The Libertarian SF Subgenre?

Is this a hot topic or what? I came across this topic recently. After which, I searched on Wikipedia and found a page that claims that Libertarian Science Fiction is a legitimate subgenre of Science Fiction.

How interesting.

I recall starting discussion on LinkedIn sometime back asking how many sub-genres exist in SF. A small war broke out with lots of opinions in every direction. Of course there is no official gatekeeper, but throughout the discussion I never saw any mention of Libertarian Science Fiction.

The Wiki article mentioned  Robert A. Heinlein‘s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress  as a good example in support. Clearly, there are elements of truth to this assessment. However, I would want to see a very long list of books  (with their author’s approval ) that demonstrate this sub-genre is really out there. Otherwise, I would just chalk up SF as a genre that leans towards this philosophy because… well, it’s interesting.

Comments are welcome. But please! Let’s not have any war over this, it’s not worth it.


8 responses to “The Libertarian SF Subgenre?

  1. I’ve heard it mentioned, but not many people seem to take it seriously (certainly not publishing industry people who have a disproportionate influence on these categories – thinking they’re marketing tools!)

    There is a great sci-fi mag I know called The Future Fire ( that specialises in SF with a social and political awareness. (‘Libertarian’ is a very US-centric term by the way. I’ve never heard it used except by Americans.) I’ve done a few ‘libertarian’ pieces myself – my favourite being ‘The Earth Ship’, which appeared in The Absent Willow Review (

    Heinlein is a good candidate for a ‘libertarian’ writer, but so many others have contributed to the sub-genre – particularly (IMHO) Ursula K le Guin, but also writers like Samuel R Delany and Philip Jose Farmer.

    • Yes I read your short story a while back. It was quite thought provoking in that regard.
      Libertarian may indeed be an American term, but I have no idea what term can be understood in a global sense. I have been meaning to read more of Ursula K le Guin, such as the The Left Hand of Darkness. But that isn’t about the Libertarianism I think. Instead her short story, The Day Before the Revolution, seems more relevant to this topic.

  2. hmmm, Moon is a Harsh Mistress was one of the first Heinlein’s I ever read, and I was probably still in high school when I read it. maybe that’s where my libertarian streak came from? interesting idea that libertarian SF is maybe it’s on subgenre. I’m all for it, although I wonder if there is enough titles that are truly that subgenre to make it worth it?

  3. There’s an award — The Prometheus Award — for best Libertarian sci-fi novel started in 1979. Some great works have won — A Deepness in the Sky, Learning the World, etc….

  4. Indeed yes. I see it now 🙂 Thanks for bringing more up to date on this.
    Some big names on that list, so I need to look at it a bit more carefully.

  5. A Deepness in the Sky didn’t strike me as particularly libertarian…. Well, hmm…

  6. Your post is titled “Libratarian” … I’m a Libra, so maybe they’re writing science fiction about me?

    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress did strike me as leaning toward “libertarian” (what’s the Aussie equivalent? The liberal party fringe?) … which is one of the reasons why I had so much trouble reading that book. I don’t mind the politics overmuch, though I tend to prefer it a little less didactic. TMIAHM basically hits you over the head with it.

    It’s a double-edged sword, I guess. Tread lightly. Readers who sympathize with the politics are delighted, while others who disagree (I think the libertarian world-view is fundamentally flawed) will be irritated to the point of putting the book down. Maybe it’s best to use hyperbole to make the point, like Orwell in 1984.

    • Doh! Title fixed, thanks.
      And all good points. For sure this is a topic to, as you say, tread lightly. I really don’t think like a Libertarian, but at the same time, there is a lot to be said about, smaller government.
      I really enjoyed reading Moon, but didn’t take it too seriously, I think the politics are there to simply stimulate discussion. If people get into a shouting match over it, its more about an individual’s ability to have proper discourse.

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