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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Libertarian Science Fiction

by Ken Newquist / May 1, 2006

The impetus behind this page was a speech I gave at a meeting of the Pocono Libertarians a few years back on "Libertarian Themes in Science Fiction." As a life-long science fiction fan, and later a libertarian, the unity of the two subjects always seemed obvious to me. But at that meeting I discovered that many of my fellow libertarian-minded citizens either hadn't heard of the books and movies I was mentioning, or hadn't thought of them in a libertarian light.

Over the years, Nuketown has evolved into an increasingly libertarian webzine, but it never had a full-blown section dedicated specifically to the intersection of libertarianism and sci-fi. Now, with this page, it does.

Although it's the oldest cliche on the Web, this page is very much a work in progress. I'm presently using it as a gathering place for all of the libertarian SF references I can find, as well as the commentary I write myself. I expect that in time it will evolve into a full-blown mini-site within Nuketown, rather than the simple Web page it is now, but it should do nicely for the time being.

I'm always looking for additions to this page, so if you have any, please send them to me via this form

Ken Newquist

Editor, Nuketown

Authors

  • David Brin: Brin's novels (Startide Rising, Brightness Reef, The Postman) have been riddled with libertarian themes, and he's described himself as sympathetic to mean of the political ideology's tenants. He also gave the keynote speech at the 2002 Libertarian Party National Convention. His Web site features news about upcoming releases, information about his previous books and occasional bits of commentary.
  • James P. Hogan: A prolific writer, Hogan won the Prometheus Award for libertarian fiction in 1983 for his novel Voyage from Yesteryear. his web site includes a mailing list, bulletin board, guestbook, and bibliography.
  • L. Neil Smith: Three-time winner of the Prometheus Award for The Probability Broach (1982), Pallas (1994) and The Forge of the Elders (2001). He's also one of the founders of the Libertarian Futurist Society, the organization that gives the award, but his books won their commendations on their own merits. His site includes information about his books, editorials, announcements and more.
  • F. Paul Wilson: Wilson was the first-ever winner of the Prometheous Award for his novel Wheels Within Wheels His signature character is Repairman Jack.

Books

The Libertarian Enterprise

Nuketown

  • Firestar Envisions A Glorious Return to Space: A review of Michael Flynn's near-future history of mankind's triumphant (and privately funded) return to space.
  • Dumbledore's Army: Ken Newquist bets that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is making a heck of a lot of school administrators very, very nervous. And if they're not nervous now É they should be.

Misc. Web Sites

Commentary

David Brin

  • Essences, Orcs and Civilization: The Case for a Cheerful Libertarianism: Brin gave this speech at the 2002 Libertarian Party National Convention. In it he asks libertarians to challenge their assumptions, including sacred cows like privacy, pragmatism, and moral superiority. The complete text of the speech spans four pages, so be sure to find a comfortable chair.

The Libertarian Enterprise

  • Making Liberty "Respectable": An essay by Wendy McElroy wondering why libertarians don't value their fiction writers -- especially their science fiction writers -- more.
  • Thoughts on Forms of Political Economy on Mars -- Part 1: Alan R. Weiss discusses the future politics of a settled Mars. In Part 1, it discusses the inevitable statists settlement of the Red Planet and argues that this is unavoidable. But he also lays the groundwork for overthrowing that rule after settlement, which he further discusses in Part 2 of the article.
  • Where No Libertarian Has Gone Before: A reprint of L. Neil Smith's April 26, 1996 speech at the Colorado Libertarian Party Annual Convention speech. Includes plenty of speculation on why science fiction succeeded in the first place, why its faltering now, and how it can be resurrected in the future.

Samizdata.net

Misc. Web Sites

Movies & Television

David Brin

  • The Matrix: Tomorrow May Be Different: A long essay that divides science fiction into two broad world views: "Look Back" which seeks a past golden age, distrusts technology, and scorns progress, and "Look Forward", which anticipates the future, embraces technology, and actively seeks progress. He touches on many, many popular movies, including The Matrix, Minority Report, Lord of the Rings, and Star wars ... and his opinions on many of these old favorites may surprise you.
  • "Star Wars" despots vs. "Star Trek" populists: David Brin's notorious critique of Star Wars was hotly debated when published by Salon in 1999. Inspired by Episode I: The Phantom Menace it contains a long, well-thought out rant about the aristocratic, despotic, mystical themes that permeate Star Wars. Also on this subject, he wrote What's wrong (and right) with "The Phantom Menace" and an addendum to the original critique which is hosted on his own web site.

Friesian.com

The Libertarian Enterprise

Miss Liberty

  • Equilibrium: A review of this strongly libertarian movie, in which individuals are compelled by the government to take emotion-suppressing drugs in order to prevent war ... and love.
  • X-men: In the X-Men movie, the government wants to start "registering" mutants because their dangerous powers could prove to be a threat. This review touches on the movie's many themes, including racism and gun control.
  • Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring: A look at the role of corrosive, absolute power in the form of Tolkien's One Ring. (yes, I know this is fantasy, but I haven't created a libertarian fantasy page yet -- Ken)

Nuketown

    Samizdata.net

    • The Trouble with the Federation: This quote somes things up nicely: "
      So what do I have against the Federation? Well simply put, it is an authoritarian collectivist quasi-communist society (the government is clearly paramilitary) with a totally non-monetary command economy. That they have invented a state like that is not my grouse. I do not doubt there will be authoritarian states in the future just as there are now and so why not posit them? Fine... my problem is that somehow the Federation are held up to be the good guys!"

    Misc. Web Sites

    • SunniMaravillosa.com -- In Defense of the Matrix Movies:Writer Sunni Maravillosa sums up what she got from the matrix trilogy like this: "Choice, purpose, belief. Find your purpose, choose a level and means of activism that work for you, and believe that you can make a difference. If we make our choices in this way, the battle will still be fierce and the casualties many, but we will win. That's 'worth dying for'. That's the message that I choose to take away from the Matrix movies."
    • The Colorado Freedom Report -- The Libertarian Red Pill: Ari Armstrong discusses The Matrix and the nature of the libertarian meme.
    • Reason -- Every Man a Demiurge: A discussion of The Matrix trilogy, as well as the popular late 1990s theme of "individuals trapped in fake realities".
    • The Price of Liberty -- The Adventures of Pluto Nash: Wow -- someone actually did see this Eddie Murphy bomb about misadventures on the Moon. The author not only liked it, he enjoyed it, and claims that its an excellent libertarian movie.

    Online Fiction

    Duncan Long

    • Anti-Grav Unlimited, Wrong Side In and Silver Tiger Three libertarian-themed science fiction novels by writer and artist Duncan Long. Long describes the books as dealing with "varying issues of government control and the individual struggle for freedom from a big government run amuck in one form or another." Available as free PDF downloads.

    Web Links

    Note: These links are taken from Nuketown's database, so there may be some duplication between this section and the previous ones.

    • Serenity
      The official Web site for the upcoming Firefly movie. It features an blog about the movie and a "Browncoats" section where fans can earn points by recruiting others, crafting banner ads, and generally promoting the movie.
      Posted: 2004-07-30
    • Libertarian Futurist Society
      The home of the Prometheus Awards, given annually to the best in libertarian science fiction. It also publishes a quarterly newsletter called Prometheus. Great organization, but its web site is profoundly underwhelming.
      Posted: 2004-01-24
    • L. Neil Smith
      Three-time winner of the Prometheus Award for The Probability Broach (1982), Pallas (1994) and The Forge of the Elders (2001). He's also one of the founders of the Libertarian Futurist Society, the orgnaization that gives the award, but his books won their commendations on their own merits. His site includes information about his books, editorials, announcements and more.
      Posted: 2004-03-07
    • Jerry Pournelle
      Libertarian writer Jerry Pournelle won the Prometheous Award for his worth with Larry Niven and Michael Flynn on Fallen Angels. His blog foucses on technological issues
      Posted: 2004-04-05
    • James P. Hogan
      A prolific writer, Hogan won the Prometheous Award for libertarian fiction in 1983 for his novel Voyage from Yesteryear. his web site includes a mailing list, bulletin board, guestbook, and bibliography.
      Posted: 2004-03-03
    • F. Paul Wilson
      Wilson was the first-ever winner of the libertarian-themed Prometheous Award for his novel Wheels Within Wheels and is perhaps best known for his signature character, Repairman Jack. His site hosts a FAQ, bibliography, character profiles, and an online forum.
      Posted: 2004-04-07
    • David Brin
      Brin's novels (Startide Rising, Brightness Reef, The Postman) have been riddled with libertarian themes, and he's described himself as sympathetic to mean of the political ideology's tenants. He also gave the keynote speech at the 2002 Libertarian Party National Convention. His Web site features news about upcoming releases, information about his previous books and occasional bits of commentary.
      Posted: 2004-03-09
    • Analog Science Fiction and Fact
      Analog is a tremendous publication, a long-running flagship of science fiction that never fails to impress and inspire me. It combines excellent fiction -- often with hints of libertarian thought sprinkled or occasionally poured in -- with well-written, understandable science stories. This is hard SF at its very best. The Web site reprints some of the magazine's monthly columns, and features the full-versions of those stories nominated for speculative fiction's top honors. Like its sister magazine Asimov's, Analog's Web page isn't tremendous, but it works.
      Posted: 2003-12-08