Volume 16, Number 1, Fall, 1998

Prometheus Awards

Toastmaster: Gregory Bedford

I'm so happy to be here and to see an entire room full of libertarians. As you know, there's a theorem about it; if there are n libertarians in a room (this is an existence proof) there are at least n plus six opinions in the room about any given subject. That's been demonstrated empirically and theoretically. I think it was Heinlein who worked out the proof.

I'm here, though I'm not particularly regarded as a libertarian writer, although not because I don't do libertarian things in my books, but because I'm not really a political novelist. But I happen to be a libertarian. You see, there are some libertarians who don't talk about it obsessively. (Much laughter). But, I do have a beard and a mustache (more laughters) each required. And, there's a legend that libertarians typically are overweight with a beard and a mustache, but in fact hardly any of them ever are, and I'm not overweight either.

I'm happy to do this though, because I've always been in favor of libertarians having a separate voice in science fiction and in the country as a whole. I always vote for the Libertarian Party, which, you know, people always say, "Isn't that a kind of a fatalistic gesture," or, "Why are you throwing away your vote?" And I always reed them that at least I can then say, that I'm not responsible for what happens. Which is actually my main goal in politics, to not be held accountable.

So, we've got two awards to give away and we're going to turn it over to a quick and dirty panel about Free Space, and it's going to be a free panel.

The first procedure is to hand off the Prometheus Award, and I think I'm supposed to hand it off to Brad, who is going to read the finalists and then hand the award off, and it's going to be a big surprise.

Presenter: Brad Linaweaver

Thank you very much. As Greg has just intimated, there is no surprise this year, so I'm going to do this a little differently than previous presentations. The nominees for best libertarian novel of the year are: Firestar by Michael Flynn, Wildside by Steven Gould, Paths to Otherwhere by James Hogan, Kings of the High Frontier by someone named Victor Koman, Sliders by Brad Linaweaver-that's a hard name to pronounce-and The Stone Canal by Ken MacLeod. We all know, already, that the winner is Victor Koman for Kings of the High Frontier (lengthy applause).

I have one comment that I'm going to make before I sit down and let him make his speech. I sometimes get the impression that we, despite living in the United States of America, are living in enemy occupied territory. I don't know what war we lost. I don't know at what point America went so far in a different direction from the things we believe. But I do know this: Given the attention Victor's had from this novel-and as agent Ashley Grayson said, he's never seen any book get this kind of attention that is not out as a conventional book-the fact we cannot get a New York publisher to make a deal for this proves we're in enemy occupied territory. Thank you [applause].

Hall of Fame acceptance speech: J. Neil Schulman

The Hall of Fame Award was setup by the Libertarian Futurist Society to honor works of fiction which were published before there was a Prometheus Award. Or at least, old enough that they can now qualify for the Hall of Fame award. The works have to be published ten years before being eligible for the Award. This year's finalists for the Hall of Fame are Emphyrio by Jack Vance, Oath of Fealty by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper, A Planet for Texans by H. Beam Piper, and Methuselah's Children by Robert A. Heinlein. Now I'm here both to present the award and accept the award on behalf of the winner, Methuselah's Children by Robert A. Heinlein.

In preparation for accepting the award on behalf of Heinlein-Virginia Heinlein specifically asked me to accept for the second time on Heinlein's behalf; the last time was for Red Planet (at the LA Worldcon in 1996-I've been rereading Methuselah's Children.

This is a book which I haven't read probably for ten years, although one I've read a number of times. It was originally published, I believe by Street and Smith in 1941. (I assume that would be astounding, comments Benford) Astounding, yes. This was a book written in 1940, I assume, published in 1941. I think it establishes Heinlein as a prophet. He has the ability to understand the future, more so than almost anything else I can think of. His accuracy is astonishing. I think the best example of that, is he describes from his vantagepoint of 1941 headlines from April through June, 1969. l'd like to thread some of the selected headlines from April through June, 1969, which Heinlein described as "a period in history that was sometimes loosely termed 'the crazy years'."

But, predictions about the future are sometimes the least of what Heinlein was doing in this book. Heinlein, in essence, predicted the Holocaust.

You have here a group of people, who are described. --pretty much like latter days Jews. Basically, through genetic engineering, no not genetic engineering, through breeding. They've selected themselves out through long life. And so you have a group of people who are regularly living into their 150s, and 160s, and 170s.

The first thing that happens is when they reveal their longevity, everybody wants to round them up and get this secret to long life out of them, even if they have to kill them along the way.

So you have a group here which is basically singled out by a society which supposedly believes in rights and civil liberties. But the minute anything convenient comes along they'll immediately throw it out the window. What you have here is a text book description by Heinlein of how guarantees on paper don't mean anything if people decide that there is something they want.

Heinlein, introducing the character for the first time of Lazarus Long has Lazarus hiding all his weapons in a society which doesn't believe in carrying personal weapons. Lazarus comments to himself that there are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous people. That's typical, sort of gems of wisdom that are sprinkled throughout the book. Kings of the High Frontier some years later was about the engineering of private spaceflight, Lazarus Long had a simpler solution: simply steal a space ship (laughter) and that is certainly a solution which I as a libertarian can't object to too much as this was a case where a space ship was out there for a long time. Hey, nobody was in it so go ahead an' grab it.

But, it's just a wonderful book and future history of which this is a part of is just a wonderful description of the ideal of what libertarianism could create and how fragile it is. Heinlein discussed concepts here, many of which he got in reading on general semantics, which had to do with social dynamics and things like that, how people can be whipped up into a frenzy very quickly.

He understood the dynamics of mass hysteria, extreme wealth, and for that reason alone this book would be worthy of a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. Overall, Heinlein as a writer in his career probably wrote books that show not just one scenario, but dozens of different scenarios of how precious human liberty is, and how difficult it is to achieve it, and on behalf of that I'm delighted once again to be able to accept the Prometheus Award for Robert Heinlein.

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