SF anthology ‘Visions of Liberty’ imagines future worlds without government: Part Two of an Appreciation of the 2005 Special Prometheus Award winner

By Michael Grossberg

Before you can build and sustain a fully free society, in earth or in space, you have to be able to fully imagine it.

Positive and persuasive visions of liberty – that can capture people’s imaginations as both desirable and feasible – are crucial to help sustain free and diverse societies where people have the best conditions to flourish. And whatever their differing perspectives, such visions must have plausibility, practicality and legitimacy.

That’s where science fiction can play a vital role – and Visions of Liberty, an anthology exploring different futuristic scenarios of freedom, fulfills that goal with fascinating, engrossing and surprisingly plausible stories.

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Robots, liberty and the tyranny of “benevolence”: Jack Williamson’s novelette “With Folded Hands…,” the 2018 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a notable pro-freedom work, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 an Appreciation series of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation for Jack Williamson’s “With Folded Hands…,” the 2018 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By William H. Stoddard

Jack Williamson’s novelette “With Folded Hands . . .” illustrates one of the distinctive characteristics of science fiction: its tendency to a kind of dialogue, in which one author’s stories comment on earlier stories by other authors. (Poul Anderson was noteworthy for this kind of writing, in stories such as “Journeys End,” which offered a different view of relationships between telepaths, and “The Man Who Came Early,” which questioned the assumptions of “castaways in time” stories such as Lest Darkness Fall.)

In 1947, when Williamson’s novelette appeared in Astounding Science Fiction, the idea of essentially benevolent robots was well established there; Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics (which Astounding’s editor, John W. Campbell, played a part in formulating) had been explicitly stated in Asimov’s novelette “Runaround” five years before, in 1942. What Williamson did was not to revert to the older theme of monstrous and hostile robots (which Asimov had called “the Frankenstein complex”), but to look at Asimov’s own vision of robots from a different angle.

Continue reading Robots, liberty and the tyranny of “benevolence”: Jack Williamson’s novelette “With Folded Hands…,” the 2018 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner