Whenever I tried to imagine a fantasy round table conversation with any three people then living (a neat mental exercise to see who you really admire), Professor Stephen Hawking was always first on my list. Partly because he was a rock star scientist, but mostly because he was the most uncanny real-life example of the principle of “mind over matter.” People face all kinds of adversity, and when that adversity is imposed by other people – evils like wars, man-made famines, or even just subtle persecution in the workplace – at least the human element makes it explainable, understandable, and possibly fixable.
My introduction to science fiction came at the age of 14 in a one-two punch of Clarke and Card. Arthur C. Clarke teased my imagination, but Orson Scott Card left an imprint on my soul. I read Ender’s Game three times before finishing high school, and at least another two after that. I can remember one reviewer on Amazon dismissing it as an indulgent tale for the moody kid who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else.
Many years ago I watched a made-for-TV movie called The Cold Equations. I found it extremely compelling, and apparently I wasn’t alone. It was based on a short story with the same title written by Tom Godwin in the 1950s. In 1970 the Science Fiction Writers of America gave it an award for being one of the best science fiction short stories written before 1965, and it was included in the first volume of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.
There’s no getting around it. Ayn Rand has long served as the punching bag for anti-libertarian polemics. People who see the state as the fount of human cooperation tend to cast their opposition as on the side of “greed,” “hate,” and cold-hearted selfishness. If Ayn Rand isn’t the most frequently-used symbolic anchor for that smear, I don’t know what is. According to these folks, Ayn Rand authored the modern libertarian movement, and her defining characteristics always come out of a grab-bag of antonyms for camaraderie, compassion, or cooperation.
The political climate being what it is in 2016, many Americans are casting about for alternatives to what the major two political parties offer. The media seems eager to investigate any alternative whatsoever to Donald Trump. As a result, the Libertarian Party is getting more attention than it has in a long time. The Party’s standard-bearer this year is once again Gary Johnson, a successful two-term governor of New Mexico with a history of shrinking government humanely, and a bee in his bonnet about legalizing marijuana.