Frank Herbert

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.

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Hyperion by Dan Simmons

I found Hyperion to be the kind of book I hope every book will be when I first crack it open. This came as a mild surprise, given that it is modeled after The Canterbury Tales, in which a group of pilgrims take turns telling their stories of how they came to the pilgrimage. It is not a structure that thrills me, but the book is so well written, the world so well-conceived, and the stakes so unique and important that I found myself agreeing with the general critical acclaim that has been heaped upon it through the years. It is unquestionably one of the best scifi novels I have ever read.

In the world of the story, Earth has long since been destroyed and humans have colonized much of the galaxy. Most worlds are connected by worm holes, though a few exist outside this system; one such world is Hyperion. On Hyperion lives the Shrike, a mysterious creature that lives to kill. It is customary for some to make a pilgrimage to where the Shrike wanders, and when the Shrike finds a group of pilgrims it kills all but one member who may then petition it. This custom, at the time of the story, has almost been abandoned, but a group is put together for one last pilgrimage as a hoard of Ousters — nomadic humans who have taken to living in zero gravity and evolved into a different species — nears the planet and prepares to attack.

The setting for the story is richly imagined, on a level with Dune, Middle Earth and other such classics. The tales of the various pilgrims take us to many different worlds, and each becomes, as it is presented to us, distinct through the grand conception and the fine details. The planet of Hyperion is especially well conceived, with enough variety, plausibility, history and ingenuity to make us wonder if it might not actually exist somewhere. It holds the Time Tombs, grand and enigmatic structures that are moving backwards in time. There is a sea of tall grass that resembles a proper sea from afar, but none may cross it on foot because of the serpents that inhabit it. There is the abandoned Poets’ City, whose inhabitants were slaughtered by the Shrike. The other worlds are also differentiated. That old cliché in scifi in which each planet has one defining characteristic — and probably one culture, one language, one government — has given way to something more realistic in recent decades, and Hyperion is a prime example of this welcome trend.

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