The Best of the Blog: Three 2023 posts worth remembering (and rereading)

By Michael Grossberg

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.

Robert Heinlein (Photo courtesy of the Heinlein Trust)

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.

Here is an overview and sampling (with convenient links and tantalizing excerpts to whet your appetite to read or reread them)) of those three excellent examples of the “Best of the Blog” in 2023:

Karl Gallagher in his library with Heinlein anthologies (Photo courtesy of author)

GALLAGHER PAYS TRIBUTE TO HEINLEIN

It’s not often that an acclaimed science-fiction author contributes a review or essay to the blog, but much appreciated when one does! That happened this year, when Karl K. Gallagher, a frequent Prometheus Best Novel finalist and a huge Robert Heinlein fan, wrote “How and Why to Fight for Freedom,” an appreciation review-essay (Oct. 21, 2023) of Heinlein’s story “Free Men,” the 2023 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

Here’s an excerpt:

“It’s a grim story, with the protagonist left bleeding out as his followers flee to a new hiding place,” Gallagher writes.

“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?

“It’s a tale of heroism.

“Not the dramatic, medal-winning heroism of charging forward to smash the enemy. But the unsung, dirty, necessary heroism of refusing to give up, making the enemy bleed, and preserving the ember of freedom…

“…This story drives home that defeat isn’t the end.

Keep working.

Keep fighting.

Organize your friends.

Build something. And win the struggle in the long run.”

ECONOMICS IN SCIENCE FICTION

Among the year’s most fascinating blog essays – offering insights unlikely to be found anywhere else but our distinctive blog – is William H. Stoddard’s discussion (Nov. 5, 2023) of “Economics in Science Fiction: The Specter of Overproduction.”

His knowledgeable essay covers a variety of science fiction novels by such well-known authors as Frederik Pohl (The Midas Plague), Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) and Heinlein (Beyond This Horizon) –  and notably corrects common misconceptions about alleged overproduction.

“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,” Stoddard writes.

“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.”

A LIBERTARIAN OSCAR WINNER?

Jamie Lee Curtis as an IRS agent in Everything Everywhere All at Once. File photo

Several Prometheus posts offered commentaries on some of the year’s cultural, social and artistic milestones, including the largely unheralded first time that a libertarian science-fiction film (or a film that came closer to that description than any before) won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Did something significant to science fiction – actually, unprecedented – just happen at the Academy Awards?

“It wasn’t really highlighted in any media reports I came across, but isn’t Everything Everywhere All at Once the first outright science fiction film to win the Oscar for Best Picture?

“And not only that, but the Best Picture winner is especially intriguing to consider from a libertarian-futurist perspective: Is it possible that this year’s Academy Awards recognized one of the most pro-freedom films to ever win an Oscar for best picture?

As Reason magazine observed, the exhilarating, imaginative and poignant film doesn’t embrace libertarianism or any other ideology per se. Instead, the movie dramatizes the crucial difference that making our own choices, amid life’s inevitable challenges and uncertainties, can make in enhancing our pursuit of happiness.

The blog post’s conclusion:

“…its success – at the box office and with awards – is very encouraging as a sign that individualistic and libertarian values and themes continue to be explored and taken seriously within American popular culture.”

And on that optimistic note, here’s to a Happier (and free-er) New Year!

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE LFS:

* Prometheus winners: For the full list of Prometheus winners, finalists and nominees – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to all published appreciation-reviews of past winners since 1979.

* Watch videos of past Prometheus Awards ceremonies (including the recent 2023 ceremony with inspiring and amusing speeches by Prometheus-winning authors Dave Freer and Sarah Hoyt),Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussions with noted sf authors and leading libertarian writers, and other LFS programs on the Prometheus Blog’s Video page.

* Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards and support a cultural and literary strategy to appreciate and honor freedom-loving fiction, join the Libertarian Futurist Society, a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.

Libertarian futurists believe that culture matters! We understand that the arts and literature can be vital, and in some ways even more powerful than politics in the long run, by sparking innovation, better ideas, positive social change, and mutual respect for each other’s rights, individuality and human dignity.

 

 

 

 

Published by

Michael Grossberg

Michael Grossberg, who founded the LFS in 1982 to help sustain the Prometheus Awards, has been an arts critic, speaker and award-winning journalist for five decades. Michael has won Ohio SPJ awards for Best Critic in Ohio and Best Arts Reporting (seven times). He's written for Reason, Libertarian Review and Backstage weekly; helped lead the American Theatre Critics Association for two decades; and has contributed to six books, including critical essays for the annual Best Plays Theatre Yearbook and an afterword for J. Neil Schulman's novel The Rainbow Cadenza. Among books he recommends from a libertarian-futurist perspective: Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist & How Innovation Works, David Boaz's The Libertarian Mind and Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.

One thought on “The Best of the Blog: Three 2023 posts worth remembering (and rereading)”

  1. As always, an amazing write up, Michael. Thank you for reminding me, with everybpost, of why we continue our fight –

    these are the voices they would silence. These are the ideas they would erase…

    those who love Power hate those who would dethrone them.

    Well done!

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