Review: Queen Wallis an inventive, suspenseful sequel to the dystopian alternate history of Carey’s Widowland

By Michael Grossberg

Sequels can be tricky and often disappointing, falling short of the originals in potentially all sorts of ways.

So it’s nice to report that C.J. Carey’s Queen Wallis (published by Sourcebooks in the U.S. and Quercus in the U.K.) is a worthy sequel that in several ways improves on Widowlandher 2023 Prometheus Best Novel finalist.

Overall, this feminist dystopian novel is one of the most enjoyable works of alternate history I’ve read in years.

Continue reading Review: Queen Wallis an inventive, suspenseful sequel to the dystopian alternate history of Carey’s Widowland

Prometheus Awards honors first Australian sf writer; Dave Freer wins Best Novel for Cloud-Castles

Science fiction and fantasy is written all over the world – and LFS members have nominated fiction from several continents and many countries over the decades.

More than ever, the Prometheus Awards have become truly international.

For the first time, the Libertarian Futurist Society has recognized an Australian writer as winner of the Prometheus Award for Best Novel.

Dave Freer (Photo courtesy of author)

Dave Freer, an Australian who lives in Tasmania, has won the 2023 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for novels published in 2022.

Continue reading Prometheus Awards honors first Australian sf writer; Dave Freer wins Best Novel for Cloud-Castles

Tor covers ‘Finnish Weird’

Johanna Sinisalo holds up her Prometheus Award (Photo by Ryan Lackey)

Tor.com, one of my favorite sites devoted to science fiction, ran a recent piece by Jonathan Thornton, “A Readers’ Guide to the Finnish Weird in Translation.”

If you check it out, you’ll notice that writer Johanna Sinisalo is a central figure in the genre and even named it: “Finnish author Johanna Sinisalo coined the term “suomikumma,” or Finnish Weird, to refer to a new strain of speculative fiction being produced by herself and her Finnish peers.”

Thornton then goes on to offer some recommendations, including an anthology edited by Sinisalo, and two of Sinisalo’s novels, Not Before Sundown and The Blood of Angels. 

Yet another Sinisalo novel, The Core of the Sun, won the Prometheus Award in 2017. As it happens, she won the same year the Worldcon was held in Helsinki, so we were able to present the award before Sinisalo’s local fans.

You can read an appreciation of The Core of the Sun by our own Chris Hibbert at this blog, and also read a piece about the book at Tor’s website, written by Natalie Zutter. 

Libertarianism, feminism, chili peppers, drugs, desire, dictatorship & dystopia: Johanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun, the 2017 Prometheus Award Best Novel winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history, and make clear what makes each winner deserve recognition as notable pro-freedom sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society is continuing to present weekly Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners. Here’s the latest Appreciation for Johanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun, the 2017 Best Novel winner:

By Michael Grossberg
The Core of the Sun, by well-known Finnish writer Johanna Sinisalo, is both feminist and libertarian in its evocative themes.

In the quirky and imaginative 2016 novel, translated by Lola Rogers from the Finnish language and published by Grove Press/Black Cat, Sinisalo vividly imagines a dystopian alternate history of Finland in which a patriarchal and authoritarian government enforces a social system, a War-on-Drugs Prohibition of individualistic pleasure and a eugenics program that breeds and virtually enslaves compliant women.

Set in 21stcentury Finland after a century of male-dominated government breeding and cultural reinforcement of its women to be slower-witted and more childlike, the fast-paced story unfolds in short chapters with epistolary and personal interludes that evoke a struggle of women within an alternate-reality Finnish culture somewhat evocative of The Stepford Wives (a cautionary feminist novel by Ira Levin, the Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for his dystopian novel This Perfect Day.)

Social stability and public health, along with a War-on-Drugs Prohibition, are strongly enforced and favored over social change, creativity, personal expression, self-fulfillment, curiosity and diversity – the latter, of course, all part of the constellation of values and attitudes that we know flourish much more under a classical liberal/libertarian polity.

Continue reading Libertarianism, feminism, chili peppers, drugs, desire, dictatorship & dystopia: Johanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun, the 2017 Prometheus Award Best Novel winner

Review: The Core of the Sun, by Johanna Sinisalo

By Chris Hibbert

book coverJohanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun is a finalist for the Prometheus Award this year.   It has enough SF elements to qualify as standard near-future fiction, and provides biting social commentary. In feel, it reminds me a lot of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but I liked this better in several ways.

The story takes place in a future Finland that has managed to selectively breed its women so that they’re either docile sex dolls and mothers (“eloi”), or sterile, powerless but competent workers (“morlocks”). They’ve also outlawed psycho-active drugs from alcohol to heroin, and somehow included capsaicin (hot peppers) on that list. The protagonist, Vanna, is a morlock who was raised as an eloi, which allows her to pass in polite company. She’s also hooked on hot peppers, and has started dealing in whole, dried, and preserved peppers in order to afford her next fix.

Compared with Handmaid’s Tale, the viewpoint character is a more active agent, with more freedom to act for her own interests and to undermine the system; her allies against the state are more fully bought into the fight; and the state she fights has taken more reprehensible steps, though it seems to have less thorough control of its subjugated females.

The story is told with a mix of present-tense action and recollections by Vanna of how she got to her present situation, mostly written as letters to her long-lost eloi sister, Manna. The two were raised away from the city by their eccentric aunt, which gave Vanna the opportunity to act naturally most of the time, and mimic her sister when visitors were around. This gave her the tools to pass as eloi when she grew up.

After the aunt dies, Manna finds a husband Vanna suspects to be after the family farm, since neither Manna nor Vanna (passing as an eloi) can legally hold title to it. Vanna finds a man to partner with who values her for her unusual intellect and her ability to act independently (a useful tool for his black-market activities).

Vanna pursues the secrets behind her sister’s disappearance until events force her to escape with her partner. I found the prose (and occasional poetry) to be delightful and very evocative. The characters were convincing, and Vanna’s struggle to be her own person in the face of societal expectations was heartbreaking.

(Chris Hibbert is treasurer and past board president of the Libertarian Futurist Society. He works as a software engineer in Silicon Valley.)

Watch the videos of past Prometheus Awards ceremonies, Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussions with noted sf authors and leading libertarian writers, and other LFS programs on the Prometheus Blog’s Video page.

* Prometheus winners: For the list of Prometheus winners, finalists and nominees – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to the full set of published appreciation-reviews of past winners.

* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.

Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.

Libertarian futurists believe that culture matters! We understand that the arts and literature can be vital, and in some ways even more powerful than politics in the long run, by sparking innovation, better ideas, positive social change, and mutual respect for each other’s rights and differences.

Through recognizing the literature of liberty and the many different but complementary visions of a free future via the Prometheus Awards, the LFS hopes to help spread better visions of the future that help humanity overcome tyranny, slavery and war and achieve universal liberty and human rights and a better world (perhaps eventually, worlds) for all.