To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing review-essays of past award-winners that make clear why each winner deserves recognition as pro-freedom. Here is an Appreciation of H. Beam Piper and John McGuire’s A Planet for Texans (aka Lone Star Planet), inducted in 1999 into the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.
By Eric S. Raymond
In 2021, H. Beam Piper’s 1957 novel A Planet For Texans (co-written with John McGuire) can seem like little more than an appealing and rather lightweight adventure romp.
That’s because today we read it already having a good idea of what a libertarian minarchy would be like, and Piper’s New Texas seems like another exercise in familiar tropes.
In 1957 it was something much more, a bold and even shocking thought experiment – because it was among the very first works to propose that what we now think of as a libertarian minarchy would not immediately degenerate into a Hobbesian war against all, but could in fact be a stable and just society.
Continue reading A bold adventure and thought experiment about a free and just society: H. Beam Piper & John McGuire’s A Planet For Texans, the 1999 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner
Looking for libertarian fiction to read over the holidays?
Fiction that dramatizes the value of freedom and/or exposes the tragic horrors and injustices of tyranny, slavery and other forms of extreme statism isn’t published every day, but there’s more of it than many liberty lovers may know about.
Of course, the Prometheus Awards constitute such a list, with a focus on science fiction and fantasy. That’s always a good place to start looking, because the awards have racked up an impressive track record of Best Novel winners since 1979 and of Best Classic Fiction works inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame since 1983.
But in addition to that, other recommended-reading lists exist – including a just-updated and expanded article at www.artforliberty.com that mades interesting rationales for listing “The 26 Best Free Libertarian Novels.”
This annotated list, by “ADuckNamedJoe” (a pen name for writer J.B. Medved) focuses on fiction available free – and often online,, available for downloading without charge. (The list was just updated Dec. 14, 2020 to include three new novels.)
“Let’s face it, novels celebrating the free market and individual rights are pretty hard to come by. Most everything in the fiction section of your local bookstore is some paean to collectivism, or diatribe against the evils of capitalism and the “soul killing” nature of consumerism. But you don’t believe that stuff,” Medved writes.
“You know capitalism, mixed with a political system that protects individual rights, has been the single greatest force for good on the planet, lifting billions out of crushing poverty. You don’t want to read all that bilge about how you’re a bad, bad person for supporting it.
So what is a wayward libertarian to do? Especially when so much of your money is stolen by the government each year that you have very little left over to buy books?”
Continue reading Prometheus winners recognized on broader recommended-reading list of libertarian fiction
As part of the Libertarian Futurist Society Appreciation series of past award-winners, here is our Appreciation for Robert Heinlein’s Red Planet, the 1996 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner:
By Anders Monsen
Many of Robert Heinlein’s novels featuring children have been lumped together and called “juvies” (or juveniles), as if they are children’s books. But, just like many Disney or Pixar animated movies, there are aspects of these works that go over the heads of a younger audience, whether those teens read the books as they first were published in the 1940s or 1950s, or whether they’re read today.
Red Planet, first published in 1949, is significant in terms of Heinlein’s bibliography, both as being one of the earliest juvies, and also because it introduces elements of Martian mythology that later appeared in Stranger in a Strange Land .
Ostensibly an adventure story centered around two boys on the run from an oppressive schoolmaster and conniving colony governor on Mars, Red Planet has two other themes or threads that elevate the novel beyond an adventure story. And make no mistake, this is written as an adventure story, with trials and tribulations that propel the action, for both the young and adult characters.
Continue reading An early “juvie” adventure in liberty on a Wild West Mars: Robert Heinlein’s Red Planet, the 1996 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner
Here is an Appreciation of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein’s 1966 Hugo-winning novel, a bestseller that popularized the libertarian slogan TANSTAAFL (“There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch”) as a rallying cry in a story imagining an American-Revolution-style revolt for liberty on the moon.
By William H. Stoddard
Science fiction writers have been exploring ideas that we now call “libertarian” since before the genre was named. Rudyard Kipling, E.E. Smith, Robert Heinlein, C.M. Kornbluth, Eric Frank Russell, Poul Anderson, Edgar Pangborn, and others presented such ideas – along with other, unlibertarian ideas such as Smith’s portrayal of a literal War on Drugs.
But it was Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress that established libertarian science fiction as a distinct genre. Nothing could have been more fitting than its being one of the first two books elected to the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Hall of Fame.
Continue reading Lunar revolution, rational anarchism & TANSTAAFL: An Appreciation of Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, a 1983 Prometheus Hall of Fame co-winner for Best Classic Fiction
With this combined Appreciation for the past two Prometheus Award winners for Best Novel, the Libertarian Futurist Society’s weekly Appreciation series of all our past winners in that category is complete – providing a handy reference guide that highlights the awards’ diverse history while making clear why each winner deserved recognition as pro-freedom or anti-authoritarian sf/fantasy.
Here is William H. Stoddard’s combined Appreciation of Travis Corcoran’s The Powers of the Earth and Causes of Separation, the 2018 and 2019 Prometheus Award winners for Best Novel:
By William H. Stoddard
In 2017, Travis Corcoran funded the publication of two books through Kickstarter, and released the first, Powers of the Earth, which won the Prometheus Award for Best Novel. In 2018, he released the second, Causes of Separation. The two volumes are described as the first half of a planned four-volume series, Aristillus (named for a lunar crater), but they actually make up an integrated and self-contained story: Had they both appeared the same year, they could have been nominated as a single work.
It’s long been the policy of the Libertarian Futurist Society to give awards to “the work, not the author”: A book can win Best Novel even if its author doesn’t self-identify as a libertarian, so long as its theme is pro-liberty. A corollary of this is that “pro-liberty” doesn’t mean adhering tightly to a specific interpretation of libertarianism.
If a novel illuminates the meaning of individual rights and a free society, or suggests a way to establish them, or explores the functioning of such a society, or warns against the evils of authoritarianism, or critiques or deconstructs an ideology opposed to liberty – then it can be considered for a Prometheus award. Nonetheless, books whose vision is wholeheartedly libertarian are welcome discoveries, and the Aristillus novels were such a discovery.
Continue reading Anarcho-capitalism on the Moon, intelligent nonhumans and libertarian sf: Travis Corcoran’s The Powers of the Earth & Causes of Separation, the 2018 and 2019 Prometheus Award winners for Best Novel
By Michael Grossberg
To highlight and honor the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society is celebrating in 2019, we are providing a reader’s guide with capsule Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, starting with the Best Novel category.
If you’ve ever wondered why a particular work of fiction has been recognized with a Prometheus Award and what libertarian sf fans see in these award-winning works, then our upcoming series of Appreciations should be must reading – as well as informative and illuminating!
Or, if you’re simply looking for something enjoyable and stimulating to read within the realm of science fiction and fantasy, which also illuminates abiding questions about the perennial tensions between Liberty and Power, an excellent place to begin is with this recommended reading list of award-winning fiction (to be published here on a regular weekly (or biweekly) schedule, starting now (September 2019).
These capsule appreciations are being written and edited by LFS members (including LFS founder Michael Grossberg, LFS President William H. Stoddard, and veteran LFS leaders and board members Chris Hibbert, Tom Jackson, Anders Monsen, Eric Raymond, and others). In a few cases, the Appreciations will be based in part on reviews printed in the Prometheus quarterly (1982-2016) or the Prometheus blog (2017-today).
Since 1979, a wide array of novels, novellas, stories, films, TV series and other works of fiction have won Prometheus awards by highlighting in fascinatingly different ways the value of voluntary social cooperation over institutionalized State coercion, the importance of respecting human rights (even for that smallest minority, the individual), and the evils of tyranny (whether on the Left or the Right).
Continue reading A 40th Anniversary Retrospective: Introducing a Reader’s Guide to the Prometheus Award Winners
By Michael Grossberg
Have spacesuit, will travel?
If only Robert Heinlein were still alive today, what would he think of the progress humankind is making in outer space by harnessing the creative energies of free enterprise?
Continue reading How would Heinlein react to today’s space news and progress?
By William H. Stoddard
Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is a classic of libertarian science fiction; along with Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, it was the first winner of the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Hall of Fame award in 1983. Many science fiction fans, and not only libertarians, regard it as one of his best novels. But for nearly half a century after its original publication in 1966, it inspired no obvious imitators. Now, that’s started to change, with the appearance of multiple novels that explore the idea of a “free Luna” in the near future.
In 2015, Ian McDonald published Luna: New Moon, followed in 2017 by Luna: Wolf Moon; as of the time this is written, a third volume, Luna: Moon Rising is shortly to appear. In 2017, Travis Corcoran published the first volume of his Aristillus series, The Powers of the Earth, winner of the Prometheus Award for best novel, followed in 2018 by Causes of Separation. Also in 2017, Andy Weir, the author of The Martian, published Artemis. All three novels or series have important elements in common with each other and with Heinlein’s novel — but at the same time, they develop them in significantly different ways.
Continue reading Back to the Moon: Lunar fiction from Heinlein to McDonald, Weir and Corcoran
The very first Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, back in 1983, was given, in a tie, to Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, published in 1966, won the Hugo for best novel in 1967. It was a favorite of mine when I read it during the 1970s, as a high school student. Evidently it was a favorite of lots of people.
Tyler Cowen, the influential libertarian-leaning blogger, author and columnist, recently re-read The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and found that it holds up. His blog post is not very long, so I’m going to quote it in full:
Yes, by Robert A. Heinlein. I wasn’t expecting too much from this one, which I last read at age 13. Published in 1966, it nonetheless holds up very well and in fact has aged gracefully. It is surprisingly feminist, not at all dewey-eyed about actual rebellion, does not sound antiquated in its tech issues (e.g., malicious AI), has China as central to geopolitics and circa 2076 Greater China controls most of southeast Asia, and the book is full of economics and public choice. TANSTAAFL is coined, but when understood as a section heading it is actually a Burkean slogan, not a libertarian or Friedmanite idea. The lunar rebellion does not achieve independence easily or by keeping its previous friendly nature, nor does Earth receive those “grain shipments” gratis, so to speak. Burke is the Straussian upshot of the whole book — beware societies based on new principles! This is also perhaps the best novel for understanding the logic of a future conflict with North Korea, furthermore Catalonians should read it too. Most of all, I recall upon my reread that this book was my very first exposure to game-theoretic reasoning.
NB: The “character” of Adam Selene is poking fun at H.G. Wells’s lunar Selenites, from The First Man in the Moon, arguably suggesting they descended from earlier human settlers.
Tyler’s post inspired 55 comments (so far!)
— Tom Jackson