Literature

The Libertarian Fiction Hall of Fame

The Libertarian Futurist Society announces this year's nominees for the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.

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The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced this year's finalists for the Hall of Fame Award. This is one of two prizes the group hands out: The Prometheus Award honors freedom-themed fiction published in the last year, and the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award is devoted to freedom-themed fiction from the more distant past. (These are generally regarded as science fiction prizes, but they are not technically limited to the genre. Occasionally a non-sf work, such as The Fountainhead or One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, will pop up among the nominatees.)

Here are the new Hall of Fame finalists, along with the organization's descriptions of the works:

I have no idea what's going on in this picture, but it looks cool.
Star

Manna, by Lee Correy (published 1984): A novel about the economic development of space in the twenty-first century, and about competing economic philosophies that shape it. One of its most interesting aspects is the setting: the United Mitanni Commonwealth, an imaginary small East African country founded on a distinctive vision of personal freedom of choice. Correy's hero, a former American aerospace officer, is drawn into the Mitanni struggle both for a vision of the future and for simple survival, while discovering the customs of his new homeland.

Courtship Rite, by Donald M. Kingsbury (published 1982): A novel set on a planet in a remote solar system, where human colonists struggle with a harsh environment. The author, a mathematician, explores the mathematical concept of optimization in biological evolution, in political institutions, in culture, and in personal ethics—through linked dramatic struggles over political ambition and the creation of a family.

"As Easy as A.B.C.," by Rudyard Kipling (published 1912): One of Kipling's two "airship utopia" stories, set in the year 2065—but the utopia is an ambiguous one. Striking for its vision of a future that looks back in horror at the lynchings and racism of Kipling's own time. Compact and evocatively written.

The Island Worlds, by Eric Kotani and John Maddox Roberts (published 1987): A novel of asteroidal rebellion against a corrupt and oligopolistic Earth. Unusual in its portrayal of an internally divided liberation movement with conflicting ethical and strategic beliefs.

A Mirror for Observers, by Edgar Pangborn (published 1954): A novel of conflicting factions of Martian refugees working in secret to influence humanity toward enlightenment and self-destruction. Notable for its vision of a future United States with two entirely new leading political parties—a constitutionalist party and a fascistic Organic Unity Party—and of its reaction to an engineered plague. Pangborn offers no radical solutions; he focuses on personal ethics, and he shows reasons for despair and then turns back to hope.

The press release also mentions several nominees that didn't get enough support to be finalists, ranging from a Rush album to a young-adult novel. The three I wish had made the cut are C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength (by far my favorite Lewis book); T.H. White's The Book of Merlyn (probably the first explicitly anti-statist text I ever read, so it's a sentimental favorite); and—above all—Firesign Theatre's I Think We're All Bozos On the Bus, a psychedelic science-fiction play disguised as a comedy album. The latter was nominated by Tom Jackson, who tells me he "tried to campaign for it, but it didn't get much traction." Maybe next year!

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  1. A Mirror for Observers, by Edgar Pangborn (published 1954): A novel of conflicting factions of Martian refugees working in secret to influence humanity toward enlightenment and self-destruction.

    So just like Syrian Refugees.

    *ducks*

    1. If that’s what the refugees are offering, then I can’t imagine why anyone would reject them.

  2. I have thought about reading Lewis’ That Hideous Strength for quite a while, but I never seem to pull the trigger.
    I really have to be in the right mood to read older SF. (Except for Heinlein, or Pournelle and Niven, I can read them anytime).

    1. The Space Trilogy is excellent or the final book can stand on its own. Either way.

    2. I have thought about reading Lewis’ That Hideous Strength for quite a while, but I never seem to pull the trigger.

      I postponed it for a long time, just because I figured it meant reading an entire trilogy. (It is book three.) And then I very nearly didn’t get to it when I did read the series, because while the first book of the Space Trilogy is pretty good I thought the second volume was terrible.

      But it turned out you could read any of those three books as stand-alone novels, and I didn’t need to get through volumes one and two after all.

      1. “And then I very nearly didn’t get to it when I did read the series, because while the first book of the Space Trilogy is pretty good I thought the second volume was terrible.”

        Okay, I’ve read Out of the Silent Planet, but it sounds like I should skip Peralandra and go straight to That Hideous Strength.

        I’m a big fan of C.S. Lewis’ writing style, even though his philosophical ideas always strike me as pretty ridiculous. There are a lot of similar Catholic writers from that era though. I personally think my favorite of those uber-Catholic Brits writing in the very early 1900s was G.K. Chesterton since The Man Who Was Thursday is one of the best weird fantasy books I’ve ever read.

        1. The Man Who Was Thursday is one of the best weird fantasy books I’ve ever read.

          That’s a terrific book.

          1. I just purchased The Man Who Was Thursday, and if I am disappointed I am holding you both responsible.

            1. I honestly sometimes wonder whether Reason has a commercial relationship with Amazon. Every time I read one of these articles I end up downloading something new (old) to my Kindle.

        2. Chesterton is the only writer I’ve read so far that can compete with Dostoevsky in the “god damn, man, if more people with your ideas argued as well as you, I wouldn’t be an atheist” category.

      2. In defense of Perelandra, there’s a neat bit where Ransom realizes that the being in possession of Weston uses intelligence as a tool only when it deems it necessary, and otherwise reverts to a state of cruelty and literal mindlessness. I’ve been thinking about that part a lot while watching Hillary Clinton campaign. A LOT.

    3. Oh man, I read That Hideous Strength right after reading The Road to Serfdom. Now, I’m a Lewis fan, but I was blown away that both these authors said the same thing, in their different ways, writing in the same country at the same time. How messed up the UK must have been in 1944!

      But the book is absolutely fantastic in its portrayal of the TOP MEN and how terrifying their minds are.

  3. I recommend to everyone that they read That Hideous Strength as no other book quite predicts and explains the creeping Totalitarian impulses of the police and academics so well. However, I wouldn’t put it on a libertarian Hall of Fame list, either. The return of traditional Christian values in the embodiment of King Arthur’s heir reborn mashed up with the noble savage wisdom of pre-Christian Celts in the form of Merlin is probably NOT a viable solution.

    1. Fucking close italics tag after “Strength”

  4. Hooray for the mention of The Firesign Theatre, but note that it’s “Theatre.” The spelling on the YouTube video is incorrect.

    1. I hope that at some point they get a revival with the kids nowadays. It’s hard to find anybody under upper middle age who is even aware of them.

      1. Hey, I’ve heard quite a bit of them, and I’m not upper middle age!

        Sadly, I’m creeping into lower middle age (39). Loved some Firesign Theatre though. My dad had a bunch of their albums and played them for me when I was a kid. The phrase “Squeeze the wheeze” was a major part of my childhood, hahaha. Bozos is great, but my favorite was Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers.

        “Presenting honesty stories of working people, as told by rich Hollywood stars!”

        1. my favorite was Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers

          Same here. I’d rank Bozos third or fourth, after Dwarf, How Can You Be…, and possibly Everything You Know Is Wrong.

  5. No winner in 2008?

    1. I blame Bush.

  6. I wonder whether there’s much of a genre for communist futurism like there was during the nineteenth and early twentieth century… you know, before it became really unpopular to call yourself a communist for some reason.

    1. That reason is Joe McCarthy. Thank you, Joe McCarthy.

    2. Based on the sales numbers of recent Hugo nominees, probably not.

      1. Maybe they should stop being openly communist.

        1. Maybe they should stop being openly communist.

          Why? Hasn’t hurt “Red” Kim Stanley Robinson much.

          1. Aside from the entire genre going mostly to shit. Seveneves was the only decent sci-fi book of 2015 I read by a Hugo level author, and frankly, I wish he’d spent 1/5th on the eves and 4/5 on the end. Scalzi has become a parody of himself. Stross is working on making the Laundry Files into Dresden Files on the Thames. I keep hoping China Moeville will drop some new impenetrably strange shit, but I can’t read major market sci-fi anymore. Its boring.

            1. China Mieville

              Speaking of fucking commie bastards….

              1. Yeah, I have kind of a love/hate thing with him.

                Sure, he’s a pinko, and some of that leaks into his stories, but holy fuck can he write.

                1. Eh, I think Peridido Street Station could have been about 150-200 pages shorter, but he hit his stride by The Scar.

                  1. Working on the audiobook of The Kraken right now. It’s a bit of a chore.

                    1. Is the Kraken a Hillary documentary?

                    2. I did not enjoy Kraken at all. Everyone tells me Perdido is excellent but it is sitting unread because of Kraken, which struck me as a poor attempt at emulating Neil Gaiman’s tone with none of the wit.

              2. Oh, I don’t give a shit about politics until it makes their writing flat and boring. Stross’s Eschaton series was basically Libertopia guaranteed by Skynet. And a ripping good pair of stories. But so many now are about antagonists who fit the right thinking or grow to do so. I just can’t find any that I care about. Excwpt Nathan Lowell’s Deep Dark series which start with “Quarter Share”, but those were either self or boutique published online only. (And currently on Kindle Unlimited for anyone who subscribes–I am NOT the author)

            2. Really? I rather enjoyed the buildup. I liked the tech and the social and political dynamics. In fact, the last act was abrupt and tacked on. Still enjoyed it.

              1. I love Neal Stephenson, but every single one of his novels should end either sooner or later than it actually does. Except for Snow Crash, that one is perfect.

                1. I was okay with Cryptomicon’s story arc, too. He just needed an editor to cut every fifth scene in the middle

                  1. Cryptonomicon is awesome, but after hundreds of pages of buildup, it just kind of… ends really abruptly. It doesn’t need a dozen pages of exposition about the nature of a minor character’s sexual fetishes; it could use more of a denouement, though.

                    1. But it did need the dozen pages on proper technique for eating Captain Crunch.

                    2. But it did need the dozen pages on proper technique for eating Captain Crunch.

                      Oh, necessarily.

            3. I thoroughly enjoyed Old Man’s War and the Ghost Brigades. But he does seem to go down hill a bit after. I have only read the first novella in the End of All Things. I had very mixed feelings about Redshirts.

              Stephenson’s only work that I have read was Anathem. I can honestly say that when I was done, I felt like I was somehow better for having read it, but not sure that I want to go through that again.

              1. Anathem is difficult, but it grew on me. I’m also one of the six people who really enjoyed REAMDE, however, so what the hell do i know.

                1. I enjoyed The Baroque Cycle but the 3rd book dragged.

                  Half-cocked Jack is a fucking awesome character.

                  1. Jack Shaftoe is one of the most fun anti-heroes in modern literature, it is known.

                2. I liked REAMDE.

          2. “Red” Kim Stanley Robinson

            Oh man, don’t get me started on Aurora. It’s probably the best-written book i’ve ever wound up hating.

            1. Again, feel the same way about Mieville’s Iron Council.

              1. HEY HUMANS. YOU SHOULD JUST GIVE UP ON TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT AND PROGRESS IN GENERAL AND EXPLORATION AND STUFF AND JUST STAY ON EARTH FOREVER AND, LIKE, GO SURFING. [spends 200 years traveling to another planet, turns around, comes back]

                1. (The Years of Rice and Salt is still one of my favorite books ever, though.)

        1. I never get tired of that clip.

          1. Fleeing the scene as a reaction will always be funny.

  7. Looking over the hall of fame, how is Michael Flynn’s Firestar series not on there?

    I call shenanigans!

    1. “That coat looks awful brown”

    2. It’s shanigans. Please.

    3. Yeah, I’m watching Firefly/Serenity again with my wife and I’m still surprised how libertarian all the heroes are.

  8. Speaking of SF:

    SyFy has a new series going, The Expanse.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQuTAPWJxNo

    I streamed the first episode, and was very favorably impressed on just about all fronts. Production values are top-notch, writing seems plenty good enough, characters/actors were just fine.

    Anyone else seen this?

    1. Sqrlz ate my first comment.

      Check out the books, RC. Very good combination of SF with political intrigue and the writing is largely top notch. Agree with your assessment of the show. They are doing a good job of incorporating elements of the later books and short stories to further flesh out the characters.

      1. BOOKS? What are those?

    2. Hell yes. My only complaint is it is a little slow. Well I have another complaint, some of the leaders seem rational. Well and a third complaint, Their resource economy is not accurate when taking modern understanding of Ceres and the asteroid belt into account. Ceres is supposedly drowning in water in real life. AND on Ceres I would weigh 6 pounds…while they do cover gravity torture (which is awesome) they could have taken the VAST difference of gravitates between Mars, the Belt, and Earth a little more seriously. Earthlings should be physical monsters to these people.

      BUT OTHER THAN THAT I actually really like it so far. But I loved Ascension so there is that. (Ice Spiders gets an honorable mention)

      1. Because it would be a casting and special effects nightmare to put low-G monsters and different movements for every change in gravity, acceleration, or spin.

        1. dont bother me with your facts

      2. Well, CB, if you’d join us in the highbrow section with our books and brandy snifters and monocles, you’d know that they actually DO spend a great deal of time discussing the physiological effects of low-g and how it has made Belters the 22nd century version of sharecroppers. 😉

        Good point on the Ceres water thing, although I’m pretty sure that was discovered in real life after these books began.

        1. yeah it was discovered like three years ago.

    3. Read all the books. The characters aren’t exactly as I imagined but pretty good so far. I knew episode 3 would be wild.

      1. I was a bit skeptical about the Amos casting (I envisioned him a bit older) but the actor has grown on me. I’m two episodes behind and am looking forward to binging on them these evening with my good friend Pliny.

        (looks around furtively for objects being thrown by the IPA haters)

        1. Catches objects and throws them back.

          1. Piny on tap every month at my local micro brewery here in denver.

          2. Piny on tap every month at my local micro brewery here in denver.

    4. Good to hear it. I plan to keep following.

      OK, on junkier note, I found myself enjoying Into the Badlands. Kind of a GOT meets Hong Kong wire-fu joint. Some nice eye candy (including a redhead, if that’s your kink), excellent fight scenes, and as far as plot, etc. goes, well, c’mon, “plausibility” isn’t on the list of reasons to watch wire-fu flicks.

      Wasn’t sure I was going to stick with it, but when the last one ended, I was hoping for more.

      1. That’s really good to hear since it’s been sitting on my DVR for a couple of months.

      2. YES round two. I loved into the badlands. My understanding is it hasnt been picked up yet for season two.

      3. Ah, yes…. the Widow.

  9. Ken MacLeod’s Fall Revolution series is really good – even though MacLeod himself is an outspoken socialist, the anarcho-capitalist settlement on New Mars comes off looking a hell of a lot better than the communist utopia that Earth turns into.

  10. He’s hardly a household name, but I wish they gave some props to Christopher Anvil before he died.
    His Strangers in Paradise is probably the best condemnation of Top Men philosophy I’ve ever read, because

    a) Top Men are heroes, really trying to do their best
    b) their failure is not on them, it’s that when you try nudging people they WILL react in rational but unpredictable ways and you’ll wind up worse off
    c) the entire setup of the place action takes place is a magnificent piss-take on the idea of altruistic welfare state

    I mean, I love me some Tolkien, but if you give him an award, you’re really stretching the “libertarian” part…

    1. “I mean, I love me some Tolkien, but if you give him an award, you’re really stretching the “libertarian” part…”
      You can make a case for it. The book is a terrific argument that evil is the will to power and nothing more. Evil seeks power over others, and the good seeks only to be left alone. The war of the ring shows this in large scale, and the scouring of the Shire in small.

      1. Tolkien did describe himself as an anarchist later in life.

  11. Ive mentioned it before but That Hideous Strength is the only novel to ever give me nightmares.

    Also, Lewis is why Im a libertarian.

  12. No nomination for the libertarian fiction that 2015 contained one or more libertarian moments?

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