The alien Tralfamadorians surely won’t be the only sentient beings celebrating the 100th anniversary Nov. 11, 2022, of Kurt Vonnegut’s birth.
Anyone who appreciates a blend of humor with social commentary in novels and stories that often incorporate science fiction should celebrate the memory of one of the most influential and popular American writers and novelists of the 20th century.
Some Prometheus-winning fiction imagines a better, freer future for humanity, one that libertarian futurists yearn to see come true in some form.
Other Prometheus-winning fiction is more dystopian, offering cautionary warnings about totalitarian tendencies that their authors portray with hopes of preventing them from materializing.
“Harrison Bergeron,” Kurt Vonnegut’s now-classic 1961 short story, which falls into the latter category, satirically but seriously extrapolates the coercive, absurd and even monstrously inhuman possibilities of radical egalitarianism taken to extremes.
Read the Prometheus Blog Appreciation to appreciate why Vonnegut’s story deserved to be recognized by the Libertarian Futurist Society as the 2019 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner.
Overall and at least in theory, it’s a good thing to see outstanding fiction continue to resonate within the broader American and world culture – especially when it’s pro-liberty or anti-authoritarian sf/fantasy and has been recognized through the Prometheus awards.
Unfortunately, “Harrison Bergeron” is becoming all too timely.
To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as anti-authoritarian or pro-freedom, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series of all past award-winners.
Here is an Appreciation for Kurt Vonnegut’s story “Harrison Bergeron,” the 2019 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.
The government’s Handicapper General enforces new constitutional amendments mandating that no one can be stupider, uglier, weaker, slower – or in any way better – than anyone else.
To enforce this authoritarian and radical egalitarian edict, perfectly capable people are forced to accept and wear various disabling devices that handicap their capabilities and basic humanity.
Leave it to the great American novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr. to come up with such a classic cautionary fable about a dystopian future in the United States in which coercive egalitarianism – a close cousin of progressivism – is taken to such radical and inhuman extremes in a perverse authoritarian revolt against personal excellence.
To celebrate the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing Appreciations of all past award-winners, that make clear why each winner deserves our recognition as pro-freedom.
Here is an Appreciation for Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, the 1994 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.
By Michael Grossberg We imagines a world of repressive conformity and stagnant stasis within a totalitarian State.
With his landmark novel Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin bravely pioneered and imagined what later came to be known as dystopian literature.
For better and worse, that dark and cautionary new genre was inspired by the millions of innocent people whose lives were destroyed by the Russian Revolution under Lenin’s communism. The genre took on even more moral weight after the world witnessed the horrors of all the other statist-collectivist variants (from socialism to national socialism and fascism) whose authoritarian excesses and violent extremes of dictatorship, war, famine, poverty and social collapse so brutally marked and disfigured the 20thcentury.
We, written in 1920-1921 by the Russian writer and first published in English translation in 1924 in New York, was so critical of collectivist authoritarianism that it wasn’t published in the Soviet Union until 1988, when the era of glasnost led to its first appearance with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. A year later, the two dystopian novels were published together in a combined edition.
“I think a full understanding of justice also has to include honoring and rewarding worthy acts and accomplishments. ” – William H. Stoddard
Here is part 2 of the Prometheus Blog interview with LFS President William H. Stoddard.
This part of the interview focuses on the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction, which Stoddard has been closely involved with for two decades.
As chair of the Hall of Fame finalist judging committee, Stoddard leads a group of LFS members who read, discuss and rank the annual nominees to select a slate of typically five finalists for the entire LFS membership to rank and vote on. The winner is inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame, established in 1983.
Kurt Vonnegut’s cautionary fable “Harrison Bergeron” was inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame at the 2019 Worldcon in Dublin, Ireland – where acceptance statements by the late Vonnegut’s family and by the Vonnegut Museum and Library were read.
In ‘Harrison Bergeron,’ first published in 1961 in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Vonnegut blends a satirical and tragic tone in depicting a dystopian future in the United States where constitutional amendments and a Handicapper General mandate that no one can be stupider, uglier, weaker, slower (or better) than anyone else. Vonnegut dramatizes the destruction of people’s lives and talents and the obliteration of basic humanity via a denial of emotions and knowledge that leaves parents unable to mourn a son’s death. ‘Harrison Bergeron’ exposes and mourns the chilling authoritarian consequences of radical egalitarianism taken to an inhuman and Orwellian extreme that denies individuality, diversity and the opportunity to excel.
Now that the Libertarian Futurist Society has announced its 2019 finalists for the Prometheus Hall of Fame (Best Classic Fiction) and posted the news on our lfs.org website and on this Prometheus blog, LFS members (and all interested sf fans) might be curious about where you can find and read them.