Austin—By recent Worldcon standards, it was a “relaxacon.” But the nearly 3,000 science fiction fans, writers, publishers, and hucksters who attended the First Occasional Lone Star Con and Chili Cook-off from August 30 to September 2 didn’t seem to mind the NASFIC’s smaller scale.
They enjoyed themselves while making the rounds of all-night hotel room parties, all-day panels and speeches, and scattered movie showings, game tournaments, author’s workshops, not to mention the traditional Masquerade, Art Show, and Huckster’s Room.
Among the events was the fifth annual Prometheus Awards ceremony. It was held in Austin during the NASFIC (North American Science Fiction Convention) because this year’s Worldcon took place in far-off Australia.
Inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame were Poul Anderson’s Trader to the Stars, the first book in his famous procapitalist Polysotechnic League series, and Eric Frank Russell’s The Great Explosion, a classic fable about a neo-Gandhian anarchist planet threatened by military takeover. Anderson wasn’t able to attend the NASFIC to personally accept the award, but he did send word of his reaction upon hearing that Trader to the Stars had won. “Thank you for this high and deeply appreciated honor.” Anderson said. “Today we strive for the survival of freedom. Let us hope tomorrow we can strive for its growth, until at last it reaches out to all of mankind.” Anderson will receive a Hall of Fame certificate and a small gold coin. Since Eric Frank Russell is deceased, the current publisher of The Great Explosion will receive a Hall of Fame certificate.
The Prometheus Award made history by awarding “None of the Above” for the first time. LFS co-founder Michael Grossberg announced the award, explaining that LFS members faced a difficult choice in voting on the Prometheus Award this year and had decided that none of the finalists, worthy as they all were in different ways, quite measured up to the award’s particular standards, which demand a unique combination of clear libertarian themes and superior literary accomplishment.
“The Prometheus Award and the Hall of Fame were not established to reward boring political tracts in the guise of fiction.” Grossberg said. “Although it is a special award limited to a particular category of fiction, the Prometheus Award, like other awards, is designed to recognize good writing and outstanding fiction. And it’s not always easy to find novels which are written well and also dramatize the libertarian values which are the Libertarian Futurist Society’s unique concern. Those values include personal freedom, individual rights, self-determination, civil liberties, the free market, voluntarism, individualism, and antiauthoritarianism—in short, cooperation rather than coercion, and voluntary association rather than private violence or the institutionalized violence of the state.”
Although several finalist novels were explicitly libertarian in their plots or themes, and although all were at least competently written, some with exciting plots and interesting characters, the majority of LFS members apparently felt that no novel published during 1984 had succeeded in doing both at once. Hopefully, by being willing, occasionally, to choose None of the Above (also an option in the Hugo Awards), LFS will make clear its commitment to excellence in the Prometheus Awards.
As in most previous years at Worldcons, the Prometheus Award and the Hall of Fame were announced during a special awards program that also included presentation of the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award, given to Robert Bloch (Psycho), and William Tucker, and the first annual awards of the Association of Science Fiction Artistry given to Michael Whelan (cover of Larry Niven’s Integral Trees) and Carl Lundgren (cover of Alan Dean Foster’s Day of the Dissonance), among others.
Only about 50 people attended the Sunday morning event—not many compared to last year’s award ceremony, which was witnessed by more people than this year’s entire NASFIC membership. But most people at the convention found out who won, because the convention committee was gracious enough to report the Prometheus winners in its daily newsletter, which also unexpectedly featured a cute cartoon mentioning the Prometheus Awards. (See this page.)
Also raising the visibility of the Prometheus Awards and the Libertarian Futurist Society at the NASFIC was a Sunday night “Frefan” cocktail party, which attracted more than 300 people. Thanks to Sam Konkin, publisher of New Libertarian magazine, for hosting the party, held in honor of the Prometheus winners.
There were a few other scattered signs of a libertarian futurist presence at the Convention, such as the participation by several LFS members and Prometheus nominated novelists on various panel discussions, and the inclusion of a favorable LFS-newsletter quote about last year’s Los Angeles Worldcon in a 1990 Worldcon bid flyer for L.A. Con III. But there was nothing like last year’s programming emphasis—appropriate enough in the year of Orwell—on authoritarian versus libertarian politics.
Anyway, most LFS members seemed to be too busy engaging in similar private political discussions with other science fiction fans, passing out more than 1,000 pieces of LFS and other literature, or just having fun to have time to feel nostalgic for past Worldcons.
Anyone who did miss the intellectual stimulation of the last Worldcon’s political panels need only look forward to next year’s Worldcon on Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, which promises to have a lot more of that kind of thing on its program—including, natch, the sixth annual Prometheus Awards.
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