The historical inspiration for the novel was not, actually, the American Revolution

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

Travis Corcoran’s The Powers of the Earth recently won the Prometheus Award (for best libertarian sci-fi novel of the year), and he penned this acceptance speech:

I’m sorry I couldn’t be here tonight, but I live on a farm and it’s harvest season in the Granite State. Live free or die!

I first heard of the Prometheus Award a quarter century ago and put “writing a novel worthy of winning it” on my bucket list. It was an amazing honor to be nominated alongside so many other worthy authors, and I can still barely wrap my head around having won.

Eric S Raymond said it best: “Hard SF is the vital heart of the field”. The core of hard science fiction is libertarianism: “ornery and insistent individualism, veneration of the competent man, instinctive distrust of coercive social engineering”.

I agree; science fiction is best when it tells stories about free people using intelligence, skills and hard work to overcome challenges.


The Powers of the Earth is a novel about many things.

It’s a war story about ancaps, uplifted dogs, and AI fighting against government using combat robots, large guns, and kinetic energy weapons.

It’s an engineering story about space travel, open source software, tunnel boring machines, and fintech.

It’s a cyberpunk story about prediction markets, CNC guns, and illegal ROMs.

It’s a story about competent men who build machines, competent women who pilot spaceships, and competent dogs who write code.

It’s a novel that pays homage to Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which in turn pays homage to the American Revolution.

…But the historical inspiration for the novel was not, actually, the American Revolution. It’s the founding of the Icelandic Free State almost a thousand years earlier. The difference is subtle, but important.

The American Revolution was an act of secession: one part of a government declaring itself independent and co-equal, and continuing to act as a government. The establishment of the Icelandic Free State is different in two important particulars. First, it did not consist of people challenging an existing government, but of people physically leaving a region governed by a tyrant. And second, the men and women who expatriated themselves from the reign of Harald Fairhair did not create a government — they wanted to flee authoritarianism, not establish their own branch of it!

(The Kindle edition is currently 99 cents.)


  1. Aretae says:

    HEY….it’s TJIC. He survived Massachussets and his gun confiscation. Cool

  2. John Smith says:

    TJIC! That’s all I need to know to buy a copy of the book!

  3. Sam J. says:

    I read the first few pages of this and…uggghh. More Libertarian magic people. Yeah when I was younger Libertarianism held some interest to me to me but as I got older and a little wiser I noticed it tribes that win. Notice in the great Libertarian manifesto the heros make power from nothing magically and live in secret valleys they sheila from sight magically and have loads of gold laying around on the ground. Not real.

    The scattered Whites on the planet are losing out. No matter how inventive or good warriors we are we just give it all up to different tribes that demand we act in ways that “are not oppressive”. Of course they seem oblivious to any moral qualms about oppressing or attacking Whites morally or physically.

    Whites in South Africa may even be genocided because they decided not to be “oppressive”. Never mind there was almost no one in South Africa when the Whites got there, [maybe a few thousand Bushmen]. The Blacks there now came from the North after the Whites built things up.

    Personally, I like individualist culture, for myself, but it’s a losing proposition when everyone else is playing the tribal game. Individualist globo-homo culture is nothing but defeat for Whites. White people should reject it.

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