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.
Many people have viewed science fiction as all about futuristic technology – starships, robots, interstellar travel, space habitats, vast mega-engineering feats, etc.
Yet, some of the best so-called “sf” of the past century has been what is sometimes called “social science fiction.”
Such works may incorporate various speculative forms of advanced technology, especially to work out how such technology affects people and changes culture.
Yet the most interesting aspects of such “social sf” is how it illuminates the various socio-political, economic and cultural implications of new ideas, different attitudes or fundamental changes in how a society’s norms, laws and system of government work.
In the rare and exemplary case of Barry Longyear’s The Hook, the 2021 Prometheus Best Novel winner, the dramatic and fascinating focus is on what happens to a society when its government is abolished – but other governments continue to threaten its freedom and independence.
“Tower of Horses,” Leslie Fish’s rich Darkover novella, may be one of the most libertarian stories ever recognized with a Prometheus Award.
With its very believable and human characters, suspenseful plot and resonant coming-of-age and temptations-of-power themes, Fish’s novella is certainly one of the most satisfying, and emotionally involving.
Together with Fish’s epic folk-song “The Horsetamer’s Daughter,” the novella received a Special Prometheus Award in 2014 – the first time within the history of the awards that a song was recognized, and the first time that a paired song and novella have received a joint award.
To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history, the Libertarian Futurist Society since 2019 has been publishing a series of Appreciations of all past award winners that make clear why they were recognized. Here is our Appreciation for J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the 2009 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction:
“Power tends to corrupt; and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” –Lord Acton (1834-1902)
“One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all,
and in the darkness bind them.”
– The Ring inscription in The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings is not only one of the greatest works of fantasy but also a cautionary libertarian fable about the inevitable temptations of power.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic trilogy – a three-part novel (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King) published in 1954-1955 – charts a social, political, personal and supernatural struggle between freedom and absolute tyranny.
To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing a series of review-essays explaining why past winners deserved recognition. Here’s our Appreciation for Poul Anderson’s The Stars Are Also Fire, the 1995 Prometheus Best Novel winner.
Poul Anderson’s 1994 novel offers a thought-provoking scenario in a distant future in which man-made artificial intelligences have come to dominate human beings, while many people still struggle for freedom and independence in a new era of space exploration.