The Libertarian Futurist Society invited two-time Prometheus winner Travis Corcoran to discuss the importance of libertarian science fiction in his speech as presenter of the 2022 Prometheus Award for Best Novel.
Here Is the text of Corcoran’s speech, delivered on Aug. 13 as part of the Zoom awards ceremony, marking the 40th anniversary of the LFS.
(Corcoran presented the Best Novel award to Wil McCarthy for Rich Man’s Sky; the Hall of Fame award went to Robert Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy,)
By Travis Corcoran
The state of written science fiction in 2022 is a bit like the state of western civilization: under assault from all sides, hollowed out, a pale shadow of what it once was.
The soldiers who once defended our grand city have been defeated.
There are invaders inside the gates, cavorting, aping their betters,and desecrating the ancient and sacred temples.
The great bazaars are empty and only a few small peddlers haunt the windy streets.
Most of the citizens who built the city, stone by stone, have been either felled by old age or have wandered away. A few still act as if nothing has changed, but without the support of the great publishers and the cheers of the crowd, the performance rings hollow.
Billionaire blogger Bill Gates is highlighting a Prometheus Best Novel finalist among his favorite books of the year.
On the book page of Gates’ blog, he’s currently recommending Klara and the Sun, by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro.
Almost all the books Gates recommends on his blog are non-fiction, but occasionally a novel pops up – such as Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow or David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (an epic sf/fantasy perhaps best known for the ambitious film version of its multi-era reincarnation saga.)
The sympathetic character at the center of Klara and the Sun is profoundly human in her caring, determination, curiosity, loyalty and observant intelligence.
And yet, Klara is an artificial being, an android branded and sold as an Artificial Friend in Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed novel, one of five 2022 Prometheus Best Novel finalists.
Set a generation or two into the future and strictly told from the highly limited point of view of Klara, the novel never fully answers the question of whether Klara has achieved full self-awareness (and thus should be treated as a person with rights.)
Yet, Ishiguro carefully drops enough clues and hints to make Klara and the Sun both a tantalizingly ambiguous mystery about the threshold of full consciousness and a haunting meta-libertarian parable about the foundations of rights and the tragedy that can occur when basic “humanity” and basic rights go unrecognized.
A Nobel-Prize-winning author has written a novel chosen as a Best Novel finalist – a notable and interesting intersection of two literary awards with quite different focuses.
Japanese-British author Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, writes mostly “mainstream” fiction that often conveys a wistful sense of loss and missed connections.
Klara and the Sun, Ishiguro’s latest novel about the ambiguous status of an intelligent and curious A.F. (Artificial Friend), was recently named by Libertarian Futurist Society judges as one of five 2022 Best Novel finalists.