Gunn Center Changes Name of Campbell Conference; New Name Will Be Chosen for Award

Chris McKitterick, Director of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, announced on Facebook yesterday that their annual Campbell Conference has been renamed the Gunn Center Conference, and a new name will be forthcoming for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

Re: the recent debate in science fiction circles about John W. Campbell:

The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction acknowledges and condemns the problematic words and actions of John W. Campbell.

We had already been discussing changing the name of the Campbell Conference to the Gunn Center Conference, which is in any case more accurate, as we’ve added other awards and events during to be presented there; recent events expedite that decision. We’ve already begun changing the name on our website and in promotional materials.
As for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science-fiction novel of the year, the Center directors and Award jurors are currently discussing alternatives; when a decision is made, we will announce it.

The organization has already retroactively struck the Campbell references from this page of its website —

[Thanks to JJ and Ruth Lichtwardt for the story.]

21 thoughts on “Gunn Center Changes Name of Campbell Conference; New Name Will Be Chosen for Award

  1. While I don’t think I’m going to miss the confusion between the two awards, I suppose they could call it the “Astounding Memorial Award” just to maintain that particular fannish tradition.

    Just sayin’…. 😀

  2. @ Pip R. Lagenta: He’s an emeritus English professor, so perhaps you can uncover something truly dreadful like failure to sufficiently support the serial comma. Go forth and do great deeds of journalism, sir. The truth is out there!

  3. The Gunn Center can’t use “Astounding” without Penny Publications/Dell’s permission. They’ve maintained their rights in it as a trademark, last renewing it in 2015.

    Which is probably just as well. This means any confusion there might have been between the two awards will end.

  4. @Mark Richards

    The Gunn Center can’t use “Astounding” without Penny Publications/Dell’s permission. They’ve maintained their rights in it as a trademark, last renewing it in 2015.

    Doesn’t a trademark have to be in active use to be valid? Is “Astounding” in use by Dell?

    And their trademark only covers “magazines and trading cards”. So if someone else uses it to name an award, without implying an association to Astounding Magazine (or Astounding trading cards, whatever they are), how can Penny/Dell limit them?

  5. bill: Doesn’t a trademark have to be in active use to be valid? Is “Astounding” in use by Dell? And their trademark only covers “magazines and trading cards”. So if someone else uses it to name an award, without implying an association to Astounding Magazine (or Astounding trading cards, whatever they are), how can Penny/Dell limit them?

    This is all just wank. The Gunn Center won’t want to name their award Astounding, because after nearly 50 years of having their award confused with the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the last thing they will want to do is continue with more confusion.

    And Dell Magazines has plenty of corporate wherewithal to take anyone to court who tries to use the Astounding name in anything related to science fiction and fantasy publishing. I’m sure they can take care of their own marks.

  6. Not only are trademarks generally restricted to a field of use (magazines and trading cards in this case, apparently), but trademarks on common English words are the most restricted types of trademarks. Dell would have a lot of trouble enforcing their trademark on the Gunn Center for both those reasons. On the other hand, it could be argued that Gunn was deliberately trying to cause confusion in the marketplace, which is the whole thing trademarks are supposed to prevent, so Dell’s case wouldn’t be hopeless.

    But all this supposes that Gunn is dumb enough to go with my ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek suggestion in the first place. Even if they could get away with it legally, which may or may not be the case, it would be pretty silly thing for them to do. I do not actually think fandom values the confusion between the awards enough to want to perpetuate it. I honestly didn’t think anyone would take me seriously. Guess I forgot that this is the Internet…. 😀

  7. @Xtfir: – except that, over at the PTO, examiners have NOT been respecting the classes marks are registered for in any logical manner I can discern; the new evaluation seems to rest on “someone else has a mark of the same name”, not – “someone else has a mark of the same/very similar name in the same category of business class”.

    We all pretty much understand when it’s two publications, or even a print publication vs an electronic one…or maybe even when its a publication’s name and a television show’s name – but the PTO also seems to think that aero space is somehow in the same class as a print publication):

    patent/trademark trolls used to use a disrespect for classes of goods and services to scare people into making extortion payments – but now it seems the PTO is siding with the trolls….

  8. @Steve Davidson: True; it’s rarely simple. But judges are not the same as examiners. Microsoft dropped their US suit against Lindows when it looked as if the judge in that case might invalidate their US trademark, since “Windows” is not only a generic English word, but one which describes the product, making it less of a name, and more of a…well…description. There’s a reason companies choose weird spellings for their names. “The SciFi Channel” changing to “SyFy” was probably for exactly this reason.

    In the end, I wouldn’t want to be involved in either side of our hypothetical Dell v Gunn case. The PTO and the courts have turned the whole thing into an unpredictable minefield of confusing and contradictory precedent. So it’s a good thing the whole mess is (and will almost certainly remain, crossing my fingers) charmingly hypothetical. 🙂

  9. What is the tradermark status of Wonder Stories? (Weird Tales would be more appropriate, but not sound as good.) Anyway, if the award is to celebrate paperbacks, perhaps Betty Ballantine…

  10. The award celebrating paperbacks is the Philip K. Dick. A slightly unfortunate name, but so far, not a target for complaints that I’m aware of. People of whatever sex/gender still seem to be proud of their Dicks.

  11. ba dum, tish!

    ETA: Huh, I was not expecting framing something with asterisks to give it automatic em tags.

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