Volume 16, Number 1, Fall, 1998


Dear Fellow LFS Members,

I'm a newbie around here. I just participated in my first Prometheus voting and was very excited to do it. The finalists were a deserving lot, and I considered it a special privilege to have been able to vote for Kings of the High Frontier. Kings is clearly one of the greatest SF books in decades and one of the best pieces of libertarian fiction ever.

That said, I have a question about how somebody came to be nominated.

When I first received the list of nominated books, 1 noticed (particularly among Hall of Fame nominees) many novels I didn't consider libertarian in any sense. Shogun, Tai Pan and Hunt for Red October, for instance, are all admirable novels. But if they have an explicit, or even implicit, message about freedom, I missed it. Samuel Delany's Dhalgren might have a message about freedom. But how can you tell?

I queried Anders about this and got a good, libertarian answer. He told me (correct me if I misinterpret, Anders) that, basically, anything goes. It's more or less up to the individual member. We can nominate anything we want. The truly libertarian books will shake out in the voting-and that's exactly what came to pass. Anarchism in action.

Nevertheless, I'm curious to know why other LFS folks have nominated certain books. lf anyone wants to talk about their criteria, I'd be happy to hear.

I'll volunteer to go first...

If I were to nominate a book, I'd use two criteria. One, it must be a well-crafted piece of fiction, meeting every standard I would expect of a world class novel. Two, it must have an explicit message about the benefits of freedom.

I thought most of the books on this year's list of nominees met the first criterion, more or less. A few (notably Firestar) were awkwardly written or could have used some editing. But there was one book so bad I don't even want to mention its name in this letter. This book, I'm sure, was on the list because it was absolutely explicitly, unmistakeably, gloriously libertarian. Philosophically, it shone. Its author's heart was in the right place. But artistically...? Ugh! I would never "forgive" bad writing because it came wrapped around "good" philosophy.

There were more books that were well written but didn't have an explicit message of freedom. I really enjoyed Denise Vitola's Quantum Moon. It painted a great picture of a dystopia. But ultimately Vitola's werewolf/cop showed herself, by her tactics, to fit very well into that dystopia. Ditto with John Dechancie's Innerverse. Great picture of a world you wouldn't want to live on; no sense of a world with other possibilities.

Now, somebody might be saying at this point, "Picky, picky! Given that criterion, she wouldn't have nominated 1984, Animal Farm, or Brave New World, either. And they've done a lot for freedom." True.

And true. In creating vivid dystopias Orwell and Huxley did a lot to warn us away from unfree courses. But, no, I wouldn't nominate their books for a Prometheus Award. Although I read and valued their novels, when it comes Prometheus time, I want something that shows me the promise of freedom, not merely the pain of freedom's opposite.

That's just me, however. I hope nobody will think I'm saying these two criteria ought to be the criteria. Anders is right: the free-for-all method works well and expresses the true spirit of creative libertarianism.

Anyway, whatever criteria people are using to nominate books, the best written most positively libertarian books did indeed shine in the voting. Would anybody else care to put in their two cents? Or their half-ounce of gold? l'm curious.

To freedom!
Claire Wolfe

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