In his apt introduction and presentation of the Prometheus Hall of Fame category at the recent 2022 Prometheus Awards ceremony, LFS President William H. Stoddard explains why this annual awards category is such an important part of the Libertarian Futurist Society’s awards program – and why this year’s inductee by Robert Heinlein is so deserving of recognition.
BY WILLIAM H. STODDARD
And now it’s time for the Hall of Fame Award. For this presentation I need to wear several hats! In my capacity as chair of the Hall of Fame committee, which selects each year’s finalists, I’ll be introducing the award. We had announced that F. Paul Wilson would make the presentation, but he’s unable to attend, for personal reasons, so I’ll act as presenter as well.
Why is there a Hall of Fame Award? Looking back, I believe the original intent was to establish a body of recognized libertarian science fiction. We gave two awards in 1982, and for some years thereafter.
One went to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, arguably science fiction—it was reviewed twice in Astounding Science Fiction, by the regular book reviewer, P. Schuyler Miller, who disliked it, and by John W. Campbell, who praised it — and, I think, unmistakably the greatest pulp novel ever written.
And the other went to Robert A. Heinlein — the first of many — for The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, which has become the founding work of libertarian science fiction as a subgenre.
These works, and immediate successors including 1984, Fahrenheit 451, The Great Explosion, and the Illuminatus! trilogy, served as a canon of sorts by which we defined our concept of “libertarian science fiction.”
Note that from very early on, by including George Orwell’s 1984, we established the principle that awards honored the work as such, and weren’t limited to some special group of card-carrying libertarians.
Beyond that, there’s a deeper intent. In ancient Rome, one of the crucial virtues was pietas. This was the root of our word “piety,” but its meaning was not specifically religious. It commonly meant remembering those who went before you, being thankful for their achievements, honoring the price they paid for them, and taking them as an example.
In making this award, we are showing this kind of piety toward the worthy achievements of earlier creators.
This year, the Hall of Fame committee chose four finalists:
* Citizen of the Galaxy, a novel by Robert A. Heinlein;
* That Hideous Strength, a novel by C.S. Lewis, the conclusion of his “space trilogy”;
* Circus World, a collection of linked stories by Barry Longyear; and
* “The Trees,” a song by Rush, written by Neal Peart.
This year’s award goes to Citizen of the Galaxy, Robert A. Heinlein’s eighth work to be placed in the Hall of Fame.
Originally published as a juvenile by Charles Scribner’s Sons, Citizen of the Galaxy also joins our Young Adult Honor Roll.
In 1964, several years after the publication of Citizen of the Galaxy, Robert Heinlein wrote, in a letter to Bjo Trimble, “Ginny and I are neither Democrats nor Republicans . . . We are libertarians — i.e., we believe in freedom and individualism to the utter maximum attainable at all times and under all circumstances . . . personal freedom in any and every possible way at all times—with meticulous respect for the other person’s equal freedom. (And that, incidentally, is the only sort of ‘equality’ I believe in . . .).”
It would be hard to find a better statement of our outlook as LFS members.
In Citizen of the Galaxy, in particular, Heinlein’s young protagonist, Thorby (at various times, Thorby Baslim, Thorby Baslim-Krausa, and Thor Rudbek), starts out as a slave, and a badly abused one because of his stubborn defiance of slavery.
Over the course of the novel, he experiences wildly different social situations, from poverty to exceptional wealth as an interstellar trader to extreme wealth as the heir to a corporate empire on Earth. But in all of them, he confronts the issue of personal freedom.
In the course of this journey, he acquires mentors. Most importantly, he is bought by a crippled beggar, Baslim, who is more than he seems, and raised as the beggar’s son. But he’s also influenced by the matriarch of the trader clan that takes him in, as a debt to Baslim; she teaches him the need to have rights and obligations clearly defined, which stands him in good stead in dealing with the corporate management on Earth.
A less obvious mentor is his cousin Leda, stepdaughter of Rudbek’s principal manager, who largely engineers his struggle for control of the corporation —and who, when he thanks her, says “Thor, this is for Rudbek!”
On the other hand, Thorby encounters counter-mentors, such as his dead father’s parents, who insist that the slavery that left him with scars does not exist, and who are horrified when he tells them of destroying a pirate ship to save his Free Trader family from enslavement. They judge him by the standards of philosophical pacifism; Thorby is never more libertarian than when he rejects that standard and takes pride in self-defense and the defense of others.
In the end, that becomes the value he lives for, by his own free choice. And that is why Citizen of the Galaxy deserved a Prometheus Award.
Watch the recently recorded video of the 2022 Prometheus Awards ceremony, which includes an acceptance speech by Best Novel winner Wil McCarthy (Rich Man’s Sky) and two acceptance speeches by Heinlein Trust and Heinlein Society leaders Art Dula and John Tilden, as well as a richly metaphoric and mythology-framed speech about the importance of libertarian science fiction by Best Novel award presenter Travis Corcoran, a two-time Prometheus Best Novel winner.
* 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.
* Prometheus winners: For the 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.
* 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.
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.