You can’t get away from it these days, for good or ill.
Just about anywhere you look, from mainstream newspapers and magazines to Substack blogs and social-media references, writers, columnists and commentators frequently are referencing classic novels, stories and fables to forge timely metaphors about today’s trends.
All too many prove to be cautionary warnings about the importance of telling the truth, in the midst of so many public falsehoods… and draw upon some of the most enduring Prometheus-winning works of fiction, from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four to Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
Who had the more prophetic and realistic vision of a dystopian future?
George Orwell? Or Aldous Huxley?
Orwell, most famous for Nineteen Eighty-Four (one of the earliest works inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame), was inspired by Stalinist communism in imagining his “hard tyranny” of brute dictatorship.
Huxley, best known for Brave New World, worried that a softer tyranny would ultimately prevail, one more insidious partly because it was more enveloping of both politics and culture and more seductive via a future of mindless pleasures.
Writing for the Institute for Art and Ideas, a British philosophical organization founded in 2008, British university instructor Emrah Atasoy compares Orwell and Huxley’s different dystopian visions in an informed and provocative essay: “Orwell, Huxley and the path to truth: How fiction can help us to understand reality.”
Many “bests” lists or ranked-reading lists tend to be matters of opinion, even if objective merit remains a meaningful standard of rational evaluation. Yet isn’t it interesting to compare favorite books and novels and discover that some our favorites also rank high on other lists?
For those libertarian sci-fi/fantasy fans who have the curiosity and time to look beyond our own Prometheus Awards track record of 100 past winners in all categories, an online list compiled of “Books to understand the world” makes for interesting reading….
…Especially because two of the most notable Prometheus Award winners are prominently featured on the list.
How can science fiction be used to explore and perhaps take steps to prevent the darker possibilities of the future?
Writer-historian Niall Ferguson examines the benefits and prophetic classics of science fiction in an intriguing essay in The Spectator magazine.
Several Prometheus-winning authors – including Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451), Sinclair Lewis (It Can’t Happen Here), George Orwell (Nineteen Eighty-Four), Neal Stephenson (The System of the World, Snow Crash) and Yevgeny Zamyatin (We) – are discussed with intriguing and incisive commentary in Ferguson’s recent article, “How Science Fiction Novels Read the Future.”
As an eventful year ends, the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS) is approaching a milestone: 100 Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, all posted on this LFS/Prometheus blog.
That’s a milestone to savor, especially given the ongoing efforts and commitments by LFS leaders and contributors over the past 30 months to write and post these informative and insightful review-essays.
Here’s an overview of our progress, an explanation of why the Appreciations are important (including tips on how you can use and refer to them), and a preview of some of the upcoming articles you can expect from the Prometheus Blog in 2022.
Sequels to classic works of literature by deceased authors rarely measure up to the originals, but that doesn’t stop different authors and publishers from trying.
Yet, the new novels often spark interest, especially by fans of the earlier works, and sometimes they even become bestsellers – only to fade while the original works continue to be celebrated. (Does anyone today remember Scarlett, a popular sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s still-read Gone with the Wind?)
The latest effort, recently announced and of special interest to Libertarian Futurist Society members, will offer a retelling of a Prometheus award-winner that ranks among the 20th century’s most influential and best-known novels: George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Julia, an upcoming novel by Sandra Newman, will refocus the events of the dystopian tale of totalitarian dictatorship, propaganda, mind control, newspeak and doublethink from the perspective of Winston Smith’s illicit love interest.
To celebrate the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing Appreciations of all past award-winners, that make clear why each winner deserves our recognition as pro-freedom.
Here is an Appreciation for Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, the 1994 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.
By Michael Grossberg We imagines a world of repressive conformity and stagnant stasis within a totalitarian State.
With his landmark novel Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin bravely pioneered and imagined what later came to be known as dystopian literature.
For better and worse, that dark and cautionary new genre was inspired by the millions of innocent people whose lives were destroyed by the Russian Revolution under Lenin’s communism. The genre took on even more moral weight after the world witnessed the horrors of all the other statist-collectivist variants (from socialism to national socialism and fascism) whose authoritarian excesses and violent extremes of dictatorship, war, famine, poverty and social collapse so brutally marked and disfigured the 20thcentury.
We, written in 1920-1921 by the Russian writer and first published in English translation in 1924 in New York, was so critical of collectivist authoritarianism that it wasn’t published in the Soviet Union until 1988, when the era of glasnost led to its first appearance with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. A year later, the two dystopian novels were published together in a combined edition.
To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian/dystopian sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 a weekly series of Appreciations of all past award-winners, beginning with the first category for Best Novel and now focusing on the Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.
Here is an Appreciation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, a co-winner of the 1984 Prometheus Hall of Fame award for Best Classic Fiction.
By Michael Grossberg
“Big Brother is Watching” is just one phrase that’s become widely known from Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s cautionary 1948 novel about a future totalitarian society in which almost everyone is caught up in the power-worshiping cult of the charismatic ruler.
Few works of fiction have connected so deeply to popular culture that they introduce even one catchphrase or line of dialogue that still resonates today, but Orwell’s cautionary tale generated several that even in the 21st century haven’t yet been flushed down the “memory hole” of popular culture.
Among the neologisms that continue to be quoted widely and resonate through American and world culture: Thought Police, Newspeak, “proles,” “thoughtcrime,” “doublethink,” Room 101, Two Minutes Hate, and “unperson.”