Robert Heinlein: Remembering the Grand Master on his birthday

Today (July 7) is the birthday of Robert Heinlein, one of the greatest science fiction writers of the past century.

Robert Heinlein in the 1920s (Photo courtesy of Heinlein Trust archives)

In honor of his birthday, the Prometheus blog remembers and celebrates Heinlein (1907-1988), hailed by his peers as a Grand Master of science fiction and perhaps the most famous and widely read libertarian sf author of his era.

Heinlein also is the author most often honored and recognized with Prometheus Awards – a grand total of nine.

So it’s no surprise that the Prometheus Blog over its first seven years has posted 46 articles, reviews, essays, news stories or author’s updates about him – more than those about any other author.

Most of Heinlein’s works retain their story-telling power and prescient relevance, so today’s a good day to check out something by or about Heinlein.

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Three-time Prometheus winner Victor Koman to present Best Novel category at our public 2024 awards ceremony

Victor Koman, a veteran libertarian sf writer who’s won three Prometheus Awards for Best Novel, has agreed to speak and be a presenter at the 44th Prometheus Awards ceremony.

Prometheus-winning novelist Victor Koman (Courtesy of author)

Koman will present the Best Novel category at the online Zoom ceremony, tentatively planned for a Saturday afternoon in mid- to late August.

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Hall of Fame finalist review: Terry Pratchett’s The Truth offers hilarious but serious comedy about the rise of newspapers and the value of a free press

By Michael Grossberg

The truth shall make you fret.

Er, that’s not quite right. I meant: “The truth shall make you free.”

And The Truth shall make you laugh, too, while sparking insights about freedom – especially freedom of the press.

Often, while recently rereading Terry Pratchett’s satirical Discworld novel, I laughed out loud. (What a pleasure in troubled times, especially for journalists like me coping with declining newspapers.)

THE POWER OF THE PRESS

The Truth, a 2024 Prometheus Hall of Fame finalist, tells a smart, sly and ultimately inspirational tale of underdogs seeking the truth against formidable opposition.

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Hall of Fame finalist review: Harry Turtledove’s fantasy Between the Rivers imagines Bronze Age beginnings of a freer society

By William H. Stoddard

Over the years, most nominees for the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Prometheus awards have been science fiction, and set in the present or the near or far future. Harry Turtledove’s Between the Rivers is an exception: A work of fantasy, and set in an invented world that parallels the Bronze Age of 3000 years ago or more.

As its title suggests, its setting is based on Mesopotamia. It’s a realm of contending city-states, and seems to be the first place in its larger world to develop them; at any rate, there’s no indication of comparably civilized realms elsewhere.

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SF magazine explores the enduring themes of V for Vendetta

By Michael Grossberg

V for Vendetta is one of only a handful of fiction works that have received Prometheus recognition twice – first as a graphic novel, inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame, and second, as a feature film, which received a special Prometheus award.

So it’s nice to see a magazine article celebrating such popular art and exploring its resonant libertarian and anti-authoritarian themes.

Forty-two years after the initial publication of the graphic novel, Journey Planet 79, an online sf/fantasy journal, pays eloquent tribute to V for Vendetta and its creators: writer Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd.

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Taibbi on Bradbury: How Fahrenheit 451 remains relevant and resonant today as a cautionary tale of lost liberty

By Michael Grossberg

Ray Bradbury envisioned in his classic novel Fahrenheit 451 a dystopian future of censorship and destruction of literature – a paradoxically chilling world in which firemen paradoxically don’t put out fires but set them to burn books.

However haunting in its literary power, Bradbury’s dystopian vision sadly may not be as widely referenced in popular culture these days as George Orwell’s widely quoted 1984 and Animal Farm or Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged or perhaps even Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical story “Harrison Bergeron.”

All of the above works have been inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame over the decades. Yet, not all are equally remembered and applauded as still-resonant cautionary tales with vital lessons that still should be heeded in the 21st century.

That’s why it’s a pleasure to report that Matt Taibbi, a prominent journalist and independent-minded columnist, has referenced Bradbury’s novel and poignant themes in a recent essay posted on his Racket News platform.

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“The Emperor’s New Clothes” – Andersen’s fable remains a useful metaphor and illustrative lesson for today

By Michael Grossberg

One of the best choices that LFS members have made in voting annually in the Best Classic Fiction category, in my opinion, was the decision to induct “The Emperor’s New Clothes” in 2000 into the Prometheus Hall of Fame.

Hans Christian Andersen’s timeless anti-authoritarian parable isn’t merely a fable for children but a cautionary tale for everyone about the presumptions and illusions of power — not to mention the dangers of sheep-like conformity…. lessons that still apply today. (Perhaps especially today.)

Possibly because the Danish author’s 1837 story is often grouped somewhat diminutively with Anderson’s other stories as mere “children’s” literature or perhaps for other reasons, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” often seems to be overlooked or dismissed by contemporary columnists and bloggers as a still-resonant metaphor for the blind spots and knee-jerk tribalism of our increasingly conformist, censorious, culture-cancelling and fearful era.

So it’s a pleasure to come across a relatively rare reference to Andersen’s classic among today’s vast social commentary – moreover, not just a brief reference, but a full column from a regular Substack writer who makes the story central to his insightful and timely themes.

The column is even titled in honor of the fable: “The Emperor’s New Art.”

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The Best of the Blog: Three 2023 posts worth remembering (and rereading)

By Michael Grossberg

Although 2023 has ended, it’s interesting and illuminating to look back at the highlights of the past year – and perhaps read an article that you may have overlooked. For the Prometheus Blog, there were quite a few memorable posts.

Robert Heinlein (Photo courtesy of the Heinlein Trust)

Among my personal favorites:

* author Karl Gallagher’s tribute to Robert Heinlein and appreciation for his 2023 Hall of Fame winner, “Free Men.”

* William H. Stoddard’s illuminating essay on “Economics in Science Fiction” (along with a critique of the common “overproduction” myth), and

* a commentary on one of the most unheralded firsts of the year: basically, the first libertarian-individualist-themed sci-fi film to ever win the Oscar for best picture.

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Short-listed for the next Prometheus Hall of Fame: Novels by Poul Anderson, Terry Pratchett and Harry Turtledove and a Rush song

By Michael Grossberg

Almost four dozen classic works of science fiction and fantasy have been inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame, first presented four decades ago in 1983.

Libertarian Futurist Society members will select the next Best Classic Fiction inductee from four finalists, all first published or released more than 20 years ago.

The 2024 Hall of Fame finalists – just announced to the media in an LFS press release that’s already been reported on in full by File 770, a leading sf-industry trade publication –  is varied in artistic form (including three novels and one song) and in its balance of the old and the new.

The current finalist slate, selected from 10 works of fiction (novels, stories and song) nominated by LFS members, recognizes both a first-time nominee and several stalwart candidates that have found favor with judges and voters in recent years.

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How and Why to Fight For Freedom: An Appreciation of Heinlein’s “Free Men,” the 2023 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction


As part of the LFS’ ongoing Appreciation series of review-essays explaining how each Prometheus Award-winner fits the distinctive libertarian and anti-authoritarian focus of the sf/fantasy award and why it deserved to win, here is an Appreciation by author Karl K. Gallagher (a frequent Best Novel finalist himself) of Robert Heinlein’s story “Free Men,” the 2023 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Karl K. Gallagher

Many writers have “trunk stories”—pieces rejected so many times that the writer shoves them into a trunk and stops sending them out again. “Free Men” seems to have been one of Heinlein’s trunk stories.

The Expanded Universe foreword says he wrote it in 1947, just a year after Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech. The story wasn’t published until 1966, in the Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein single-author collection.

I can understand why editors didn’t want it.

It’s a grim story, with the protagonist left bleeding out as his followers flee to a new hiding place.

The premise is a USA occupied after losing WWIII, by an enemy willing to nuke towns as reprisals against guerillas. The kind of story that makes readers put the terms “unpatriotic,” “defeatist,” or “advocating ‘better red than dead’” in the letters cancelling their subscriptions.

So why did Heinlein write it? And why do some readers love it?

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