With the late great Robert Heinlein having won more Prometheus Awards than any other author (including in 2023 for his story “Free Men,” inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame), LFS members and other Heinlein fans naturally should be interested in finding out more about organizations working to sustain his legacy.
One of the most notable, visible and interesting groups is the Heinlein Prize Trust, established by Virginia (Ginny) Heinlein soon after her husband’s death in 1988.
Since then, the organization has published several books furthering commercial development in outer space, reprinted Heinlein’s entire body of writing in a deluxe leather-bound 46-volume edition, published graphic novels of two Heinlein classics and completed the preservation of Heinlein’s writings and memorabilia in a comprehensive digital archive.
Perhaps the most promising and newsworthy developments are the Trust’s recent efforts to make Heinlein’s stories and novels available around the world – including in countries under dictatorships.
“Only 15 to 20 percent of the world can be considered free, under even the most liberal interpretation of that world. That mans that about 80 percent of the world population today lives under an authoritarian government,” said Art Dula, primary trustee of the Heinlein Trust.
Many sf and fantasy novels imagine different visions of free societies and how they might function in the future – including quite a few Prometheus Award finalists and winners.
In recent years, more authors seem to be incorporating future libertarian worlds into their novels, so many that it’s becoming harder to keep track of them all.
While few of these sf authors may be outright libertarians, they appear to be curious about exploring in fiction how future societies might be based on libertarian principles, in full or in part. They appreciate how that can provide fresh and interesting sf scenarios to explore dramatically – especially given inevitable human flaws and conflicts that tend to occur, no matter what kind of laws, customs and norms define different cultures.
One illustrative recent case in point: The Eleventh Gate, by Nancy Kress, an award-winning sf author known for space opera who previously has been nominated four times for a Prometheus Award for Best Novel.
“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.
As part of the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Appreciation series celebrating the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history by publishing review-essays of past award-winners that make clear why each deserves recognition as a pro-freedom work, here’s an appreciation for Robert Heinlein’s story “Coventry,” the 2017 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.
To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade-plus history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian work, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 a series of Appreciations of all past award-winners.
Here is an Appreciation of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Falling Free, the 2014 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction:
By Michael Grossberg Falling Free is a Nebula-award-winning sf novel that explores free will and self-ownership, two important concepts at the foundation of our humanity and liberty that also happen to be at the core of modern libertarianism and classical liberalism.
Lois McMaster Bujold’s 1988 (1987) novel, part of her bestselling Vorkosigan Saga, considers the legal and ethical implications of human genetic engineering.
In particular, the story conveys the personal impact on the rights and liberties of “manufactured beings” owned by corporations – a theme also explored in F. Paul Wilson’s Prometheus-winning novel Sims.
To celebrate the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom work, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series of all past award-winners.
Here’s an appreciation for Poul Anderson’s The Star Fox, the 1995 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner:
By Michael Grossberg War and appeasement are central subjects in Poul Anderson’s The Star Fox, a space adventure that includes what may be the first gay alien in sf literature.
Set in an interstellar human future with the narrative laced with songs in different languages, the 1965 novel explores the challenges of surviving and fighting an alien occupation of one of Earth’s first extra-solar space colonies.
The inventive narrative centers on Gunnar Heim, a patriotic human man and ex-Navy space captain striving as a pioneer to build a civilized society on an unusual new planet full of walking forests and haunted by surreal citizens.
To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom or anti-authoritarian works, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing an Appreciation series of all award-winners in chronological order by category. Here is an Appreciation of Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination, the 1988 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.
Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination explores themes of transformation and liberation.
Set in our solar system in a distant future on the verge of interstellar travel and colonization and written in beautifully stylized and lyrical language, this classic 1956 novel revolves around a lazy, gutter-talking spaceman described by LFS Director Victoria Varga in her 1994 review for the Prometheus quarterly as “a Randian hero run amok.”
Adrift with no ambition, Gully Foyle is abandoned in space with his pleas for help ignored. Consumed by a burning passion for revenge, Foyle embarks on a quest that propels a raging torrent of events.
“In the process of transformation he awakens the people of the worlds, and gives them back the right to think, dream, grow, and take command of their own lives,” Varga wrote.
Here is an Appreciation of Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, inducted into the 1987 Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.
By William H. Stoddard Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land wasn’t just a best seller, and the book that made publishers take science fiction seriously as a commercial proposition; it was a major influence on the hippie movement, the counterculture more generally, and neo-pagan and New Age thought.
Given all this, it seemed paradoxical to some readers that Heinlein was also the author of Starship Troopers,with its praise of military service and especially, as Heinlein said, of the “poor bloody infantry” — the foot-soldiers who stood between their native planets and the desolation of war. Heinlein himself saw no such paradox; he said, in fact, that the two books reflected the same ethical and political ideas.
What did these two seemingly disparate works have in common? At the deepest level, the answer is “a sort of libertarianism”: not advocacy of the free market, or of specific constitutional arrangements, or of constitutional goverment as such (though such ideas appear in Heinlein’s other works), but a basic ethical principle.
Serendipity and seized opportunity enhanced the star power and appeal of the Libertarian Futurist Society’s panel discussion at the 2020 online North American Science Fiction Convention.
Unexpectedly but delightfully, the Hugo-winning Grand Master novelist C.J. Cherryhand her partner Jane. S. Fancher joined past Prometheus winners Sarah Hoytand F. Paul Wilson and several LFS veteran leaders including LFS President William H. Stoddard in answering a variety of thought-provoking questions during the NASFiC/LFS panel on “Visions of SF, Liberty, Human Rights: The Prometheus Awards Over Four Decades, from F. Paul Wilson and Robert Heinlein to Today.”
When panel moderator Tom Jackson noticed that Cherryh and Fancher were still hanging out within the Zoom “meeting room” after accepting their 2020 Best Novel award for co-writing Alliance Rising to watch the post-ceremony panel discussion, he noted their presence and ability to participate.
After a few questions to the other panelists, Jackson invited Cherryh and Fancher to come into the discussion with their comments.
Which they graciously did, and fascinatingly so.
Thus, the long-planned NASFiC panel celebrating the recent 40th anniversary of the Prometheus Awards – first presented by L. Neil Smith to F. Paul Wilson in 1979 – expanded into an event with interesting comments from not two but four bestselling, Prometheus-award-winning novelists.
Here is the full panel discussion, part of an 80-minute two-part NASFiC/LFS video that begins with the 2020 Prometheus Awards ceremony, including Cherryh and Fancher’s Best Novel acceptance speech and Astrid Anderson Bear’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech for her late father Poul Anderson; and concludes with the 50-minute panel discussion:
Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society is presenting weekly Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners.
Here’s the latest Appreciation for Cory Doctorow’s Homeland, a 2014 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel:
Cory Doctorow’s 2014 novel offers a timely drama about an ongoing struggle for civil liberties against the invasive National-Security State.
Homeland follows the continuing adventures of Marcus Yallow, a government-brutalized young leader of a movement of tech-savvy hackers who previously had been detailed arbitrarily and brutalized by the U.S. government after a terrorist attack on San Francisco.
This sequel to Doctorow’s Prometheus-winning and best-selling Little Brother is set several years later after California’s economy has collapsed while the government’s powers have only grown.
Nineteen-year-old Yallow and his fellow hackers, all tech-savvy teen-agers, are still fighting against the high-tech tyranny of the intrusive Big Brother-style federal government.