On one hand, I feel somewhat guilty for having a high-traffic blog post that was, at the core, fluff.
On the other, I now have a good idea what some want to read about. So let’s first talk about libertarian speculative DNA.
Libertarian Science Fiction DNA, Anthony Style
In the beginning (for me), there was Robert Heinlein, and it was good. Followed up with Vernor Vinge (The Ungoverned was brilliant). Then there was a back-peddle to Atlas Shrugged.
Then there was David Weber and the libertarian themes in the Honor Harrington books, an impressive feat where the main system of government was a monarchy. But the total send up of The People’s Republic of Haven and the Solarian League was a blatant libertarian f-you to their contemporary counterparts.
Then there was, what, really? Oh sure, Baen carried the speculative libertarian fiction torch and I’m sure there is something on my library selves I’ve forgotten, but what followed was a wasteland. The trail blazed went cold. What we were left with was… message-y. A lot.
Enter Michael Z. Williamson in 2003 with Freehold. Freehold is unapologetic anarcho-capitalism libertarian science fiction at its finest, and the related novel, The Weapon, was an orgy of the destruction of statism and all of its evils. For a time. We’ll come back to Williamson.
Then… crickets. We must travel seven years to come to another (Baen) author who went Full Monty Heinlein, Sarah A. Hoyt with Darkship Thieves.
And finally we come to the supremely 80’s deliciousness of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
Libertarian Science Fiction v2.0
My assertion is Williamson rebooted libertarian science fiction. He drove home the obvious evils of statism in absurd detail, provided a large backdrop centered around anarcho-capitalism and projected the triumph of the individual directly into the reader’s brain. A reader following his science fiction books from Freehold to present receives this delicious Libertarian Science Fiction v2.0 meal.
It’s a delicious meal, but it seems to me that Sarah Hoyt is the most serious about pulling up a chair to this rich and wonderful feast. And many of the chairs around the table are sadly empty.
Let me explain what I mean by v2.0: After embarking on the Williamson Trail of Statist Tears, I don’t even need to define what Libertarian Science Fiction is. Readers get it. Libertarians get it. Science Fiction fans get it, and let’s not be coy: any recent book about an anarcho-capitalist society is pure libertarian culture brilliance and when I say brilliance I mean fucking brilliance.
There is no need to reboot The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
But there is a very clear need to offer a current cultural heartbeat to what the core of libertarian science fiction is. And Williamson meets that need with a sledgehammer . He’s still swinging it today.
Failure to Feed
And here we are. I classified a previous novel I wrote as libertarian gun-nut speculative fiction: a blend of urban fantasy and contemporary thriller. It lives under my bed.
I shoved it under my bed for the simple reason that what I want to write is books that I want to read. And I want to read libertarian science fiction. I really, really do. And I think many other people out there want to do so too.
There’s a lot of science fiction out there that, as a libertarian, drives me up the wall. Most of the science fiction I’ve been reading lately is message fiction with a side of progressive love affair of replacing one socialistic society with a (supposedly) better socialistic society, usually in a dystopian orgy of carnage and destruction.
I don’t want to read that. I want to read speculative fiction that triumphs the trail of liberty sitting before us.
I am convinced there is a want to read this genre in both books for adults and books for young adults. And when was the last time any of us read a young adult libertarian science fiction book?
This is a failure to feed. When a low-detailed blog post about “Red Pill Science Fiction” gathers over ten times my daily traffic, there’s a need going untapped. I decided several years ago to jump into this pool of speculative freedom-loving goodness with both feet and eyes wide open. I have plans. Notice in this essay I do not go into detail of what all these “ism’s” are. I know you know. And now you know I know you know.
How refreshing is that?
The Care and Feeding of Libertarian Word-Building
What do I like to read in libertarian science fiction? I like to read a book where the author has done some serious world-building. And when I mean serious, I mean avoiding pitfalls that seem obvious to me in “mainstream” science fiction while pulling on the strings now present from the Libertarian Science Fiction v2.0 reboot.
Gender Culture and Libertarianism
Science fiction has a serious gender problem. Feminism and libertarianism are diametrically opposed and thus a large swath of science fiction steeped in this feminism is distasteful to the libertarian. But more than that, the relationship between genders often have a genesis in poor analysis. For example, every major war the United States participates in shifts gender relations. Every. Single. One. Yet this area remains largely unexplored in science fiction, but not in libertarian science fiction. Notice in libertarian science fiction men are men and women are women. Libertarian femininity is a biological construct and women conform to evolutionary psychological reactions. It ignores what people have told us women are in order to feed us a brand of dogma which, at its core, is the antithesis of libertarianism.
Yes, I went there. In fact, my Lexus Toulouse mysteries go there hard.
Feminism relies on coercion by the use of force. The use of force for coercion is the core evil of any libertarian speculative book. A libertarian society has a completely different set of cultural norms for gender relations. Completely. So what does it look like?
And how does technology impact women’s relationships to the men? For example, stick a woman in powered armor and you can speculate that she has a significant impact not only on the battlefield, but also into the gathering of resources. And the “so what?” of that is that has a tremendous impact on how men relate to her. Yet this technology also has tremendous (negative) impact to a woman’s psychological ability to cope with a sustained war.
Raise your hand if you’ve read a science fiction book where women deal with the aftermath of war just like men.
Wow. I thought so.
How do men function in a libertarian society? Really. Like, what does it look like when a man isn’t forced to do anything because of, well, anything, really. How does the lack of coercion shape cultural norms? One answer to that is men behave differently when not constantly told they are evil and bad so they better be (nice, submissive, feminine, etc.)
Because, you know, most men aren’t evil and bad. In the lack of a war on boys, what kind of men do boys become?
Now, I did come up with a scenario of a matriarchal libertarian society, and that’s in my Lexus Toulouse mysteries. Think about it.
Kids and Teens
Completely related to gender norms is the largely unexplored realm of what children and teen culture looks like in the future. The teen of today is not the teen of two hundred years from now, but that’s a major assumption present in most science fiction books. In fact, this is a largely unexplored contemporary area, too. Despite all the come-of-age books and movies, what was the real shift from the teen before WWI and the teen after WWII? I know it was significant, but how significant was it?
Libertarianism is the triumph of society through the advancement of the individual without coercion. That impacts children. Deeply and completely.
Corporations and Centralism
Holy freaking glow-in-the-dark cow on a pogo stick. The evil mega-corporation troupe must die. Die, die, die, die, die. Not because it’s a leftist circle-jerk (messy and sad) but because it makes no logical sense. It makes no logical sense because corporatism is a big failure because centralization is a big failure. And the more technology we throw at centralization, the bigger the failure is going to be. And somehow, technology, which, time and time again in the last 100 years, have proven to empower, not reduce, the individual. So we have tech making big things fall hard, and tech making little things jump out of the way.
That’s libertarianism, Baby. It’s almost as if the history of technology in these science fictions books undergoes redefinition and re-purposed to suit some not-so-subtle war on capitalism.
Hmmmm, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The De-Centralization of the Military
Not a libertarian concept per se, but a libertarian society, when faced with an obvious threat, will absolutely re-tool itself to deal with that threat.
There are other considerations. For example, logistics. Why do you need a central logistical supply chain when the logistics guy can make his own stuff for his platoon? What does a command structure look like when a decentralized and distributed society goes to war?
I bet it’s different. I bet it’s way different.
And like the mega-corporation, there are thematics here that need to die, and die hard. The allegory for the Vietnam War is done. We’ve all read the Forever War. Forever War–that’s it. We’re done, okay?
And excuse me, while I am ranting, Sometimes it’s as if the real writers who’ve gone to war don’t exist. It’s as if David Drake didn’t write Hammer’s Slammers.
But I digress.
The Author-Reader Bargain
In my series, I do not cram my libertarian genetic code down a reader’s throat and as an aside, neither did anyone else I’ve mentioned thus far. Even Williamson didn’t so much tell, through the wonderfully voiced Kendra, what libertarianism is despite that Freehold is Librarian Science Fiction 101. No, he showed what it is through her child-like eyes. It was a message book devoid of a message, a pretty neat trick and a clear sign of storytelling talent.
In Armageddon’s Princess, I do not preach at you through the Princess. Lexus, as the Princess Concubine spends a considerable amount of time seeking sex and getting laid. And when she isn’t chasing or offering tail, she’s hell-bent on catching bad guys. And when she’s not doing any of those she is trying to simply live with the aftermath of a terrible, terrible war.
That, in a sense, is the apex of my world-building for this series. I believe that if a future libertarian people went to war, that war would be an awful thing. It would be total and it would be complete and when it was over the horror of it would be unfathomable and unbearable.
I may be a rehabilitated hack writer, but, if you’ve come here looking for science fiction swimming around libertarian philosophy, I promise to at least deliver some type of speculative meal. I believe so strongly that there is a desire to read this type of speculative fiction, I have no hesitation in alienating a potential reader that hates my guts with this post simply because I don’t subscribe to the statist cult.