2020 Prometheus Novel and Hall of Fame Winners

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced the Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction winners for its 40th annual Prometheus Awards.

PROMETHEUS AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL. Alliance Rising, by C. J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher (DAW), has won the 2020 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for novels published in 2019.

The citation says:

Set in C.J. Cherryh’s Alliance/Union Universe (before her novel Downbelow Station), Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher’s interstellar saga of technological upheaval, intrigue and romance explores the early days of the Merchanter Alliance. Independent spaceship families ally during complex, mult-isided political-economic rivalries to defend established rights and promote the common good through free trade.

In one of the better fictional treatments of a complex economy, characters maneuver to prevent statist regimes from dominating space lanes, resist Earth’s centralized governance, and investigate the purpose of a mysterious ship, The Rights of Man, undergoing construction on an isolated space station. Classic libertarian themes emerge about what rights are and where they come from (often to resolve conflicts and avoid the initiation of force) and how commerce and property rights promote peace and prosperity as humanity spreads among the stars.

The other 2020 Best Novel finalists were The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood (Random House; Nan A. Talese); Ruin’s Wake, by Patrick Edwards (Titan Books); Luna: Moon Rising, by Ian McDonald (TOR Books): and Ode to Defiance, by Marc Stiegler (LMBPN Publishing).

THE PROMETHEUS HALL OF FAME FOR BEST CLASSIC FICTION. “Sam Hall,” Poul Anderson’s short story, won the 2020 Best Classic Fiction award and will be inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame.

The citation says:

First published in 1953 in Astounding Science Fiction, Anderson’s story is set in a security-obsessed United States, where computerized record-keeping enables the creation of a panopticon society. The insertion of a false record into the system leads to unintended consequences.

Anderson (1926-2001), now a five-time Prometheus Award-winner and the first sf author to be honored with a Special Prometheus Award for Lifetime Achievement (in 2001), explored political implications of computer technology that now, decades later, are widely recognized.

The other Prometheus Hall of Fame finalists were “As Easy as A.B.C.,” a 1912 story by Rudyard Kipling; “The Trees,” a 1978 song by the rock group Rush; A Time of Changes, a 1971 novel by Robert Silverberg; and “Lipidleggin’,” a 1978 story by F. Paul Wilson.

In addition to the finalists, the Hall of Fame Finalist Judging Committee considered four other works: The Winter of the World, by Poul Anderson; The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood; “The Pedestrian,” by Ray Bradbury; and The Uplift War, by David Brin.

While the Best Novel category is limited to novels published in English for the first time during the previous calendar year (or so), Hall of Fame nominees may be in any narrative or dramatic form, including novels, novellas, stories, films, television series or episodes, plays, musicals, other video, graphic novels, song lyrics, or epic or narrative verse.

PROMETHEUS BLOG: AWARDS APPRECIATION SERIES. The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf.

Presented annually since 1982 at the World Science Fiction Convention, the Prometheus Awards include a gold coin and plaque for the winners – with a one-ounce gold coin for Best Novel and a smaller gold coin for the Prometheus Hall of Fame (for Best Classic Fiction in all written and broadcast/on-screen media) and the occasional Prometheus Special awards.

In the words of the LFS:

The Prometheus Awards recognize outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, champion cooperation over coercion, expose the abuses and excesses of government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or uphold individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, and civilization itself.

Last year LFS started a weekly appreciation series about all the award winners on the LFS Prometheus Blog. With the initial Best Novel series completed, the series is now continuing with review/essays in chronological order of each of the winners of the Hall of Fame category.

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit www.lfs.org.

Pixel Scroll 7/2/20 When There’s Evil On The Hat Rack, You Can Rest Knowing They Got Your Back

(1) AND INTRODUCING GUY FLEEGMAN. Looper chimes in about “Sci-fi shows ruined by terrible endings”. (Wait a minute – as far as I’m concerned ALF started out ruined!)

These sci-fi series are perfectly awful examples of this lamentable phenomenon. For some, the finale retcons fans’ understanding of everything the show did up until that point. For others, the finale serves as a sad reminder of what could have been, had the show been given another chance. Some leave dozens of loose ends dangling. Some attempt to wrap things up too neatly. Some are tonally inconsistent. All of them are disappointing — and all of them loom large in fans’ understanding of the show as a whole. We’re here to examine the worst finales in sci-fi television, no matter how much it makes us shudder. Spoiler warning: We’re going to reveal every last detail of these shows’ endings, in an effort to fully explain why they’re so darn detestable.

Here’s one of the shows they named:

Quantum Leap leaves Sam in limbo

… Despite its poor time slots, Quantum Leap’s blend of humor and social commentary garnered a fanbase. But due to declining viewership, it ended after five seasons. In the series finale, “Mirror Image,” we learn that Sam can return home if he chooses — but instead, he decides to go back in time and save his friend Al’s marriage. In doing so, Sam willingly makes it so he and Al never met, trapping himself in a paradox and giving up the life he so desperately wished to return to throughout the duration of the series. Sam’s fate is finally revealed in the show’s last frame: “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.” 

This ending changes the mood of the show entirely. Instead of being wacky misadventures, each episode is reframed as one man’s fruitless quest to return home. He will, apparently, just keep going through these motions… forever. That’s not just bleak — it’s horrifying.

(2) FLESHLESS THINGS. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick reports that a fellow NPR contributor’s “Pitch-Perfect ‘Mexican Gothic’ Ratchets Up The Dread”.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic is a thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking novel. I want to discuss it around tea, preferably while in the mountains, preferably somewhere well-lit. I remember placing my bookmark in the book and thinking, I should not have read this before bed.

I was afraid of what I might dream.

Noémi’s cousin Catalina writes a strange letter begging for help. She claims her new husband Virgil Doyle is poisoning her, that “fleshless things” and ghosts trouble her, that “they will not let me go.” Noémi — self-assured, chic and stubborn — leaves the glamor of 1950s Mexico City for the countryside, still depressed after a mining bust and fecund with secrets, to determine whether Catalina needs rescue.

Reader, she does. The situation is more complicated and sinister than the initial fear of just a con artist husband isolating his new wife and convincing the world she’s mad so he can steal her money.

(3) REPRESENTATION IN GAMING. BBC follows as a “Trailblazing Muslim superhero goes gaming”.

“It’s the representation in gaming I’ve waited for my whole life.”

Marvel’s Avengers are assembling once again, not on the big screen, but for a blockbuster video game.

It features many of the superheroes you might expect, including Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America. But they are joined by a new addition: Kamala Khan.

The Muslim-American teenager of Pakistani heritage, who has shape-shifting abilities, is the latest character to adopt the Ms Marvel moniker.

When the game’s publisher Square Enix announced that Marvel Avengers would include Kamala Khan as one of its main playable characters and make her central to the plot, it garnered praise from both fans and industry insiders.

“I first heard of Ms Marvel from the comics a few years ago,” says Maria Afsar, a 25-year-old gamer.

“I immediately thought it was so cool when read her background was like mine, being Pakistani, Muslim and a girl.

“When I saw the announcement she is going to be in the game and one of the main characters, I just thought I’ve literally been waiting for something like this my whole life. I saw nothing like this when I was younger.”

(4) CONZEALAND INITIATIVE. The 2020 Worldcon boosted the signal for the “CoNZealand Chairs’ Colonised, Marginalised and Historically Underrepresented People Inclusion Initiative”.

The Chairs of CoNZealand are pleased to be able to offer a Membership upgrade initiative to support inclusion of colonised, marginalised and historically underrepresented people in at Worldcon.

With the pandemic affecting job security, the financial ability to participate in conventions and the fan community is becoming increasingly difficult for many fans. 

Marginalised communities are overrepresented in the group suffering the greatest fallout from this pandemic, and as such, we want to ensure that our community does not suffer a loss of its hard-won diversity. We want to lower the barriers for participation for those from underrepresented communities. 

…The initiative upgrades eligible members from supporting to attending memberships. There Is no requirement for the supporting membership to be purchased before grantees are notified. 

Eligible members who are already fully paid, but would like some income relief are also invited to apply. 

In return, we ask that successful applicants willingly participate in our community. Whether that be through programme, art show, or volunteering is up to the individual and how they enjoy participating in this community. 

Applications can be made on this google form: https://forms.gle/4odYVgwvuvL8naLy5

Grantees will be chosen by the chairs. As long as there is a good plan for participation, we expect to grant applications. The grantees will be notified as soon as practical, and we will continue to announce grantees at least weekly as long as upgrades last.

Questions about this initiative can be mailed to inclusion@conzealand.nz.

(5) GLASS BELL. The winner of Goldsboro Books 2020 Glass Bell Award was not one of the genre works on the shortlist, but the tale of a fictional ’70s rock band, Daisy Jones and the Six.

(6) DOOMED. Here’s a promising subject – James Davis Nicoll lists “Five Doomed Armies in Science Fiction” at Tor.com.

…Armies sacrificed for no obvious purpose and meaningless wars are not entirely unknown in speculative fiction. Here are five examples from that golden age of such stories, the Vietnam War era, and its literary aftermath.

(7) LIBERTARIAN FUTURIST SOCIETY AT NASFIC AND WORLDCON. The LFS told members about their plans to participate in two of the summer’s virtual sff cons.

Their scheduled presence at the Columbus 2020 North American Science Fiction Convention will migrate online with the rest of the virtual con. There will be a back-to-back Prometheus Awards ceremony and Prometheus-Awards-themed panel discussion, free and widely available to watch live.

Novelist F. Paul Wilson, previously confirmed by NASFiC as their and LFS’ Prometheus Awards Guest of Honor, will participate in the awards ceremony by presenting the Best Novel category, which Wilson was the first author to win in 1979. Wilson also will be a panelist in a “Visions of SF, Liberty, Human Rights: The Prometheus Awards Over Four Decades, from F. Paul Wilson and Robert Heinlein to Today”. So will Sarah Hoyt, the 2011 Prometheus Award Best Novel winner for Darkship Thieves, LFS co-founder Michael Grossberg and newspaper journalist Tom Jackson.

During CoNZeland’s virtual convention, LFS will put on a panel “Freedom in Science Fiction: Four Decades of the Prometheus Awards, From F. Paul Wilson and Robert Heinlein to Ursula LeGuin, Vernor Vinge, Cory Doctorow, Neal Stephenson and Today.” Tom Jackson will moderate, joined by F. Paul Wilson and others to be announced. The Worldcon online program will initially be accessible that weekend for viewing only by registered Worldcon members.

(8) HISTORY OF SF. It’s Quilette, and if that doesn’t tell you what to expect, the first paragraph of “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” by Jordan Alexander Hill will make everything clear.

When mainstream authors like Eric Flint complain that the science fiction establishment, and its gatekeeper the Hugo Awards, has “drift[ed] away from the opinions and tastes of… mass audience[s],” prioritizing progressive messaging over plot development, the response from the Left is uniform: Science fiction is by its very nature progressive. It’s baked into the cake, they say. This is a superficially plausible claim. With its focus on the future, its embrace of the unfamiliar and other-worldly, and its openness to alternative ways of living, it is hard to see how the genre could be anything but progressive. In fact, studies indicate that interest in SF books and movies is strongly correlated with a Big Five personality trait called openness to experience, which psychologists say is highly predictive of liberal values.

But openness to experience also correlates with libertarianism and libertarian themes and ideas have exercised far greater influence than progressivism over SF since the genre’s inception. From conservatarian voices like Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, Vernor Vinge, Poul Anderson, and F. Paul Wilson to those of a more flexible classical liberal bent like Ray Bradbury, David Brin, Charles Stross, Ken McLeod, and Terry Pratchett, libertarian-leaning authors have had an outsized, lasting influence on the field. So much so that The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has deemed “Libertarian SF” its own stand alone “branch,” admitting that “many of libertarianism’s most influential texts have been by SF writers.”

…Although he began his career as a utopian socialist working for Upton Sinclair’s 1934 gubernatorial campaign, Heinlein underwent a political transformation and became known for the rest of his career as a libertarian “guru” of sorts. Scott Timberg at the LA Times describes him as a “nudist with a military-hardware fetish” who “dominated the pulps… and became the first science fictionist to land on the New York Times bestseller list.” A four-time Hugo Award winner, Heinlein is credited with helping to elevate SF from its ray-blaster and tentacled space-monster phase to a more serious, respectable prominence, penning such classics as Stranger in a Strange Land and, Milton Friedman’s favorite, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, a book that reads like an anarcho-capitalist blueprint for revolutionary uprising. Friedman even named his 1975 public policy book after the novel’s slogan TANSTAAFL (“There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”).

…Perhaps this is why so much of SF expresses itself as dystopian fiction, a genre which, by its very nature, cannot but take on a libertarian flavor. Totalitarianism, war, and wide-scale oppression is almost always carried out by state force. Liberation, accordingly, must come in the form of negative rights—that is, “freedom from”—and voluntarism: “[I]n writing your constitution,” Professor de la Paz instructs, “let me invite attention to the wonderful virtues of the negative! Accentuate the negative! Let your document be studded with things the government is forever forbidden to do.”

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

July 2 UFO Day. And “Has E.T. Gone Home?” asks Statista.

There is some controversy as to whether World UFO Day falls on June 26 or July 02 with people seemingly celebrating it on both days. The occasion is an awareness day for UFOs coinciding with the Roswell incident’s anniversary. It is getting increasingly popular as UFOs have been making headlines again lately, notably due to the “Storm Area 51” event which went viral last year. That’s on top of The New York Times running an interesting article about several U.S. Navy fighter pilots encountering mysterious objects near the southeastern coast of the United States. The high-profile story remains unexplained and so do plenty of other UFO sightings reported by members of the public every year like strange lights crossing the night sky or orange disks hovering in the distance.

The National UFO Reporting Center which is based in the U.S. maintains statistics about global UFO sightings. Notably, they are ticking up again….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 2, 1877 – Hermann Hesse.  You’ll expect me to celebrate The Glass Bead Game (also published as Magister Ludi), and I do, subtle, profound, satirical, moving, the first Nobel Prize SF novel, to my surprise and delight reaching the Retrospective Hugo ballot.  Other books of his in or near SF and more in line with the Hesse fad are SteppenwolfSiddharthaJourney to the East.  (Died 1962) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1908 Rip Van Ronkel. Screenwriter who won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Millenium Philcon for Destination Moon. He also produced the earlier Destination Space movie for television, andwrote the screenplay for The Bamboo Saucer. (Died 1965.) (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1914 – Hannes Bok.  Under this name (from Johann S. Bach) and in a short life he was one of our masters.  First Hugo for Best Cover Artist, shared with Emsh (Ed Emshwiller).  A hundred covers, his many monochromes maybe even better.  See how well he could work when he wanted to do without his famous weirdness (he turned down hundreds of commissions he didn’t want): Lest Darkness Fall; the Nolacon I Program Book (9th Worldcon); F & SF under Davidson (yes, I know those are covers).  Author too, novels, two dozen shorter stories, poems published posthumously as Spinner of Silver and Thistle.  See Petaja’s biography and flights of angels, and Ned Brooks’ index.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1935 – Doug Hoylman, Ph.D.  I hope I know when Our Gracious Host has done better than I can.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1946 – Arnie Katz, 74.  He’s done much.  Fundamentally a fanziner, he’s contributed to clubs and cons.  I might not be luxuriating in APA-L (alas, this Fancy 3 article has not caught up with Fred Patten) if AK hadn’t been a forerunner with APA-F.  He owes me a chicken dinner, but he’s quite fair about what I must do to collect.  Anyway, I pray for his prosperity.  And see here.  [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1948 – Larry Tucker.  How bodacious July 2nd has been for the birth of nearly unbelievable brothers (sisters too! it just happens I’ve come to another brother).  This Titan took fanzines to video  – took fanzines to video early on, while the tech was still truculentUncle Albert’s Video Fanzine (he had in mind this Uncle Albert; alas, I never asked if he also thought of, less directly or even less fairly, this one (but look who has the cigar).  LT co-founded the Ann Arbor SF Ass’n and the SF Oral History Ass’n; he didn’t start, but always inspired, the Stilyagi Air Corps and the well-named ConFusion.  The photo here is by Mark Olson; speaking of Leah Zeldes Smith (see no. 8 here), I’ve just recommended one of her stories.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1948 Saul Rubinek, 72. Primarily of interest for being on Warehouse 13  as Artie Nielsen, though he does show rather often on genre series and films including EurekaMasters of HorrorPerson of InterestBeauty & the BeastStargate SG-1The Outer Limits and Star Trek: The Next GenerationMemory Run and Death Ship seem to be his only only genre films. His latest genre role is in For all Mankind as Rep. Charles Sandman in their “He Built the Saturn V“ episode. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1949 Craig Shaw Gardner, 71. Comic fantasy author whose work is, depending on your viewpoint, very good or very bad. For me, he’s always great.  I adore his Ballad of Wuntvor sequence and highly recommend all three novels, A Difficulty with DwarvesAn Excess of Enchantments and A Disagreement with Death. Likewise, his pun filled Arabian Nights sequence will either be to your liking or really not. I think it’s worth it just for Scheherazade’s Night Out. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1950 –Stephen R. Lawhead, 70. I personally think that The Pendragon Cycle is by far his best work though the King Raven Trilogy with its revisionist take on Robin Hood is intriguing. And I read the first two of the Bright Empires series which are also very much worth reading. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1956 Kay Kenyon, 64. Writer of the truly awesome The Entire and the Rose series which I enjoyed immensely as a listening experience a few years back. I’ve not read his Dark Talents series, so opinions please. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1962 – Laura Benedict, 58.  Nine novels, a few shorter stories; anthologies.  “You don’t look like a person who writes scary stories.  I hear those words often and it makes me laugh every time.”  She put them next to this photo for good reason.  Three anthologies (with Pinckney Benedict, who – never mind, it’s not his birthday notice) are called Surreal South, for good reason.  [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1970 Yancy Butler, 50. Detective Sara Pezzini on the  Witchblade series which would’ve been awesome with current CGI. She was later Avedon Hammond in Ravager, Captain Kate Roebuck in Doomsday Man, Angie D’Amico in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Reba in Lake Placid 3 and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, Officer Hart in Hansel & Gretel Get Baked (also known as Black Forest: Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch) (given the latter, a career low for her) and Alexis Hamilton in Death Race 2050. Series work other than Witchblade wasa recurring role as Sgt. Eve Edison in Mann & Machine inher first genre role. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe answers a history quiz. Spectacularly wrongly.
  • Two Incidental Comics by Grant Snider.

(12) UMM, ROBOT LITMUS TEST? This line occurred recently in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson was trying to identify who on a bus might be a time-traveling robot from the future and he came out with this:

(13) THE MARCH OF FUR. Coming July 3, The Fandom is a feature length documentary about the furry community from its origins in sf and anime fandoms up to present day.

The Fandom explores the history of animation fans who brought anime to the western world in the 1970s, Disney animators who faced threats to their careers, sci-fi fans who started the first furry conventions, and why furries became early adopters of the 1980s internet. It contrasts that with the modern fandom covering how it became a haven for the LGBT community as well as a positive economic and artistic impact on major US cities.

The production earned praise from blogger Patch O’Furr: “The Fandom movie: Furry paws seize the media”.

…I keep an eye out for all media about furries, and often call the Furry 101 kind boring. The Fandom raises the bar by giving an intimate tour with quality and heart. It’s 95% positive celebration.

Documentaries can show more drama or criticism or bad sides than this really does. But how much negativity do you need in these times? Not to say that this documentary has no opinion — it’s strong advocacy.

(14) GRRMTM. George R.R. Martin told readers he’s working on his videos for the virtual Worldcon.

The toastmaster wears many hats at worldcon, but probably the single biggest part of the gig is hosting the Hugo Awards ceremony.   I am going to be doing that with a combination of live streaming and pre-recorded videos, which we will (I hope I pray) edit seamlessly together.   This week I have started recording some of those videos.   It has been fun, if a little surreal, to be reading off the names of this year’s Hugo finalists when voting has not actually started yet.   And trying to be amusing (one hopes) while talking into a camera without the feedback of laughter (or moans, boos, or soul-chilling silence) from an actual audience is challenging as well.   But so it goes.

…((And before anyone starts to panic, “oh my god he is making videos in place of writing,” OF COURSE I am still working on WINDS OF WINTER as well.   That really should go without saying, yet somehow I need to say it, or someone might make stupid assumptions.   I am also doing some editorial work on three new Wild Cards books, reading scripts and making notes on a couple of exciting Hollywood projects, texting with agents, editors, and friends about this and that, eating several meals a day, watching television, reading books, and from time to time using the toilet.   Just because I do not mention it in every Not A Blog does not mean it is not happening)).

(15) BE YOUR OWN CTHULHU. This bit of Lovecraftian solipsism has been making the rounds:

(16) ON HOLD. BBC reports “Perseverance launch pushed back again”.

The launch of Nasa’s Mars rover Perseverance has been pushed back again to 30 July at the earliest.

In an update, the US space agency said a technical issue needed to be investigated, prompting the delay.

The robot rover will search for signs of past life on the Red Planet and also carries a drone-like helicopter which will demonstrate powered flight in the Martian atmosphere.

It is scheduled to land in February 2021.

In its statement, Nasa said: “A liquid oxygen sensor line presented off-nominal data during the Wet Dress Rehearsal, and additional time is needed for the team to inspect and evaluate.”

The mission’s original launch window extended from 17 July to 11 August.

But the rover will now get more time to launch.

“Flight analysis teams have expanded the mission launch opportunities to August 15 and are examining if the launch period may be extended further into August,” Nasa said.

(17) EXCERPT. SYFY Wire invites fans to “Read An Excerpt Of Sam Maggs’ Debut, Con Quest!”

Sam Maggs is no stranger to SYFY FANGRRLS. She’s got her hands in some of our absolute favorite properties of all time, from Spider-Man to Star Trek, and we’re so thankful she’s there to represent our, well, fangirling. But now, Maggs is back with something brand new on her plate: original fiction! Her debut novel Con Quest! came out just last week. 

Con Quest! is a comics convention adventure for young readers about fandom, family, and finding your place in the world!

Cat and Alex are excited to be at the world’s most popular comics convention — and they’re even more excited to compete in the Quest, a huge scavenger hunt run by their favorite nerdy celebrity. The big prize: a chance to meet him!

(18) REALLY FAUX GAIMAN. “Neil Gaiman–Bad Gaiman Challenge–Wits” on YouTube is an excerpt from a 2014 episode of the public radio show Wits where Gaiman read the winners of the show’s “Bad Gaiman challenge.”

We asked you guys to submit their worst versions of a Neil Gaiman-style short story. Hundreds responded to the call. Here, read by Neil Gaiman himself, are the worst of the worst.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, JJ, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Jenifer Hawthorne, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

2020 Prometheus Award Best Novel Finalists

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced the finalists for the Best Novel category of the 2020 Prometheus Awards.

The 2020 Prometheus Awards will be presented at Columbus NASFiC 2000 (the North American Science Fiction Convention) to be held Augus 20-23 in Columbus, Ohio, pandemic permitting. The Best Novel winner will receive a plaque with a one-ounce gold coin. 

Here are the five Best Novel finalists, listed in alphabetical order by author:

  • The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood (Random House: Nan A. Talese):

In this long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale (a 1987 Prometheus Award finalist), oppressed women and others struggle valiantly for freedom. Some face mortal risks undermining the Gilead dictatorship, struggling with thorny moral complexities and working within the halls of power while taking covert steps to subvert tyranny. Poignantly and with sly humor, Atwood weaves three narrative threads exploring enduring questions about liberty, power, responsibility, and resistance. An “Underground Femaleroad” network (much like 19th-century libertarian Abolitionists) smuggles women into Canada while intelligence provided to the wider world’s free press promotes re-establishment of a free United States. Atwood references the “eternal verities” about “life, liberty, democracy, and the rights of the individual” that remain at the heart of libertarian ideals.

  • Alliance Rising, by C.J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher (DAW)

Set in Cherryh’s Alliance-Rising Universe (before her novel Downbelow Station),this interstellar saga of technological upheaval, intrigue and romance explores the early days of the Merchanter Alliance. Independent spaceship families ally during complex, multisided political-economic rivalries to defend established rights and promote the common good through free trade. In one of the better fictional treatments of a complex economy, characters maneuver to prevent statist regimes from dominating space lanes, resist Earth’s centralized governance, and investigate the mysterious purpose of a ship, The Rights of Man, undergoing construction on an isolated space station. Classic libertarian themes emerge about what rights are and where they come from (often to resolve conflicts), and how commerce and property rights promote peace and prosperity as humanity spreads among the stars.

  • Ruin’s Wake, by Patrick Edwards (Titan Books)

This dystopian debut novel, set within a totalitarian world that emerged from catastrophe 500 years ago, weaves narrative threads from different sympathetic characters fighting for identity, love, and revenge amid repression. A young woman finds hope in an illicit love affair with a subversive rebel while trapped in an abusive marriage with a government official. An exiled old soldier searches desperately for his dying son, and a female scientist-archeologist discovers a mysterious technology that exposes the vulnerability of her world. A dictatorial government threatens their pursuit of happiness, knowledge, and family in a world recovering from ruin. This state has erased history and individual identity – a plausible scenario modeled by the author to evoke parallels to Stalinist Russia and today’s communist North Korea.

  • Luna: Moon Rising, by Ian McDonald (TOR Books)

In the sequel to the Prometheus-nominated novels Luna: New Moon and Luna: Wolf Moon, McDonald dramatizes the struggle for independence and sovereignty as feuding lunar factions unite against a threat from Earth. The trilogy’s thrilling finale builds on McDonald’s intricate future of moon colonization, buoyed by somewhat free markets marred by violence, corporate espionage, and political marriages as the Five Dragons family dynasties control the main lunar industrial companies. Characters empowered by personal freedom and individual/social achievement in a society where contracts with others define people. Rendering a more positive view of a free society than earlier novels, McDonald offers justifications for freedom and markets while showing more negative aspects of politics and human behavior dealt with by people addressing inevitable problems in more voluntary ways.

  • Ode to Defiance, by Marc Stiegler (LMBPN Publishing)

The forces of enlightenment, science, liberty, and truth battle factions of statism, bureaucracy, ignorance, superstition, and deception in this lighthearted, explicitly libertarian and occasionally satirical sci-fi/adventure novel, set in Stiegler’s BrainTrust Universe. To escape a United States impoverished by socialist bureaucracy, people live and work on innovative technology on a BrainTrust fleet of independent seastead ships. The story explores how a libertarian society can work and engage with rivals without violence and, ultimately, in peaceful co-existence (though some opponents receive the sharp end of the BrainTrust’s characteristically pointed violence.) This world-encompassing sequel to Stiegler’s Prometheus-nominated Crescendo of Fire and Rhapsody for the Tempest explores bio-engineered diseases and biological warfare – especially timely during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.

All LFS members have the right to nominate eligible works for the Prometheus Awards. LFS members also nominated these 2019 works for this year’s Best Novel category: They Will Drown in Their Mother’s Tears, by Johannes Anyuru (Two Lines Press); Monster Hunter Guardian, by Larry Correia and Sarah H. Hoyt (Baen Books); The Good Luck Girls, by Charlotte Nicole Davis  (TOR Teen); Empire of Lies, by Raymond Khoury (Forge Books/TOR); The Year of Jublio!, by Joseph T. Major (Amazon); Atlas Alone, by Emma Newman (ACE Books/Penguin Group); and Stealing Worlds, by Karl Schroeder (TOR Books).

The Prometheus Awards, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established and first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf.

A 12-person judging committee selects the Prometheus Award finalists for Best Novel. Following the selection of finalists, all LFS upper-level members (Benefactors, Sponsors, and Full members) have the right to read and vote on the Best Novel finalist slate to choose the annual winner.

The LFS says these are the kinds of work recognized by the Prometheus Award –

For close to four decades, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor cooperation over coercion, expose the abuses and excesses of coercive government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or champion individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, mutual respect and civilization itself.

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit www.lfs.org.

Libertarian Futurist Society Announces 2020 Hall of Fame Finalists

The five 2020 finalists for the Prometheus Hall of Fame award for Best Classic Fiction have been released by the Libertarian Futurist Society judging committee:

  • “Sam Hall,” a 1953 novelette by Poul Anderson
  • “As Easy as A.B.C.,” a 1912 novelette by Rudyard Kipling
  • “The Trees,” a 1978 song by the Canadian rock group Rush (recorded as part of the group’s 1978 album “Hemispheres”)
  • A Time of Changes, a 1971 novel by Robert Silverberg
  • “Lipidleggin,” a 1979 short story by F. Paul Wilson

LFS members will receive a Prometheus Awards ballot in May.

The Libertarian Futurist Society’s Prometheus Awards ceremony will be a centerpiece of the 2020 North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC) scheduled for August 20-23 in Columbus, OH.

LFS and NASFiC also are cooperating to bring in F. Paul Wilson (An Enemy of the State, Wheels within Wheels, Sims, the Repairman Jack series, etc.), one of only four LFS Special Prometheus Award-winners for Lifetime Achievement, as a joint guest of honor.

Pixel Scroll 8/31/19 A Scroll Title Named Desire

(1) TIPTREE AWARD CONTROVERSY. While I can’t say I located the ultimate roots of the discussion, I found Carrie Cuinn’s thread, which starts here.

There are more comments in Natalie Luhrs’ thread, starting here.

Today Sweden’s John-Henri Holmberg countered challenges raised about continuing the James Tiptree Award under its existing name in his review of the history of the award and its namesake on Facebook. He asks in conclusion:

…What has changed in the last few months? As far as I know, nothing. The award given not even in her own name, but in the name of her pseudonym, celebrates work of imaginative fiction exploring the territory she made her own over her twenty-years long writing career. She explored it more deeply, searchingly, critically and imaginatively than anyone before her had ever come close to doing, and her work remains startlingly fresh, moving, and thoughtful. We owe it to her to celebrate her heritage, not to obliterate it. Her death, as that of her husband, was a tragedy, but not by any reasonable standard an erasure of her life or her literary heritage.

(2) CARRYING THE BANNER. Travis Corcoran’s Prometheus Award acceptance speech has been posted on the Libertarian Futurist Society blog:

Here is the acceptance speech by Travis Corcoran for 2019 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for Causes of Separation.  (Corcoran could not attend the Dublin Worldcon but wrote this acceptance speech to be read there at the ceremony.)

…Chapman’s essay and Pournelle’s and Conquest’s laws are three observations of a single underlying phenomena: the collectivists always worm their way in and take over. We know THAT this happens, but WHY does it happen? How can we model it and understand it?

(3) WHAT, IT’S NOT CHEESE? Space.com reports “China’s Lunar Rover Has Found Something Weird on the Far Side of the Moon”.  

China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover has discovered an unusually colored, ‘gel-like’ substance during its exploration activities on the far side of the moon.

The mission’s rover, Yutu-2, stumbled on that surprise during lunar day 8. The discovery prompted scientists on the mission to postpone other driving plans for the rover, and instead focus its instruments on trying to figure out what the strange material is.

…So far, mission scientists haven’t offered any indication as to the nature of the colored substance and have said only that it is “gel-like” and has an “unusual color.” One possible explanation, outside researchers suggested, is that the substance is melt glass created from meteorites striking the surface of the moon. 

(4) EL-MOHTAR REVIEW. NPR’s Amal El-Mohtar says “‘Palestine + 100’ Explores Contested Territory, Past And Future”

A few years ago I reviewed Iraq + 100, a project which invited its contributors to write stories set 100 years in Iraq’s future. It was conceived as an imaginative springboard for Iraqi writers to potentially launch themselves beyond the enduring trauma of waves of invasion and devastation — but because science fiction stories set in the future are always in some way about our present, the collection became a multi-voiced testament to the fact that you can’t project a future without first reckoning with the past.

Comma Press has followed that collection up with Palestine + 100, an anthology edited by Basma Ghalayini in which twelve Palestinian authors write stories set 100 years after the Nakba — Arabic for “catastrophe” — during which, as Ghalayini writes in her moving, thoughtful introduction, “Israel declared itself a new-born state on the rubble of Palestinian lives.” Thus where Iraq + 100 looked towards the year 2103, the stories in Palestine + 100 look towards 2048, and the bulk of the work isn’t about extrapolating a future so much as recognizing, fighting, and establishing narratives about the past. The choice of subtitle — “stories from a century after the Nakba” — exemplifies this, drawing attention to the fact that for Palestinians (and many Israelis), May 15, 1948 is not a date to celebrate, but to grieve.

In Palestine + 100, memory and imagination are contested territories. Samir El-Youssef’s “The Association,” translated by Raph Cormack, kicks off with the murder of a historian; the narrator observes that “Since the 2028 Agreement, the people of the country — all the different sects and religions, Muslim, Christian and Jewish — had decided that forgetting was the best way to live in peace.” In Saleem Haddad’s “Song of the Birds,” a young girl lives in a beautiful simulation haunted by the vicious, broken reality it obscures. In Ahmed Masoud’s “Application 39,” two young men imagine a Palestinian bid for the Olympics as a joke — and find themselves in the tormented midst of trying to make that a reality, with all the consequences it entails. In Tasnim Abutabikh’s “Vengeance” the plot is evenly divided between one man’s elaborate pursuit of revenge against a neighbor he thinks has wronged him — and that neighbor’s heartbroken revelation that the man had the past all wrong. In almost all these stories there is a doubled, troubled vision, that never resolves so much as it fractures further.

(5) MICHAELS OBIT. Melisa Michaels (1946-2019) died August 30 of complications amid efforts to treat her lung cancer. (Condolences to filer Xtifr, her nephew.)

Michaels was known for her series about Skyrider, a woman space combat pilot. She also wrote urban fantasies including “Sister to the Rain” and “Cold Iron.” Her novel Skirmish was nominated for a Locus Award for Best First Novel in 1986. SFWA presented her with a Service Award in 2008.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 31, 1914 Richard Basehart. He’s best remembered as Admiral Harriman Nelson in  Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He also portrayed Wilton Knight in the later Knight Rider series. And he appeared in “Probe 7, Over and Out”, an episode of The Twilight Zone. (Died 1984)
  • Born August 31, 1933 Robert Adams. He’s best remembered for the Horseclans series which became his overall best-known works though he wrote other works.  While he never completed the series, he wrote 18 novels in the Horseclans series before his death. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 31, 1949 Richard Gere, 70. Lancelot in First Knight starring Sean Connery as King Arthur. And was Joe Klein in The Mothman Prophecies. That’s it. First Knight for me is more than enough to get Birthday Honours!  
  • Born August 31, 1958 Julie Brown, 61. Starred with Geena Davis in the cult SF comedy, Earth Girls Are Easy. She’s actually been in genre films such as The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Bloody Birthday (a slasher film), Timebomb and Wakko’s Wish. She’s had one-offs in TV’s Quantum Leap and The Addams Family. She’s voiced a lot of animated characters included a memorable run doing the ever so sexy Minerva Mink on The Animaniacs. She reprised that role on Pinky and The Brain under the odd character name of Danette Spoonabello Minerva Mink. 
  • Born August 31, 1969 Jonathan LaPaglia, 50. The lead in Seven Days which I’ve noted before is one of my favourite SF series. Other than playing Prince Seth of Delphi in a really bad film called Gryphon which aired on the Sci-fi channel, that’s his entire genre history.
  • Born August 31, 1971 Chris Tucker, 48. The way over the top Ruby Rhod in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, a film I really, really like. His only other genre credit is as a MC in the Hall in The Meteor Man.
  • Born August 31, 1982 G. Willow Wilson, 37. A true genius. There’s her amazing work on the Hugo Award winning Ms. Marvel series starring Kamala Khan which I recommend strongly, and that’s not to say that her superb Air series shouldn’t be on your reading list. Oh, and the Cairo graphic novel with its duplicitous djinn is quite the read. The only thing I’ve by her that I’ve not quite liked is her World Fantasy Award winning Alif the Unseen novel.  I’ve not yet read her Wonder Women story but will soon.
  • Born August 31, 1992 Holly Earl, 27. She’s been in a number of British genre shows such as playing Kela in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, Agnes in Humans, and yes, Doctor Who in the “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, an Eleventh Doctor story in she was Lily Arwell.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro lives up to its name with this idea about collaborative effort.

(8) ONE TO BEAM UP. Camestros Felapton’s incredible “tweetfilk” of Star Trek and Bowie, featuring science officer Ziggy!! Thread starts here.

(9) PLEASE DON’T JOKE ABOUT THIS. Variety: “‘Joker’ Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying”.

Critics are raving for Warner Bros. latest comic book installment.

Todd Phillip’s “Joker” opened Saturday at the Venice Film Festival to effervescent reviews, with many critics highlighting an Oscar-worthy appearance from star Joaquin PhoenixVariety‘s own Owen Gleiberman praised Phoenix’s performance, emphasizing his physical acting and emotional control:

“He appears to have lost weight for the role, so that his ribs and shoulder blades protrude, and the leanness burns his face down to its expressive essence: black eyebrows, sallow cheeks sunk in gloom, a mouth so rubbery it seems to be snarking at the very notion of expression, all set off by a greasy mop of hair,” he wrote. “Phoenix is playing a geek with an unhinged mind, yet he’s so controlled that he’s mesmerizing. He stays true to the desperate logic of Arthur’s unhappiness.”

(10) VERY LEAKY ESTABLISHMENT. NPR asks “Have You Seen Any Nazi Uranium? These Researchers Want To Know”. (The photo makes it look like a Borg spaceship.)

Timothy Koeth’s office is crammed with radioactive relics – old watches with glowing radium dials, pieces of melted glass from beneath the test of the world’s first nuclear weapon.

But there is one artifact that stands apart from the rest: a dense, charcoal-black cube, two-inches on a side. The cube is made of pure uranium metal. It was forged more than 70 years ago by the Nazis, and it tells the little-known story of Germany’s nuclear efforts during World War II.

“From a historical perspective this cube weighs a lot more than five pounds,” Koeth, a physicist at the University of Maryland, says as he holds it in his hand.

…At the time of Hitler’s rise, Germany was actually at the cutting edge of nuclear technology. “Nuclear fission was discovered in Berlin in late 1938,” says Alex Wellerstein is a historian of science at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. “They were the first team of people who figured out how to split the atom, and figured out that when you split the atom, a lot of energy was going to be released.”

That basic idea of splitting atoms to release energy is what’s at the heart of all of today’s nuclear power plants and all the world’s nuclear weapons.

But back during World War II, it was all theoretical. To find out how it could work, the Germans devised strange looking experiment. Scientists strung together 664 cubes of uranium with aircraft cables and suspended them. The result looked “kind of like a very strange modernist chandelier of cubes,” Wellerstein says.

The chandelier was dipped into a cylindrical tank of heavy water, which contains special isotopes of hydrogen that make it more conducive to nuclear reactions.

The setup was known as the B-VIII reactor. The Germans were experimenting with it inside a cave in the southern town of Haigerloch. They were still trying to get it to work when the allied invasion began. As Allied forces approached, the German scientists disassembled the reactor and buried the cubes in a field.

The first wave of Allied troops to arrive included a task force known as Alsos, which was seeking to seize as much of the Nazi program as they could.

The Nazi scientists quickly disclosed the location of the buried cubes to the Allies, Wellerstein says. The Alsos team boxed up the cubes, to send them back to America, but what happened after that is not entirely clear.

(12) UK BIOBANK. “Geneticists To Cooperate, Not Compete”NPR has the story.

There’s an astonishing outpouring of new information linking genes and health, thanks to the efforts of humble Englishmen and women such as Chritopeher Fletcher. The 70-year-old man recently drove 90 miles from his home in Nottingham to a radiology clinic outside the city of Manchester.

He is one of half a million Brits who have donated time, blood and access to their medical records to a remarkable resource called UK Biobank. The biobank, in turn, has become a resource for more than a thousand scientists around the world who are interested in delving into the link between genes, behaviors and health.

Popularity of the resource is snowballing. Just this week, a major study using the data explored the genetics of same-sex sexual behavior. And as researchers discover the biobank’s value, there’s a strong incentive to add to the database to make it even richer.

…What makes UK Biobank valuable is not only the half-million volunteers, whose health will be followed for decades, but also its community-spirited scientific strategy. Chief scientist Dr. Cathie Sudlow says the organizers, in a break from their usual ways, aren’t out to answer their own scientific questions, but to serve their colleagues.

“I’ll freely admit that when I first started out in the biobank I couldn’t really believe that we were all going to work really hard to make data available for other people,” she says. “And that is because I came from this traditional, kind of slightly paranoid, somewhat territorial, academic background.”

The scramble for research funds creates competitive incentives in much of academic science today. This biobank is different.

(13) JUST A FEW MORE HOURS. Readers of Camestros’ Felapton’s blog have entertained each other today with some last-minute speculation about the winners: “Just for fun, some Dragon Award predictions”.

Best Science Fiction Novel: A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad Torgersen is a plausible winner. If it does then we can assume other works in the Brad Puppies list got lots of votes. I think Tiamat’s Wrath is a likely winner given the popularity of The Expanse TV series and the Dragon Con audience. However, Becky Chambers has a wide and devoted set of fans and I wouldn’t be astonished if Record of a Spaceborn Few won. If any of the others won, that would be interesting but I don’t know what it would mean.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Brad Linaweaver (1952-2019)

Brad Linaweaver in 1989 holding his Prometheus Award. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

Prometheus Award-winning author Brad Linaweaver died August 29 after a long battle with cancer. He would have been 67 on Sunday.

I met Brad long ago through other Libertarian fans and knew about his good sense of humor – he attended the satirical Hogu Ranquets organized at Worldcons by Elst Weinstein and John Novak. His goal was a pro writing career and he made his mark with some noteworthy sff.

The novella version of his novel Moon of Ice was a Nebula Award finalist (1983) and the novel length version won a Prometheus Award (1989). Linaweaver shared a second Prometheus Award (1998) with Ed Kramer for co-editing Free Space, a libertarian science fiction anthology from TOR books. His novels Anarquia with J. Kent Hastings, and Sliders (based on the television series) were also Prometheus nominees.

Linaweaver’s other novels include The Land Beyond Summer, four Doom novels with Dafydd ab Hugh, and three Battlestar Galactica novels with actor Richard Hatch.

He had original story credits on a number of films, including The Brain Leeches and Jack-O for Fred Olen Ray.

He was proud to add, in the bio he sent me when I ran program at the 2000 Loscon, “Besides playing a werewolf in the upcoming Vampire Hunters Club, his media credits include story adaptations for radio, and cameo appearances in almost a dozen feature films, including Attack of the Sixty Foot Centerfold. Brad even did a scene with Kato Kaelin before he because America’s most famous houseguest (Kato, not Brad).” Kaelin was a witness in the OJ Simpson trial (1995).

His nonfiction appeared in National Review, Chronicles, Reason, The Agorist Quarterly,and Famous Monsters of Filmland.

In 2004, he co-authored Worlds of Tomorrow with Forrest J Ackerman, a hardcover coffee table book that spotlights science fiction cover art from the Golden Age.

He was the publisher of Mondo Cult Magazine and its associated website, edited by Jessie Lilley Campbell.

One of Linaweaver’s proudest possessions was a small brass cannon once owned by Robert and Virginia Heinlein. For nearly 30 years they fired it every July 4 at the Heinlein residence. Virginia bequeathed to Linaweaver when she died in 2003. He restored it and in 2007 made a video of it being fired several times (with very small charges). (Cannon discharges begin around 6:41.)

Pixel Scroll 8/11/19 Where Are We Going? Pixel 10!

MONDAY. My mother is having her pacemaker battery replaced tomorrow and I’ll be going along with her to the hospital. I don’t know how that will affect my plans for the Scroll. A day off? A relief to come home and work on it? If you don’t see one, that’ll be why.

(1) UNEXPECTED PARTY. If there had been op-eds in Lord of the Rings… David Howard tells “We Need a Wizard Who Can Appeal to the Moderate Orc Voter” at McSweeney’s.

I may be just an ordinary orc, but I wasn’t at all surprised when the Dark Lord Sauron became the leader of Mordor. A lot of my smart, liberal friends, though, reacted as if Middle-earth was coming to an end. Dwarves in the barroom of the Prancing Pony said it was the pride of the High Elves. Ravens twittering under the eaves of Mirkwood blamed the cunning of dragons. The Steward of Gondor, posting on FacePalantir, said it was because of Sauron’s hatred for the heirs of Isildur.

I’m here to tell you: it’s the economy, stupid.

It’s all very well for those of you who dwell in the Shire, the haven of Rivendell, or the quiet forests of Lothlórien. You live in a bubble. You don’t know what life is like for the average orc, in depressed areas like the Trollshaws, the Misty Mountains, or the Dead Marshes. Let me tell you, it’s hard out here for an orc….

(2) THE YA AUDIENCE. Q&A with YA author Kate Marshall, “Interview: Graduate Kate Marshall (Part 1 of 2)”, at Odyssey Writing Workshops.

Congratulations on the upcoming September release of Rules for Vanishing, a YA novel about local ghost legend Lucy Gallows! What are some of the unique challenges of writing for a YA audience?

One of the tricky things about the YA audience is that it’s not very young adult! Most YA readers aren’t teenagers, but not by a huge margin—which means that you’re writing both for actual teens and for adult fans of the category. There’s a lot of crossover in expectations and preferences between the two sets of readers, but there are differences you have to navigate. What teens find unrealistic in a teenage character and what adults find unrealistic in a teen character are often quite different. And the online conversation and community is dominated by that older set of readers, which makes it important to seek out teens’ reactions and opinions, whether that’s through school visits or teen reader programs at libraries. And of course, it helps to actually know some teens. And to like them! There’s a lot of disdain out there for young adults, and it’s absolutely antithetical to the pursuit of writing YA. I started writing YA when I was a teenager, but when I picked it up again as an adult I made sure I was interacting with my target audience—in this case, through a mentorship program at a local high school, where I hung out twice a week one-on-one just to chat about my mentees’ lives.

(3) ONE FAN’S VIEW. Europa SF hosts an analysis of two bids for Eurocon in 2021: “COUNTERCLOCK SF: EUROCON 2021 BID EVALUATION – Wolf von Witting”. The site will be chosen during Titancon in Belfast, this year’s Eurocon.

Let’s compare the upcoming bids for 2021.

The Italian Eurocon in Fiuggi 2009 was a disappointment. A thin program, good food, but low attendance. Not the best publicity for Italian fandom.

At the time, I decided to oppose another Italian Eurocon.

In particular, if they were pitched against a Polish, Croatian or Romanian bid, since these fandoms participate to a wider extent in building bridges across their borders in Europe. Perhaps you recall Tricon 2010, which was a Polish-Czech and Slovakian collaboration?

Romanians are making more efforts to be part of the
European sf-community. I was inclined to throw myself into the blend with long smoffing experience, helping the Romanians to make their event a success. What I found was they don’t need me!

More Italians have to realize, that Europe is no longer an archipelago of isolated language islands. …

(4) SCHULMAN OBIT. Author and part of the early Libertarian movement, J. Neil Schulman (1953-2019) died August 11 of a pulmonary embolism reports John DeChancie.

Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza won the Prometheus Award for Best Novel (1984). His book Alongside Night was voted a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award (1989) and produced as a movie (2014).

His third novel, Escape from Heaven, was also a finalist for the 2002 Prometheus Award. His fourth and latest novel, The Fractal Man, is a finalist for the 2019 Prometheus Award.

He wrote the “Profile in Silver” segment for a 1986 episode of the revived Twilight Zone, about a future historian who creates a disastrous alternate timeline when he time travels back to November 22, 1963 and prevents JFK’s assassination.

Neil’s other projects included writing, producing and directing the suspense comedy, Lady Magdalene’s, starring Nichelle Nichols, which won two film-festival awards.

I think I first met Neil at the same time as Sam Konkin III, aboard the riverboat cruise organized by the Louisville NASFiC (1979), all part of a group of New York fans relocating to Southern California.

Schulman had already made his mark in fandom by getting a long interview with Robert A. Heinlein (1973), the most revealing ever, on assignment from the New York Daily News. (The interview would reappear as a serial in New Libertarian magazine, and as a book.)

He became part of Konkin’s Seventies sf club the Science Fiction Association of Long Beach, along with Victor Koman and others.

On his website Rational Review Schulman mixed political commentary — he styled himself a libertarian anarchist — with good anecdotes, such as the one about the time he was a witness to a practical joke played on Leonard Nimoy was speaking to an NYU audience in 1974.

(5) COLÓN OBIT. Prolific comic book artist Ernie Colón has passed away at the age of 88 after a battle with cancer reports SYFY Wire.

…Colón began his career in the 1960s as a letterer for Harvey Comics, where he worked as an uncredited penciler on Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost. While at Harvey, Colón met Sid Jacobson, who became his longtime friend and creative partner. In 2006, the pair teamed up on the graphic adaptation of the 9/11 Commission Report. The two would continue to release additional historical graphic works, like their 2010 graphic biography about Anne Frank.

.. Many, however, know him best from his work with the late Dwayne McDuffie on Marvel’s Damage Control. He’s equally well known for co-creating DC’s Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld and Arak, Son of Thunder. Colón’s distinctive style lent itself well to DC’s 1980s science fiction mainstays.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 11, 1923 Ben P. Indick. A member of First Fandom and prolific fanzine publisher. He wrote a handful of short genre fiction but is better remembered for his two non-fiction works, The Drama of Ray Bradbury and George Alec Effinger: From Entropy to Budayeen. (Died 2009.)
  • Born August 11, 1928 Alan E. Nourse. His connections to other SF writers are fascinating. Heinlein dedicated Farnham’s Freehold to Nourse, and  in part dedicated Friday to Nourse’s wife Ann.  His novel The Bladerunner lent its name to the movie but nothing else from it was used in that story. However Blade Runner (a movie) written by, and I kid you not, William S. Burroughs, is based on his novel. Here the term “blade runner” refers to a smuggler of medical supplies, e.g. scalpels. (Died 1992.)
  • Born August 11, 1932 Chester  Anderson. His The Butterfly Kid is the first part of what is called the Greenwich Village Trilogy, with Michael Kurland writing the middle book, The Unicorn Girl, and the third volume, The Probability Pad, written by T.A. Waters. I can practically taste the acid from here… (Died 1991.)
  • Born August 11, 1936 Bruce Pelz. He was highly active in the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS) co-chairing the 30th World Science Fiction Convention. He also wrote filksongs and was a master costumer. Mike has a remembrance of him here. (Died 2002.)
  • Born August 11, 1942 Laurel Goodwin, 77. She starred as Yeoman J. M. Colt in the Trek pilot, and after the series was picked up, the episode became the first season two-part episode entitled “The Menagerie”.  She also played Phoebe on the “Anatomy of a Lover” episode of Get Smart! 
  • Born August 11, 1949 Nate Bucklin, 70. Musician who has co-written songs with Stephen Brust and others. He’s a founding member of the Scribblies, the Minneapolis writer’s group, and is also one of the founding members of the Minnesota Science Fiction Society, better known as Minn-stf. He spent four years as a member of the National Fantasy Fan Federation or N3F, and his correspondents included Greg Shaw, Walter Breen, and Piers Anthony. He’s been a filk guest of honor at five cons.
  • Born August 11, 1959 Alan Rodgers. Author of Bone Music, a truly great take off the Robert Johnson myth. His “The Boy Who Came Back From the Dead” novelette won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Long Fiction, and he was editor of Night Cry in the mid-Eighties. Kindle has Bone Music and a number of his other novels, iBooks has nothing available. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 11, 1961 Susan M. Garrett. She was a well-known and much liked genre writer, editor and publisher in many fandoms, but especially the Forever Knight community. (She also was active in Doctor Who and The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne fandoms.) She is perhaps best known for being invited to write a Forever Knight tie-in novel, Intimations of Mortality. It, like the rest of the Forever Knight novels, is not available in digital form. (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 11, 1983 Chris Hemsworth, 36. Thor in the MCU film franchise and George Kirk in the most recent Trek film franchise. Other genre performances include Eric the Huntsman in the exemplary Snow White and the Huntsman and The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Curt Vaughan in Cabin in the Woods and Agent H in Men in Black: International. Ok who’s seen the latter? 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) FULL LID. In Alasdair Stuart’s last Full Lid before Worldcon (“The Full Lid 9th August 2019”), “we take a look at Vera Greentea and Yana Bogatch’s superb magical noir graphic novel Grimoire Noir. We also dive deep into the strange and wonderful world of Middle: Below from TinCan Audio and examine how She-Ra Season 3 may have cracked (one) of the problems many Netflix shows face. Oh and in ‘My Event Horizon Fever Dream’ I have ENTIRELY too much fun thinking about where I’d take the upcoming Amazon show.”

…Netflix have two terrible habits; cancelling a show two seasons in (Tuca and Bertie and The OA most recently) and chopping a 13 episode production order into two six episode ones and claiming they’re whole seasons. This really hurt the middle seasons of Voltron but it’s something She-Ra turns not just into a feature but a driving force….

(9) THIS OLD HOLE. “NASA discovers “cloaked” black hole from earliest days of the universe”The Indian Express has the story.

Astronomers from American space agency NASA have discovered evidence for the farthest “cloaked” black hole found so far. The discovery was made by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The astronomers have claimed the clocked black hole at only 6 per cent of the current age of the universe.

NASA says that this is the first indication of a black hole hidden by gas at such an early time in the history of the cosmos. Supermassive black holes are often millions to billions of times more massive than our Sun and typically grow by pulling in material from a disk of surrounding matter.

(10) BACKWARDS TO THE FUTURE. In “H. G. Wells and the Uncertainties of Progress” on the Public Domain Review, Peter J. Bowler, an emeritus professor at Northern Ireland’s Queen’s University, looks at how H.G. Wells’s sf novels were grounded in a critique of the Victorian “inevitability of progress.”

…The Darwinian viewpoint is more clearly visible in Wells’ hugely successful non-fiction work The Outline of History, originally published in fortnightly parts in 1920. The survey starts from the development of life on earth and the evolution of the human species. Progress had certainly happened both in evolution and in human history from the Stone Age onward, but Wells shows that there was no predetermined upward trend. His exposure to the Darwinian vision of biological evolution (which continued in his collaboration with Julian Huxley to produce The Science of Life some years later) showed him that there were multiple ways of achieving a more complex biological structure — or a more complex society. Truly progressive steps in both areas were sporadic, unpredictable, and open-ended. When progress did occur in human society, Wells was certain that the driving force was rational thinking, science, and technological innovation. Yet history showed how all too often the benefits of creativity had been undermined by conservatism and social tensions, culminating in the disaster of the Great War….

[Thanks to Francis Hamit, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

2019 Prometheus Novel and Hall of Fame Winners

The Libertarian Futurist Society announced the 2019 winners of the Prometheus Awards for Best Novel and Hall of Fame (Best Classic Fiction) on July 6.

The winner of the Best Novel category is Causes of Separation by Travis Corcoran.

LFS members also voted to induct “Harrison Bergeron,” a dystopian 1961 short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., into the Hall of Fame.

The citation says about the winning works:


In Causes of Separation, renegade lunar colonists fight for independence and a free economy against an Earth-based invasion that seeks to impose authoritarian rule and expropriate their wealth, while the colonists strive to prevail without relying on taxes or declaring emergency war powers. The panoramic narrative encompasses artificial intelligence, uplifted dogs, combat robots, sleeper cells and open-source software while depicting the complex struggle on the declining Earth and besieged Moon from many perspectives. The novel is a sequel to The Powers of the Earth, the 2018 Prometheus winner for Best Novel.

This is the first Prometheus Awards recognition for Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007). In “Harrison Bergeron,” first published in 1961 in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Vonnegut blends a satirical and tragic tone in depicting a dystopian future in the United States where constitutional amendments and a Handicapper General mandate that no one can be stupider, uglier, weaker, slower (or better) than anyone else. Vonnegut dramatizes the destruction of people’s lives and talents and the obliteration of basic humanity via a denial of emotions and knowledge that leaves parents unable to mourn a son’s death. “Harrison Bergeron” exposes and mourns the chilling authoritarian consequences of radical egalitarianism taken to an inhuman and Orwellian extreme that denies individuality, diversity and the opportunity to excel.

LFS members John Christmas and Fred Moulton plan to present the Prometheus Awards in a ceremony at Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon, to be held August 15-19 in Dublin, Ireland.

The other Best Novel finalists were Kingdom of the Wicked (including Order: Book One and Rules: Book Two), by Helen Dale (Ligature Pty Limited); State Tectonics, by Malka Older (TOR Books); The Fractal Man, by J. Neil Schulman (Steve Heller Publishing); and The Murderbot Diaries (All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol and Exit Strategy, by Martha Wells (TOR Books).

The other Hall of Fame finalists were “Sam Hall,” a novelette (1953) by Poul Anderson; “As Easy as A.B.C.,” a novelette (1912) by Rudyard Kipling; “Conquest by Default,” a novelette (1968) by Vernor Vinge; and The Universe Next Door, a novel (1979) by Robert Anton Wilson.

The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2019, having been first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf.

Presented annually since 1982 at the World Science Fiction Convention, the Prometheus Awards include a gold coin and plaque for the winners – with a one-ounce gold coin for Best Novel and a smaller gold coin for the Prometheus Hall of Fame (for Best Classic Fiction in all written and broadcast/on-screen media) and the occasional Prometheus Special awards.

In the words of the LFS:

The Prometheus Awards recognize outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, champion cooperation over coercion, expose the abuses and excesses of government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or uphold individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, and civilization itself.

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit www.lfs.org.

2019 Prometheus Award Best Novel Finalists

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced the finalists for the Best Novel category of the 2019 Prometheus Awards.

The Best Novel winner will receive a plaque with a one-ounce gold coin. Plans are under way, as in past years, to present the 2019 awards at the 77th Worldcon (World Science Fiction Convention): “Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon,” set for Aug. 15-19, 2019 in Dublin, Ireland.

Here are the five Best Novel finalists, listed in alphabetical order by author:

  • Causes of Separation, by Travis Corcoran (Morlock Publishing):

In this sequel to The Powers of the Earth, the 2018 Prometheus winner for Best Novel, the renegade lunar colonists of Aristillus fight for independence and a free economy against an Earth-based invasion that seeks to impose authoritarian rule and expropriate their wealth, while the colonists struggle not to adopt taxation or emergency war powers. The panoramic narrative encompasses artificial intelligence, uplifted dogs, combat robots, sleeper cells and open-source software while depicting the complex struggle on the declining Earth and besieged Moon from many perspectives.

  • Kingdom of the Wicked by Helen Dale (Ligature Pty Limited) including Order: Book One and Rules: Book Two

The author, a legal scholar, creates a world inspired by comparative law, rather as Middle-Earth was inspired by comparative linguistics. In an alternative Roman Empire, an early scientific revolution and expanding free markets led to industrialization, the abolition of slavery, increasing wealth, and modernity – and to clashes with more traditional societies. In one such clash, a Jewish preacher, Yeshua ben Yusuf, is arrested and tried on charges of terrorism in a narrative that makes ingenious use of the Gospels to reach an unexpected outcome.

  • State Tectonics, by Malka Older (TOR Books)

This story explores questions of governance and legitimacy in a future world shaped by technology-driven “infomocracy” and subdivided into centenals – separate micro-democracies, each an electoral district with a population of 100,000 or less. A multitude of political parties vie for control of each centenal, as well as global supermajority status in a problematic system where access to approved news is ensured by Information, which also oversees elections. In this third novel in Older’s Centenal Cycle, various parties struggle not only over election outcomes, but also whether Information’s monopoly will and should continue.

  • The Fractal Man, by J. Neil Schulman, (Steve Heller Publishing)

The Prometheus-winning author (The Rainbow Cadenza, Alongside Night) offers a fanciful and semi-autobiographical adventure comedy about the “lives he never lived,” set in multiple alternate realities where people and cats can fly but dogs can’t, which in one world casts him as a battlefield general in a war between totalitarians and anarchists. The space-opera-redefined-as-timelines-opera romp, full of anarcho-capitalist scenarios, also celebrates the early history of the libertarian movement and some of its early pioneers, such as Samuel Edward Konkin III.

  • The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells (TOR Books) (including All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy)

– The tightly linked series of four fast-paced novellas charts the emergence of humanity, empathy, self-awareness and free will in an android, whose origins are partly biological and partly cybernetic. The android, who guiltily dubs himself “Murderbot” because of his past acts of violence while enslaved, fights for his independence but also is motivated to save lives by growing awareness of the value of human life and human rights in an interstellar future of social cooperation through free markets driven by contracts, insurance-bond penalties, and competing corporations.

(Note: Under a recently adopted LFS award-eligibility rule, two or more books can be nominated together as one novel if the judges determine that the stories are so tightly linked and plotted, with continuing characters and unifying conflicts/themes, that they can best be read and considered as one work. Applied this year, that rule combined the two Kingdom of the Wicked volumes into one nomination and the four sequential novellas in The Murderbot Diaries into one nomination.)

All LFS members have the right to nominate eligible works for the Prometheus Awards. LFS members also nominated these 2018 works for this year’s Best Novel category: Exile’s Escape, by W. Clark Boutwell (Indigo River Publishing); Gnomon, by Nick Harkaway (Alfred Knopf); Mission to Methone, by Les Johnson (Baen Books); Anger is a Gift, by Mark Oshiro (TOR); and Crescendo of Fire and Rhapsody for the Tempest, by Marc Stiegler (LMBPN Publishing.)

The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established and first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf.

Presented annually since 1982 at the World Science Fiction Convention, the Prometheus Awards include a gold coin and plaque for the winners – with a one-ounce gold prize for Best Novel and smaller gold coins for the Prometheus Hall of Fame (for Best Classic Fiction in all written and broadcast/on-screen mediums) and the occasional Prometheus Special awards.

The Prometheus Award finalists for Best Novel are selected by a 10-person judging committee, and the winners are chosen by vote of “LFS upper-level members.”

The LFS says these are the kinds of work recognized by the Prometheus Award –

For close to four decades, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor cooperation over coercion, expose the abuses and excesses of coercive government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or champion individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, mutual respect and civilization itself.

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit www.lfs.org.

2019 Prometheus Hall of Fame Finalists

The Libertarian Futurist Society has selected five finalists for the 2019 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award

  • “As Easy as A.B.C.,” by Rudyard Kipling (first published 1912 in London Magazine), the second of his “airship utopia” stories, envisions a twenty-first century world founded on free travel, the rule of law, and an inherited abhorrence of crowds. Officials of the Aerial Board of Control are summoned to the remote town of Chicago, which is convulsed by a small group’s demands for revival of the nearly forgotten institution of democracy.
  • “Sam Hall,” a short story by Poul Anderson (first published 1953 in Astounding Science Fiction): A story set in a security-obsessed United States, where computerized record-keeping enables the creation of a panopticon society. The insertion of a false record into the system leads to unintended consequences. Anderson, the first sf author to be honored with a Special Prometheus Award for Lifetime Achievement, explores political implications of computer technology that now, decades later, are widely recognized.
  • “Harrison Bergeron,” by Kurt Vonnegut (first published 1961 in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction), a dystopian short story, set in a United States where constitutional amendments and a Handicapper General mandate that no one can be stupider, uglier, weaker, slower (or better) than anyone else, satirizes the authoritarian consequences of radical egalitarianism taken to an extreme that denies individuality and diversity. Vonnegut dramatizes the destruction of people’s lives and talents and the obliteration of basic humanity via a denial of emotions and knowledge that leaves parents unable to mourn a son’s death.
  • “Conquest by Default,” by Vernor Vinge (first published 1968 in Analog), Vinge’s first exploration of anarchism, offers a story about human civilization being overwhelmed by a superior alien force, told from the point of view of an alien sympathetic to the underdogs, who finds a way to save the humans by breaking up governments into much smaller components. The alien culture uses a legal twist to foster extreme cultural diversity, as characters draw explicit parallels between the plight of humanity in the face of superior alien tech and the fate of Native Americans faced with European invaders. 
  • Schrödinger’s Cat: The Universe Next Door, by Robert Anton Wilson (first published 1979 by Pocket Books), a parallel-worlds novel, draws upon theories from quantum mechanics to explore themes about the evil of violence, particularly political coercion and the carnage of the Vietnam War. The speculative fantasy features alternate versions of characters from the Illuminatus! trilogy by Wilson and Robert Shea, which won the Hall of Fame Award in 1986. 

In addition to these nominees, the Hall of Fame Committee considered nine other works: “The Man Who Sold the Stars,” by Gregory Benford; “ILU-486,” by Amanda Ching; The Mirror Maze, by James P. Hogan; That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis; A Mirror for Observers, by Edgar Pangborn;  A Time of Changes, by Robert Silverberg; Demon and Freedom, by Daniel Suarez, as a combined nomination; The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlyn, by T.H. White, as a combined nomination; and “Even the Queen,” by Connie Willis.

The LFS says the purpose of the Prometheus Awards is to recognize

…outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor private social cooperation over legalized coercion, expose abuses and excesses of obtrusive government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or champion individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, mutual respect, and civilization itself.

The final vote will take place in mid-2019. All Libertarian Futurist Society members are eligible to vote. The award will be presented at the Dublin Worldcon.

Nominations for the 2019 Hall of Fame Award can be submitted to committee chair William H. Stoddard (halloffame@lfs.org) at any time. All LFS members are eligible to nominate. Nominees may be in any narrative or dramatic form, including prose fiction, stage plays, film, television, other video, graphic novels, song lyrics, or epic or narrative verse; they must explore themes relevant to libertarianism and must be science fiction, fantasy, or related genres.

The Libertarian Futurist Society also presents the annual Prometheus Award for Best Novel. More information is available at their website, www.lfs.org.