Libertarian Science Fiction

Libertarian science fiction is a sub-genre of science fiction that focuses on the politics and social order implied by libertarian philosophies with an emphasis on individualism and a limited state—and in some cases, no state whatsoever.

As a category, libertarian fiction is unusual because the vast majority of its authors are self-identified as science fiction authors. This contrasts with the authors of much other social criticism who are largely academic or mainstream novelists who tend to dismiss any genre classification.

The identification between libertarianism and science fiction is so strong that the US Libertarian Party often has representatives at science fiction conventions and one of the highest profile authors currently in the sub-genre of libertarian science fiction, L. Neil Smith, was the Arizona Libertarian Party’s 2000 candidate for the President of the United States.

As a genre, it can be seen as growing out of the 1930s and 1940s when the science-fiction pulp magazines were reaching their peak at the same time as fascism and communism. While this environment gave rise to dystopian novels such as George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ in the pulps, this influence more often give rise to speculations about societies (or sub-groups) arising in direct opposition to totalitarianism.

Ayn Rand’s novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is a strong (perhaps the strongest) influence with an anti-socialist attitude and an individualist ethic that echoes throughout the genre. Of more direct relevance to the science fiction end of this genre is Robert A. Heinlein’s ‘The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress,’ about a lunar colony’s revolt against rule from Earth.

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