“The outback of Australia was a very individualist place. So: I had my model.” – Dave Freer
Dave Freer’s Cloud-Castles, the 2023 Prometheus Best Novel winner, offers a zestful and often funny coming-of-age adventure set on diverse habitats floating above a gas-giant planet.
The Australian author, who lives in Tasmania, considers himself “mostly a rational anarchist” in the tradition of Robert Heinlein. Freer was interviewed by email by Michael Grossberg, a Prometheus Blog editor.
Following the recently posted first part of Dave Freer’s 2023 Best Novel acceptance speech, here is the conclusion, in which the 2023 Prometheus winner describes his winning novel Cloud-Castles, how it reflects Australia’s outback culture and why he wrote it.
BY DAVE FREER
Cloud-Castles was born out of a libertarian to outright anarchist concept: that the best defense of liberty is the ability to leave any form of bondage easily.
Autocracies inevitably have barriers to keep people IN. The freer the society… the less they care if you leave. In fact, if anything, they have to try and keep themselves from being swamped by people who want in.
“As a monkey, the idea of a trickster and mischief-maker, who none-the-less is the champion of mankind, stealing fire from the gods for them, has always been something of a beau ideal and role model for me. I am not very large or powerful, and my only tool is ingenuity against various gods.”
“While I always thought Hanuman as my kind of trickster, Prometheus is a good role model, down to the bit about that bastard Zeus binding him to a rock and having eagles attack his liver for helping humans with technology….”
If there were an award for most unusual, charming and amusing response to being recognized with a Prometheus Awards nomination, then Australian science fiction/fantasy writer Dave Freer would be a strong contender.
“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.
A rock song, a linked collection of stories, a classic sf juvenile novel and the culmination of a trilogy of novels will be considered for induction into the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.
Four works have been selected as finalists for the 2022 award, to be determined by Libertarian Futurist Society members over the next half year.
Moreover, this year’s slate of finalists reflects a good deal of change and variety, compared to last year slate of finalists, with only one of those five finalists reappearing on this year’s ballot. In addition, one of this year’s finalists was nominated for the first time, while two others had not been nominated in quite a few years.
Here are this year’s finalists, in alphabetical order by author, along with their and their author’s history in the Prometheus Awards:
By Michael Grossberg
Libertarian futurists dream of unleashing the potential of every person to flourish, cooperate, innovate, progress, profit and pursue their happiness in peace and freedom – both here on earth, and perhaps eventually, beyond.
Yet, the politicization of society and increasingly, of our culture and arts, threatens that goal – and in the long run, undermines civility and could destroy civilization itself if this disturbing trend approaches authoritarian extremes.
In a thought-provoking article “Enslaving Art to Politics,” published recently in American Purpose magazine, writer Daniel Ross Goodman argues persuasively against the “politicization of literature.”
His essay should interest Libertarian Futurist Society members, even when Goodman makes some points about particular works and artists that we might respectfully disagree with.
“The best novelists, like all great artists, are not narrow-minded agenda-driven partisans but adventurers in the unbounded universe of the human imagination, who, through their fictions, help us better perceive vital truths about ourselves and our reality,” Goodman wrote in late September in the online magazine.
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 highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series of all past award-winners. Here’s an Appreciation for A. E. van Vogt’s The Weapon Shops of Isher, the 2005 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.
By Michael Grossberg
A. E. van Vogt, celebrated as one of the masters of science fiction’s Golden Age, is perhaps best known for The Weapon Shops of Isher.
Imaginative and ingenious, van Vogt’s 1951 novel dramatizes the power of self-defense to sustain personal freedom.
Moreover, the novel introduced one of the most famous political slogans in science fiction: The Right to Buy Weapons is the Right to Be Free.
A classic and superior example of hard sf blended with sociopolitical SF during the early golden age of science fiction, the novel imagines a future dominated by a dictatorial Empire of Isher whose authority is challenged by some mysterious Weapon shops.
Young people are the readers, writers and citizens of tomorrow.
Hopefully, the next generation will also become advocates for liberty, peace and justice for all. Yet, that is not inevitable or automatic; children must be taught the heritage of humankind and must be exposed to the best of our common culture.
Encouraging the younger generations to read good books, including outstanding science fiction and fantasy and the literature of liberty, is the goal of a newly created list of past Prometheus Award-winners.
This recommended reading list, designed for children and teenagers but also as a guide for their parents and grandparents choosing gifts or making suggestions, is now posted on the LFS website as the “Prometheus Award Young Adult Honor Roll.”