Asimov’s Reposts Spinrad Column with Statement

Asimov’s has put Norman Spinrad’s “On Books” column back online.

It’s now preceded by this statement from editor Sheila Williams:

We took the Norman Spinrad column down from our website because we heard many concerns from readers. I’m putting it back up now with some thoughts from me. Norman Spinrad has been a provocative voice in Asimov’s for thirty years, but his opinions do not represent the magazine anymore than James Patrick Kelly’s opinions in his On the Net column represent us. However, Norman does appear to speak for us when he writes:

“Compare this with what has been awarded Nebulas by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and what Nebula Awards Showcase 2018 reveals all too clearly as the current state of its membership and the state of their art. The literary inheritors of John W. Campbell, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, what this very magazine is trying to maintain in his name, and novels like Red Moon.

Which side are you on?”

This is in no way the editorial position at Asimov’s. I am much more in agreement with the writer, Karen Osborne, who says: “Modern genre writers write everything— SF *and* fantasy. We play with literary forms. We push boundaries, because where we’re going, we don’t need old, restrictive rules of who can & who can’t. I’m going to quote James Joyce when I say that modern SF is HERE COMES EVERYBODY.”

Asimov’s is a magazine that welcomes literary speculative diversity. We are delighted to publish new authors and the innovative and imaginative work that they are producing. We whole-heartedly support SFWA and the provocative new writers who are celebrated by recent Nebula Awards.

Karen Osborn’s Twitter thread was linked by File 770 yesterday. In the meantime, more writers have reacted to the column or the initial decision to remove it.

Adam-Troy Castro launched a discussion on Facebook that has almost 200 comments. John Scalzi, Roby James, Nick Mamatas, Erika Satifka, Alma Alexander, Michael Burstein, Rev. Bob, Jason Sanford, and Beth Meacham are in the mix.

Alex Acks’ thread starts here.

Vernonia Schanoes’ thread starts here.

Aliette de Bodard wrote:

17 thoughts on “Asimov’s Reposts Spinrad Column with Statement

  1. N.K. Jemsin writes: “I don’t understand why people keep paying him for it.”
    Has she not heard of David Brooks?

  2. The last line of Spinrad’s column reads “Which side are you on?” in an attempt to promote some discussion. Mission accomplished.

  3. Another old man writer befuddled that the 1970’s were forty years ago — when they also complained cluelessly that fantasy was too popular and wanted to eject it from SF publishers.

    This is a real embarrassment though. How is it possible for a still working major SF author to have no idea of how the SFFH market has operated for the last twenty-five or more years? And to throw in a Campbellian racist rant about China to boot?

    But the saddest thing is that category SFF has attempted to have a proud tradition of boosting and helping younger authors as a responsibility and a benefit to the field (admittedly tending to white and frequently men authors.) This column is the opposite of that. To ask that readers pick a side against younger authors and against fantasy fiction is a sad and bitter spectacle.

  4. I do think it is funny being close to 50 years old and being part of the young crowd others are cloud yelling at. Soon time for me to gather some own clouds to yell about.

    I kind of prefer the old horror writers. They are instead smug about liking old obscure stuff or the classics. No new people aren’t that much into Hammer Horror, but that doesn’t stop them from pouring out their love all the time.

    What we need is a new Cloudyelling-redirector installed on websites. One that filters out the yells about what people like too much, instead using the loudness to signalboost the stuff the writer really like and want more people to be aware of.

    EDIT: Had forgotten about Joshi. Not all horror writers.

  5. Ultimately, this is part of a fan fight that outdates most of us, and will outlive all of us. It’s “New Wave” vs “Golden Age”, though it existed before either. If it was really just an argument about literary merit it would of died out a generation ago, because there is grumbling consensus that Campbellian science fiction is not inherently bad, but it’s not the end all and be all of SF. But, it’s not really about literary merit. It’s really about politics, culture, community and the consequences of those.

  6. Come to think of it, I’ve always yelled about How good obscure stuff and felt a bit angry when it has become mainstream, because then I can’t feel snug about knowing what others don’t know.

    If I should start to become disappointed both when my favourite stuff becomes becoms mainstream and when it isn’t popular enough, then I will have to yell 24/7. We could install cloud yelling plants at conventions to make use of the environment unfriendly energy.

  7. One point: when SFWA became the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, that meant they had just as much right to honor fantasy writers with their awards as they do with sf writers.

  8. John A Arkansawyer: Mike, how did you resist titling this “Spinrad Replatformed”?

    It was the first idea that came to mind, I’ll tell you that.

    I thought it was a little too glib to really work.

  9. I didn’t think the article should have been removed, so am glad it is back. The Sheila Williams accompanying statement makes explicit what I always thought: that Norman Spinrad’s views are not those of Asimov’s Magazine’s.

    Is Spinrad trying to have it both ways? Suggesting China became moribund for failing to look forward, while at the same time castigating the SFWA for doing the same (has included Fantasy for ages, now also welcomes other sorts of writers e.g. small press, self-pub). Spinrad’s article is wrongheaded in so many ways.

  10. Pingback: Spinrad Learns Date of Asimov’s Column and Responds | File 770

  11. But if Spinrad has been replatformed, will we see pictures of his fabulous elevated shoes? Sorry, “foo-platformed” will always indelibly have shoe connotations for me.

  12. There are a lot of older white male writers, men who once saw themselves as the younger, smarter, more experimental inheritors of Asimov and Heinlein, but who no longer see themselves in science fiction when they look at the award listings or the attendees at SF conventions. This is sad, that they can no longer follow the field or understand what its concerns are. It’s especially sad, however, when a writer like Spinrad, who could be taking pleasure in the current proliferation of SF and fantasy, in its movement out of an extremely limited and parochial point of view, and could be thinking of himself as in some way having helped move SF in this direction, instead shakes his cane at the entire field and complains that they are too much unlike Asimov and Heinlein. This cutting oneself off from what is happening now is how older people become isolated and lonely. I am sorry for him.

  13. I know I’m a few days late, but I think a clarifying note from the editor is justified because Spinrad used the phrase “what this very magazine is trying to maintain in his name.” Because that does make it sound as if Spinrad is claiming to speak for the magazine. I also agree with those who said this should have been caught before publication.

    I don’t believe the editorial note is a declaration that the editors are picking the opposite side as Spinrad in answer to his final question—because Spinrad is asserting a false binary and insisting that one must choose sides. The editorial note can be read as “we don’t agree that the choices available to sf fans and writers are merely two mutually exclusive playgrounds.”

    This still means they are disagreeing with him, but…

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