Volume 27, Number 1, Fall 2008

2008 Prometheus Awards Presentation

On August 6th, deep in the bowels of the Convention Center in downtown Denver, Colorado the Libertarian Futurist Society presented the 2008 Prometheus Awards for Best Novel and Classic Fiction. This year was the first time two novels tied for the Best Novel award. Also, although several women writers have been nominated for the Prometheus Award, this year saw the first woman writer win the award.

Fred Curtis Moulton
First, I’d like to welcome everybody. This is the annual meeting for the Libertarian Futurist Society awarding of the Prometheus Awards, and we’re really happy to have everybody here. The awards are given for libertarian fiction and have been awarded for a couple of decades now, and is one of the longest running fan awards in sf. We have a Prometheus Best Novel Award and we also have the Hall of Fame Award.

We’re going to start off today with the Hall of Fame Award. The nominees for the Hall of Fame Award were

and the winner was A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess. Fran Van Cleave will now say a few words about that award.

Fran Van Cleave
A Clockwork Orange raises many issues about guilt, responsibility and punishment in general. The particular theme of the book, of interest to libertarians, is the theme of both government and opposition parties using the main character, Alex, as a pawn in a political game. This is even more sharply focused by the violent and criminal nature of Alex himself. The novel raises many issues and is worth our consideration and reflection. Anthony Burgess is no longer living. We are contacting the Anthony Burgess Foundation for the purpose of placing the award plaque with the other Burgess items that are maintained there. Thank you.

Fred Curtis Moulton
The LFS Best Novel Award has some wonderful news because we had a tie this year. It’s always good to be able to honor two really wonderful works, and so we have that special honor today. I’ll read the list of nominees. They were Ragamuffin, by Tobias Buckell; The Execution Channel, by Ken MacLeod; The Fleet of Worlds, by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner. We really honor them for being finalists and it’s a very hard decision to come down to the two that won, which was Gladiator by Harry Turtledove and Ha’penny by Jo Walton. We’re going to have each of them say a few words. We’ll start with Harry Turtledove.

Harry Turtledove
Thank you very much. It’s a great privilege to accept the award. It’s kind of appropriate, I think, for me to get the Prometheus Award on August 6th, because, if you remember 63 years ago, that’s the day fire really came down from the heavens. And, one of the things that will help keep us free, and I hope it will never come down again in the next 63 years. I hope we’ll be lucky enough to see that.

I really want to mention, since we’re talking about writing and freedom, I want to mention the passing of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn [August 3rd, 2008—editor], who in his work and in his life, did more to trample the tyranny of the Soviet Union than damn near anybody else I can to think of. So, we ought to give him, not a moment of silence, because silence is the thing that he fought all his life, but a round of applause. [Applause] Thanks.

The other thing that I want to say is, just what a tremendous honor it is to be mentioned in the same breath with Jo Walton’s fine novel, Ha’penny, because I think it is just a splendid piece of work. Between us, Jo and I, take licks at the two major ideological diseases of the 20th century—me communism and her fascism. Both of those are smaller problems than they were a couple of generations ago and I’m damn glad of it. The only thing that worries me is that the 21st century—as centuries have a way of doing—will spawn its own ideological diseases. I hope that some time early in the 22nd century there will be people getting awards for novels talking about how they got around the ideological diseases of the 21st century.

Thanks a lot folks.

Next, the co-winner of the Prometheus Award, Jo Walton, was presented with her award, and read her remarks. Both winners received a plaque with a one once gold coin. Although the market fluctuates, a one ounce gold coin at the time was worth roughly $1,000.

Jo Walton
Thank you very much.

You mentioned that this was one of the oldest fan awards, and I’d like to mention that this is the first time a woman has won it. So that’s one for feminism.

I’d like to thank all the people who nominated Ha’Penny for the Prometheus award and voted for it.

I’m not sure it’s a Libertarian novel. I’m not sure what a Libertarian novel is. But it’s certainly a novel about liberty and about civil liberties. Thank you for finding that important. I’ve got into a lot of arguments with Libertarians online about things like, oh, the US’s lack of a health service, and handicapped parking spaces, but clearly on some very important issues our hearts are in the same place.

I’d like to thank Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Tom Doherty and everyone at Tor for supporting and promoting Ha’Penny and doing their best for it. I’d like to thank Ursula Le Guin and Harry Turtledove and Robert Charles Wilson and everyone else who read it or Farthing and liked them and provided great quotes to go on the cover and encourage people to buy them. I’d like to thank my family, my son Sasha Walton, my husband, Emmet O’Brien, who read it as it was going along, and my aunt, Mary Lace, who remembers the real 1949 and gave me some great advice about my version. I’d like to thank my grandparents, Jack and Nancy Lace, who have been dead for years but who brought me up, and who lived through the Second World War and talked often about the divide it made in their lives.

I’d like to thank Winston Churchill, for fighting on in 1940 when anyone in their right minds would have made a compromise peace. I’d like to thank the Americans for Lend-Lease, for getting into the war, finally, and most of all for the Marshall Plan.

Ha’Penny is set in an alternate 1949 where Britain did make a compromise peace with Hitler, where the concentration camps still exist, where everything is nice on the surface but under the surface nothing is nice at all.

I’ve always been a very cheerful and optimistic person. That’s why I wrote Farthing and its sequels. I started writing these books in May of 2004, after the stolen election of 2000, and while your country and mine were engaged in an aggressive war against Iraq, when everyone in the US and the UK seemed to be giving up liberty for a little temporary safety hand over fist. I wrote them in the understanding of how good people do bad things and live with themselves—how we do bad things and live with ourselves. I wrote it in the belief that our choices do matter.

SF has always been a very political genre. You only have to look at books like The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, The Dispossessed, The Star Fraction—all Prometheus winners or Hall of Fame winners. One of the things I’ve always loved about SF has been how it can be a crucible for writing about uncomfortable things. Ha’Penny is also a very political book, and a very uncomfortable book, too. It isn’t meant as an allegory. I wrote it as a story, and if it didn’t work as that, it wouldn’t work as anything.

If the world were a terrible place, if we really were going down into darkness, this uncomfortable book wouldn’t have won this award. You’d have picked something you’re comfortable with. And its predecessor, Farthing, wouldn’t have been nominated for other awards.

It isn’t enough, it’s a straw in the wind, any individual thing is a straw in the wind, but this is a straw in a wind that’s blowing in the right direction.

Thank you.

Looking ahead to 2009, the presentation for that year’s Promethteus Awards is scheduled to take place at the WorldCon in Montreal.
LFS members are encouraged to nominate novels published in 2008 for next year’s Best Novel, as well as any works of fiction published at least five years ago for the Classic Fiction category.
A complete list of winners and nominees is published at the LFS web site: www.lfs.org/awards.htm

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