Volume 2, Number 4, Fall 1984

Worldcon ‘Perfect’

By Michael Grossberg

Anaheim—From almost any perspective, it was just about a perfect Worldcon. LA Con II, the 42nd World Science Fiction Convention, attracted more than 9,000 authors, filmmakers, hucksters and fans—a new record and 3,000 more than last year’s Worldcon in Baltimore—yet no one there appeared to feel overwhelmed or crowded, not even those hardy Lucas fans who stood in line for five hours in order to see the first back-to-back midnight showing of the Star Wars trilogy and then stayed up until dawn cheering on Luke Skywalker in his battle to free the galaxy from Darth Vader’s brand of Big Government.

From the perspective of the Libertarian Futurist Society, it was a perfect Worldcon.

While only about 100 or 200 people attended the Prometheus Awards ceremony at each of the past three Worldcons, this year between 2,000 and 3,000 people attended what was certainly the best organized and most impressive Prometheus Award ceremony yet.

James Hogan, last year’s Prometheus Award winner for his Voyage from Yesteryear, flew down from Sonoma, California to present the award to J. Neil Schulman for Rainbow Cadenza. Schulman flew in from San Antonio, Texas to accept the award and negotiate with various publishers for the novel’s paperback rights. (Rainbow Cadenza had just been published in paperback in England.)

Both Hogan and Schulman were eloquent and entertaining, drawing repeated laughter and applause from the crowd filling the Anaheim Convention Center Arena. Hogan amused the audience with prefatory remarks explaining how he found out that he was a libertarian, while Schulman explained how he came to write his award-winning novel about a future Earth in which making love, not war, is compulsory. (See Schulman’s acceptance speech in this issue.)

Then 1983 Nebula Award nominee Brad Linaweaver presented the Prometheus Hall of Fame awards first explaining why libertarians value civil liberties at least as much as economic freedom, and then announcing this year’s winners: both of which emphasize strong civil liberties themes: George Orwell’s 1984 and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

Orwell was a rather obvious choice, drawing respectful but matter-of-fact applause. But when Bradbury was announced as the second Hall of Fame winner, the audience went wild, clapping and whistling loudly. Linaweaver presented the libertarian view opposing censorship of any kind in his brief explanation of why Bradbury’s novel was so appropriate for the Hall of Fame. He quoted revisionist historian Harry Elmer Barnes to explain the relevance of 1984, which portrays an authoritarian government rewriting history in order to control what people think of the past—and thus control how they act in the present and the future.

For the first time the Prometheus Awards were included along with several international awards, in one of the Worldcon’s main events: the Friday night guest of Honor speeches. That turned out to be a much more desirable way of presenting the Prometheus Awards than previous Worldcons, where the awards were often scheduled separately, opposite five or six other events.

Introducing the Prometheus Awards: Master of Ceremonies (for the main event) Jerry Pournelle said a few complimentary words about Nobel Prize-winning free market economist Friedrich Hayek, whose likeness appears on the Hayek half gold coins awarded to Prometheus prize winners. Afterwards, Pournelle said a few nice words about Hogan. Which was amazing considering Pournelle’s well-known rudeness toward libertarians and his hostility toward libertarianism. Evidently he thinks we’ve become respectable.

Gordon Dickson, this year’s Pro guest of honor, spoke about his life as a writer and his ambitious plans to complete the Dorsai series. That series, which focuses on a mercenary warrior caste’s efforts to use force in self-defense to protect various clients from tyranny, often uses libertarian themes. The Final Encyclopedia, the latest book in the group, was published just in time for the Worldcon—and if the preliminary response of some fans is any indication, it may be a contender for next year’s Prometheus Award.

“A book is a do-it-yourself kit,” Dickson said, analyzing the writer/reader relationship in his typically individualistic way. ’An author delivers his story, but the reader must take it apart and put it back together again in his own mind. There are as many Hal Mains (the hero of The Final Encyclopedias as there are readers of that book.”

Dickson described his goal as a novelist: "to write a consistently romantic novel," mentioning Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Sabatin’s Scaramouche as two of his models. In doing so, Dickson placed himself within the romantic individualist tradition defined by Ayn Rand in The Romantic Manifesto. He contrasted the effectiveness of an explicitly "propagandistic" novel with that of a consciously "thematic" novel: pointing out that the first kind of story says to the reader, "Here's a statement. Accept it or reject it." Dickson explained that he prefers the thematic kind, because "instead of asking the reader to accept the ideas, the novel makes them a central part of the plot." This distinction offers a useful guideline for those of us burdened with the task of nominating and voting for the Prometheus Award each year. Sometimes, the most libertarian novel may be one that doesn't wear its ideology on its book jacket.

Yet if the Prometheus Award ceremony and Guest of Honor speeches seemed to support the LFS's version of a free future, they paled in significance compared to the libertarian content of the many panel discussions scheduled throughout the Worldcon. Again and again, novelists and fans who were not libertarians themselves wound up taking extremely libertarian stands on a variety of issues—even though there were no self-styled "Libertarians" among the panelists, even though libertarianism was not the ostensible subject of the panel discussions. More on these exciting signs and a report of various conversations with prominent, libertarian-leaning novelists, in the next issue of Prometheus.

All trademarks and copyrights property of their owners.
Creative Commons License
Prometheus, the newsletter of the Libertarian Futurists Society, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.