Dan Simmons Criticized for Remarks About Thunberg

Dan Simmons’ Facebook comment mocking teenaged environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who recently spoke at the U.N., is now removed, however, screencaps were shared and many sff writers and fans have tweeted their dismay.

Simmons is a World Horror Grandmaster and past winner of the Hugo (for Hyperion), World Fantasy Award, Bram Stoker Award, British Fantasy Award and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.

Here is a full screencap.

Here is a sampling of the reaction.

  • Jeff VanderMeer
  • Stina Leicht
  • Ilana C. Myer
  • Adam-Troy Castro
  • Paul Tremblay
  • Robin Johnson (the game developer, not the Australian fan)
  • Sarah Pinborough
  • Richard Webb
  • April A. Taylor
  • Paul Weimer
  • Ellen Datlow

Kinda surprised so many people are just now figuring out that Dan Simmons is a crank. He’s never hidden the fact.

93 thoughts on “Dan Simmons Criticized for Remarks About Thunberg

  1. @Miles Carter–You didn’t in any way address the substance of what Greta Thunberg said, which was that adults should be paying attention to the science on climate change, and her frustration that they haven’t, aren’t, and in too many cases make it plain that they don’t intend to, ever.

    In response to that, you call her a “surly, spoiled child,” describe her as “ranting and raving,” and imply support for Simmons’ shameful attack on her.

    There is nothing thoughtful or considered about that. For it to be thoughtful or considered, never mind both, it would have to have some substance, not be pure ad hominem.

    16 is the age at which kids are pushed to start making their longterm life plans and major life decisions. It should be no surprise that at least some of them will look around at what’s happening to the world they’ll be living in, and that the most motivated, confident, and articulate will speak up about it and get themselves heard.

    A rant about kids needing to shut up and be respectful of adults who are wrecking the world they’ll be living in is not a “thoughtful, considered response.”

  2. Kevin Harkness: I was a high school teacher and spent a lot of my time and rhetorical skills persuading young people that, despite the insecurities of being a teenager, they had something to say to the world. Reading this dismissive, snarky shutdown pisses me off no end.

    Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Teenagers are told to be bold, to think fast because the word is rapidly changing, to fight hard because everything is competitive and they can expect very little to be handed to them, yet at the same time we want them to sit down and shut up.

    Exactly.

    It infuriates me when people insist that teenagers (or for that matter, well-known actors) aren’t entitled to speak up and voice their opinions, as if they are by default more ignorant and not worth listening to than the average person.

    A lot of teenagers (and actors) are more intelligent and well-informed than the so-called “average person adults” I see running their mouths off on social media.

    But then, I figure that the people who try to dismiss what others say, simply because they’re teenagers or actors, are doing so because they know they don’t actually have rational arguments against what’s being said, so their only option is an ad hominem attack.

  3. I’m probably going to regret this, but I think a point is being missed here. I’m going to try to make it clearer by a comparison of 16 year olds:

    In 2013, Malala Yousafzai addressed the UN after she’d been shot in the head for having committed the “sin” of going to school to get an education. She was 16 at the time.

    Even though someone tried to kill her and did kill others, Yousafzai’s speech is poised, calm, considered and direct. She doesn’t yell at anyone or castigate anyone at the UN for failing to take the education of women seriously enough (though they largely haven’t). She instead outlines what is being done currently and what needs to be done going forward.

    She has a tone of urgency which isn’t overshadowed by rage or invective. It’s an effective speech.

    Greta Thunberg, in about half as long a set of remarks (I’m not sure it can be accurately called a formal speech) has moments of power and clarity, but her barely suppressed rage and her intemperate language undercut her message. Part of the reason for that, I suspect, has to do with her maturity level.

    I wish more people would focus on her appearance on The Daily Show, where she is more controlled and therefore more impactful.

    Most people don’t respond well to being hectored. I’ve tuned out a lot of things (like Twitter) because full on anger and invective obscures the message.

    Mr. Simmons responded to heat with heat and diminished himself thereby. Ms. Thunberg was far better when she channeled her rage instead of letting consume the more compelling part of her message. She did no one any favors by attacking people as she did.

    I’m afraid that calm considered discourse is headed the way of the dodo.

  4. We’re killing her whole world in front of her eyes. We’re blighting her future and that of every other child out there.

    Oh, but she’s not allowed to be angry. She’d darned well better be POLITE about reacting to that.

    Tone policing. Not a good look from anyone.

  5. @ULTRAGOTHA:

    I did NOT say she wasn’t “allowed to be angry”. I said her UNcontrolled anger was obscuring her message. Please try to have your response bear at least SOME connection to what I said.

    @jayn:

    I don’t care if she smiles or not. You can be filled with rage and still not let that rage overshadow your message. I’m just pointing out that yelling at people and attacking them is a method of getting their attention which might not be likely to accomplish much other than cause them to TUNE YOU OUT.

    @P.J. Evans: I suspect that Malala Yousafzai considers her subject to be just as urgent to her as Greta Thunberg’s subject is to her. Yousafzai was shot in the head by a zealot for having the temerity to seek out an education. She wasn’t the only one shot. Girls are risking their lives for an education. How is that not a matter requiring urgency?

    However, even positing that climate change is more urgent, that doesn’t change the fact that Thunberg is perfectly capable of presenting her case without doing so with barely repressed rage.

    Thank you for the courtesy of actually responding to my remarks.

    You needn’t take my word for that-there are other videos of other appearances where she is still as impassioned but not as enraged. The speeches/comments are far more compelling.

    I’m just sorry those appearances are being obscured by this furor, as Ms. Thunberg is quite articulate and knows her stuff.

    I knew anything I said would be all but pointless, but I had to try.

  6. Righteous anger eloquently expressed has often been an appropriate vehicle of convincing people.

    Currently, I wouldn’t trust a person talking about what’s going on in say, the White House, who didn’t seem to feel and express even a scrap of indignation.

  7. For most people, most of the time, there isn’t really just one thing. We like to tell ourselves so – and I am definitely not exempting myself from this- but we’re usually kidding ourselves. “Oh, I would accept this as a valid call to action if only X.” So someone makes a change so that now it’s X. Turns out that, oh, I would accept this as a valid call to action if only Y. Most of our choices are massively overdetermined, thanks to the cumulative weight of A and B and C and D and E and…so on.

    It’s possible to do some self-scrutiny, and what I’ve found to be helpful when I want to see how open I actually am to something is to set aside all the internal debate about past choices and look at what I ended up actually saying and doing. Not what I thought about, not what I daydreamed of, not what I wished for or dreaded, but I did in fact say to friends and family, post, vote for or against, and so on. Our interactions with the surrounding world have a smoother, more consistent trajectory than our internal navigation would often suggest.

    And even when there’s some variation in the courses we actually take through the real world, it’s possible to do some filtering based on what I’ve heard called the passion test. Out of all the things I assent to and/or dissent from, what gets my passion when I talk (post, etc.) about it? What motivates me to go on at length, to revisit it again and again, to get heated about? Very often it’s not at all what I would describe as my priorities. And sometimes there are good reasons for it: there are things that matter hugely to me but that I can’t plausibly get into in my usual conversation channels, or that I can do something about only in very specific windows of opportunity, and so on. But still, it’s really easy to find that I’m putting a ton of my real-life, interacting-with-others passion into stuff I say isn’t that important. And when that happens, I should make adjustments.

    I’ve had to do some of that the last couple weeks, in fact, so it’s on my mind already even before this particular bout of ugliness. Being honest with yourself is sometimes not a lot of fun and sometimes leads to a lot of necessary work.

  8. it’d be such a shame if we put more funding into renewable energy research and created a cleaner, healthier planet for no reason.

  9. What’s sobering is the entitlement people feel to talk about another person like that just because she’s a teenager and somehow think they’re being reasonable, calm and, most laughably, not personal. That Simmons was once a teacher and would speak about a young person they do not know in that way is both staggering and irresponsible. Is he a climate change denier, too? Is that what the science babbling was about?

    Nobody likes to be hectored, no. Few people like to be driven to hectoring to get attention and action, either, certainly not for something so important.

  10. Rob Kroese on September 26, 2019 at 6:54 pm said:
    How horrible it must be for you people to have to deal with a conservative in your midst. Thoughts and prayers.

    Always nice to get an envoy from the rational, open-minded and welcoming side of the aisle.

  11. BTW, for the folks calling Ms. Thunberg entitled – you ever been on a long-distance, deep ocean sail? particularly on a racing yacht?
    Hint: You better love sailing or be otherwise motivated because it isn’t comfortable.
    At all.
    My younger sister did do long distance ocean races for several years, and it’s tough. She described it as cold, dirty and demanding, but she loved sailing and was really good at it. But she’d also describe it as a young person’s game.
    My dad spent a few weeks two years ago helping sail the yacht America to Panama – he loved it but he was glad to get to shore when it was all over with. And while he loved it (and showing he could do everything the younger crew could as well), he’d also describe it as tough and demanding.
    This article gives an idea of what it’s like – and even if Ms. Thunberg was supercargo for the voyage, it wouldn’t have been fun.

  12. Ms. Thunberg making a speech in April before the European Parliament:

    Ms. Thunberg on The Daily Show:

    I suppose that at a time when the president of the United States tweets like a five year old with poor impulse control, calm, passionate, intelligent (and, yes, sometimes funny) presentations are less likely to attract attention, but I prefer light to heat.

    Ms. Thunberg actually deserves the voting franchise more than a number of the adults I know.

  13. @Robert Reynolds:

    Greta Thunberg, in about half as long a set of remarks (I’m not sure it can be accurately called a formal speech) has moments of power and clarity, but her barely suppressed rage and her intemperate language undercut her message. Part of the reason for that, I suspect, has to do with her maturity level.

    I wish more people would focus on her appearance on The Daily Show, where she is more controlled and therefore more impactful.

    If you think one of her appearances was more controlled “and therefore more impactful,” why do you think the difference “has to do with her maturity level”?

    Why not just say “I found Thunberg’s appearance on The Daily Show particularly effective and encourage people to watch it.” without the gratuitous remarks about her not always speaking in the tone you think would be most effective?

    Context matters, and there is a large overlap between people who are attacking Thunberg for personal characteristics–she dares to be sixteen years old! She’s autistic! She’s female!–and those who disagree with her message. If you agree with her message, don’t help them by amplifying their irrelevant complaints.

  14. @Vicki Rosenzweig:

    Point taken. You’re right, it was a gratuitous remark and I shouldn’t have said that.

    Thank you for pointing that out and for your courtesy.

  15. @Robert Reynolds: I don’t care if she smiles or not. You can be filled with rage and still not let that rage overshadow your message. You completely missed @jayn’s point: women are commonly expected to be pleasant no matter what the circumstances while men are allowed to storm. (It’s reached the point where telling a woman to smile is considered a not-so-micro aggression.) This is relevant to your comparison to Yousafzai, who was brought up in a culture where women are expected to keep mum, such that her speaking up at all is remarkable; I’ve heard varying opinions about just how far women’s equality has gotten in Sweden, but certainly Thunberg was massively less conditioned. You should consider the look of pointing to one woman as a marker of the loss of civility (per your original remarks) when we’re faced with Occupant, BoJo, and the hot mess that chunks of eastern Europe are devolving into. wrt relative urgencies, note also that with climate change we’re looking at death on a scale that dwarfs the entire population of Afghanistan, and that will require a far wider effort to deal with.

  16. I wonder what the Venn diagram of people disparaging Thunberg for her UN speech and applauding Kavanaugh for his confirmation speech is?

    Circle, anyone?

  17. The fact that Greta Thunberg speaks differently at different functions and events shows that she understands the principles of a good public speaker, which includes who is your audience and the use of performance to get attention. Characterizing her as immature or arrogant is definitely a low blow, as is putting “climate activist” between quote marks which implies she’s not a real climate activist. Clearly climate activism is not something where you must obtain a PhD to be an activist, she is one because she campaigns for this stuff.

    Politeness or a lack of a politeness does not mean a message is not valid and it doesn’t mean that the people speaking are brats. Previous generations burned bras, protested the Vietnam War or organized the first pride parades which people thought was rude, scandalous and many other things.

    That people can so quickly forget the days when another generation said we’re not going to take it anymore and think this is oh-so-gauche boggles the mind, especially when we are talking about SFF writers and readers who regularly have their heroes organizing uprisings, fighting the evil king or being the brave lone warrior who demands justice.

  18. Robert Reynolds: Regarding Thunberg speaking, you might be right about a more measured tone being more effective. Or you might not be: sometimes anger is more successful at catching attention.

    The problem is that this is a trivial matter next to the substance of what she’s saying, and should only be brought up as a trivial suggestion. True enough that some people will tune her out if they don’t like her tone. Witness Dan Simmons, whose main complaint seems to be that she’s not a trained scientist. Her main point is that we should listen to the trained scientists, and she doesn’t have to be one herself to say that. Those who would criticize her on tone and ignore content are jerks. But what -you- are saying is, not just that she’s objectively more effective in a different tone, but carries an implication that she should do so because it will cater to the jerks. That’s the problem in your tone that, I think, accounts for the hostile remarks you got. And no doubt I’ll be criticized for mine too. It never ends.

  19. @DB:

    It’s not my intention to convey the idea that she should moderate her tone to “cater to the jerks”. I’m disabled and have been since birth-I learned long ago that there will always be jerks. They aren’t worth bothering with as a general rule.

    Hurling insults and/or invective at career politicians/diplomats is usually a waste of energy, as they are past masters of the art, Uncontrolled anger can shut down the effectiveness of an argument. I’ve seen it with my own eyes from both sides. I stopped inviting one very smart disabled man to any important situation where a group of us were trying to get someone on our side because the anger he thought was scoring points hurt us over and over again.

    Ms. Thunberg is smart, articulate and knows her stuff. I fear it says more about the current climate than anything else that THIS speech has drawn her more attention than her other appearances.

    Hostile remarks online anywhere don’t faze me. No one online can grab me by my shirt to “educate” me because I look like a safe target.

    Thank you for your comments.

  20. I’m not sure if her talk was before or after she saw Trump, but she is definitely justified in being angry.

    What is being shared mostly is a GIF of the clip, but seeing the whole thing with her change of expression when she realizes who it is is pure gold.

  21. Robert Reynolds, Thunberg’s remarks were angry, but they didn’t strike me as being in any sense ‘uncontrolled’. Instead, they seemed to deliberately calibrated to break through a rhetorical situation where young activists are both praised by institutions and ignored by those same institutions when those institutions make decisions. Her remarks refused that long tradition of tokenization. Also, there is a pretty significant history of this use of confrontation affecting the decisions of politicians. It certainly shouldn’t be the only rhetorical tool of activism, but it has often been a quite effective tool when used well. I think that she did.

  22. I support Mr. Simmons. In the name of WHAT do all these people criticize Simmons? Do they know better than others what liberties should be? All these people would have to stop believing that they are the vanguard of humanity. They are only idiots drowned in their egos!

  23. @Robert Wood:

    I hadn’t considered that previously and that it was a calculation on her part rather than just an angry response hadn’t occurred to me. I’ll have to watch it again with an eye to that possibility.

    Thank you for that perspective. I usually don’t think that way.

  24. @Jean-Marc Brivet–I’m sorry you’re so confused by such a simple thing. Simmons is being criticized for his inane personal attack on a 16yo whose supposedly radical agenda is that politicians and corporations should pay attention, not to her, but to climate scientists. Calling her bratty isn’t a substantive response to that, nor is falsely claiming that she threatened anyone, never mind “all adults in the world.”

  25. Robert Reynolds: “Hurling insults and/or invective at career politicians/diplomats is usually a waste of energy, as they are past masters of the art . . .”

    One might consider that her audience wasn’t just people in the room, but people all over the world. Just a thought.

  26. Another recent young activist who’s successfully employed the “righteous indignation” approach is David Hogg. When the sweet and low approach has been sweetly dismissed for too long, a change of tone can get attention from people who might be sympathetic but have not heard from polite protesters because they haven’t been able to break through the background noise of polite people being drowned out by a disinterested media. ACT UP did the same thing back in the day.

    Also: thanks, Chip.

  27. I watched an extended interview with Thunberg on Democracy Now. She explained that she had written her speech, including the strongly-worded section in question, prior to the event. On proofreading, her father urged her to tone down the rhetoric, to be more diplomatic and not so angry. So she rewrote her speech, cutting the part that has Mr. Simmons clutching his pearls.

    But that was just to appease her father. She felt it was important to convey the sense of urgency in her original words, with the emotional intensity she believed was necessary and warranted, so she memorized that part of her speech so she could deliver it despite her father’s concerns. In short, it was not an uncontrolled outburst but an intentional and considered choice. Her feelings were absolutely genuine, to be sure, but she made a decision in advance to allow those feelings to show. She is far more intelligent and capable than many are willing to give her credit for.

  28. Dan Simmons’s criticism is impolite, but he has freedom of expression, which does not mean he is a bad person or denies climate change.

    What environmental protection needs is science and knowledge.
    For example, if we can develop new energy sources (such as nuclear fusion technology), then we can greatly reduce the use of fossil energy and reduce carbon emissions.

    Environmental protection is for the balance between “human development” and “natural environment”. It does not require human beings to stop development. New technologies can solve these problems.

  29. @Aker–Dan Simmons went beyond just impolite.

    He didn’t go beyond his free speech rights–but everyone else has free speech rights, too. He gets to tell the world he thinks 16yo Greta Thunberg “bratty” and falsely claim she is “threatening adults.” The rest of the world has the right to tell him he’s an ill-mannered jerk who should have cleaned up his act years ago.

    Greta Thunberg was telling world leaders they need to listen to the scientists on this. Dan Simmons, and apparently you, find this inappropriate, and a fair reason to berate her publicly as “bratty.”

    Simmons may not be a climate change denier, but it would be in keeping with his other expressed political views. Do you have any evidence either way?

  30. @Aker: Would you care to place a monetary bet on whether Dan Simmons is a climate change denialist? Say, USD $10,000?

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