The power of Prometheus: 2023 Best Novel winner Dave Freer shares thoughts about the Greek legend (and Heinlein)

Australian writer Dave Freer had some interesting thoughts about the Greek God Prometheus and Robert Heinlein after learning that his novel Cloud-Castles has won the 2023 Prometheus Award for Best Novel.

“According to Aeschylus, (Prometheus) caused blind hope to live in the hearts of men (a goal of my writing if ever had one),” Freer wrote in “Prometheus Bound,” his latest post on the Mad Genius Club blog.

“A trickster who stole fire from the gods for man and pushed them towards science and technology, as well deceiving the powers-that-be (Zeus) of the day, into choosing the rubbish which looks good on the outside, instead of the good that looks rubbish on the outside… he’s my sort of guy,” Freer said.

Australian writer Dave Freer Photo courtesy of author

Freer also acknowledges the late great Heinlein, whose novelette “Free Men” was recognized as a winner this year in the other annual Prometheus category for Best Classic Fiction. (Heinlein’s story will be inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame and Freer will accept his award for Best Novel at a live Zoom Prometheus Awards ceremony, tentatively scheduled for early Saturday afternoon – Eastern U.S. time – on Aug. 19. Stay tuned for more awards-ceremony updates.)

Robert Heinlein (Creative Commons license)

“I feel a total imposter when looking at some the other works so honored over the years. Imagine being recognized alongside Robert Heinlein? My cup overflows,” Freer wrote.


The rest of his blog post – well worth reading – discusses his thinking behind Cloud-Castles and what inspired its many fascinatingly different cultures, societies and settings, both human and alien.

Freer explains how his comical adventure/coming-of-age novel differs from most “modern sf” and how the different human societies and cultures he portrays in the vast clouds above a gas-giant planet reflect different aspects of Australia – both good (the frontier outback culture) and bad (the bureaucratic, centralized and authoritarian aspects and trends of the country).

“The story is not set in a future which is thinly dressed up culturally and outlook east coast urban US. It’s profoundly Australian and makes fun of the sacred cows of the above,” Freer writes.

“There are good and bad aspects to that – The part of Australia that accepts authority no matter how illogical and outright nasty, that accepts that only criminals and the government should be armed – and the part of Australia that gave us the Eureka Stockade, and the self-sufficient independence of the those who moved deep into the outback – as often as not to avoid authority.

“I attempted to create the two extremes – an extremely constrained urban environment, and one in which the normal constraint on working anarchy – the ability to leave any form of constraint without too much difficulty. How co-operation could/must work if there really is no effective means of compulsion (all governments trend toward compulsion and the reduction of individual freedoms. It takes constant effort to restrain this tendency.)”

Freer wrote Cloud-Castles consciously “as a thing of layers, each intended for different purposes.” To entertain. To make people laugh. And to make people think.

Freer ends his column on an inspiring note, championing freedom, the power of ideas and why seeing freedom dramatized in fiction is so important.

“There are lots of ideas there. I don’t preach them or dictate them. I just show them. There are various others. And finally… well I raise hope in the hearts of men. Freedom can exist,” Freer writes.

“Once we see that, it is not a flame that dies easily.”

Visit the Mad Genius Club blog at

Check out the LFS press release about the 2023 Prometheus winners.

For more about Dave Freer winning the Prometheus Award for Cloud-Castles, and becoming the first Australian writer and first writer from the Southern Hemisphere to receive Prometheus recognition, check out this recent blog post.


* 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.

Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.





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.

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