Short Fiction

NEWS | Libertarian Author Publications: “Communitas” and “Pretty Citadel” Thumbnail

Allen Mendenhall

I’m finally getting around to writing about two short stories published late last year that were written by libertarian authors. Both are works of literary fiction.

One of the stories is by our very own Allen Mendenhall. “Communitas” was published in the online quarterly magazine of literary fiction, Full of Crow, in October 2011. You can read it online in full for free. The story is set in Okmulgee, Oklahoma and is told from the point of view of a nameless old man obsessing over a lost… loved one? It strikes me as a rather bleak tale about the modern breakdown of identity, social relationships, and moral decency.

Allen is a multi-talented writer, attorney, editor, and teacher. Visit his website to learn more about him. Also, check out his interview with Jeffrey Tucker.

The other story, “Pretty Citadel,” is by Kerry Howley and was published in The Paris Review, also an online quarterly magazine of literary fiction, in the Fall 2011 issue, No. 198. The first four paragraphs of the story can be read online for free, but you’ll have to purchase the issue for $12 in order to read it in full.

Kerry Howley

“Pretty Citadel” is set in Burma, in a local newspaper office, and is told from the point of view of a woman (I assume) who works there. Her boss talks of revolution, though it’s not clear it’s the political kind. There’s mention of most everything besides the newspaper being banned — it being an exception because it is censored before publication by a government bureaucrat — and of politically incorrect people being disappeared. I like the way the brief glimpses into the workings of the totalitarian Burmese regime are casually interspersed between cynical descriptions of Burma and the POV character’s work. But that’s about all I can tell you about this story, as I’m not about to pony up $12 for one short story, however good it may be.

Kerry Howley is a former editor of a Burmese newspaper (which would help explain the story’s setting, I suppose) and a senior editor of Defunct: A Literary Repository for the Ages. You may already know her from her work as a contributing editor for Reason Magazine as well as some tv news appearances. Visit Kerry’s website to learn more about her and for links to some of her articles online.

~*~

This post is the first in a new series in which we will highlight new and recent fiction publications by libertarian authors. If you think there are any we might have missed, please do let us know. If you’re interested in reviewing any of these stories, contact me.

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Visions of Liberty
Martin H. Greenberg
Martin H. Greenberg

I’m rather late with this sad news, but I just read the obituary in the August digital issue of Locus Magazine a couple of days ago. Martin H. Greenberg died on June 25, 2011 after a long struggle with cancer. A political scientist like myself, Greenberg had a long, prolific, and influential career in genre fiction as an anthologist. He edited and co-edited more short fiction anthologies than I can probably read in a lifetime.

Freedom!

Greenberg’s death is particularly worth noting for libertarians because of two of his anthologies, co-edited with Mark Tier, that won the Prometheus Special Award in 2oo5: Give Me Liberty and Visions of Liberty, which have been collected into an omnibus anthology titled Freedom! The anthologies are stacked with top talent, including short stories by Vernor Vinge, Murray Leinster, A.E. van Vogt, Frank Herbert, Eric Frank Russell, Robert J. Sawyer, Mike Resnick and Tobias S. Buckell, Brad Linaweaver, Michael A. Stackpole, Jack Williamson, and more.

The back cover description of Freedom! reads in part:

As Thomas Jefferson put it, “That government is best which governs least.” And, as Will Rogers wryly quipped, “We’re lucky we don’t get the government we pay for!” In the future, eternal vigilance against our own government will be even more important than vigilance against hostile outsiders.

This stellar roster of writers consider how a truly free society could operate, how the Soviet Union might have fallen apart even earlier because of an apparently harmless device, how a low-tech society might throw off the influence of more “advanced” intruders, how the right to own weapons is fundamental to freedom, and more.

In the future, freedom may be even more threatened than in our present — and this volume suggests original and unusual ways of defending it.

I’m very much interested in publishing a review of Freedom!, or reviews of Give Me Liberty and Visions of Liberty, although I will review Freedom! myself eventually if I don’t receive any submissions.

[Keep reading…]

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Pump Six and Other Stories

I’ve read a number of Paolo Bacigalupi’s short fiction stories and, though I am skeptical of his environmentalism and don’t agree with (what I can glean of) his politics, they have all been uniformly well-written and compelling — interesting worldbuilding coupled with fine prose and characterization. They all seem to be set in a post–global warming/post–energy crisis future Earth, maybe a century or so hence. “The Calorie Man” is no exception. There’s even a libertarian angle that I’ll get to in a moment.

Paolo Bacigalupi is being nominated for, and winning, awards left and right. “The Calorie Man,” actually a novelette, was nominated for the Hugo Award and won the Theodore Sturgeon Award in 2006. First published in the October/November 2005 double issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, this story can also be found in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Third Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois — where I first encountered it — and in Bacigalupi’s short fiction collection, Pump Six and Other Stories, itself a winner of the Locus Award for Best Collection in 2009 and containing a number of award nominee and winning stories.

Our petroleum-based and prosperous time, referred to in “The Calorie Man” as the Expansion, gave way to an energy Contraction and one gets the impression that humanity has struggled slowly to adapt. This future earth is more advanced in some ways (e.g., genetic engineering) and less advanced in others, mainly owing to the lack of cheap and powerful fuel (e.g., people are reduced to methane lamps for lighting and powering computers with human labor via treadles). There are trappings of steampunk — dirigibles are mentioned, and high-precision kink-springs are the primary means of storing kinetic energy and powering engines — but the tone is decidedly not that of steampunk. I thought to call Bacigalupi’s style of science fiction biopunk but alas someone else has already coined that term for it; enviropunk would also be a good label.

The plot of the story centers around greedy megacorporations and the genetically engineered and patented crops that are used to feed and fuel human beings, their genetically engineered beasts of burden, and their machines. We’re not talking your run-of-the-mill biofuel, such as ethanol, here. No, Bacigalupi’s twist is to have the crops used to feed mulies and megadonts (genetically engineered descendants of mules and elephants, respectively, I think) that transform those calories into stored kinetic energy by walking treadmills that wind the aforementioned high-precision kink-springs. All “natural,” unpatented crops have been conveniently wiped out by agricultural disasters and diseases to which the genetically engineered crops turned out to be resistant or immune, leaving a few agricultural corporations in tightfisted, monopolistic control of the world’s primary sources of food and energy.

As “The Calorie Man” opens, we’re introduced to the main character — an Indian transplant to the American South. Lalji plies the Mississippi River in a kink-spring-powered boat looking for antiques from the Expansion to salvage and sell. But an old friend has an unusual and dangerous job for him now. He is to travel far up north to find and smuggle back to New Orleans a man the big agricultural corporations want captured or killed, a man who supposedly can upend the economic status quo.

[Keep reading…]

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The Seasteading Institute, dedicating to “homesteading” and living on the seas, is having a short story contest. Winners will have their stories featured on the institute’s website.

From their press release:

[Keep reading…]

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