Storm Over Campbell Award

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer has been presented at the Worldcon since 1973, two years after Campbell’s death. The 47th winner was Jeannette Ng. Will there be a 48th? Many are responding to her acceptance remarks with a call to change the name of the award.

Although voting is administered by the Worldcon, the award belongs to Dell Magazines, publisher of Analog. It was named for him because Campbell edited Astounding/Analog for 34 years and in his early years at the helm he introduced Heinlein, Asimov, and many other important sf writers, reigning over what was called by the time of his death the Golden Age of SF. That cemented his legend as a discoverer of talent (regardless that in later years he passed on submissions from any number of talented newcomers incuding Samuel R. Delany and Larry Niven).

A revised version of Jeanette Ng’s acceptance remarks is posted at Medium, “John W. Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fascist”, with the profanity removed and other corrections made.

A video of the actual speech is here —

Jeannette Ng’s tweets about the reaction include —

Annalee Newitz commented:

Rivers Solomon, another Campbell nominee, posted screenshots of the acceptance speech they would have given. Thread starts here.

N.K. Jemisin explains why the term “fascist” in Ng’s speech is apposite. Thread starts here.

Alec Nevala-Lee, author of Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, says:

Past Campbell Award winner (2000) Cory Doctorow supported Ng in an article at Boing Boing: “Read: Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award acceptance speech, in which she correctly identifies Campbell as a fascist and expresses solidarity with Hong Kong protesters”.

Jeannette Ng’s speech was exactly the speech our field needs to hear. And the fact that she devoted the bulk of it to solidarity with the Hong Kong protesters is especially significant, because of the growing importance of Chinese audiences and fandom in sf, which exposes writers to potential career retaliation from an important translation market. There is a group of (excellent, devoted) Chinese fans who have been making noises about a Chinese Worldcon for years, and speeches like Ng’s have to make you wonder: if that ever comes to pass, will she be able to get a visa to attend?

Back when the misogynist/white supremacist wing of SF started to publicly organize to purge the field of the wrong kind of fan and the wrong kind of writer, they were talking about people like Ng. I think that this is ample evidence that she is in exactly the right place, at the right time, saying the right thing.

… When Ng took the mic and told the truth about his legacy, she wasn’t downplaying his importance: she was acknowledging it. Campbell’s odious ideas matter because he was important, a giant in the field who left an enduring mark on it. No one disagrees about that. What we want to talk about today is what that mark is, and what it means.

Another Campbell winner, John Scalzi, tried to see all sides in “Jeannette Ng, John W. Campbell, and What Should Be Said By Whom and When” at Whatever.

… You can claim the John W. Campbell Award without revering John W. Campbell, or paying him lip service, and you can criticize him, based on what you see of his track record and your interpretation of it. The award is about the writing, not about John W. Campbell, and that is a solid fact. If a recipient of the Campbell Award can’t do these things, or we want to argue that they shouldn’t, then probably we should have a conversation about whether we should change the name of the award. It wouldn’t be the first time an award in the genre has been materially changed in the fallout of someone calling out the problems with the award’s imagery. The World Fantasy Award was changed in part because Nnedi Okorafor and Sofia Samatar were public (Samatar in her acceptance speech!) about the issue of having a grotesque of blatant racist HP Lovecraft as the trophy for the award. There was a lot of grousing and complaining and whining about political correctness then, too. And yet, the award survives, and the new trophy, for what it’s worth, is gorgeous. So, yes, if this means we have to consider whether it’s time to divorce Campbell from the award, let’s have that discussion.

Now, here’s a real thing: Part of the reaction to Ng’s speech is people being genuinely hurt. There are still people in our community who knew Campbell personally, and many many others one step removed, who idolize and respect the writers Campbell took under his wing. And there are people — and once again I raise my hand — who are in the field because the way Campbell shaped it as a place where they could thrive. Many if not most of these folks know about his flaws, but even so it’s hard to see someone with no allegiance to him, either personally or professionally, point them out both forcefully and unapologetically. They see Campbell and his legacy abstractly, and also as an obstacle to be overcome. That’s deeply uncomfortable.

It’s also a reality. Nearly five decades separate us today from Campbell. It’s impossible for new writers today to have the same relationship to him as their predecessors in the field did, even if the influence he had on the field works to their advantage….

Bounding Into Comics’ Spencer Baculi unexpectedly followed Doctorow’s and Scalzi’s lead, even though the site often covers the work of Jon Del Arroz and Vox Day’s Alt-Comics: “2019 John W. Campbell Award Winner Jeanette Ng Labels Influential Sci-Fi Author as a “Fascist” During Acceptance Speech”.

…Ng’s assessment of Campbell is undoubtedly informed by Campbell’s personal politics and beliefs and those who have written about him. Campbell argued that African-Americans were “barbarians” deserving of police brutality during the 1965 Watts Riots, as “the “brutal” actions of police consist of punishing criminal behavior.” His unpublished story All featured such racist elements that author Robert Heinlein, who built upon Campbell’s original story for his own work titled Sixth Column, had to “reslant” the story before publishing it. In the aftermath of the Kent State massacre, when speaking of the demonstrators murdered by the Ohio National Guard, Campbell stated that “I’m not interested in victims. I’m interested in heroes.” While difficult to presume where Campbell’s beliefs would place him in modern politics, it is apparent that Campbell would disagree with many of the beliefs held by modern America.

Ng’s speech unsurprisingly caused backlash and outrage among some members of the literary community, with some claiming that Ng should have withheld from insulting the man whose award she was receiving.

Chris M. Barkley praised Ng’s comments in his File 770 post “So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask — Special Irish Worldcon Edition, Day Four”.

…I was one of the people madly cheering this speech. I posted a meme on Facebook as she was still speaking: “Jeannette Ng is AWESOME!!!!!” Moments later, swept up in the moment, I posted another meme, “I’m just gonna say it: The Name of the John W. Campbell Award SHOULD BE F***KING CHANGED!”

To clamor atop a soapbox for a moment; NO, I am not advocating that the life and work of John W. Campbell, Jr. be scrubbed from history. But neither should we turn a blind, uncritical eye to his transgressions. When the winners of such a prestigious award start getting angry because the person behind it is viewed to be so vile and reprehensible, that ought to be acknowledged as well….

Mark Blake honored a request to comment about Campbell on Facebook.

For a brief period a few years ago, my byline was prominently associated with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. This was not because I’d ever won such an award, or even appeared on the ballot (I was never a nominee), but rather because I assembled anthologies for the purpose of showcasing new writers during their two-year window of eligibility, as an exercise in public awareness of writing that, despite potential merit, might not have received sufficient reviews to garner an audience among the Worldcon membership at large.

In that context, someone asked me to defend Campbell because of the acceptance speech given by this year’s recipient.

This was an uncomfortable request. The more I’ve learned about Campbell over the years, the more certain I’ve become that I wouldn’t have even wanted to share an elevator with him, much less try to sell him a story… and I say that despite having learned any number of his storytelling and editing techniques by way of hand-me-down tutelage….

Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson was mainly concerned that Ng’s remarks were bad for the brand – i.e., Ng mistakenly identified Campbell as an editor of his magazine instead of Astounding/Analog. “Emergency Editorial”.

…A couple of days ago we watched and updated our post covering the 2019 Hugo Awards;  we were a bit surprised at Jeannette Ng’s acceptance where she made some connections between fascism in the SF field, fascism in the US and the events taking place in Hong Kong right now.  Hong Kong is Ms. Ng’s home base and we are absolutely and completely in sympathy with her and the protesters who are braving arrest, and possibly worse, as they try to maintain their freedoms.

We entirely missed the misattributions of Ms. Ng’s speech;  what she wanted to do was identify John W. Campbell Jr., the editor of Astounding Stories, as a fascist.  She ended up naming Jospeph Campbell as the editor of Amazing Stories….

I am sure she is tired, chuffed, overwhelmed and, perhaps even a bit embarrassed over having misnamed Campbell and the magazine he was associated with in front of an audience and a community that knows this history without even thinking about it.

But the internet being what it is, disrespect for facts being what they are these days, I can not allow the idea that John W. Campbell – racist, anti-semite, fascist, misogynist, whatever – was associated with Amazing Stories to go unchallenged….

Ng has issued a correction:

Swedish Fan Ahrvid Engholm today sent two fannish listservs copies of a complaint he has filed with the Dublin 2019 committee that Ng’s speech violated the convention’s Code of Conduct.

…One may wonder what a Code of Conduct is worth, if it isn’t respected by those who have all eyes upon them on the big stage, during the highlight of a convention, such as the awards ceremonies witnessed by thousands.

I therefore want to report, as a breach of the Code of Conduct during Dublin 2019, the intimidation and personal attacks in Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award speech, of which the very lows are wordings like:

“John W. Campbell…was a fascist” and he was “setting a tone” she claims “haunts” us as “Sterile. Male. White.” glorifying “imperialists” etc.

Full text here https://twitter.com/jeannette_ng/status/1163182894908616706
Several parts of the CoC (as published in the Pocket Convention Guide, and also here https://dublin2019.com/about/code-of-conduct/) may apply, but let me point to:

“Everyone involved with Dublin 2019 is expected to show respect towards…the various communities associated with the convention. …Dublin 2019 is dedicated to provide a harassment-free convention experience for all Attendees regardless of…gender…race…We do not tolerate harassment of convention attendees in any form” /which includes:/
* Comments intended to belittle, offend or cause discomfort”

Most if not all would find being called a “fascist” offending, surely causing discomfort.

And it’s especially deplorable when the person belittled this way has passed away and thus can’t defend himself. It is reported that John W Campbell’s grandson John Campbell Harrmond was present at the convention that branded his grandfather a “fascist”. John W Campbell was the leading sf magazine editor of his era (of Astounding SF, not Amazing Stories as this far from well-founded speech said) and have many admirers who also have cause to feel offended. If you like Campbell, the claim he is a “fascist” surely splashes on you too – you’d be “fascist sympathiser”.

Ms Ng continues to harass whole categories of convention Attendees, those who are “male” and “white”. They are “sterile” and the negative “tone” claimed being “set” in the sf genre. It must be noted that the CoC is explicitly against slurs regarding race and gender. (And in these circumstances “white” indicates race and “male” gender.) The CoC further says it won’t be tolerated “in any form”, which surely must also include the form of a speech from a big stage.

It is too late now do do anything about this regrettable episode, but those making reports are asked to state what they would like to happen next. What I simply want is to get it confirmed that the event reported indeed IS a breach of the CoC, because that could be important for the future.

–Ahrvid Engholm
sf con-goer since 1976 (of Worldcons since 1979)

Scott Edelman supported Ng in several comments, describing his deep unhappiness with some of Campbell’s opinions at the time the were originally published 50 years ago. He also quoted this anecdote from the autobiography of William Tenn / Phil Klass:

232 thoughts on “Storm Over Campbell Award

  1. I want everyone to know that I am drafting a letter of protest to Dell Magazines asking them to formally withdraw John W. Campbell’s name son the award for Best New Writer.

    I have also come to the conclusion that there are several clear courses of action:

    A) Have Dell Magazines render the award nameless for the foreseeable future.
    B) Have the company select a new name, presumably someone less problematic than JWC.
    C) Draft a WSFS constitutional amendment to either rename the award or
    D) Have a Business Meeting committee seriously consider making the category a Hugo Award.

    Knowing the members of the Business Meeting, options C and D would take years committee and compromised wording before ANYTHING actually happens.

    I urge people to take direct action and petition Dell Magazines to drop JWC’s name from their end of the process and then let the cards fall where they may…

  2. Dig into any person who was an adult in the pre-WWII years and you will find attitudes and opinions that we, in 2019, will find abhorrent. These lions of the “golden age” were products of an America that was isolationist, had enshrined racism into law, and was strongly patriarchal.

    So do we toss them all? Damon Knight was a vicious reviewer who freely engaged in the belittling of other authors in his writings. Do we take his name off the Grand Master award for being an ass?

    Where does it stop?

    By the way, as an actually sterile white male, I too took exception to that part of the speech. Fascism may have been invented by white males, but one hell of a lot of white males died stopping it.

  3. Douglas Berry: Do we take his name off the Grand Master award for being an ass? Where does it stop?

    It’s quite common to see someone try to win online arguments with an attempted stroke of reductio ad absurdum. They don’t work because they don’t engage the real issue, which is the reason someone would want to change the name of the Campbell Award.

    Also worth remembering is that — even in the absence of controversy — as time passes, people may change the name of an award to something that is more meaningful to them. They used to give an E. Everett Evans Big Heart Award at the Worldcon. Then it was renamed for Forrest J Ackerman. Now it’s been renamed for Dave Kyle. This process of cultural fermentation doesn’t stop. But it may speed up in response to social change.

  4. Mike says Also worth remembering is that — even in the absence of controversy — as time passes, people may change the name of an award to something that is more meaningful to them. They used to give an E. Everett Evans Big Heart Award at the Worldcon. Then it was renamed for Forrest J Ackerman. Now it’s been renamed for Dave Kyle. This process of cultural fermentation doesn’t stop. But it may speed up in response to social change.

    And it’s overdue to move away from having an overabundance of Awards named for Dead White Males. Lets starting thinking in terms of honouring a more diverse group of individuals please.

  5. I’ve never been too impressed with Scalzi’s takes, but jeez that’s a particularly mealy one.

    I also notice that Engholm has decided that maybe he doesn’t object to Codes of Conduct after all, despite writing “””We didn’t use to need any “Code of Conduct”, which BTW have become a tool for kicking people with “wrong” opinions around””” just last year: https://www.quora.com/Is-science-fiction-dying-So-many-of-the-wondrous-things-that-were-talked-about-by-Heinlein-Asimov-and-other-luminaries-have-come-to-pass-Whats-next)

    (Engholm’s another one of those fandom dudes I don’t think I’d heard of enough to remember, but god dang he’s got opinions : https://www.quora.com/When-did-fandoms-become-toxic-i-e-Star-Wars-DC-Marvel https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-worst-fandom-experience-youve-ever-had )

  6. I didn’t hear the speech, but I’ve read it.

    I’m not sure what Ahrvid Engholm heard that made him feel threatened. Surely not merely criticism of a long-dead but highly influential editor who did, in fact, hold the views Ng ascribed to him?

    Granted, walking up to Campbell’s grandson and shouting it directly in his face would have been extremely rude and threatening.

    Commenting in an acceptance speech for an award about the mostly-ignored serious flaws of the deceased editor which did in fact have real and negative consequences for women, non-whites, non-Christians, anyone not cishet, ought not reasonably be viewed as “threatening” to any living person, especially if they’re not still trying to impose the same harmful standards.

  7. Here is something, slightly edited, I wrote after hearing of Ahrvid Engholm’s complaint:

    It is probably one of the most ridiculous responses to this incident that I can imagine. While I am unfamiliar with the law in Ireland and the EU, in the USA it is virtually impossible to slander or libel an individual who is deceased. In addition, Mr. Engholm has not shown how he was personally harmed by Ms. Ng’s statement. When I watched the ceremony on line, I never heard his name mentioned.

    He also mentions the fact that Campbell’s grandson was present. I’m not sure if that Mr. Campbell had appointed Mr. Engholm as his personal representative, though I doubt it, and therefore I do not see why Mr. Engholm has any right to speak for him. Furthermore, I do not see how referring to your deceased grandfather as a fasciest from the stage is a harassing statement against the younger Mr. Campbell.

    Just my two cents, but had this been filed in a Court of Law, I probably could have requested sanctions for filing a frivolous action.

  8. So practically who actually has say over the name of the Campbell Award. I know that it is ‘Dell Magazines’ and I know that’s a brand owned by a larger company [https://www.analogsf.com/penny-publications/ ]. Is it the management of the business division that operates as Dell Magazine? Is it something they’d delegate to Analog? i.e. who is the decision-maker or decision-making body here?

    Would renaming the award after Analog keep the connection?

  9. Douglas Berry: By the way, as an actually sterile white male, I too took exception to that part of the speech.

    Yeah, the “sterile” part rubbed me the wrong way, too. Not on board with shaming people for fertility issues (or any medical condition, for that matter).

    It’s also worth noting that it isn’t only old white guys who can have objectionable political views. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a feminist masterpiece, and it did some real good by showing the psychological damage caused by the “rest cure” that “hysterical” (imagine those quote marks in size 74 font) women were subjected to. She also supported eugenics. More recently, some fans have been calling for a boycott of the live-action Mulan remake because one of its stars took the side of the Hong Kong police over the protestors. I’ve seen someone else comment about the fact that James Tiptree worked for the CIA, which has certainly not always been a bastion of justice and righteousness.

    A while ago, someone came up with the phrase “all your faves are problematic.” Maybe the best thing to do is to acknowledge that–don’t sweep the flaws of Campbell or Gilman or whoever under the rug–while still accepting the greatness of the work that made them a “fave.”

  10. Yeah, the “sterile” part rubbed me the wrong way, too. Not on board with shaming people for fertility issues (or any medical condition, for that matter).

    I think it’s a pretty wild stretch to take “sterile” as an insult about human reproductive fertility. When referring to art, to be sterile is to be “lacking in stimulating emotional or intellectual quality.”

  11. Where does it stop?

    It stops wherever living people decide it should stop. We don’t owe any obligation to honor the same people as past generations. Campbell doesn’t mean the same thing he used to mean in the field. If a consensus forms around the idea that WSFS no longer wants his name associated with an award given out to newcomers during the Hugos, it’ll be dropped or replaced with another award.

    As I said in another discussion, I’m not opposed to renaming or replacing the Campbell, but we’ll be losing a valuable signifier that has meant “promising new writer” for a long time. So we’ll be starting from scratch like with the Lodestar.

  12. rcade on August 21, 2019 at 7:53 pm said:
    As I said in another discussion, I’m not opposed to renaming or replacing the Campbell, but we’ll be losing a valuable signifier that has meant “promising new writer” for a long time. So we’ll be starting from scratch like with the Lodestar.

    I don’t think this is the best option but there’s no shortage of other people called Campbell the award could be named after http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/se.cgi?arg=Campbell&type=Name

  13. Could always rename it for Joseph Campbell. Not a great choice, but still better than JWCJr. (This is not a serious suggestion, though.)

    Aside, as someone who knew a fair number of Campbell’s authors, the bloom was definitely coming off the rose in many of their eyes even before he died. The crazy definitely started to take over in his declining years. I’m pretty sure a lot of those folks will be/would have been just fine with a rename.

    And yes, I’m another who was cheering during Ng’s speech. And, funny thing, I didn’t feel at all threatened by it either. 😀

  14. I’m not opposed to keeping it or changing it. But if it is changed, I think going for another person is probably not the best way to go about it. I saw a suggestion of calling it “Analog Award for Best New Writer” but I’m hesitant about naming it for an existing commercial product. If continuity is desired, perhaps something like “Amazing Stories’ Award for Best New Writer” or even shorter “Amazing New Writer.”

  15. @Lis Carey and @Jake I’ve known Ahrvid off and on for twenty years now, and I’m not surprised at all (well, maybe insofar that he went so far as to send in a formal complaint to the concom, but of his opinion and public reaction, none). I think he has infused his own sense of self with the twin projects of fandom and science fiction to such a degree that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other starts, making most any criticism of fandom or science fiction threatening to him.

    I’m not sure I’d describe Campbell using the word fascist myself, not knowing a lot more about the man, but then I use the word rather more strictly than most. But I have no quibbles with the rest of the speech. At the same time I can recognise that Campbell also did the genre in the USA a lot of good in other ways at a formative period.

  16. Brief “person of his times” note…

    John W. Campbell, Jr, was born in 1910. So were: physicist and notorious racist William Shockley (pretty sure Campbell wrote at least one editorial singling him out for praise along the way), Akira Kurosawa, Justice Abe Fortas (who represented Clarence Gideon as a lawyer, and had to resign as a justice because of ethics concerns), perennial Communist presidential candidate Gus Hall, leftist writer and activist Jean Genet, Django Reinhardt, astronomer/UFOlogist J. Allen Hynek, marine explorer and increasingly intense environmental activist Jacques Cousteau, Howlin’ Wolf, Bonnie Parker of Bonnie & Clyde fame, and anti-apartheid crusader Bettie du Toit.

    Times are complex, and are not an excuse for failing to be better than “disgusting in lots of ways but did something I’m keen on so I’ll forgive what I can and bury the rest”.

  17. I’m not sure I agree with changing the name of the award. Campbell was both deeply problematic and very important in beneficial to the genre in other ways. I think there’s something to be gained in acknowledging his whole legacy, for good and ill, and yes, any change would be starting from scratch without the history of previous winners of the award.

    But I’m old enough that Campbell was still a living, and towering, figure when I was growing up in sf and fandom. It’s possible that he’s too toxic for too much of the population of new writers that we want to honor and encourage. If that’s the case, I think any new name, or new award, should not be named for a person. We should come up with some other type of name, as with the Lodestar.

    I don’t think Joseph Campbell is less problematic at all. I think he’s differently problematic, and without JWC Jr.’s direct and formative contributions to the growth of sf, not the bad, but also not the good. If we’re going to change the name, whether to another person’s name or something more abstract, I would want a greater sense of connection to the genre.

    (No, I have no idea what that new not-a-person’s-name name should be.)

  18. I have no nostalgic feelings for Campbell. I’m a swede, we had other publishers. And while a lot of our magazines benefited from translated stories that Campbell had helped to pick out and formed, other stories were published too. With or without him, the genre would have thrived. He just happened to be the one they selected to to steer one magazine. If not him, someone else. And regardless, I would still have had Sven Wernström, Börje Crona or even Georg Elliasson. Unknowns outside Sweden.

    Campbell was clearly a fascist. And not only that. He was one that held repugnant views that the whole civilized world had held a war to defeat. He was not a man of his time, he was much worse. He was a man who tried to shape the world to keep others out, who in an increasingly diverse and democratic world wanted to restrict voting rights to the wealthy population to keep them in power. Who openly espoused race biology long time after it had been debunked (as an example, even the race biological institute in Sweden abandoned that track already in 1936, seeing it was not supported by science).

    I would like the Hugo ceremony to be a cause for joy. And I think that joy should be undiluted, regardless of your background. You shouldn’t have to have mixed feelings about being handed one of the finest awards fandom can give only because of being born with the wrong skin colour or the wrong gender. If we want to keep politics out from the ceremony, then perhaps having an award named after a person known for how how much his politics affected his editing is not the best choice. Campbell wasn’t only about helping others forward. He was also about keeping people out. We can’t be angry if people he would have kept out react to his name with anger.

    While Ahrvid Engholm is a friend, I do not agree with one word of what he says. I am not harassing myself as a white male when I call Campbell a fascist. I do not feel belittled or offended by my own words when they reflect those of Ng.

    I think something needs to change. I’m not sure how. I would like there to be some dialogue with Dell about this, but I have no idea how this should be done. Reading Chris’ bullet points above, I think the steps might be:

    1) At the Business Meeting 2020, design a dialogue group to take up discussions with Dell.
    2) Let this group have a proposal ready for 2021.
    3) If Dell wouldn’t be prepared to make changes in any way, then possibly three separate proposals.
    a) One for creating a new award for the same purposes. As a Hugo or a not-a-Hugo.
    b) If the Campbell should be moved from the ceremony, but set a separate time.
    c) If the Campbell should be removed from the voting sheet or not.

    And from there, it would be up to Dell how they would react to the decisions of the Business Meeting.

    I’m not in a hurry about these kind of things. If something takes one year or five years matters little if the changes are expected to survive tens of years. More important that proposals are thought through and carefully worded. I do not want unnecessary splits and resentment if something is voted down because of bad wording.

  19. Turns out that I have known Ahrvid longer than Karl-Johan, interesting as I’ve never been involved in Swedish Fandom. Around 30 years now, got to know each other in swedish BBS-culture and later because of a shared love for Incredibly Strange Music of the Dr. Demento kind and more (we met every month at a dedicated club).

    I agree with Karl-Johan’s assessment.

  20. How about the Datlow Dozois Award for Best New Writer.

    Because people do matter and fandom’s legacy does matter, as short sighted as it may have allowed itself to become as of late.

  21. There are so many names there, especially if we don’t stop in US and don’t only look at the most recently dead. Judith Merril as an example. And if also started to look at editors outside books, we’d have Lou Stathis.

    Add authors to that, like LeGuin or Shelley…

    But I’m starting to get nervous around names. I think that if an author or editor should be honoured, perhaps it would be better to name the award for something associated with a beloved work instead of directly connected to the author.

  22. Thank you for the correction, Ms. Ng. (Now that I’m aware of it, I will be writing directly to her, in thanks, as well.)
    Mike, I also wrote in support – pretty strongly I think – as well.
    I don’t think it was inappropriate to try and distance Amazing, a magazine trying to get established, from (accidentally mistaken) associations with fascism. Yes, larger issues were at play, which I acknowledged, but…internet propogation.
    Lets divorce the names permanently from the award(s), while retaining the ability to temporarily name them in honor of someone or something on a year by year basis: “This year, the best new writer award has been named in honor of….and the winner of the (name) best new writer award is…..”

  23. Maybe just retire the Campbell and replace it with a Best New Writer Hugo.

  24. I feel much as Lis does about renaming the award, but if it is to be done, I think Dell could be reasoned with. Of the renaming suggestions, I like Hampus’ of Judith Merril best, for personal reasons, as her editing had a massive, direct, and mostly beneficial effect on me. If the award remains owned be Dell, though, renaming is their call.

  25. … there’s no shortage of other people called Campbell the award could be named after …

    That’s a lot of Campbells. Has a Campbell ever been up for the Campbell?

  26. I’m going to be super annoyed in 40 years when I hear the inevitable apologia that Trmp, Tucker Carlson, and other assorted minions were just “a product of their time.” That’s a stultifying and simplistic way to view any historical figure.

  27. I want everyone to know that I am drafting a letter of protest to Dell Magazines asking them to formally withdraw John W. Campbell’s name son the award for Best New Writer.

    The issue here is the funding attached to the award. Dell pays for it in honor of Campbell, who was instrumental in building Analog’s success. Maybe they should just withdraw the funding. After all, who would want to promote a racist award?

    For anyone who hasn’t listened to/read Ng’s unedited speech, it’s on Youtube here. It’s fairly profane.

  28. Does anyone affiliated with Penny Publications (parent company of Dell Magazines) have anything to do with the award or Worldcon? I’m curious whether there’s a relationship here beyond the award being administered by WSFS on behalf of Dell.

  29. I’m fascinated by the way in which ‘fascist’ is becoming the label du jour for right wing racist **sholes like Campbell. I mean, if I squint I can see the comparison, but Campbell was much more an old style Social Darwinist/eugenicist American-style racist, with a leavening of modernity over the top (though really the Campbell style is much more about how the ‘eternal truths’ of life (white people best! men are the natural leaders!) will go forward with us into the future) than a state dominating all societal interactions, autarkic regulated economy, all coming together to serve one great leader who represents the ultranationalist state style fascist.

    It’s kind of evolving in the way that ‘communist’ did during the Cold War, where any left wing political movement that was slightly outside the mainstream got labeled communism.

    (Of course, I’ll note that even historians can’t really agree on how to define fascism, so YMMV, but at that point the label loses all meaning anyway).

    And, by way of finishing up, I’ll note that Jeanette Ng had every right to say what she did, that Campbell was a despicable POS (for all his importance to the field), and that him being a POS should not be glossed over or excused.

  30. I’m going to add my voice to not naming awards after people. Yes, there are people I would like to see honored, but in a few generations, those people might be problematic or irrelevant. Let’s go with inspiring names, like Lodestar.

  31. On the chance that Engholm is sincere here:

    It’s much too late to “cause discomfort” to Campbell, or protect him from that discomfort, because he died decades ago.

    Engholm’s “complaint” implies “it’s wrong to truthfully discuss the flaws of anyone with living descendants who might hear what you say.” Many, many objectionable people have living descendants, and quite a few of those descendants either don’t know what their ancestors did, or don’t agree that it’s objectionable.

    “That person is Campbell’s grandson” is a neutral fact, because we don’t choose our ancestors. There’s a meaningful difference between personal stuff like “taught me to play guitar” and defending someone’s objectionable views because “he’s my ancestor.” If I read about something bad that one of my grandparents had done, it might or might not change my feelings toward my grandparent, but I wouldn’t demand that the author be silenced to protect my, or some third party’s, positive opinion of Grandpa.

  32. I’m going to add my voice to not naming awards after people.

    including Hugo Gernsback? < ducks >

  33. @nickpheas

    I think you mean Victor Hugo.

    (But also, no names in awards seems a bit “all lives matter” to me. Let’s be clear about what we’re doing and why.)

  34. Whatever we lose in “tradition” by renaming this, we win in being able to award an honor to anyone with our heads held high, and not accompanied by a long explanation that goes “so here’s an award named for someone who would spit on you, sorry about the name, it meant more to hold onto his legacy than it did to make you comfy. Your work rocks though!”

  35. In Campbells constitution for Utopia, he argues that democracy in itself is mob rule and is thus corrupting. Instead, he wants to remove the voting rights for the 80% of the population with lowest income.

    This thinking, together with other arguments that wealth is connected to genetics, makes fascist a very good description for him.

  36. This thinking, together with other arguments that wealth is connected to genetics, makes fascist a very good description for him

    Wanting to limit the franchise by wealth is not particularly fascist. The 1934 Italian election had a limited franchise but it was explicitly not by wealth (membership in a trade union, being in the army, or being a clergyman). And really, the fascists weren’t so much interested in figuring out what group had the right to vote, they didn’t want to have elections at all (the 1934 Italian election was the last one).

    And ‘wealth connected to genetics’ is not a particular fascist trope — it’s more that virtue and righteousness was connected to being part of the right national group (eg note those voters in 1934 Italy: men, union members, soldiers, and priests. That’s pretty far from a formal racial system of the kind the United States so loved)

    Campbell was much more the inheritor of John C. Calhoun than he was Benito Mussolini.

  37. I’m gonna link to someone wiser than I on the subject of what fascism is:

    ::rubs eyes, sighs:: White supremacy *is* fascism. End of day, the goal is to empower an authoritarian caste-based system of governance, in part by scapegoating black& brown “enemies of the state.” For fuck’s sake, people, we’re *living* it; come on, keep up.

    N.K. Jemisin

    If you’re splitting hairs on whether racism is fascism… it’s funny to me to hear the same crappy no-true-racist arguments pivoted to fascist once someone’s obvious racism is demonstrated.

  38. @Camestros Felaptron: why bother calling the award after some other Campbell? It’s named after someone who gave many writers their starts, including answering not-quite-good-enough submissions with pages of diagnosis; even if it’s the XYZ Campbell it will be tied to JWC in all his not-exactly-glory.

    @Karl-Johan Norén (re Engholm):

    I think he has infused his own sense of self with the twin projects of fandom and science fiction to such a degree that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other starts, making most any criticism of fandom or science fiction threatening to him.

    He’s hardly alone in that; I’ve experienced too many people in fandom defining their self-worth by the worth of the group(s) they’re involved in, and being similarly touchy about any suggestion that the group isn’t 100% great. However, most don’t try to bring a complaint to an organization that can’t do anything about it.

    @Hampus Eckerman: With or without him, the genre would have thrived. This is debatable (at least); would there have been a broad jump from the 1930’s pulps to Galaxy and F&SF without the bridge of the 1940’s Astounding, or would the genre have faded if it hadn’t gradually grown up as other genres have? (e.g., would Boucher and McComas have gotten involved if Tremaine was still the definer of the field?) I doubt it would have moved forward had Tremaine stayed in control, and most of the up-and-coming authors were in the military and/or lacked the skills and energy to push other authors to stretch themselves.
    Also, wrt I am not harassing myself as a white male when I call Campbell a fascist: Engholm also called out the presentation of “white” and “male” as negatives, especially when mated with “sterile”. Ideally neither of those should be treated as more (or less) stigmatic than any other division; the issue is exclusion (cf ?Sturgeon?’s definition of a pervert).
    (later comment): Merril on the Best New Writer award is not quite as out-there as Butler on the World Fantasy Award, but Merril was most visible as a gleaner and spreader of the field (at least to me in the 1960’s, when her anthologies were mind-opening); I’m sure she mentored somebody somewhen, but I can’t think of an example.

    @Becca: I doubt that will ever happen; there’s too much evidence against it. The case for Campbell starts differently (compare to Lovecraft, who was so reactionary that fellow writers told him off); the issue is that his public arguments went backward while the US was trending forward.

  39. @Total: the trend of using “fascist” for nearly every racist or totalitarian or reactionary group has been going on in leftist circles since the Second World War. It’s not new at all.

    @Hampus Eckerman: Ah, Club Sunkit! I was there a few times in the early 2000’s, after Ahrvid had talked about it.

    @Chip Hitchcock: Yeah, that’s why I mentioned being surprised that Ahrvid had sent in a formal complaint.

  40. the trend of using “fascist” for nearly every racist or totalitarian or reactionary group has been going on in leftist circles since the Second World War. It’s not new at all.

    What’s new is that the use of the label has broken out into much wider public discourse now.

  41. @Total wrote:

    Of course, I’ll note that even historians can’t really agree on how to define fascism, so YMMV, but at that point the label loses all meaning anyway.

    FWIW, and I may regret delving into this pointless bit of definitional neepery (pointless because it’s obvious what Ng meant by using the term in a loose sense, and the ship long ago sailed on precision on this matter), but in history class back in the Pleistocene, I was taught that the distinguishing trait of fascism, as opposed to other flavours of populist totalitarianism, was reorganising the economy around corporatism, as opposed to (at least professing to) put labour in charge, as the Bolsheviks did. (In other words, back in the day, if your definition doesn’t distinguish the concept from Communism, it’s not much use.)

    But admittedly there was little commonality among standard 1930s-40s examples like the NSDAP regime and Mussolini’s National Fascist Party one, so I won’t defend that idea. And, anyway, the entire 1930s-40s context and framing is long vanished, so it’s hardly surprising that in current usage the term’s a bit squishy.

    But all of that really is neepery. At best.

  42. steve Davidson: Lets divorce the names permanently from the award(s), while retaining the ability to temporarily name them in honor of someone or something on a year by year basis: “This year, the best new writer award has been named in honor of….and the winner of the (name) best new writer award is…..”

    That’s a fascinating suggestion — and why not make that temporary name last year’s Best New Writer award winner? Kind of bonus egoboo…

  43. Hampus Eckerman: And if also started to look at editors outside books, we’d have Lou Stathis.

    Holy sh!t dude, that idea goes straight to my heart!

  44. Total:

    “Wanting to limit the franchise by wealth is not particularly fascist.”

    That is your opinion. I do not agree with it. Your basic argument is that ideologies are immutable, unchanging. That only the absolute original use of a word shall be accepted and all others dismissed. But that is not how words are used. Especially as ideologies change and adapt with time.

    Merriam-Webster uses a broad definition:

    “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”

    I’d say that in large encompasses what Campbell is arguing for. A government that lets 20% of the population rule the rest and decide the laws, that wants racial segregation, that supports colonization of other countries. It is in practice a junta with its supporting class.

    If you want to play word games on “lets call it fascist-adjacent” or “this closer maps to the view of Cribble Poppington in 1932 Yorkshire”, leave me out of it. No one is going to proclaim ‘CAMPBELL WAS AN INHERITOR OF JOHN C CALHOUN” in a speech and expect the Germans or Finns to do more than blink in confusion.

    Fascism is the word we use today for these opinions and rulers. Nitpickers be damned.

  45. @rcade:

    Has a Campbell ever been up for the Campbell?

    Not a one of them. If you’re hoping to re-play the Massacre of Glencoe, the non-Campbell faction is represented in the form of 1985 Campbell finalist Ian McDonald, but a sacrificial Campbell Clan member has yet to be found.

    (Ian has both Scottish and Irish forebears, and lives in Belfast rather than Scotland, but hey, he’s got the clan surname, so I’m running with that.)

  46. But all of that really is neepery

    Sure — but then I’m a Ph.D in history, so it’s my neepery. As I said, I’m fascinated by the way in which it’s becoming the generic label for ‘all bad right wingers’ in the same way that communist became the generic label for ‘all bad left wingers’ during the Cold War.

    That is your opinion. I do not agree with it.

    I get that — but I’m having a hard reconciling a Mussolini who thought trade unionists should vote with a Campbell who wanted to limit it to the upper 20% by income. Those don’t seem to me to be anywhere near the same thing.

    In any case, it’s clear that fascism is becoming a generic term at this point, actual history be damned, but you might think about whether forgetting John C. Calhoun is actually a good idea or not.

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