a libertarian utopia. Now imagine that utopia a million years in the
future. That's what science fiction writer John C. Wright does in his
Golden Age trilogy -- and his daring feat of imagination has earned
him respect as perhaps "this fledgling century's most important
new SF talent" (according to Publisher's Weekly), and
acclaim as one of the genre's most exciting libertarian authors.
The three books in the series -- The Golden Age (2002), The
Phoenix Exultant (2003), and The Golden Transcendence
(2003) -- feature immortal humans, a hundred-kilometer-long golden spaceship,
artificial intelligences, implanted memories, mysterious enemies from
another star system, and space battles. Written in the grandiose style
of a space opera, the books examine serious themes of morality, identity,
and liberty. In fact, the climax of the trilogy involves a debate between
the hero and an evil artificial intelligence over the nature of reality
In an interview on the jefallbright.net blog, Wright said the books
are a rebuttal to socialist science fiction writer Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950),
who also wrote epic, galaxy-spanning novels that took place in the distant
future. "My ideas of law and economics are the opposite of Mr.
Stapledon's, and so my utopia has in it everything he would leave out
of his," Wright said. "He proposes a communist utopia, blissfully
without private property. I propose a libertarian utopia, blissfully
without public property."
In the novels, Wright continued, "I am proposing a government so
unobtrusive and so honest that few citizens even realize it exists;
the social organization in the Golden Age is entirely voluntary."
He's not exaggerating. In the trilogy, one character describes the government
as "unable to do anything except defend the peace, unable to use
force except to stop force." In the trilogy's Appendix, Wright
noted, "The severely limited powers of the government in the Golden
Age rendered government useless and unnecessary for the conduct of daily
affairs of life."
Wright said he had to make the Golden Age's society libertarian
because the plot required one of the characters to own the solar system's
only interstellar ship. Wright said he wondered: What kind of society
could afford such a luxury? "The answers suggested themselves
from the logic of the question," he said in a 2003 interview on
MostlyFiction.com. "The society would have to be absurdly wealthy,
a free-market society, to have any one man have the capital to spend
on such a project... Logic suggests that such a society would have to
be libertarian in nature, an Ayn Rand utopia..."
But Wright's utopia is no problem-free Galt's Gulch; it features murder,
fraud, espionage, sabotage, and other crimes so futuristic they won't
make it into the penal code for a million years. This utopia "is
not so utopian as to lack all drama," Wright noted.
Wright is also a realist about the limitations -- and dangers -- of
liberty. As one character in the Golden Age explains, "There are
many things which are repugnant, deadly to the spirit, and self-destructive,
but which law should not forbid. Addiction, self-delusion, self-destruction,
slander, perversion, love of ugliness." Indeed, the trilogy features
characters who squander the limitless possibilities of freedom; using
it only to engage in smug rebellion against society, drugged-out bliss,
the exploitation of others, and efforts (noncoersive but powerful) to
halt activities they consider dangerous to social stability.
The trilogy's non-stop drama -- and its dizzying philosophical and technological
speculations -- have earned Wright praise from libertarian science fiction
fans. On George Mason University's "Liberty & Power" blog,
Roderick T. Long described the Golden Age as a "thoughtful, imaginative,
and suspenseful tale of a libertarian hero in rebellion against a libertarian
utopia." On the LewRockwell.com blog, Stephan Kinsella called it
"just about the best sci-fi I've ever read...by an obvious libertarian
and proponent of individualism. Highly recommended."
an e-mail message to the Advocates, Wright said he has "never publicly
declared myself to be a libertarian... When anyone asks me my political
persuasion, I usually tell them I am a Virginian." He also said
he holds some political positions that would make "a true-blue
"But," he added, "if your definition of libertarian is
broad enough to include all those who cherish human liberty, or anyone
persuaded of the rightness and sanity of the economic philosophy of
Ludwig van Mises and Adam Smith, then I accept the honor without reservation."
In addition to the Golden Age, Wright is the author of Last Guardian
of Everness (2004), Mists of Everness (2005), Orphans
of Chaos (2005), Fugitives of Chaos (2006), Titans
of Chaos (2007), and the forthcoming Null-A Continuum.
Both Last Guardian of Everness and Mists of Everness
were nominated for the Prometheus Award for Best Novel by the Libertarian
Futurist Society. Orphans of Chaos was a Nebula Award finalist
Before getting his first novel published, Wright (born 1961) worked
as a lawyer in private practice, a newspaper reporter and editor, and
a technical writer. He lives in Virginia with his wife, author L. Jagi
Lamplighter, and their three whimsically named children, Orville, Wilbur,
A lifelong "vehement, argumentative, proselytizing atheist,"
Wright suffered a heart attack in 2003 and soon afterwards had a "supernatural"
religious experience that made him, he wrote, "aware of a spiritual
dimension of reality of which I had hitherto been unaware... I was altered
down to the root of my being." Wright is now a Christian.
ideas of law and economics are the opposite of [socialist science fiction
writer Olaf] Stapledon's, and so my utopia has in it everything he would
leave out of his. He proposes a communist utopia, blissfully without
private property. I propose a libertarian utopia, blissfully without
public property." -- John C. Wright on jefallbright.net
(December 20, 2003)
"When I was young, I thought all science fiction writers were like
me: people who believed in science, and, hence, in rationality and,
by extension, in the virtues of reason, such as individualism, independent
thinking, self-reliance, non-conformity. Hence, it was with considerable
surprise that, going to my first science fiction convention, I found
that most of the writers were leftists, socialists, mystics and collectivists."
-- John C. Wright on http://johncwright.livejournal.com
(September 23, 2003)
"[My] opinions...are standard, flag-waving, pro-American-type individualism."
-- John C. Wright on http://johncwright.livejournal.com
(September 26, 2003)