The most absorbing (not the right word for something so testy) item in your Winter issue was the letter from L. Neil Smith that you answered so gently. You'd think a writer would be more sensitive to flaws of logic (does "living the non-aggression principle" involve being Bernhard Goetz? Does it involve what I gather must be the subject of his new book, wet-dreaming the offing of the "Hitlers...of other worlds"? We alone possess such an ethic—who is this guy, St. Paul?). One of the tests of a creed-spreader has to be, would he make a good neighbor? Thanks, but I won't live in the same town with this guy, much less next door.
Basically, unless you can function without vengeance, without the Peckinpah Moment, without Crushing the Bad Guys (caps used consciously), you have no ethic.
Comment on the nominations: glad to see The Adversary there: standing for that whole wonderful set of books. Yes, it belongs there for reasons connected to the paragraphs above for its plausible suggestion that absolute power might transform rather than corrupt, for the sweetness of its writing, for its love of freedom. Glad to see Free Live Free nominated, too. Note the lack of comma; though your rendition of it makes more (initial) sense, the promos for the hardback writes it the way I did. I understand the paperback won't be out until fall—too late for the Prometheus Award this year.
John Ahren's review of Dune was fine [Winter issue], and perhaps when the extra hour of footage that de Laurentis ordered cut from the final print is restored, we shall see the version he wants.
And, with Neil Smith's letter, we finally have what Prometheus needs: raging controversy. What Goetz had really done doesn't matter since the press has been denouncing him as a vigilante hoping to imply that all vigilantes similarly attack without conscience or reason. If anything, the Goetz case will allow us to distinguish between proper and improper vigilantism. As the license plate frame says, "Fight crime—shoot back." Regardless of what Goetz did, as you say, it is this concept that is being attacked and which should be defended, regardless of l'affaire Bernhard.
While I don't think every libertarian has to applaud Tom Paine Maru—the novel or the mission (an educative Mindrunner a la Marekallian Eks is equally as subversive). I certainly like the book and support any mission anywhere that drags the bullies off of the oppressed. Interfering with someone forcing his values on another can hardly be a case of forcing my values on him. Or have we all gone LeFevrian?
As is obvious, this is written in basic agreement with what Neil says, and I am glad he has finally broached the following subject in print. I've been silent for too long, so here goes.
The Prometheus Award should be exclusively limited to science fiction with a discernable specific libertarian nature. To do otherwise is to dilute the award and allow—as we do now—the inclusion of books that are not only not science fiction (Darkness at Noon for Rand's sake? The Sicillian?) but explicitly not libertarian (e.g., The Peace War may have pro-liberty elements to it, but at the end a military throwback actively prepares to revive her comrades in order to restore the United States. (This is a heroic ending in the novel's context.)
If Michael doesn't like the reason for which Neil created the Prometheus, he should have named it something else (the Grossie, perhaps?) The reason for the Prometheus Award is to nurture and support libertarian science fiction writers, not to reward Big Name Writers for throwing a few libertarian catchphrases into their books. I love Betty Lou Johnson's nomination of Karl Marx—precisely the path we are stumbling onto—lined as it is with good intentions.
We are a small vanguard of a new ideology—we must stick together, providing to one another what aid and comfort we can. This is the purpose of the Award—to reward and call attention to libertarian authors, not to stroke others for throwing us a bone. The distinction is a fairly obvious one. If we do the former, marginally libertarian authors will eventually radicalize and come to our fold. We shouldn't have to beg them.
Our goal should not be to impress with our fairness or open-mindedness, or willingness to suck up to those who occasionally employ the rhetoric of freedom. We will make more of a mark by sticking to our principles. If a picture is worth a thousand words, an action vehemently demonstrates the deflated value of talk. If we truly believe in libertarianism (as our club name implies). then we ought—in every moral, normative sense of the word—to nominate and award the Prometheus only to authors willing to take a libertarian stand. Not just in one character and not just in one book, but consistently. Isn't consistency what libertarianism is all about?
I shall continue to support the spirit of the original Prometheus Award, nominating and voting only for libertarian science fiction until such time as I see that the forces of "artism" are devouring it completely. If that happens—even though the members can force back the darkness—I hope we can create an award that once again reflects the values that some of us are willing to fight and live for.
Long Beach, California
First of all, the Prometheus Award has never been limited, as far as I know, to science fiction. Any fiction that some member believes to be libertarian can be nominated. Thus, since the membership voted last year to continue the one person; one nomination rule, many books may be nominated that some (or even mosts of us would not consider libertarian enough to win. So far these books always have gotten weeded out before the winner was selected. So what's the problem? Isn't the very discussion of a book's acceptability of great value? Isn't that the best part of this whole process? I see no value to purism in the nomination stage.
On the other hand. I see a great deal of virtue in voting for None of the Above in a bad year. (Some members think that this vouid be a good year to start If none of the nominees measure up to the membership's standards of excellence (and I insist that we should include literary excellence as well as libertarian content) then it would surely dilute the impact of the award to give it to an undeserving book.
One more thing, since I'm spouting off. I don't think that every book a possible Prometheus or Hall of Fame winner has written has to measure up to my (or anyone else's) standards of ideological purity. I don't give a damn if George Orwell was a socialist, 1984 is still a brilliant libertarian novel, and deserves the Hall of Fame award that it received last year. Actually, that Orwell was a socialist makes 1984 even more valuable because the author saw the consequences of his own ideology. Perhaps our awards should be labeled—"Warning: This Award Should Not Be Considered A Blanket Endorsement Of The Author's Ideas."
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