Many sf and fantasy novels imagine different visions of free societies and how they might function in the future – including quite a few Prometheus Award finalists and winners.
In recent years, more authors seem to be incorporating future libertarian worlds into their novels, so many that it’s becoming harder to keep track of them all.
While few of these sf authors may be outright libertarians, they appear to be curious about exploring in fiction how future societies might be based on libertarian principles, in full or in part. They appreciate how that can provide fresh and interesting sf scenarios to explore dramatically – especially given inevitable human flaws and conflicts that tend to occur, no matter what kind of laws, customs and norms define different cultures.
One illustrative recent case in point: The Eleventh Gate, by Nancy Kress, an award-winning sf author known for space opera who previously has been nominated four times for a Prometheus Award for Best Novel.
Rich Man’s Sky, the 2022 Prometheus winner for Best Novel, brims with the excitement, adventure, uncertainties and anxieties of real-world entrepreneurship.
Wil McCarthy’s kaleidoscopic novel, which thrillingly ventures beyond our Earth to chart the exploration, colonization and industrialization of our solar system, realistically and insightfully portrays the inevitably messy and risky progress of free men and women pursuing various goals through the cooperation of free markets.
Yet, the 291-page Baen Books novel – which launches a projected trilogy – also perceptively contrasts markets, warts and all, with the grimier and darker realities of politics – which unlike the voluntary transactions of the marketplace, unavoidably involves various forms and degrees of coercion, outright violence or the threat of violence and thus leads to some benefiting unjustly at the expense of others.
By Michael Grossberg
Libertarian futurists dream of unleashing the potential of every person to flourish, cooperate, innovate, progress, profit and pursue their happiness in peace and freedom – both here on earth, and perhaps eventually, beyond.
Yet, the politicization of society and increasingly, of our culture and arts, threatens that goal – and in the long run, undermines civility and could destroy civilization itself if this disturbing trend approaches authoritarian extremes.
In a thought-provoking article “Enslaving Art to Politics,” published recently in American Purpose magazine, writer Daniel Ross Goodman argues persuasively against the “politicization of literature.”
His essay should interest Libertarian Futurist Society members, even when Goodman makes some points about particular works and artists that we might respectfully disagree with.
“The best novelists, like all great artists, are not narrow-minded agenda-driven partisans but adventurers in the unbounded universe of the human imagination, who, through their fictions, help us better perceive vital truths about ourselves and our reality,” Goodman wrote in late September in the online magazine.
Between 2009 and 2014 NESFA press published seven volumes of short fiction and poetry by Poul Anderson in handsome hardcover editions for around $30 each.
These volumes were still available from the NESFA website, at least when I purchased them years ago, with volume seven released in 2017 as the final volume in the series. The stories do not appear chronologically.
Anderson, who has won several Prometheus Awards for best novel, four Hall of Fame awards, and a Lifetime Special Award, was a prolific writer who published his first science fiction story in 1947, some months before his twenty-first birthday.
He wrote fiction for more than half a century, so while these six volumes by no means collect all his short fiction, they contain a treasure trove for any fan of his fiction.