Best Libertarian Science Fiction of the Year


The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced the winners of this year's Prometheus Awards for libertarian fiction. And the winner for best new libertarian novel is…Cory Doctorow for Little Brother (Tor).

For those in search of summer reading, the other finalists were:

Matter, Iain Banks (Orbit)
The January Dancer, Michael Flynn (Tor)
Saturn's Children, Charles Stross (Tor)
Half a Crown, Jo Walton (Tor)

Reason has been stalking Doctorow here and here (but not in a Marion Barry kind of way).

I wrote about the Prometheus Awards and why libertarians love science fiction here.

Via the nice-smelling and talented Amy Sturgis, who is a Reason contributor and also has a newly tarted up blog/website.


NEXT: Beer Ads on North Korean TV. No Beer for Actual North Koreans.

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  1. Just finished Matter. Good Culture stuff. As always, the drone stole the show.

  2. but not in a Marion Barry kind of way).

    You have got to be kidding me!

    Via the nice-smelling and talented Amy Sturgis, who is a Reason contributor and also has a newly tarted up blog/website.

    Nice! (Tarted up?)

  3. Kind of sad that the Libertarian science fiction award was won by a socialist.

    Of course, Stross and Banks are socialists too. I love their writing and will heartily recommend their novels, but all three are absolute nightmares when it comes to economic freedom.

    Walton and Flynn are murkier in their politics.

  4. Okay, is Little Brother any good? Cory Doctorow annoys me every time he opens his yap and the same anti-copyright screed falls out. I can’t get past my personal dislike to read his fiction.

  5. Of course, Stross and Banks are socialists too. I love their writing and will heartily recommend their novels, but all three are absolute nightmares when it comes to economic freedom.

    I know. I try not to think about it. Banks kind of waves the whole economics and politics thing away by positing a society of absolute wealth and unlimited frontiers that is effectively anarchist, but he rather bizarrely believes that socialism/communism is more likely to get us to that state of freedom than capitalism/libertarianism.

  6. Cory Doctorow annoys me every time he opens his yap and the same anti-copyright screed falls out.

    Anybody got a link to where he posted it for me to download for free?

  7. I’m reading the Mars series by Kim Stanley Robinson. Like much of science fiction, the eeeeevil corporations are the enemy (forgetting the fact that they, you know, picked up the check for you scientists to get out there and get all your reinforcements too).

    I’m just curious, are there actual libertarian/freedom-loving authors? Or do some of them just manage to write in that way?

  8. [i]Little Brother[/i] is a legitimately libertarian novel, regardless of Doctorow’s politics.

    As to whether it’s good: well, it’s a YA novel, and feels like it. It’s basically about this kid who’s targeted (unjustly) by an emerging police state and who’s fighting back against it. There are lots of sort of Stephenson-like asides about various kinds of privacy technology (encryption, etc.) which don’t exactly fit into the narrative. It’s not primarily an anti-copyright screed, it’s primarily an anti-torture/pro-free-speech/pro-privacy screed.

    I enjoyed it well enough for a free book, but wouldn’t buy it. You can read it (and basically all of Doctorow’s other stuff), freely and legally, on his website:

  9. Dammit, sorry about the formatting. Little Brother, and, respectively.

  10. Bask in the two-minutes hate of Doctorow’s commenters.

    Always remember, the best short definition of libertarian is anarchy for rich people.

    What does that even mean? D- snark.

  11. Ah, Tor. Publishing escapist bilge since 1980.

  12. “I’m just curious, are there actual libertarian/freedom-loving authors?”

    Vernor Vinge and Robert Heinlein definitely lean(ed) libertarian.

    Some people would say Atlas Shrugged was science fiction, but I would call it alternate history.

  13. “Little Brother” was a pretty good book, but Cory Doctorow is DEFINITELY not a libertarian. He actually wrote an editorial just a few weeks ago advocating government control of Google:

    “It’s a terrible idea to vest this much power with one company, even one as fun, user-centered and technologically excellent as Google. It’s too much power for a handful of companies to wield.”

    “…it’s obvious: if search engines set the public agenda, they should be public.”

  14. For Libertarian SciFi, there’s Heinlein of course. Plus Vernor Vinge, and L. Neil Smith. Neal Stephenson’s work probably qualifies too, in different degrees.

    Poul Anderson is probably the most prolific next to Heinlein, though his early stuff is very statist before he changed his views. He was a big fan of the UN and such in his youth.

    Robert Anton Wilson is very libertarian, in a weird way. 🙂

    John C. Wright is another, which a very strong philosophical and moral sense — but not in a patronizing or controlling way.

    Maybe Terry Pratchet, given the way he humorously pokes fun at just about every institution of government and society.

    As for why socialists keep winning Libertarian awards, it’s not so difficult to figure out. Far left socialists and Libertarians actually agree on most things — except property and economics. If you leave those out, their views on freedom and individualism are virtually identical. It’s just that socialists think property is the root of oppression and libertarians think property is the key to freedom. 🙂

  15. Of the finalists, the only one I’ve read is Saturn’s Children, which I recommend highly. I’d intended to read the Doctorow and Banks books this summer; I’ll add the other two as well. Thanks for mentioning this!

  16. I’m reading the Mars series by Kim Stanley Robinson

    I really wanted to like the Mars series. I even bought all three. Absolutely could not get halfway thru the first novel.

    Got to thinking about it and I don’t think I’ve ever finished a KSR novel.

    Back on-topic, Heinlein was my first, and greatest, Libertarian influence.

    .. Hobbit

  17. Each Mars book took me two tries. Ive never made try two at the last one.

    Get half way thru…put it down…start over a year later and finish. Repeat. Repeat.

    Also to add to the list:
    C. S. Lewis for some definition of libertarian.

  18. there’s also Michael Z Williamson (author of the Freehold series).

  19. Got to thinking about it and I don’t think I’ve ever finished a KSR novel.

    It’s not just me, then. Got about 2/3rds of the way through The Years of Rice and Salt, enjoyed it, then put it down and just haven’t gotten around to finishing it. Did finish Red Mars in one go, but by the end I kind of wanted all the characters to die.

  20. Russ Roberts was robbed.

  21. Just a reminder that the political views of the author are not part of the criteria for consideration for the Prometheus Award. In some cases the political views of the author are not even known. I am sure that it will be obvious to all the problems inherent in trying to use the political views of the author as part of the criteria for consideration.

  22. Nobody makes the emotional case for anarchy better than Vinge in “A deepness in the sky”…

    and of course he takes head on the typical “but peaceful anarchists would be crushed by militarist invaders” head on in “the ungoverned”

  23. Of course “Minerva” by Murphy is also fun.. if you can find it.

  24. Mr. George Potter writes gud

    I especially recommend “micropiece”

  25. Part of Robert Murphy’s Minerva

  26. Wow. fiction written around an ideology. can’t wait.

  27. Hey, Ray Butlers, the whole point is that these novels are liberty-minded yet written by people whose ideology tilts quite the other way.

  28. Terry Goodkind, in the Sword of Truth series has some pretty strong Libertarian type views as well.

  29. I don’t think I ever read any of KSR’s novels, but he did write some enjoyable short stories. I have a vague but fond memory of a nice vignette he did about a far-future Dixieland band.

  30. LeGuin’s Dispossed is the best libretarian (actually anarchist) story I have every read. The hero lives on the weather impoverished anarchist planet and visits the rich, statist planet. Deciding which is the real utopia is the theme of the novel. It also examines the problems of maintaining anarchy in the face of (non)human nature – greed, power-hungery people and sheep-like people.

    It is one of the best SF novels ever written and anarchist bent is a bonus.

  31. Was Russ Roberts’ book SF? It wasn’t nominated, so I haven’t read it, even though I listen to his EconTalk consistently.

    As Fred said, above, in considering books for our awards, we manage to ignore the authors pretty completely. This year’s nominees included very strong pro-freedom (or sometimes anti-tyranny) books by non-libertarians Stross (who won two years ago) and Walton (who won last year) as well as by authors who are harder to place.

    I think the LFS’ award list makes a good libertarian reading list. Don’t forget the Hall of Fame, which added “The Lord of the Rings” this year to works like “A Clockwork Orange”, “The Weapon Shops of Isher”, and “The Prisoner” (the TV show).

    (I’m the LFS President)

  32. Curtis,

    I actually thought that it was definitely NOT libertarian. The world you describe as anarchy was more like a marxist communist vision. The people were provided with shelter, clothing, food but I believe they could pursue their own career but had to serve in a camp to provide things like ore and food. Something like that…However, her point was more that in a place where there are no possessions people would actually possess things. Such as ideas and research.

    It was an interesting book especially from someone who is very sympathetic to socialist ideas.

  33. I am presenting a new science fiction writer Romualdas Draksas. His new book “Man.The Awakening” has just been published. Here is a short presentation of the book.

    Man-the galaxy’s most fearsome creature, constructed as a unique war machine, who rose up and escaped from his creators and ended up a captive on a planet inhibiting most of his powers. But what were to happen if Humans again found themselves beyond the limits of their incarcerating planet’s effects, and they regained all of the awesome abilities their creators had given them? In other words, what would it mean if they started the process that the other races of the galaxy referred to as “the awakening”?
    Just as a single rock can suffice to set a lethal avalanche in motion, so can a lone awakened Human be enough to rattle the entire galaxy.

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