Volume 30, Number 4, Summer, 2012

Further thoughts on the Prometheus Award

By Anders Monsen

The issues raised in Fred Moulton’s essay are issues that we don’t raise often enough. The Prometheus Awardhas existed for more than three decades. While we have honored some great books, I am not sure we have inspired new libertarians works. I sense some of Fred’s frustration, especially with novels that are finalists (or even winners) that we find questionable in terms of quality and content.

Yet this happens for virtually every award, including the Hugo Award, which each year inspired vociferous debate regarding the winners, losers, and those who never even made the ballot. My personal opinion is that we should stick with the best novel for the previous year, and not make one book eligible multiple times. Some years there are no great candidates. Other years there are several great candiates. The same thing happens during the Oscars, or the Hugos. Yet I believe the LFS tries to highlight what we consider the best book for that year, rather than adding the same book(s) on every ballot—this already happens in the Hall of Fame.

I believe that for a best novel, there is a still a place for the annual Prometheus Awards. True, the traditional publishing models currently face many changes from the rise of eBooks and eBook readers. Also, the ability for writers to publish their own books electronically without a major publishing house, and yet secure print rights for paper books means more titles to read, more candidates to vet. In some respects publishing houses act as gatekeepers. Sometimes they prevent good books from getting published (stories about writers rejected multiple times only to suddenly become a best-selling writer). Yet at the same time many self-published books lack the polish provided by editors. The deliberation process where the judges read all candidates combined with the final voting round tend in my opinion to indentify the best candidates.

With the rise of self-publishing, Kindle, iBooks, and more, the chances to discover great books should be greater. The danger is that some LFS members and judges may not discover that book in time for the annual Prometheus Award. However, that should spur us to a greater breadth in reading, and not mix in books from different years into one award.

Regarding the timing of the award, I think there is a lot of merit in the proposal about moving up the timeline to announce finalists. Although the Hugo voting deadline falls some time in March, much like the Prometheus Awards, our goal should be to read novels much earlier if possible, and then announce the finalists in January. There are usually many books to read, and waiting until close to the deadline to read them becomes a tough task. To avoid this, perhaps we should nominate books sooner, and impose a cut-off date so the slate of books is well-known before the end of the year.

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