Who’s won the most Prometheus Awards for Best Novel? A reader’s guide, Part 2

By now, more than four decades after the Prometheus Awards were first presented, many authors have won the annual award for Best Novel – but just 10 writers have won more than one.

As outlined in a previous blog post, just four authors have won three Prometheus Awards each for Best Novel.

Cory Doctorow in 2014 accepting the Prometheus award

* Cory Doctorow

* Victor Koman

* Ken MacLeod

* L. Neil Smith

Ken MacLeod (Creative Commons photo)

 

Six more authors have won Prometheus Awards twice for Best Novel:

Travis Corcoran

Michael Flynn

Neal Stephenson (Creative Commons license)

James P. Hogan

Neal Stephenson

Vernor Vinge

F. Paul Wilson

William H. Stoddard giving novelist Vernor Vinge his 2014 Prometheus Special Award for Lifetime Achievement at ConDor in San Diego Photo courtesy of Stoddard

So what did each of the above six authors write that received such Prometheus Award recognition? And which novels should be recommended for first-time readers?

NEAL STEPHENSON

Stephenson won in 2005 for The System of the World and in 2016 for Seveneves.

Subtle but insightful in highlighting and contrasting the drawbacks of centralized power and politics with the messy but positive voluntary efforts of people and companies to solve various human challenges, Stephenson is known for epic, wide-ranging novels brimming with imagination and intelligent speculation.

I’d recommend System because of its fascinating scope and relevance, rooted in the real history of the emergence of the modern liberal/libertarian order over several centuries of progress, science and innovation.


TRAVIS CORCORAN

Travis Corcoran won for Best Novel in 2018 for The Powers of the Earth and again in 2019 for its sequel, Causes of Separation.

Both novels, part of Corcoran’s projected four-volume Aristillus series, are set on the moon and explore anarcho-capitalist efforts to thrive in a lunar colony while threatened by authoritarian Earth forces.

With those two awards, Corcoran achieved a first in the history of our awards: No one had previously won in consecutive years.

Corcoran also is the second author, following Cory Doctorow, to win a Prometheus for both a novel and its sequel. And that makes it easy to decide which novel to recommend reading first: The Powers of the Earth, because it’s satisfying and largely self-contained as a story but also nicely sets up the sequel.

MICHAEL FLYNN

Michael Flynn won in 1991 for In the Country of the Blind and in 1992 for Fallen Angels, which he co-authored with Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

At once a suspenseful adventure story, love story, historical novel and ingenious satire on conspiracy theories, In the Country of the Blind is in my opinion the Flynn novel to read first.

For this fascinating and multi-leveled work envisions a predictive historical science whose practitioners actively work to make society more easily predictable, raising important libertarian implications about lost freedom of choice and the perennial temptations and corruptions of absolute power.

JAMES P. HOGAN

James P. Hogan won in 1983 for Voyage From Yesteryear and in 1993 for The Multiplex Man.

Hogan, who died in 2010, is best known for writing hard-science fiction that also weaves in political realism and strong libertarian themes, often in the hybrid format of thrillers or scientific mysteries.

LFS members may prefer Voyage From Yesteryear, one of the few sf novels to portray both a fully free society and contrast it with an authoritarian system.

But general sf fans may prefer to read The Multiplex Man, which has powerful libertarian themes as a cautionary anti-authoritarian tale of Earthbound statism but also may be more representative of Hogan’s work because of its complex plot, interesting twists, multiple characters and suspenseful framing as a political techno-thriller.

 


VINGE

Vernor Vinge won in 1987 for Marooned in Real Time and in 2000 for A Deepness in the Sky.

Vinge, widely admired for his sophisticated blend of science, politics and intricate plotting in what came to be called the New Space Opera, was one of the first sf writers to explore the possibilities of cyberspace and the Singularity.

Both novels are brilliant, imaginative and fast-paced – and both introduce readers to a future that’s worth returning to (and that is the setting for other Vinge works.

But for pure thrills, pulse-pounding suspense and epic scope, I’d heartily recommend reading A Deepness in the Sky.


WILSON
F. Paul Wilson won in 1979 for Wheels Within Wheels and in 2004 for Sims.

F. Paul Wilson File photo

Wilson, a frequent Prometheus nominee, is notable for having won the very first Prometheus Award with an sf-mystery that’s part of his LaNague Federation trilogy (including Healer and An Enemy of the State, both inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame.)

Sims is self-contained, and thus a good first sampling of Wilson. But I’d recommend reading Wheels Within Wheels first for two reasons: It’s one of the few good sf mysteries, with a satisfying ending; and it’s an excellent introduction to Wilson’s great libertarian sf trilogy, which culminates in An Enemy of the State, which I consider must-reading for all libertarian sf fans.

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE:

* 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.

One thought on “Who’s won the most Prometheus Awards for Best Novel? A reader’s guide, Part 2”

  1. It should be noted that The System of the World is the third volume of what amounts to a massive novel in three volumes, The Baroque Cycle. It will not be easy to follow for anyone who hasn’t previously read Quicksilver and The Confusion, the first two parts. I would recommend doing so—The Baroque Cycle is both a more substantive and a more entertaining work than Seveneves—but undertaking it may be best for what James Joyce called “an ideal reader with an ideal insomnia.”

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