Anders Monsen

Lost worlds and ports of call

Month: July 2010

The Stieg Larsson enigma

The NY Times has a very long and fascinating essay on the publishing phenomenon of deceased Swedish mystery writer Stieg Larsson. The Times quotes John-Henri Holmberg, a long-time Swedish libertarian author and editor, and someone who knew Larsson, about the author of these suddenly in-demand books.

John-Henri Holmberg, a Swedish editor, translator and critic who was a mentor to Larsson, wrote in an e-mail message: “He was very soft-spoken but held uncompromising views. He was a steadfast friend who would drop you entirely if you in some way proved not to be worthy of his friendship. . . . Among other things . . . he would not tolerate derogatory opinions of others based on their secondary characteristics, such as ethnicity or gender. Politically, in his youth, Stieg was a libertarian Socialist, active in a Trotskyite group; later on, I believe that he became more of a libertarian anarchist, but regardless of that the important part was his continual passion for liberty. And he would not suffer even previously close friends once he had reason to believe that in fact they harbored racist, sexist or prejudicial views.”

I haven’t yet read any of the books in the trilogy, but would consider reading them in the original language if I can locate any copies. I read somewhere the books were tough to read in translation.

LFS announces 2010 Prometheus Award winners

The Libertarian Futurist Society announced on July 22 the winners of the annual Prometheus Award for best libertarian futurist fiction. Winner for Best Novel is The Unincorporated Man by Eytan Kollin and Dani Kollin, and for best classic work, the short story “No Truce With Kings,” by Poul Anderson.

From the LFS:

The Unincorporated Man is the first novel publication by the Kollin brothers. It is the first novel in a planned trilogy to be published by Tor. The Unincorporated Man presents the idea that education and personal development could be funded by allowing investors to take a share of one’s future income. The novel explores the ways this arrangement would affect those who do not own a majority of the stock in themselves. For instance, often ones investors would have control of a person’s choices of where to live or work. The desire for power as an end unto itself and the negative consequences of the raw lust for power are shown in often great detail. The story takes a strong position that liberty is important and worth fighting for, and the characters spend their time pushing for different conceptions of what freedom is.

Poul Anderson’s novels have been nominated many times, and have won the Prometheus Award (in 1995, for The Stars Are Also Fire), and the Hall of Fame Award (1995 for The Star Fox and 1985 for Trader to the Stars). He also received a Special award for lifetime achievement in 2001. This was the first nomination for “No Truce With Kings.”

Poul Anderson’s “No Truce with Kings” was first published in 1963. Like many science fiction stories of that era, it was set in a future that had endured a nuclear war. Anderson’s focus is not on the immediate disaster and the struggle to survive, but the later rebuilding; its central conflict is over what sort of civilization should be created. The story’s title comes from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Old Issue,” which describes the struggle to bind kings and states with law and the threat of their breaking free. Anderson’s future California is basically a feudal society, founded on local loyalties, but it has a growing movement in favor of a centralized, impersonal state. As David Friedman remarked about this story, Anderson plays fair with his conflicting forces: both of them want the best for humanity, but one side is mistaken about what that is. This story is classic Anderson and, like many of his best stories, reveals his libertarian sympathies.

Some sites that posted the news of the Prometheus Awards announcement include IO9 (with close to 100 comments, most of them snarky and dismissive of libertarianism), Liberty & Power, and Locus Online.

RIP James P. Hogan

Two time Prometheus Award winner James P. Hogan died suddenly on July 12, 2010 at his home in Ireland. I admit to being stunned when I read the tweet late on July 12. Various SF news sites (Locus, io9, SFF Site, etc) posted announcements on July 13, and cause of death currently is unknown. The first Hogan bookI ever read was either Code of the Lifemaker or The Gentle Giants of Ganymede, when I “earned” a massive box of sf books from helping a friend paint his house in 1986. I remember reading virtually all his books in the 1980’s and 1990’s, but I stopped reading widely in sf starting in the 2000’s and did not keep up with his most recent novels. I interviewed Hogan for Prometheus in the late 1990’s and spoke with him at several conventions. He was 69, and from what I can tell was planning trips to at least two conventions later this year, including ArmadilloCon 32 in Austin next month. I am planning a longer obituary for the Fall issue of Prometheus, as the summer issue is done and shortly off to the printer.

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In the Wet

Currently reading my second Nevil Shute book in as many weeks. This one has a decidedly sf/fantastic element, since the events of part of the novel take place 30 years in the future. Contains some interesting ideas about the “multiple vote” and rips into British socialism as it survives in the 1980s. While Canada and Australia and other parts of the world have food aplenty, socialist England must buckle down and has lost 25% of the population to emigration.

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