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.”
“(In sf fandom), the Prometheus is now considered third place after the Hugo and Nebula.” — author-songwriter Leslie Fish
Here is the first part of the Prometheus Blog interview with Leslie Fish, the Prometheus-winning author and songwriter.
Fish, interviewed by journalist and blog editor Michael Grossberg, won a 2014 Special Prometheus Award for her novella “Tower of Horses” and related filk-song “The Horseman’s Daughter.”
LFS: You’ve said a lot of your stories and songs contain libertarian themes. What attracts you to such themes and what kinds of stories do you find best reflect those themes?
Fish: It’s more a case of the ideas being part of me and therefore coloring all my work. I’ve noticed the nostalgic medievalism of most published Fantasy stories, and the socialistic assumptions of a lot of Science Fiction, and it tends to annoy me, so I tend to write songs and stories that push in the opposite direction. I’m surprised by how much of my own work is reactive, in this way.
Adaptations of classic or popular literature into graphic novels have become increasingly popular. Reflecting this modern trend, the Prometheus Awards recognized its first graphic novel when The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel (published in 2004 by Big Head Press) received a Special Prometheus Award in 2005.
Visually colorful and boldly imaginative, this accessible and fun version of one of the most explicitly libertarian sf novels achieves its distinctive style and stirring impact from the fertile collaboration between libertarian author L. Neil Smith and libertarian artist Scott Bieser.
The deft combination of words and visuals helps bring to life Smith’s zestful and suspenseful sf adventure novel, which imagines alternate time lines accessible through the probability broach, a portal to many worlds.
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.
Free Space, the first Special Prometheus Award-winner in 1998, has the distinction of being the first explicitly libertarian sf anthology.
Published in 1997 by TOR Books and edited by Brad Linaweaver and Ed Kramer, Free Space generated immense excitement among libertarian sf fans.
Today, almost a quarter century later, quite a few of its stories remain worth reading (or worth rereading) by freedom-lovers and, for that matter, anyone who enjoys interesting and imaginative sf speculations about humankind’s future in space.
The 352-page collection, dedicated to Robert and Ginny Heinlein, offers a wide range of stories and short fiction by 20 writers reflecting several generations and multiple perspectives.
Ray Bradbury, a soulful romantic and ardent lover of American civil liberties, was one of the most celebrated American writers of the 20th century.
Perhaps best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, one of the earliest and most deserving works inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame, and the many film and TV versions of his stories and novels, Bradbury continues to rank high in the pantheon of the greatest short-story writers and leading golden-age sci-fi/fantasy authors.
Yet, how long might his well-deserved reputation as a storyteller last amid the dismaying anti-liberal and authoritarian worldwide trends of the early 21st century?
A just-published essay in The Spectator, a British weekly magazine on politics, culture and current affairs, asks that worrisome question – while also making a powerful case for Bradbury as an enduring writer and champion of liberty.
If you haven’t browsed through back issues of Prometheus, you should.
You’re missing out on a lot of fascinating and insightful stuff – with ideas and insights that often remain timely and surprisingly timeless.
A treasure trove of articles, essays, reviews, interviews, debates, acceptance speeches, con reports and letters was published between 1982 and 2016 in Prometheus, the journal of the Libertarian Futurist Society. (The Prometheus blog, launched in 2017, replaced the printed quarterly.)
The Prometheus page of the LFS website is being updated and made more accessible – thanks to the efforts of Chris Hibbert, Anders Monsen and other past Prometheus editors.
In an ongoing effort, Hibbert and other veteran LFS leaders have been volunteering their time to steadily digitize the Prometheus back issues. Most are now available to read free, either with direct HTML links to each article or with a PDF link to the entire issue.
Check out all the back issues and articles on the Prometheus Index page.
WORLDCON SF AUTHORS ON LIBERTY, LIBERALISM AND LIBERTARIANISM
To whet your appetite, here is a fascinating and still-relevant excerpt from one of the earliest Worldcon reports ever published in Prometheus, which sheds light on sf, liberty and the complex relationship between libertarianism and liberalism.
To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ diverse four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as notable pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian and dystopian sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 a weekly series of Appreciations of 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 Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the other 1984 Prometheus Hall of Fame co-winner for Best Classic Fiction.
By Michael Grossberg
One of the most widely admired classics of science fiction is Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury’s poignant 1953 novel makes an eloquent case (both libertarian and classical liberal) against censorship and book-burning as a blow not only to basic individual rights but as a devastating wound to history, memory and civilization itself.
Bradbury’s best-known novel offers an exemplary cautionary fable about an illiberal future society in which books are outlawed and burned to destroy them and any remnant of literacy, memory, deep culture and independent thinking.
Those who still love and read books become criminals, hunted down by “firemen” and at high risk of having their homes invaded, their books and houses burned and their lives destroyed by the omnipresent State.
Libertarian science fiction has always been a seminal strand in the ever-evolving genre of science fiction and fantasy – and in significant and honorable ways, that socially conscious and liberty-loving subgenre continues as a force today, even amid regressive and reactionary forces flirting with the perennial temptations of statism, authoritarianism and centralized, institutionalized coercion on the Left and Right.
Libertarian futurists – within and outside the Libertarian Futurist Society (not to mention other organizations within the far broader libertarian movement, from Reason and Libertymagazines to the Cato Institute) – have understood that for a long time.
Yet, it’s salutary and newsworthy when our understanding of the broader intellectual and artistic currents that have helped shape the four-decade-plus history and diversity of the Prometheus Awards is shared and appreciated by an international, cosmopolitan publication outside the libertarian movement.
Such a relatively rare occasion has materialized this month (June 2020) with a fair-minded, open-minded, rich and rewarding essay on “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction” published in Quillette, an influential web-magazine that embraces what modern libertarians might generally recognize as classically liberal principles.
According to its mission statement, Quillette offers “a platform for free thought. We respect ideas, even dangerous ones. We also believe that free expression and the free exchange of ideas help human societies flourish and progress.”
Indeed, LFS members might say as much, using virtually the same words, to uphold important Bill of Rights aspects of our libertarian vision of a fully free future in which people strive to respect other people’s rights and live together through the voluntary cooperation and enterprise of a free society and a free market while steadfastly abjuring violence, the initiation of force or fraud and the institutionalized coercion of the unchecked State.