Campbell Name Could Come Off Award

The South China Morning Post reports that Dell Magazine, sponsor of the John W, Campbell Award for Best New Writer, “admits it is considering renaming the award and it is only a matter of finding the right time” — “Hong Kong winner of John W. Campbell sci-fi award stands by ‘fascist’ comments as new name for accolade is considered”.

The interviewer who spoke to Jeannette Ng about her award acceptance speech at Dublin 2019 also reached out to Analog editor Trevor Quachri and here is what she learned:

The controversy has not gone unnoticed. Trevor Quachri, editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact (the science fiction magazine is owned by Dell Magazine, which sponsors the award), admits he is considering renaming the award and it is only a matter of finding the right time, given it is Analog’s 90th anniversary next year.

Reading an early draft of Nevala-Lee’s book on Campbell prompted the decision, says Quachri.

“It’s a nuanced account of [one of ] the major figures of the era, which neither papers over their flaws nor reduces them to caricatures. But it does make clear that some of the things that we may have once been able to dismiss as idiosyncrasies or being ‘of their time’ went beyond that.”

The article follows the quotes with this comment:

Ultimately, the major purpose of the prize is to honour and elevate new writers, which should not be overshadowed by the contentious name of the award. Just as important as recognising how white men like Campbell have limited the voices and perspectives in science fiction is realising and celebrating how things have changed.

The Campbell Award is owned by Dell Magazine which publishes Analog.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman for the story.]

71 thoughts on “Campbell Name Could Come Off Award

  1. Fairly cautious wording from Quachri – but welcome, I think. The mention of the 90th anniversary for Analog suggests there may be a gracious way through this for Dell Magazines.

  2. Hardly unexpected given the furor over Ng’s comments. But as a friend of mine mentioned to me when learning about all this, Shakespeare penned a eulogy for his character Marcus Antony to declare over the body of the assassinated Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, which included the observation: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. So let it be with Caesar.” It seems Campbell is the latest to receive such treatment. I’m sure he won’t be the last.

  3. Hi James! I saw the dishonest attacks you wrote about earlier discussions here. Where you called us the “pundits at File 770” and where you made up totally spurious claims that Campbell had been likened to Mussolini in the comment section.

    Do you think you yourself deserve to be referred to in the same way as you talk about others? As an example, as the rightwing pundit who is part of the lynch mob against Ocasio-Cortez because you think everyone that disagrees with you is Hitler himself?

  4. I’m sorry you consider my comments as dishonest attacks, but you have the right to your viewpoint. I did interpret a comment made on your articles as referencing Campbell and Mussolini in pretty much one (digital) breath.

    Of course, people are going to disagree with me, and I have never considered such people to be “Hitler.” Why would I? One of the reasons I make my “dishonest attacks” (as you put them) on my own blog rather than here is because I’m the blog owner and can render my own opinions freely.

    I can understand why Campbell’s name will be removed from the award, and certainly I can agree that he was a racist, but at the end of the day, how much can we really sanitize “uncomfortable” history and dead human beings?

    Oh, and for the record, I consider myself a moderate and don’t adhere to any particular political party.

  5. James Pyles on August 27, 2019 at 12:36 pm said:

    I can understand why Campbell’s name will be removed from the award, and certainly I can agree that he was a racist, but at the end of the day, how much can we really sanitize “uncomfortable” history and dead human beings?

    Hold on a moment. Leaving his name ON the award would be sanitising uncomfortable history. Sanitising was what was going on PRIOR to Ng’s speech. She didn’t sanitise anything and taking his name off the award isn’t sanitising his past either — it is pointing out what was wrong with it.

    Token memorials aren’t history. Alec Nevala-Lee’s book on Campbel and that period of SF Astounding, is history and it isn’t sanitised.

  6. And the new name of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer will neatly avoid any controversy that might erupt over any person chosen to name it after.

  7. I am so glad they did this. This is very quick, too, for a corporate decision. I suspect it was percolating since Nevala-Lee’s book, as indeed they said it was.

  8. James, it is not really interesting if you think that people can disagree with you without being Hitler. The question is, are you totally okay with being described as someone who thinks everyone that disagrees with you is Hitler?

    Because it was that kind of nasty and hateful language you used aginst Ocasio-Cortez in your text.

    Also, I read today that Dave Eddings had been to jail for child abuse. I think if is important to ask if that kind of abuse really is what you are defending? Because you seem to think it is okay to ask that kind of nasty questions to women on pure base of religion. Even Campbell held less hatred against Muslims than you seem to hold.

    There is nothing “moderate” with the hate you spread.

  9. Nicely done, Analog. History is acknowledged, but more importantly people get to officially be the “Astounding” writers they are.

  10. If Campbell was racist and fascist from 1937 to 1960, how was Astounding any less racist and fascist? Is it better to name an award after a racist/fascist magazine than a racist/fascist editor?

  11. I can’t say I’m a fan of the antisemitism spread by lawmakers such Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib (the aforementioned “squad”) considering that my wife and children are Jewish and we support the right of the Jewish people to have their own state. If you want to consider that “hate,” I can’t stop you. I also acknowledged Campbell’s racism and I do understand why his name is being removed from the award. I don’t know what I said to make you believe I’d support Dave Eddings who has been incarcerated for child abuse (decades ago, I used to investigate child abuse for a living) anymore than I would support the late Marion Zimmer Bradley who has been alleged to have allowed and perhaps perpetrated child sexual abuse upon her daughter.

  12. @Bill

    It’s a compromise. The Astounding name is associated with Campbell, true, but it’s also more than that. For someone who doesn’t particularly know SF history, “Astounding” just sounds like a very nice compliment to the winner. To the historically aware, it’s a nod to the wider past, not just the Campbell era. To Dell/Analog, who sponsor it, it’s a relevant reference to themselves. To everyone who was unhappy with Campbell’s name, it’s a win.

  13. The only thing I can add to this discussion is that the SOONER it happens, the better off sf fandom and our branch of literature will be…

    Chris B.

  14. James:

    What you mean is that you are not fond of seeing muslims as human beings or Palestinians as a people with the right to secure borders in their own state. That is why you spout hate and bigotry towards all women who speak up for international law. You lie, defame and slander.

    Again, you are no moderate. You are a spreader of hate. A bigot. Someone with so nasty views that when people are talking about muslim women being beaten, you see it as a chance to attack the women.

  15. And James: The question is not if you support Eddings child abuse. The question is if you think it is fair to try to insist that you have something to do with that abuse. In the same way that you nastily tried to imply that women would support wife beating just because they were muslim.

    I.e are you okay with being slandered in the same way you slander others?

  16. James Pyles says
    I can’t say I’m a fan of the antisemitism spread by lawmakers such Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib (the aforementioned “squad”) considering that my wife and children are Jewish and we support the right of the Jewish people to have their own state. If you want to consider that “hate,” I can’t stop

    That is an outright lie. None of them have said that Israel does not have the right to exist as all they’ve said is Palestine has the right to exist as a state too. Saying that they are anti-semitic proves your own racism.

  17. Kudos to Ng for stepping up as a catalyst. Kudos to Nevala-Lee for the very excellent biography, which made the case so well and prepared the ground. And kudos to Quachri, Dell, and Analog, for being willing to take the step.

  18. Hampus: Ease up a bit, maybe?

    James: Hampus is feeling protective because you did basically paint the entire discussion here, which was a lot more complex than that, as a Campbell hate fest. You claimed people here said in earnest that liking anything Campbell did makes one a horrible person. Can you back that up? or will you admit you were having too much fun stereotyping to be fair to the discussion?

    You also continue to conflate not naming awards after controversial figures as erasing history, when actual history is virtually never learned based on things like award statues and award names. Can you acknowledge the difference?

  19. Wow. That was quick. And welcome. “Astounding Award” – I like it. It still preserves the SF history links, without directly associating it with a particular personality. (And there were plenty of people who read, and even wrote for, Astounding who didn’t have, err, questionable theories on race…)

  20. I like the new name. It doesn’t ignore the rest of the magazine’s history, which does include many excellent works, both written and artistic.

  21. Okay, Lenora. I admit to not reading all of the 200+ comments on the previous post about Ng and the Campbell award and focused on just a few. As I’ve said repeatedly, I do understand that A. Campbell was a racist, and B. why his name is being removed from the award. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name was also removed from a children’s book award a few years back because of her “dated” viewpoints. I objected to that action as well, but of course, I represent just one, lone opinion.

    But rather than changing names and tearing down statues because they don’t reflect certain values, maybe we should try to learn from history while acknowledging the problems it reflects. The school board in San Francisco voted to paint over a mural of George Washington at a local high school because it depicted racist themes (Google “george washington mural san francisco”). The 1,600 foot, 13-panel mural had existed since the 1930s and it would have cost a ton of money to do the work. After impassioned pleas from the public, including a number of celebrities, the board reversed its decision. Showing the warts of history is the best way not to forget about it and not to repeat the sins of the past. Remove Campbell’s name from the award and in a relatively short period of time, people will move on to other topics. However, I think we lose something every time we throw our skeletons back in the closet, so yes, we do affect how future generations understand history when we change names and eliminate artwork and monuments.

    By the way, thanks for calling me out in such a civil manner.

  22. Sorry, James, you kind of prompted this rant but it is not directed at you anymore so much as in general, because while you did it again here, I see this trend over and over.

    I never learned a single thing about Bishop Grandin by driving down a road named after him. I didn’t even know he was the same person as St. Vital, who has a city area named after him. I went to four schools named after people and the only one I know a thing about based on the school itself was the Virgin Mary. We do not learn our history from things named after people.

    If you care about history, and about us learning from history, I know more about the history of Confederate statues (And why they are not real historical monuments) from the threats to tear them down than I ever learned about the figures they depict from leaving them standing. That was a favour to my knowledge of history. I probably know more about Campbell from discussing Campbell than I ever did from cheering on new writers getting an award in his name. I learned more about Hugo Gernsbeck from one chapter of Neurotribes than I ever did from years of following Hugos.

    In the few cases where people do use awards or buildings named after people to teach history, the award is as often as not merely a visual aid and it is the words of the speaker or the article using the picture that are giving the actual story. This is not like the art of photographing or even painting the events in question. It is more like the painted portrait unearthed where it requires decades of dedicated research to learn the least thing about who it was and why they thought it mattered.

    If you truly care about history, real vivid history, you will stop worrying about the monuments we erect with meaningless names appended and start encouraging honest discussions of legacy, good and ill.

  23. You make a fair point. However, I did learn a lot about “Chicken Dinner Road” in an Idaho community not far from where I live after PETA demanded the name be changed (yes, I’m absolutely serious).

  24. I don’t envy Tammy and Nicholas, CoNZealand’s Hugo Administrators, Colette, their WSFS Division Head, or the Business Meeting Chair (whomever that may end up being) given that the name of the award is in the Constitution. To change it this year and next or not to change it this year and next? That is the question.

    Personally I’d rather they suffer the slings and arrows of calling it what Dell re-named it next year instead of waiting two years for the Constitution to change from Campbell to Astounding. But I’m not them, thank Ghu! And the Hugo Nomination and final Ballots all have to be put out there well before even the Preliminary Business Meeting.

    .

    James, saying that people uncovering MORE information on historical people is erasing history is incredibly dishonest. It’s not erasing history to point to Campbell’s fascism. It’s not erasing history to tear down those statues erected long after the Civil war by people who didn’t participate in it. It’s not erasing history to document the clay feet. It’s uncovering it. It’s showing the truth.

  25. James Pyles: But rather than changing names and tearing down statues because they don’t reflect certain values, maybe we should try to learn from history while acknowledging the problems it reflects.

    This is a false dichotomy; it’s not an either/or proposition. We can do both; stop honoring the horrific values glorified by such statues and other named items, and educate people on the history of what actually happened, both good and bad.

    I also notice how you tried to palm that card: statues aren’t being torn down because “they don’t reflect certain values”, they are being torn down because of the horrific values they do reflect.

    Hampus is right, you have repeatedly been dishonest in your comments in this thread. 😐

  26. @Lenora: Since moving to Massachusetts, I have looked up some of people who streets, squares, and such are named after. I may or may not remember much of anything about them later: Davis Square, Somerville, is named after Person Davis, and that odd given name is all I remember about Davis. There are various things here named Coolidge, and while I’m pretty sure they aren’t named after Calvin Coolidge, that doesn’t tell me much, including whether they’re all named for the same people, or people from the same family, or have unrelated namesakes. (I am only “pretty sure” because the neighborhood I grew up in had a Coolidge Street which I think was named for the president–it was a block away from Hoover Street.)

    If we’re going to put people’s names on things–rather than either numbering streets and buildings, or naming them for trees, or maybe rocks, kinds of fish, or rivers–we should name them for people we want to honor, but not expect the street signs to be educational. There are a lot of blocks and street corners in New York named after firefighters who died in the 9/11 attacks, and I hope that comforts their families. But very few people are going to notice a street sign and try to find out more about its namesake.

    “Elm Street,” “West 23rd Street,” “School Street,” and “Avenue B” may be prosaic, but there’s no risk of someone discovering something horrible about the number 23 and demanding that the street be renamed.

  27. Here in Minnesota, there is a lot of discussion around Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, which is named for the 19th century slavery supporting Southern Senator. Efforts to change the lake and streets named for him to a Sioux name (Bde Maka Ska) have gotten a lot of reactionary pushback.

    Why does Calhoun have a lake named after him in Minnesota in the first place? Well, he sent the army to what is now Fort Snelling in 1817 when he was Secretary of War.

  28. Huge props to Trevor Quachri and Dell Magazines for doing the right thing; no excuses, no waffling, just “we agree, and we’re changing it”.

    And credit to Alec Nevala-Lee for writing an honest, warts-and-all assessment of some of our genre’s big names.

    I’m pretty certain that a lot of people did not bother reading Nevala-Lee’s book because they assumed that it was a hagiography of the men named in the title. I hope that they will read it now.

  29. One of the best comments I saw about the statues and “forgetting history”: someone pointed out that after the revolutionary war, a statue of King George was torn down. “And no one ever remembered the purpose of that war ever again.” 😀

  30. Apropos of a comment far upthread, “I consider myself a moderate” is pretty much meaningless. Just like almost every American who doesn’t own two mansions and a yacht, or isn’t homeless on the street, consider themselves “middle class”, I strongly suspect that almost every American, regardless of the political beliefs they espouse or how they may look to others, consider themselves “moderates.”

    It’s a pretty basic psychology. Humans are social animals and very few people are comfortable with being outliers.

  31. ULTRAGOTHA: I don’t envy Tammy and Nicholas, CoNZealand’s Hugo Administrators, Colette, their WSFS Division Head, or the Business Meeting Chair (whomever that may end up being) given that the name of the award is in the Constitution.

    Hopefully they will proceed to use the new name because it’s the right thing to do. Someone could certainly bring up a censure motion at the business meeting — I know of at least one Worldcon that was censured while it was in progress — and that would reflect far worse on the maker than the committee.

  32. P J Evans: I like the new name. It doesn’t ignore the rest of the magazine’s history, which does include many excellent works, both written and artistic.

    It’s easy to understand why they’d pick that name. I’ll be interested to see how it goes over. After all, it’s the magazine Campbell ran for decades and printed his editorials.

  33. @Cassy B. Also, even people who don’t think of themselves as moderates may think it’s useful or politic to self-describe that way. If I tell people up front “I’m a radical, and I think we should….” some of them will be suspicious or against it just because of that label. Some of those people will consider, and support, the exact same proposal introduced with “here’s a common-sense proposal that should appeal to all sides.” Which may just be a different way of phrasing what you said about being social animals.

    And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin’ a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may think it’s a movement.

  34. I like it. Good job Trevor Quachri and Dell Magazines.

    (I think I remember reading in Alec Nevala-Lee’s book that Campbell didn’t like the name Astounding and it was his decision to change it to Analog.)

  35. ULTRAGOTHA: I don’t envy Tammy and Nicholas, CoNZealand’s Hugo Administrators, Colette, their WSFS Division Head, or the Business Meeting Chair (whomever that may end up being) given that the name of the award is in the Constitution.

    Mike Glyer: Hopefully they will proceed to use the new name because it’s the right thing to do. Someone could certainly bring up a censure motion at the business meeting — I know of at least one Worldcon that was censured while it was in progress — and that would reflect far worse on the maker than the committee.

    I’m a member of the WSFS Committee which handles technical wording issues (humourously called “The Nitpicking and Flyspecking Committee”). It’s my contention that the current wording of the WSFS Constitution now contains incorrect terminology, and that, according to WSFS Standing Rules, it can be corrected without requiring motions and a 2-year ratification process.

    Rule 4.3: Numbers, Titles, References, and Technical Corrections.
    … The Business Meeting Secretary may change punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and other wording in the Constitution and Standing Rules only insofar as such changes clarify meaning and enhance consistency, and only insofar as such changes do not modify the substantive meaning of the documents.

  36. @Mike
    I only read it for 50-something years. (Dropped it at renewal time in 2015 or 2016: I wasn’t enjoying enough of the stories any more. I inherited the subscription from my father.)

  37. In re: Confederate monuments — Gaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh.

    There are essentially only two things you need to know about Confederate monuments.

    Most of them were erected around the beginning of Jim Crow or the beginning of the Civil Rights movement, by whites who wanted to re-assert their dominance and intimidate blacks.
    Even Robert E. Lee himself opposed them, because he knew they would encourage ongoing hostility.

    (Yes, my town’s square has a Confederate monument in the middle of it. I have to drive around it nearly every time I go to that part of town.)

  38. Terrible person, yes. Doesn’t deserve the honor, sure, not arguing about that. But I had the impression that it was named for him because of his role in discovering new talent? From that angle, the new name doesn’t seem particularly evocative to me.

  39. The reason I even know Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin is St. Vital is that the said “saint” is one of the architects of the Residential School System, aka a significant attempt at genocide via stealing children. And lately a lot of the Residential School survivors (yes, it is that recent) are asking “Can we not?”

    I am having a hard time imagining a figure, even Le Guin, I would ever be comfortable naming anything after again. Le Guin, for instance, had an abortion and did not pretend she did not, or regretted the decision. I can see a whole lot of people having cat-fits about that.

  40. @Danny Sichel

    Since the new writers were published in Astounding it seems pretty well-connected to the concept to me.

  41. @Vicki Rosenzweig

    If we’re going to put people’s names on things . . . we should name them for people we want to honor

    The namer(s?) of the Campbell award did just that. They wanted to honor JWC. What he did in the field of SF was important to them, and what kind of person he was, not so much. The community has changed. Now, what kind of person he was has risen in relative importance compared to his prominence in the field, and the balance has shifted. Today, -isms are more important than they used to be in the perception of Fandom, and what dead white guys did half a century ago, not so much.

  42. Bill, instead of thinking of it as “isms”, think of it as courtesy, and treating everyone, not only people who look like you and belong to your social class, as human and worthy of respect. That’s mostly what all this is about. I think you’ll find that a much more palatable way to think, and a concept that is easier to apply broadly.

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