The Hogan interview, part 4: What he loved about America, why he moved to the U.S. and how his childhood shaped his pro-technology, pro-liberty views

By Michael Grossberg

For posterity, the Prometheus blog is proud to be the first to post a lengthy and revealing interview that two-time Prometheus winner James P. Hogan gave just after the turn of the 21st century.

James P. Hogan (Creative Commons license)

More than 90 percent of that interview was not included in a newspaper profile of Hogan, so it appears here uncut and complete for the first time.

Hogan (1941-2020) sadly is no longer with us, but almost all of his 26 novels remain in print – and many are worth reading or rereading for their ingenious premises, imaginative speculations (some of which have since come true) and their intelligent, insightful and realistic blend of science and politics.

Here’s the fourth part of the Hogan interview:

Q: Growing up, how did you develop your adult views favoring reason, science and liberty?

A: I was born a cripple, with badly deformed legs.
“My parents were told that I had a 50/50 chance of walking, and that I might have to live in a wheelchair.
My mother and father, an Irish farm laborer, consulted with doctors and supported surgery for me when I was just nine weeks old.

Q: Was the surgery a success?

A: The surgeries continued until I was 14. They did a superb job. I had big braces up both legs, with support boots. That gradually got smaller.
When they took the cast off, my father took me to buy my first pair of regular ordinary shoes. My shoes had to be surgically built in hospitals.

So I benefited immensely from science and progress.

Q: Why did you decide to move from England to the United States?

A: When my company, Digital, first sent me to the U.S., it was the early 1970s. American seemed a wonderland across the ocean, with men who had walked on the moon, and people building 747s.

I discovered I was an Americanophile. I liked the individualism, the can-do attitude… a contrast to children, raised within the confines of the English class system and brainwashed by the idea that technology is bad.

Q: How did that negative English attitude about technology affect you?

A: When I decided to move from electronics to a job in the computer industry, I applied to several British companies. They had some brilliant technical people, but the companies were not good marketers.
From that day on, I said I’d never work for a British company again – only American companies.

Q: Did moving to the U.S. also help your emerging career as a writer?

A: When the company moved me over in 1977 to the States to manages the sales training program for Digital in Massachusetts, that allowed me to be close to New York, to Judy Lynn Del Rey and Lester Del Rey and their publishing business, and get to know them socially.

Q: What did you learn from the Del Reys and other sf publishers, editors and authors you met in the United States?

A: They all gave me the same message: The biggest mistake a new writer makes, I was told, is to get one book published, let it go to your head, and quit your job, buy a cigarette holder and a floppy hat.

So I set three conditions that must be met before I quit my job:
1. Write five books that are published.
2. Develop positive sales. Sales often decrease after the first-month peak. So each peak must be higher than the one before, with your readership waiting for the next book, and you have a loyal and growing readership.
3. You have enough money in the bank – cash – to last a year.

People can delude themselves in outstanding ways to believe what they want to. But as a general rule, when you quit your job, your income will decline 50 percent.

Note: Check out the previously posted parts of the Hogan interview: Part One, Part Two and Part Three.


* 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 the full set of published appreciation-reviews of past winners.

* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.

Watch  videos of past Prometheus Awards ceremonies, Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussions with noted sf authors and leading libertarian writers, and other LFS programs on the Prometheus Blog’s Video page.

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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 and differences.

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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.

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