“When we started our writing career we never dreamt of winning the Prometheus Award. … Of all the awards in Science Fiction, … The Prometheus Award, above all others, became the one we truly wanted. [because] liberty must be championed and valued — of the myriad awards out there, only the Prometheus recognizes this essential fact. And the authors we respect the most have all won it.”
– Eytan and Dani Kollin, co-authors of The Unincorporated Man, the 2010 Prometheus Awardwinner for Best Novel, from their Prometheus acceptance speech
Here is the second part of the Prometheus Blog interview with Wil McCarthy, the 2022 Best Novel winner for Rich Man’s Sky.
Q: Were you aware of the Prometheus Awards before receiving your first Best Novel nomination this past year?
A: I have been aware of the award, yes. I used to think of it as a purely political award, which I think perhaps it was in the early days. But when you see it going to people like Cory Doctorow (Little Brother)and Charles Stross (Glasshouse) — both excellent, thoughtful writers, and clearly not Libertarians in any traditional American sense — I think it’s easier to see it as a genuine literary prize that rewards great ideas and great storytelling.
Here is the acceptance speech by sf writer Wil McCarthy, winner of the 2022 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for Rich Man’s Sky. McCarthy presented his speech Aug. 13, 2022, via Zoom as part of the LFS’ annual awards ceremony, which included two-time Prometheus winner Travis Corcoran as presenter of the Best Novel category.
BY WIL MCCARTHY
Howdy. I’m very happy to be here, and I’d like to thank all of you for inviting me. Yours is a great organization with a noble purpose, and I can only imagine the energy that goes into it. I think it’s ironic that I’m the one getting recognition today, when you all are the ones doing the work. My only regret is that I’m not able to thank you in person.
Libertarian science fiction has always been a seminal strand in the ever-evolving genre of science fiction and fantasy – and in significant and honorable ways, that socially conscious and liberty-loving subgenre continues as a force today, even amid regressive and reactionary forces flirting with the perennial temptations of statism, authoritarianism and centralized, institutionalized coercion on the Left and Right.
Libertarian futurists – within and outside the Libertarian Futurist Society (not to mention other organizations within the far broader libertarian movement, from Reason and Libertymagazines to the Cato Institute) – have understood that for a long time.
Yet, it’s salutary and newsworthy when our understanding of the broader intellectual and artistic currents that have helped shape the four-decade-plus history and diversity of the Prometheus Awards is shared and appreciated by an international, cosmopolitan publication outside the libertarian movement.
Such a relatively rare occasion has materialized this month (June 2020) with a fair-minded, open-minded, rich and rewarding essay on “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction” published in Quillette, an influential web-magazine that embraces what modern libertarians might generally recognize as classically liberal principles.
According to its mission statement, Quillette offers “a platform for free thought. We respect ideas, even dangerous ones. We also believe that free expression and the free exchange of ideas help human societies flourish and progress.”
Indeed, LFS members might say as much, using virtually the same words, to uphold important Bill of Rights aspects of our libertarian vision of a fully free future in which people strive to respect other people’s rights and live together through the voluntary cooperation and enterprise of a free society and a free market while steadfastly abjuring violence, the initiation of force or fraud and the institutionalized coercion of the unchecked State.
Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re continuing in 2020 to present a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.
Here’s the latest Appreciation for Charles Stross’ Glasshouse, the 2007 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel:
Charles Stross’ 2006 novel explores themes of ubiquitous State surveillance and the struggle of individuals to survive in the face of severe pressure to conform.
Set in a distant future and taking place in the same universe as Stross’ novel Accelerando, though at a much later point in its history, Glasshouse revolves around un-rehabilitated war criminals using every tool at their disposal to build a society that they can control absolutely.
At the center of the story, set in the 27th century when interstellar travel is by teleport gate, is Robin, an ex-spy who wakes up in a clinic with most memories missing. Soon, he realizes that he’s a demobilized soldier from a civil war that’s ended, and that someone is trying to kill him because of something that his earlier self knew.
Pursued by a dangerous enemy and desperate to find somewhere to hide, the post-human Robin volunteers to participate in the Glasshouse, an experimental simulation of a pre-accelerated culture in which participants are assigned anonymized identities.
The Prometheus Award has been given annually since 1982, and the Hall of Fame Award since 1983. All through the twenty-first century, lists of four to six finalists have been announced for each award. And for much of that time, online comments on the nominations and awards have often questioned their rationale. There have been comments suggesting that the awards could go to virtually any book, or to winners that have no libertarian content, or indeed are actively opposed to libertarianism.