Vernor Vinge

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman

The Libertarian Futurist Society issued a press release on Friday, July 13th, announcing the winners (plural) of the 2012 Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian Novel.

The winners and finalists, with links to our reviews:

The Winners

The Finalists

The 2012 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award winner is “The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster.

Our Take

We’re not sure we would have recommended any of the finalists for the Prometheus Award this year.

We haven’t read The Freedom Maze yet, so we can’t question its selection as a co-winner. Maybe it is worthy and we’ll discover this if and when we get around to reading it. Clearly it meets the criteria of the LFS voting membership.

While we enjoyed Ready Player One we do not think it was libertarian enough to qualify for the Prometheus Award. The same goes for The Children of the Sky and The Restoration Game.

While In the Shadow of Ares was libertarian enough, and apparently written by actual libertarians (unlike many Prometheus Award winners), and we enjoyed it, we do think the writing quality was not quite there. The authors are ones to keep an eye on, however.

We’re currently reading Snuff and, as one would expect from Terry Pratchett, it is well written. Whether we think it is unambiguously libertarian enough remains to be seen. We’ll publish a review in early August.

We’d love to publish a review of Delia Sherman’s The Freedom Maze, if anyone is interested in submitting one.

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The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

Back in February, the Libertarian Futurist Society announced the 2012 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award finalists. Over the weekend, on March 31st, they announced the 2012 finalists for the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian Novel.

Below is the most of the press release.

io9 picked up the press release as well; the comments offer up a predictable ton of FAIL, so you might want to read them for a good laugh or avoid them if you have a low tolerance for stupidity and ignorance.

The first finalist on the list, The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge, was reviewed by Matthew Dawson back in February. But we still need reviews of the rest of the finalists, preferably before the winner is voted on.

As a reminder to our readers, we are open to submissions of reviews (as well as news, articles, interviews), whether you’d like to contribute regularly, irregularly, or just once.

So if you’d like to read and review one of the finalists, nominees, past winners, or another piece of fiction, we’d be happy to consider it for publication.

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The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

The Children of the Sky is the long-anticipated sequel to the Vernor Vinge’s Hugo Award–winning A Fire Upon The Deep. It is set in his Zones of Thought universe, which imagines a galaxy divided into regions that support different levels of technology and intelligence, from the easy FTL travel and posthuman Powers of the Transcend to the appropriately named Unthinking Depths at the galactic core.

The first time I read this book, I didn’t like it. I, like many others, was expecting a fast-paced adventure spanning the galaxy, such as A Fire Upon The Deep. Instead, the setting is limited to Tine’s World. I was looking for a satisfying resolution to the menace of the approaching Blight fleet, but the ahuman superintelligence stays comfortably in the background. I almost didn’t give it a second chance, but I did, and I appreciated it more the second time through. Once I got past the fact that this book was not what I was expecting, I enjoyed it, although it isn’t on the same level as A Fire Upon The Deep or A Deepness In The Sky.

The story starts 10 years after the ending of the previous book. Ravna Bergsndot leads the awakened Children, refugees from the Blight’s destruction of their home and stranded on Tine’s World. They are attempting to build a technological civilization capable of repelling the Blight with the help of the Out of Band II, the partially-functional starship that originally carried Ravna and the frozen Children to Tine’s World, and the Tines, a fascinating alien species made up of packs of 4 to 8 wolf-like creatures that act as a single individual.

Ravna and the Children have the support of Woodcarver, the ruler of an emerging empire. However, many of the Children are suspicious of Ravna’s interpretation of the Blight and the destruction of their home world, and in the far-off Tropics, a pack named Tycoon is starting an industrial revolution, assisted by Vendacious, Woodcarver’s traitorous spymaster.

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NEWS | Gregory Benford in Reason Magazine on Science Fiction in Light of Humanity’s Future in Space Thumbnail

Wernher von Braun's Vision

There’s an article by science fiction author Gregory Benford in the February issue of Reason Magazine (also available online at Reason.com). I hadn’t realized it, but Benford has written three other articles for Reason (see below for a list of the others).

In the article, Benford briefly discusses the role of Nazi SS officer and rocket scientist Wernher von Braun ((Benford doesn’t call Von Braun a facilitator of mass murder, but does mention that he ran “Adolf Hitler’s V-1 and V-2 programs, which sent more than 10,000 rockets into England in 1944 and 1945.”)) in the American government’s space program, from his popular promotion of his vision of man conquering space (interesting choice of war metaphor) to his running the Apollo program.

Benford discusses Von Braun’s vision for how man will conquer space, a vision that strikes me as impractical and expensive and that still lingers in NASA today. He also highlights the decline of NASA and its “ruinously expensive” nature of the American government’s space shuttle program, which suffered catastrophic failures and kept going long past its planned obsolescence.

Though Benford says that Von Braun’s vision lives on, I’m not so sure of that. If he means Von Braun’s  general vision of man “conquering” space, then yes, that vision is not dead. If he means Von Braun’s more specific vision of how this is to be accomplished, then no, I do not think that vision will live on.

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Vernor Vinge

Vernor Vinge

From the Reason.com blogpost:

Vernor Vinge is a former San Diego State University math professor and a Hugo award-winning science fiction novelist. In Vinge’s 1993 essay “The Coming Technological Singularity” Vinge wrote, “Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.”

We sat down with Vinge to learn more about his influences, his novels and the coming singularity.

Vinge’s latest novel, The Children of the Sky, will be released in October 2011.

Produced by Paul Feine, Alex Manning and Zach Weissmueller.

Approximately 7 minutes.

Go to reason.tv for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason.tv’s YouTube Channel to receive notifications when new material goes live.

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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.

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MOVIE REVIEW | Avatar Thumbnail

Storyworld Creation, Justice, and Environmentalism on Pandora and Earth

It may seem that watching Avatar is akin to taking a libertarian pill. True, the libertarian nutrients are rich and of universal appeal. Unfortunately, the pill is also laced with the same bad old drug: anti-technology, anti-business, and pro-primitivism.

(Estimated spoiler risk: Moderate)

Avatar is a beautiful piece of modern visual artistry and it deals reasonably well for a film with several classic science fiction themes (see the postscript for recommended novels). It portrays legitimate defense against military aggression, making a much-needed popular statement of anti-militarism.

The story of a soldier looking for “a single thing worth fighting for” is poignant. How often throughout history has the impulse to defend been manipulated and twisted for unsavory political aims?

Roderick Long said in his review that, “The movie’s most important message may be this: soldiers are responsible, as individuals, for the actions they carry out, and when they’re ordered to do something immoral they have an obligation to disobey.”

Despite the film’s thematic positives, it also encourages some dangerous misconceptions. It identifies as a “corporation” an entity that carries out actions that only states on Earth are known to perform. It also mixes a clear and principled justice issue with a primitivist, anti-technology motif in a bait-and-switch rhetorical move.

We will tease apart these and a few other confusions, clearing a path through the film’s Rousseauian intellectual thicket wide enough to enable us to enjoy the show without compromising our minds. In examining these confusions, it is instructive to reflect on the role of storyworld creators, both those who create science fiction and those who create “message,” news, spin, and sometimes even “science.”

In enjoying science fiction, we happily hand over to storyworld creators the power to temporarily redefine reality. We must take extra care to take back that ability at the theater exit or upon closing the novel. Other kinds of storytellers await us in the non-fictional world, and their motives do not include providing entertainment.

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