Best Novel finalist review: Devon Eriksen’s Theft of Fire blends hard SF, romance, suspense and comedy in story of conflict and cooperation

By Eric S. Raymond and Michael Grossberg

For a first novel, Theft of Fire is impressive.

Devon Eriksen is one hell of an SF writer. His prose is tight and energetic, his action scenes work and his world-building is more than competent.

Billed as the first novel in Eriksen’s Orbital Space series and nominated for the next Prometheus Award for Best Novel, this hard-sf space opera portrays a free-frontier space culture where big risks can lead to big rewards.

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Calling all Murderbot fans: Apple TV+ to stream Martha Wells’ series

Talk about a killer show!

Murderbot, Martha Wells’ popular book series about the diaries of a self-aware robot struggling to overcome his programming to kill, will be adapted into a 10-episode science-fiction drama.

Actor Alexandr Skarsgard (Creative Commons license)

Apple TV+ recently announced plans stream the series, which will star Emmy-winning actor Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood, Battleship, Succession, The Legend of Tarzan, The Northman, The Stand), who also will serve as executive producer.

The news should spark wide interest from sf/fantasy fans, since Well’s bestselling Murderbot Diary books have won both Hugo and Nebula awards – and from LFS members and libertarian futurists, since several books in the series have been nominated for the Prometheus Award.

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Robots, rights & moral panics: Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn’s graphic novel Alex + Ada, the 2016 Special Prometheus Award winner

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s Appreciation series continues with review-essays about  fiction that has won Special Prometheus Awards. Here’s an appreciation of the graphic novel Alex + Ada, the 2016 Special Prometheus Award winner.

By William H. Stoddard

Libertarians describing their legal and political goals often use the original wording of the Declaration of Independence, referring to rights to life, liberty, and property. The order is important: on one hand, property rights grow out of the liberty to use and appropriate material objects without interference from others; on the other, liberty rights implement the right to life, seen not as a passive state of endurance but as an active process of self-creation and self-sustenance.

A central question for libertarian thought is which beings have rights to life and liberty? Libertarians influenced by Ayn Rand’s idea that freedom is a requirement for rational beings tend to think that every rational being has rights: rather than applying only to human beings, they would extend to such science fictional entities as aliens, enhanced animals —and robots.

In Alex + Ada, a graphic novel in three volumes (published in 2013-2015 by Image Comics), artist Jonathan Luna and writer Sarah Vaughn explore the question of robot rights, not through abstract philosophical analysis, or through a story of political conflict, but in an intensely personal narrative.

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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 our Appreciation of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein’s 1966 Hugo-winning novel and 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 Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.

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Genetic engineering, emerging sentient species and ‘human’ rights: An Appreciation of F. Paul Wilson’s Sims, the 2004 Prometheus Best Novel winner

To make clear why past winners deserved recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy and how they fit our award, we’ve published Appreciations of all past Prometheus Award-winners. Here’s the appreciation for F. Paul Wilson’s Sims, the 2004 Prometheus Best Novel winner:

BY MICHAEL GROSSBERG

Paul Wilson’s 2003 novel Sims, set in a plausible near-future, explores the struggle of the sims, a genetically engineered cross between humans and chimpanzees, for freedom and respect.

After impressive advances in genetics research that have made possible the elimination of many genetically transmitted diseases, the SimGen Corporation has created the transgenic species of sims or Humanzees (human-chimp hybrids).

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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.

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