PUP002 | Libertarian Speculative Fiction

Prometheus Unbound Podcast

In episode two of the Prometheus Unbound Podcast, Matthew and I (Geoffrey) discuss libertarian speculative fiction and introduce the Book of the Month, Today’s Tomorrows Writing Prompt, and Fiction Forecasts segments of the show.

We break the ice with some brief chit-chat about what we’ve been reading before seguing into our discussion of libertarian spec fic. The Book of the Month is Coyote by Allen Steele. In Today’s Tomorrows Writing Prompt, we turn a speculative eye on the very real possibility of an intellectual-property dystopia. And in Fiction Forecasts, we talk about upcoming (at the time of recording) television shows, movies, and books.

What We’ve Been Reading

Libertarian Speculative Fiction

We covered a lot of ground in our discussion of libertarian spec fic, but we really only scratched the surface of this broad, deep, and no doubt controversial topic. I’m sure we’ll be revisiting many of the stories and issues we covered, and many more besides, in future episodes. So subscribe and stay tuned!

Here’s a brief rundown of some of the things we covered: what qualifies a work of fiction as libertarian; libertarian themes in science fiction and fantasy; why they seem to be more common in science fiction and why libertarians seem to favor this genre; our favorite works of libertarian spec fic; the Prometheus Awards; and probably more that I’m forgetting as I write this.

Authors & Books Mentioned

Book of the Month

Coyote by Allen Steele

Coyote by Allen Steele
Audible / Amazon

Coyote marks a dramatic turn in the career of Allen Steele, Hugo Award–winning author of Chronospace. Epic in scope, passionate in its conviction, and set against a backdrop of plausible events, it tells the brilliant story of Earth’s first interstellar colonists — and the mysterious planet that becomes their home.

The crime of the century begins without a hitch. On July 5th, 2070, as it’s about to be launched, the starship Alabama is hijacked — by her captain and crew. In defiance of the repressive government of The United Republic of Earth, they replace her handpicked passengers with political dissidents and their families. These become Earth’s first pioneers in the exploration of space.

After almost two-and-a-half centuries in cold sleep, they will awaken above their destination: a habitable world named Coyote. A planet that will test their strength, their beliefs, and their very humanity.

In Coyote, Allen Steele delivers a grand novel of galactic adventure — a tale of life on the newest of frontiers.

Get Coyote, or an audiobook of your choice, for free by signing up for a free 30-day trial membership at Audible.com. You can cancel at any time. Not only will you get a free audiobook, but you’ll be helping to support the podcast as we will earn a generous commission.

To start your free 30-day trial membership, go to http://audibletrial.com/prometheusunbound.

Today’s Tomorrows Writing Prompt

Matthew and I believe that intellectual “property” is a government grant of monopoly privilege — a form of economic protectionism — that can only be enforced by violating the property rights that people have in physical objects. Copyright and patents are the most prominent types of intellectual property (IP). They attempt to impose artificial scarcity in the realm of ideas, which are naturally not scarce.

We see two countervailing trends with regard to IP in society, provoking each other in a kind of arms race. One is top-down, driven by certain protected classes,  the politically connected, politicians, bureaucrats, and corporations who fear competition and change. And it is tending toward ever more invasive, restrictive, draconian, and ridiculous laws and regulations. We expect this trend to continue and even accelerate at least over the near-term. DRM, crippled products, ridiculous patents, patent trolls, and jail time and huge fines for piracy are only the beginning. This trend brings increasing centralization of power and wealth, corporatism and intellectual feudalism, no-knock raids for piracy overtaking no-knock raids for drugs.

The other trend is bottom-up, driven by a spirit of resistance and sharing and a love of openness and experimentation. This is the trend of rampant copying and remixing, of unbounded learning and innovation. It has spawned open source software, Creative Commons licenses, maker culture, torrenting, YouTube remixes, the digital self-publishing revolution, new models in online education like the Kahn Academy.  In reaction to the evils of government, it has led to advances in encryption (for privacy against government snooping), Bitcoin (for an encrypted, decentralized, independent currency), and 3D-printed weapons (which will eventually make gun control completely ineffective unless governments can lock down 3D printers).

We focused on the top-down trend of tyranny, monopolistic control, and stasis in this episode and will focus on the bottom-up trend of resistance, openness, and experimentation in episode four.

Writing Prompt

As happened with the drug war, because there is no victim to denounce the crime, civil liberties must be infringed to control behavior. As a worst-case scenario, you could see resources coming under scrutiny and control to prevent breaking IP law. Paper, for instance, might require an ID to purchase. Even the disposal of paper might be controlled. As people tried to work around these controls, more and more resources might require more and more controls.

Things probably won’t get this bad in real life, but it makes an interesting background for a sci-fi story, whether short story or novel. Citizens might be encouraged to spy on each other. If you see something, say something.

Picture a young boy or girl who has just heard a poem that he or she likes. With so many resources having come under the control of the government, he takes the only way out left to him: he writes the poem in the sand. It’s an act of defiance and a way to have the poem handy when he wants to read it.

What happens to him from there? Does he get in trouble for that? Are controls placed on sand?

That’s your writing prompt. Now go write.

We’d love to see what you come up with, so we hope you will share your stories  with us and the rest of the Prometheus Unbound community. You can post your stories in our dedicated writing group forum (must be registered and logged in to view and post). And we’ll be happy to give you our feedback.

IP-Related Stories Mentioned

  • “Melancholy Elephants” by Spider Robinson — See Matthew’s review
  • Emphyrio by Jack Vance (Amazon)
  • The Golden Age by John C. Wright (Amazon) — imagine IP in the hands of immortals

Recommended Reading on IP

Fiction Forecasts

My apologies for the two-month gap between episodes one and two. I don’t really have a good excuse for it, but I will offer a brief explanation. They say every podcaster, at least when they start out, hates the sound of his or her own voice. Well, I don’t think my voice sounds bad but I definitely am not the best public speaker. I’m working on it. That’s actually one of the reasons why I launched this podcast.

Anyway, I’m something of a perfectionist who doesn’t like to do something if he can’t do it right, so when it came to editing this episode I procrastinated. I’ve also been rather busy with family and paying work, but mostly it comes down to procrastination driven by the knowledge that this episode would not be as good as I want it to be. It’s one thing to know on an intellectual level that it is more important to get something out there than that it be perfect, but it’s another thing to internalize that piece of wisdom and get over the hurdle. Many a podcaster has looked back on his early episodes and cringed. I’m sure I’ll be no different. With practice comes improvement.

This segment of the episode is a bit dated, since it is now late March and Matthew and I are mainly discussing the tv shows, movies, and books that are coming up or returning in February. But the content really is timeless. These works of fiction are not going anywhere. I think you’ll find our comments on them both interesting and amusing. And you still may discover some stories you hadn’t heard of before.


Returning shows:

  • The Walking Dead
  • Person of Interest
  • Elementary

Ongoing shows:

  • Arrow
  • Person of Interest
  • Lost Girl
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Once Upon A Time
  • Elementary
  • Castle



  • All Superheroes Must Die
  • Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
  • John Dies at the End
  • Gangster Squad


  • Warm Bodies — Looks entertaining, but… is it the vanguard of a new sparkly zombies trend?
  • The Sorcerer and the White Snake
  • Side Effects — See Matthew’s review
  • Beautiful Creatures
  • Escape From Planet Earth
  • Dark Skies
  • A Good Day to Die Hard

Books (January/February)

  • The Departure (The Owner #1) by Neal Asher (AudibleAmazon)
  • Farside by Ben Bova (AudibleAmazon)
  • The Daylight War (The Demon Cycle #3) by Peter V. Brett (AudibleAmazon)
  • American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett (Amazon)
  • A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan (Amazon)
  • Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole (AudibleAmazon; Book 2 of a military fantasy series)
  • Trinity Rising (Wild Hunt #2) by Elspeth Cooper (Amazon)
  • Necessity’s Child (Liaden Universe #16) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (AudibleAmazon; An sf adventure series about a clan of interstellar traders)
  • The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord (AudibleAmazon)
  • Blood’s Pride (The Shattered Kingdoms #1) by Evie Manieri (AudibleAmazon; Medieval-Mediterranean epic fantasy with mercenaries and revolution)
  • Elsewhens (Glass Thorns #2) by Melanie Rawn (Amazon)
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Music by Dale Abshire.
Podcast logo and website banner by Jenny Hamson.

About the Author

Geoffrey Allan Plauché Executive Editor

Geoffrey is an Aristotelian-Liberal political philosopher, an adjunct instructor for Buena Vista University, the founder and executive editor of Prometheus Unbound, and the webmaster of The Libertarian Standard. His work has appeared in Libertarian Papers, the Journal of Libertarian Studies, the Journal of Value Inquiry, and Transformers and Philosophy. He lives in Edgewood, KY with his wife and two children.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Troy Camplin May 17, 2013 @ 3:23 pm |

    How about some libertarian scifi epic poetry? Frederick Turner’s Genesis and The New World are amazing works.

    • Geoffrey Allan Plauché May 17, 2013 @ 10:41 pm |

      Hi Troy. I’m not very familiar with libertarian poetry of any genre. Would you be interested in writing some reviews or articles for Prometheus Unbound on those and other poems?

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