Cycles of liberty, deaths, rebirths and new generations: LFS President frames the 2023 Prometheus Awards with historical perspective

Introduction: As part of our series of posts about the 43rd annual Prometheus Awards ceremony, which aired live internationally Aug. 19, 2023, here is the transcript of the sobering but inspiring remarks of the ceremony’s emcee, Libertarian Futurist Society President William H. Stoddard:

William H. Stoddard, LFS President (File photo)

By William H. Stoddard

Good afternoon, and welcome to the 2023 Prometheus Awards presentation. I’m William H. Stoddard, president of the Libertarian Futurist Society.

The purpose of the Prometheus Awards is to recognize works in the fantastic literary genres — science fiction, fantasy, horror, alternative history, dystopia, and others — with pro-liberty themes.

The awards have been given every year since 1982; we are now in our fifth decade.

Sadly, the twenty-first century has seen the deaths of many of our award winners.

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Lord of the Rings: Economist uses Prometheus Hall of Fame classic to expose false complaints about capitalism – and about Tolkien’s underappreciated Eagles

Why didn’t the Eagles fly the ring to Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings?

Even if you haven’t heard fans argue over the alleged “eagle plot hole” in J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic Prometheus-winning trilogy, you should find economist Bryan Caplan’s recent blog post illuminating – as well as Ilya Somin’s Reason posting about it.

An economics professor at George Mason University and a New York Times bestselling author, Caplan finds many parallels – and similar flaws – between such fan criticisms of Tolkien’s classic fantasy trilogy and socialist criticisms of free markets.

Thanks to Reason magazine, which published constitutional lawyer Ilya Somin’s column highlighting Caplan’s intriguing arguments (and some of his own) on Reason’s Volokh Conspiracy legal blog.

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A celebration of old and new: The 2022 Prometheus Awards recognize Heinlein, McCarthy novels

The 2022 Prometheus Awards, to be presented Aug. 13 in an online ceremony, will honor “something old” and “something new.”

In a wedding of circumstance and happy coincidence, a first-time Prometheus-nominated author (the “something new” according to wedding custom) has been declared the winner in the Best Novel category, while the golden-age sf author most honored in the four-decade-plus history of this award is recognized anew.

Novelist Wil McCarthy (Photo courtesy of Baen Books)

Wil McCarthy, a prolific sf writer nominated for the first time for this award, has been selected by Libertarian Futurist Society members as winner of the Best Novel category for Rich Man’s Sky.

Meanwhile, the late great Robert Heinlein – a Prometheus favorite – will be recognized for his novel Citizen of the Galaxy, which will be inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.

Robert Heinlein (Creative Commons license)

Heinlein (1907-1988), now an eight-time Prometheus Award winner, has won more Prometheus awards than any other writer, living or deceased.

Fittingly, Heinlein’s zestful spirit of adventure – championing scientific and social progress against tyranny and oppression and exploring libertarian possibilities of the future – is reflected in both of this year’s winners.

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Smart self-defense in an anarcho-capitalist society: Vernor Vinge’s “The Ungoverned,” the 2004 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

The Libertarian Futurist Society is celebrating the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade-plus history by publishing an Appreciation series of review-essays that strive to make clear why each award-winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom work.

Here’s an appreciation of Vernor Vinge’s story “The Ungoverned,” the 2004 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg

“The Ungoverned” is one of the rare sf stories to portray a plausible and fully libertarian society. Moreover, Vernor Vinge does so with intelligence, subtlety, vision and enjoyable narrative twists.

Set in the ungoverned lands of a recovering future Kansas after a social collapse, Vernor Vinge’s 1985 novella focuses on what happens when New Mexico’s statist government tries to invade anarchist-libertarian Kansas with unexpected results.

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Lunar revolution, rational anarchism & TANSTAAFL: An Appreciation of Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, a 1983 Prometheus Hall of Fame co-winner for Best Classic Fiction

Here is an Appreciation of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein’s 1966 Hugo-winning novel, a bestseller that popularized the libertarian slogan TANSTAAFL (“There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch”) as a rallying cry in a story imagining an American-Revolution-style revolt for liberty on the moon.

By William H. Stoddard

Science fiction writers have been exploring ideas that we now call “libertarian” since before the genre was named. Rudyard Kipling, E.E. Smith, Robert Heinlein, C.M. Kornbluth, Eric Frank Russell, Poul Anderson, Edgar Pangborn, and others presented such ideas – along with other, unlibertarian ideas such as Smith’s portrayal of a literal War on Drugs.

But it was Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress that established libertarian science fiction as a distinct genre. Nothing could have been more fitting than its being one of the first two books elected to the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Hall of Fame.

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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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