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LIBERTARIAN ENGINEER SAVES THE WORLD
June 9, 2011 10:36 AM   Subscribe

Give your best examples of the SF/ Survivalist/ Wish Fullfillment sub-genre "libertarian engineers do everything better" or "objectivist superman saves history". More specifically ones where someone is the last man on earth/sendt back in time and constructs a free market utopia through sheer smarts and rationality ( with himself on the top of it, of course).

Cricitisms and analysis of this genre are also very much welcome.
posted by The Whelk to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
I believe you're looking for the Conrad Stargard novels by Leo Frankowski.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:49 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I haven't read it but it seems like a pretty good example of the trope: The Girl Who Owned a City; Adam Cadre's criticism of the novel
posted by phoenixy at 10:50 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


You have MeMail.
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:51 AM on June 9, 2011


Serpents Walk, The Turner Diaries. not exactly SF,
posted by hortense at 10:55 AM on June 9, 2011


I've never read the Probability Broach, but it's marketed to fit the bill.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 11:05 AM on June 9, 2011


Heinlein's entire oeuvre, but I guess you already knew that.
posted by empath at 11:11 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lucifer's Hammer is a pretty good one.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:14 AM on June 9, 2011


I've never read the Probability Broach, but it's marketed to fit the bill.

TPB is about this dude who hops timelines into one where the libertarian engineers won a long time ago, not one where you get to see the libertarian engineer save the world.

It is hilariously sincere, and features an honest-to-god tearful speech about all the good things it means when you take a gun to someone else's house.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:16 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think the prototype is the Lord Kalvan stories, about a Pennsylvania state trooper who's thrown back in time* and single-handedly overthrows the evil religion that's formed a government monopoly on gunpowder. The first one isn't as in-your-face with the Objectivism as the later Crosstime-Engineer-type books that Faint of Butt mentions, but it's very Great Man Saves the Benighted Past with Rational Engineering, and it sounds like they get worse in the sequels-by-another-hand that came after.


*All right, it's an alternate medieval universe, same difference
posted by ormondsacker at 11:16 AM on June 9, 2011


In a similar vein is James Hogans's Cradle of Saturn, which is about a libertarian Velikovskian engineer who tries to save the world.

The first added bonus is that Our Libertarian Engineer Hero has the clear head necessary to realize that, obviously, the reason that dinosaurs were so big is that the Earth was a satellite of Saturn when dinosaurs were around, and was only knocked into its present orbit when Jupiter or Saturn vomited up Venus a few thousand years ago. It's like reading a book where Sir Bedevere is our hero and he's always, always right.

The second added bonus is because its claptrap isn't just standard-issue libertarian claptrap, you get long-winded crazy rants against Big Science and their refusal to see the light because that would mean fewer swanky conferences mixed in with the long-winded crazy rants about Big Government.

As you might guess, it's also a little bit sad to read something so clearly post-Brain-Eater.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:21 AM on June 9, 2011


Going way back, Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
posted by The Lamplighter at 11:23 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not about saving the world but Robinson Crusoe is definitely in that general family.
posted by rusty at 11:28 AM on June 9, 2011


1632 and its sequels, by Eric Flint, are in this general genre, though its heroes save the world more though Yankee ingenuity than free-market libertarianism.
posted by mbrubeck at 11:38 AM on June 9, 2011


Charles L. Mee's (fantastic) play Full Circle, Scene 3.

Warren Buffett goes to East Berlin immediately after the fall of the Wall to teach them about the free market, and it is hilarious.

"Well, if there's anything I've learned
I've learned you never ask the barber if you need a haircut."
posted by davidjmcgee at 12:18 PM on June 9, 2011


Lest Darkness Fall is a prototype of the genre, with at least a little more subtlety than some. Some of our hero's plans fail or backfire.

Earth Abides is interesting in this regard because of how completely ineffectual the Mary Sue Rational Man narrator is. But a bad, not recommended book.
posted by Zed at 12:48 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island, a party of stranded men recreate useful technologies on an apparently uninhabited island. They have the assistance of basic supplies mysteriously provided to them as they rebuild the 19th century world they left, accidentally, in a hot air balloon. The main character figures out how to make glass, as sort of an extra thing. That was my favorite part.
posted by Francolin at 12:49 PM on June 9, 2011


In a similar vein is James Hogans's Cradle of Saturn,

Actually quite a bit of Hogan's work fits this, the only excpetions that I can think of are the first three Giants novels and The Genesis Machine.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 12:53 PM on June 9, 2011


Household Gods is the mirror version of this sub-genre: a lawyer who gets sent back to ancient Rome, with mixed results at best. Written, I'm pretty sure in direct response to the L. Sprauge de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall. The Wiki link also mentions "The Deadly Mission of Phineas Snodgrass" by Frederik Pohl, and "The Man Who Came Early" by Poul Anderson. The Pohl is written for laughs, the Anderson is done straight. Lest Darkness Fall is a great book, but these three commentaries, particularly the Turtledove-Carr and the Anderson, who really know their history too, are interesting counter-arguments.
posted by bonehead at 1:16 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Blah: Judith Tarr, not Carr.
posted by bonehead at 1:18 PM on June 9, 2011


I've only read a couple in this series, but I think it fits your description. It's been a while, so I can't offer much analysis, other than remembering a facile excuse to kill off anybody over 30, leaving attractive young people to write about.
posted by theora55 at 2:12 PM on June 9, 2011


TV Tropes calls this Giving Radio to the Romans and links to a great takedown of the Conrad Stargard novels
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:00 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Zed: "Lest Darkness Fall is a prototype of the genre, with at least a little more subtlety than some. Some of our hero's plans fail or backfire.

Earth Abides is interesting in this regard because of how completely ineffectual the Mary Sue Rational Man narrator is. But a bad, not recommended book.
"

Not to derail, but strongly disagree. I thought Earth Abides was terrific, if depressing.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:00 PM on June 9, 2011


Heinlein's entire oeuvre, but I guess you already knew that.

If you didn't already know that Farnham's Freehold is Heinleinian Philosophy in it's purest, undiluted form and relatively easy to digest in small, discrete chunks. Shortly after reading it maybe 25 years ago I concluded I didn't ever need to read anything else by Heinlein, but it really does encapsulate about 90% of his recurring themes.
posted by motown missile at 11:00 PM on June 9, 2011


Man oh man does this genre go back. There's an entire section of Howard Bruce Franklin's War Stars that covers these types of stories in the 19th century, the only one I can remember off the top of my head is His Wisdom, the Defender.

Never read it, but from Franklin's descriptions it sounds hilarious, a blatant Mary Sue story written by a lat 1800s professorial-type about becoming the scientific savior of the planet. The title of the book is the title the main character receives from the adoring populace, by the way.
posted by Ndwright at 8:33 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I really hate to say it, but the modern-day third of Cryptonomicon is very much 'libertarian nerds are awesomesauce'.
posted by Ndwright at 8:35 AM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality surely fits this trope. My favourite part is when Harry hears about the wizards' currency being made of gold and silver at a fixed value ratio, and privately constructs a plan to amass a vast fortune by using arbitrage.
posted by Acheman at 8:49 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've read all of Heinlein and can't think of anything I'd put in this genre. His later books from Time Enough for Love on all featured groups of individuals forming their own society, and they kept ending up being family-centered communes (seriously.) In Farnham's Freehold, the characters don't get a chance to try to form a society until the very end, and we don't see much of it at all, and the characters know the odds are against them forming a healthy, lasting society. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress features a revolutionaries championing libertarianism, but they were neither the last people on Earth (er, Luna) nor people out of time, and they knew they weren't creating a utopia, just doing what they thought was the best they could. Heinlein revisited the Luna of Harsh Mistress around a hundred years later in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and it was shown to be highly flawed, and something that would have appalled the characters of Harsh Mistress.

There are lots of flaws in Heinlein, but his having some facile point of view that there's a one true way that will create a lasting utopia wasn't one of them.
posted by Zed at 8:54 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's everything by Neil Stephenson, isn't it? (Caveat: I haven't read REAMDE so I can't vouch for that one.)
posted by ErikaB at 9:21 AM on October 30, 2011


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