Identity, anarchy, robots with rights and space colonization: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal, the 1998 Prometheus Best Novel winner

To make clear why past winners deserve recognition as pro-freedom or anti-authoritarian sf/fantasy and how each fits our award, we’ve published review-essays of all past Prometheus Award-winners. Here’s the latest Appreciation for Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal, the 1998 Best Novel winner:

By Michael Grossberg

Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal ranges widely in its exploration of different political systems on different planets in a future marked by wars, revolutions, space colonization and a cyberworld in which people’s memories and personalities can be downloaded or uploading to clones on demand.

Among the many exciting ideas that MacLeod explores in his ambitious 1997 novel – Book 2 in his Fall Revolution series, but set earlier than The Cassini Division – are several of special interest to libertarian sf fans – including his complex and ambiguous depiction of capitalist anarchy on Earth, how free markets might develop on a terraformed planet in another solar system and the possibility of independent robots with individual rights.

The settings are far-flung, too, from 20th century Scotland to a 21st century extra-solar planet called New Mars with a free market. It’s a  future of longer life-spans but also new kinds of death.

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Ideological factions, high-tech surveillance and a balkanized future: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, the 1996 Prometheus Best Novel winner

To make clear what libertarian futurists see in each of our past winners and how they fit the distinctive focus of our award, we’ve published review-essays about all past winners. Here’s the Appreciation for The Star Fraction, by Ken MacLeod:

By Michael Grossberg

The Star Fraction, a 1995 novel by Ken MacLeod, established the Scottish sf novelist’s international reputation for blending sf with a dizzying array of balkanized politics and ideological factions (including highly self-aware libertarians and socialists).

Set in a fragmented and conflicted mid-21st-century Britain beset by political factions and high-tech surveillance after a brief third world war and leftist Labour Party policies have led to economic and social decay, this is the first novel in MacLeod’s Fall Revolution series, which continued with The Stone Canal, The Cassini Division, and The Sky Road.

Among the interesting and unusual characters and forces affecting this future are a Christian-turned-atheist teenaged programmer eager to escape his fundamentalist subculture, a rogue computer program manipulating events, a woman scientist researching memory-enhancement drugs, and a communist security mercenary with a smart gun and information that might spark change.

Continue reading Ideological factions, high-tech surveillance and a balkanized future: An Appreciation of Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, the 1996 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Freedom in the Future Tense: A Political History of SF

 

By Eric S. Raymond

The history of modern SF is one of five attempted revolutions — one success and four enriching failures. I’m going to offer a look at them from an unusual angle, a political one. This turns out to be a useful perspective because more of the history of SF than one might expect is intertwined with political questions, and SF had an important role in giving birth to at least one distinct political ideology that is alive and important today.

Robert Heinlein (Photo courtesy of the Heinlein Trust)

CAMPBELL AND HEINLEIN

The first and greatest of the revolutions came out of the minds of John Wood Campbell and Robert Heinlein, the editor and the author who invented modern science fiction. The pivotal year was 1937, when John Campbell took over the editorship of Astounding Science Fiction. He published Robert Heinlein’s first story a little over a year later.
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