for film and television as a waste of time. But Century XXII casts some light onto Heinlein’s later writing, and especially onto The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, generally regarded as one of his best novels and more specifically as the prototype of libertarian science fiction.
In his apt introduction and presentation of the Prometheus Hall of Fame category at the recent 2022 Prometheus Awards ceremony, LFS President William H. Stoddard explains why this annual awards category is such an important part of the Libertarian Futurist Society’s awards program – and why this year’s inductee by Robert Heinlein is so deserving of recognition.
The Libertarian Futurist Society’s Appreciation series continues with review-essays about fiction that has won Special Prometheus Awards. Here’s an appreciation of the graphic novel Alex + Ada, the 2016 Special Prometheus Award winner.
Libertarians describing their legal and political goals often use the original wording of the Declaration of Independence, referring to rights to life, liberty, and property. The order is important: on one hand, property rights grow out of the liberty to use and appropriate material objects without interference from others; on the other, liberty rights implement the right to life, seen not as a passive state of endurance but as an active process of self-creation and self-sustenance.
A central question for libertarian thought is which beings have rights to life and liberty? Libertarians influenced by Ayn Rand’s idea that freedom is a requirement for rational beings tend to think that every rational being has rights: rather than applying only to human beings, they would extend to such science fictional entities as aliens, enhanced animals —and robots.
In Alex + Ada, a graphic novel in three volumes (published in 2013-2015 by Image Comics), artist Jonathan Luna and writer Sarah Vaughn explore the question of robot rights, not through abstract philosophical analysis, or through a story of political conflict, but in an intensely personal narrative.
Adaptations of classic or popular literature into graphic novels have become increasingly popular. Reflecting this modern trend, the Prometheus Awards recognized its first graphic novel when The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel (published in 2004 by Big Head Press) received a Special Prometheus Award in 2005.
Visually colorful and boldly imaginative, this accessible and fun version of one of the most explicitly libertarian sf novels achieves its distinctive style and stirring impact from the fertile collaboration between libertarian author L. Neil Smith and libertarian artist Scott Bieser.
The deft combination of words and visuals helps bring to life Smith’s zestful and suspenseful sf adventure novel, which imagines alternate time lines accessible through the probability broach, a portal to many worlds.