For Rush fans, the recent publication of Canadian rock star Geddy Lee’s autobiography should spark interest. LFS members, currently weighing this year’s slate of Prometheus Hall of Fame finalists including the Rush fantasy song “The Trees,” should find My Effin’ Life (Harper) especially timely and intriguing.
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.
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.
Science fiction has mainly been based on the natural sciences, from astronomy to biology; economics and the other social sciences come on stage less often.
Certainly, social science fiction was one of Isaac Asimov’s three categories of science fiction (along with gadget stories and adventure stories—as TV Tropes puts it, “Man invents car” can be followed by “lectures on how it works,” “gets into car chase,” or “gets stuck in traffic”).
But the premise for social science fiction was commonly a discovery or invention in the natural sciences, whose social and economic consequences are explored. It’s not so common for science fiction to be inspired by an economic theory.
Nonetheless, some theories have been the basis for science fiction stories. Economic issues are a major concern for libertarians; how science fiction deals with such issues is worth exploring.
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.
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?
With the late great Robert Heinlein having won more Prometheus Awards than any other author (including in 2023 for his story “Free Men,” inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame), LFS members and other Heinlein fans naturally should be interested in finding out more about organizations working to sustain his legacy.
One of the most notable, visible and interesting groups is the Heinlein Prize Trust, established by Virginia (Ginny) Heinlein soon after her husband’s death in 1988.
Since then, the organization has published several books furthering commercial development in outer space, reprinted Heinlein’s entire body of writing in a deluxe leather-bound 46-volume edition, published graphic novels of two Heinlein classics and completed the preservation of Heinlein’s writings and memorabilia in a comprehensive digital archive.
Perhaps the most promising and newsworthy developments are the Trust’s recent efforts to make Heinlein’s stories and novels available around the world – including in countries under dictatorships.
“Only 15 to 20 percent of the world can be considered free, under even the most liberal interpretation of that world. That mans that about 80 percent of the world population today lives under an authoritarian government,” said Art Dula, primary trustee of the Heinlein Trust.
The Prometheus Award for Best Novel has been won over the decades by writers from the United States, England, Scotland and Finland – with Best Novel finalists from China, Japan, Canada and many other countries.
But Dave Freer is the first writer from the Southern Hemisphere to win a Prometheus Award for Best Novel.
Here is the fourth and final part of the Prometheus Interview with the Australian/Tasmanian author, the 2023 winner of the Prometheus for Best Novel for Cloud-Castles.
Q: Do you have any favorites among Prometheus Award winners?
A: It’s a good reading list, isn’t it? I think I have just about everything in the Hall of Fame.
With the annual Sept. 30 deadline coming up soon for LFS members to nominate works for the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction, this is a good time to remind ourselves what makes this annual category special.
LFS President William H. Stoddard did just that when he presented the Prometheus Hall of Fame category for Best Classic Fiction at the recent 43rd annual Prometheus awards ceremony. Here are Stoddard’s remarks:
Unlike the Best Novel Award, the Prometheus Hall of Fame can be given to works in any narrative or dramatic form — short fiction, narrative verse, plays, movies, television and video episodes or series, graphic novels, songs, and so on.
It’s restricted to works that first appeared at least twenty years ago.
A great many of our award winners are older than that, often dating to before the LFS was founded.
“Columbus sailed west for spices – and came back with Boulder Dam, Detroit and the Empire State Building. Every great new adventure of the human race has produced totally unexpected new profits,” he wrote in a 1947 letter, which the Heinlein Prize Trust’s primary trustee Art Dula shared recently with the LFS.
“The same inquisitive, questing, practical spirit that crossed the plains and conquered the air will turn up new wrinkles to make space and space flight pay,” Heinlein wrote in the letter, which Dula read from and commented on recently during the 43rd annual Prometheus awards ceremony.
“But what of that. You and I would go if there were never any dollar-and-cents reward in it. There is the greatest reason of all – the itch to go take a look.”
Art Dula, primary trustee of the Heinlein Prize Trust, spoke eloquently about the life and legacy of Robert Heinlein during the 43rd annual Prometheus Awards ceremony.
During his acceptance speech for the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Heinlein’s story “Free Men,” Dula read excerpts from – and commented on – one of the Grand Master’s most interesting but little-known letters, written over several months but completed Feb. 27, 1947.
“It’s a remarkable early document in Heinlein’s life,” Dula said.
John Tilden, president of The Heinlein Society, spoke Aug. 19 during the 2023 Prometheus Awards ceremony to accept the Prometheus Hall of Fame award for Best Classic Fiction for Robert Heinlein’s short story “Free Men.”
Tilden spoke eloquently about Heinlein’s legacy in general and about the setting and themes of his winning story in particular, while shedding some fascinating light on its provenance and place in Heinlein’s Future History series.
For the record, here is a transcript of Tilden’s speech:
BY JOHN TILDEN
It is my pleasure to provide a few remarks on this occasion of Robert Heinlein’s short story “Free Men” being inducted into the Prometheus Award’s Hall of Fame. I add my thanks to the Libertarian Futurist Society for this honor.