Monday, September 28, 2020

Robert Shea presents an early Prometheus Award

As the Libertarian Futurist Society puts more of its old newsletter contents online, more material connected to Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea is becoming available. Today, when I read an article from the very first issue of the newsletter, I discovered that Shea had been the presenter when L. Neil Smith received the award for Smith's first novel, The Probability Broach:

“And the winner is …” Opening the proverbial envelope with his Swiss Army knife, author Robert Shea of Illuminatus! fame awarded L. Nell Smith the second Prometheus award for his novel, The Probability Broach. The presentation was made at a special event held by the Libertarian Futurist Society at the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, September 9 [in 1982].

The Prometheus award is a half ounce privately minted gold coin bearing the likeness of F.A. Hayek, one of the intellectual giants of libertarianism. The award was created to encourage and reward outstanding tibertarian fiction. The award was revived this year after a two-year hiatus dlue to money and organizational problems. Credit for its phoenix- like rise goes to Michael Grossberg, the Austin, Texas libertarian who put together a new set of backers and made the Prometheus Award part of an ambitious new Libertarian Futurist Society. The purpose of LFS, in Grossberg's words, is “to cross-pollinate the worlds of libertarianism and science fiction.”

What do the two have to do with each other? Robert Shea, in his speech presenting the award, eloquently expressed the connection:

“From the days when Sir Thomas Moore wrote Utopia and Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels science fiction has used imaginary societies both to show how our society could be improved and to lampoon what is wrong with it. Libertarians are often asked how their ideas would work in practice, and one of the best ways to answer that question is to present fictional models of libertarian societies. Libertarians need science fiction because the idea of maximizing freedom is still so new and strange in the world that there are few examptes in the real worlds past and present, of how a totally free society would works So libertarians have to turn to the worlds of the future and the imaginations. Libertarian writers also like to use their imagination to demonstrate what is likely to happen to our world if certaln authoritarian trends, some of which may seem harmless or beneficial today, are allowed to develop unchecked. The results of these uses of the imagination to explore libertarian themes have been some classic science fiction novels, such as Le Guin's The Dispossessed, Eric Frank Russell's The Great Explosion, C.M. Kornbluth's The Syndic, Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Ayn Rand's Anthem and Atlas Shrugged (which in my opinion is borderline science fiction), and Ira Levin's This Perfect Day.

More here. (One of the finalists that year was Samuel R. Delany.) Thanks again to folks such as Chris Hibbert and Anders Monsen who have been making these articles available. You can also browse other articles. 


1 comment:

supergee said...

I was at that presentation. It was the only programming Worldcon put me on that year