So far, in the first two parts of his Prometheus-blog interview, SF writer Karl K. Gallagher has answered questions about his own novels. Now, in the wide-ranging conclusion, the focus shifts to other authors and his favorite works – including the “sense of wonder” and “sense of freedom” that he gets from his favorite pro-liberty sf novels.
Q: Which authors in particular have influenced you most as a writer – whether in terms of their style, themes or spirit?
Here is the second part of the Prometheus Blog interview with Wil McCarthy, the 2022 Best Novel winner for Rich Man’s Sky.
Q: Were you aware of the Prometheus Awards before receiving your first Best Novel nomination this past year?
A: I have been aware of the award, yes. I used to think of it as a purely political award, which I think perhaps it was in the early days. But when you see it going to people like Cory Doctorow (Little Brother)and Charles Stross (Glasshouse) — both excellent, thoughtful writers, and clearly not Libertarians in any traditional American sense — I think it’s easier to see it as a genuine literary prize that rewards great ideas and great storytelling.
Here is the acceptance speech by sf writer Wil McCarthy, winner of the 2022 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for Rich Man’s Sky. McCarthy presented his speech Aug. 13, 2022, via Zoom as part of the LFS’ annual awards ceremony, which included two-time Prometheus winner Travis Corcoran as presenter of the Best Novel category.
BY WIL MCCARTHY
Howdy. I’m very happy to be here, and I’d like to thank all of you for inviting me. Yours is a great organization with a noble purpose, and I can only imagine the energy that goes into it. I think it’s ironic that I’m the one getting recognition today, when you all are the ones doing the work. My only regret is that I’m not able to thank you in person.
Libertarian Futurist Society leaders are remembering Bruce Sommer, a stalwart West Coast science-fiction fan and left-libertarian who helped sustain the Prometheus Awards for many years.
Bruce made a big difference as one of the earliest LFS members – and one of the few Life members – who remained active year after year, reading potential award candidates, weighing the pros and cons of nominees and serving for years as a board member.
Yet, even after disability and ongoing health issues began to limit Bruce’s energy and ability to work full-time, he expressed his love of science-fiction fandom and his libertarian ideals of a better and more just, peaceful and cooperative world by reading widely and diligently year after year to find science fiction and fantasy novels that might fit the distinctive pro-liberty and anti-authoritarian focus of the Prometheus Awards.
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.
To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ diverse four-decade-plus history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian work of sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society has been publishing since 2019 a series of Appreciations of all past award-winners.
Here is an Appreciation of Vernor Vinge’s story “True Names,” a 2007 Prometheus Hall of Fame co-winner for Best Classic Fiction.
By Michael Grossberg and Chris Hibbert “True Names” is a seminal work of the cyberpunk genre.
A landmark when it was published in 1981, Vernor Vinge’s now-classic story gave the public their first glimpse of cyberspace and showed how the struggle for control might penetrate the new medium.
One of the earliest works of fiction to present a fully detailed concept of cyberspace, the story also explores themes of anarchism and trans-humanism that are of great interest to libertarian futurists.
The story follows the progress of a group of computer hackers who keep their true identities secret while being among the first to adopt a new full-immersion virtual-reality technology. They do so out of curiosity or an entrepreneurial desire to profit – both respectable and even laudable motivations from the libertarian perspective that appreciates the crucial role of innovation and free markets in advancing human progress, prosperity, well-being and knowledge.
The Libertarian Futurist Society is celebrating the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade-plus history by publishing an Appreciation series of review-essays that strive to make clear why each award-winner deserves recognition as a pro-freedom work.
Here’s an appreciation of Vernor Vinge’s story “The Ungoverned,” the 2004 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.
“The Ungoverned” is one of the rare sf stories to portray a plausible and fully libertarian society. Moreover, Vernor Vinge does so with intelligence, subtlety, vision and enjoyable narrative twists.
Set in the ungoverned lands of a recovering future Kansas after a social collapse, Vernor Vinge’s 1985 novella focuses on what happens when New Mexico’s statist government tries to invade anarchist-libertarian Kansas with unexpected results.
Few individuals have made more of a difference to the Libertarian Futurist Society and the Prometheus Awards in the 21st century than William H. Stoddard.
Bill, as he’s known to friends and fellow LFS members, has led the nonprofit, all-volunteer group of freedom-loving sf fans for more than a decade as president of the board of directors.
But Stoddard has done far more for many years, writing reviews of sf/fantasy for the Prometheus newsletter and more recently, this blog, and serving for decades as a key judge on both finalist-judging committees for the Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction categories of the Prometheus Award.
Here is LFS Secretary Michael Grossberg’s interview with Stoddard about how he became an sf fan, a libertarian and an active LFS member and what are some of his favorite writers and Prometheus-winning works.
Q: What Prometheus Award winners especially excited you or pleased you when they won for Best Novel?
A: For the Best Novel Award, I’d name two.
Michael Flynn’s In the Country of the Blind (1991 award) asked “what if Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine had come into use in the nineteenth century?” in the form, not of an alternate history, but of a hidden history where multiple secretive groups used predictive social science (made possible by Analytical Engines) to create the actual history of the twentieth century from behind the scenes; it was one of my main influences when I wrote GURPS Steampunk for Steve Jackson Games in 2000.
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.