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:

231 thoughts on “Storm Over Campbell Award

  1. I think the “If you say this about Octavia Butler” comment has the same problems as trying to claim you are not a racist if you happen to think the Jewish race is superior instead of or as well as the white one: it misses the entire base premise for why a thing is wrong in the first place.

    In this case, Lenore Jones already addressed the base premise; in calling the future as envisioned by Campbell “White” and “Male”, the issue is not that either white or male are bad things to be, as they are self-evidently not. It is the implicit ONLY that is appended before each word. Campbell’s vision was an exclusionary club, which included a lot of great people, but left a bunch of others with no recourse to enter.

    Octavia Butler, in imagining a future that was “Female” and “Black”, was instead envisioning a future that was ALSO these things. She was striding in the door of Campbell’s club and sitting herself and her fellows right down, and making sure the rules changed so it couldn’t remain an ONLY.

  2. @Rick —

    Yeah, that one!

    And now I have to go look up paskudnyak!

    And P.S. @Lenora — Yes, absolutely!

  3. Rick, my problem is that we hear these “silly” false equivalences deployed all the time, in efforts to claim that, to use one real example I’ve encountered multiple times, if it’s not racist to have a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, how can it be racist to have a National Association for the Advancement of White People? Or the reverse; if you say it’s racist to have the NAAWP, how can you defend the equally racist NAACP?

    And that’s the problem. It’s never in isolation, and it’s never innocent. It is always in the service of defending racist words and actions, and/or trying to silence efforts to call out racist words and actions.

    Like, for instance, trying to shame Jeannette Ng for calling out Campbell for the racist, sexist, antisemitic, xenophobic, antidemocratic, classist fascist that he was. Arguing that if Campbell was a racist, then so to was Butler.

    Getting caught in the weeds of all the details of why it’s different is missing the point. The purpose of the false equivalence is to try to make ridiculous the idea of calling Campbell a racist, even though we have more than ample evidence that he was, and to pretend that a prominent and beloved black woman writer, by promoting other black women writers, was somehow just as “racist.”

    No. It is not innocent. It is never innocent. It is about silencing complaints about racism, sexism, xenophobia, transphobia, and all the other bigotries that help to keep down people who aren’t cishet, Christian white males.

    And I don’t see why Filers should be expected to keep silent about it.

  4. @Contrarius, one of the pleasures of a polyglot existence is being able to reach for Yiddish’s fine and admirable ability to distinguish among multiple varieties of idiocy.

    In my case, I came by it from Jay Ward cartoons, Tom Lehrer, Mad Magazine, Spider-Man comics, and the works of Leo Rosten including the utterly delightful book The Joys of Yiddish, which I recommend to you, and which among other things defines & illustrate that and many other useful terms.

  5. @Lis —

    Like, for instance, trying to shame Jeannette Ng for calling out Campbell for the racist, sexist, antisemitic, xenophobic, antidemocratic, classist fascist that he was. Arguing that if Campbell was a racist, then so to was Butler.

    No, you’ve missed the point here.

    The argument is not between Campbell and Butler being racists. The argument is whether Ng made racist comments. The claim is that Ng did make racist comments, and that we’d all realize those comments were racist if only a black person (Butler) were substituted into those comments instead of a white one (Campbell).

  6. @Lis:

    And that’s the problem. It’s never in isolation, and it’s never innocent. It is always in the service of defending racist words and actions, and/or trying to silence efforts to call out racist words and actions.

    Oh, I certainly concur with that. (Even though I’ll note in passing that you moved the goalposts a bit.)

    Mainly, I’m saying that the hypothetical factual claim is most easily disposed of by pointing out that it’s transparently ludicrous and not true in this universe. The industry-dominating power of a respected but somewhat obscure Clarion instructor, most prominent during the five years from 1984 to 1989, cannot be rationally compared to that of the man who was the pre-eminent editor in all of science fiction from 1937 to 1971, so the notion of the former having a darkly oppressive influence on the field is stupefyingly dumb, and there’s really no point in wasting time looking at any other aspect.

  7. “The function, the very serious function, of racism is distraction. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.”
    – Toni Morrison

    “They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words… They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”
    – Jean-Paul Sartre

  8. Contrarius: Even though you agree Campbell is a racist, you think Ng is obligated to say nothing about it? That doesn’t put you in very good company.

    Shut up, says Gerald L.K. Smith.
    Shut up, says the Governor of South Carolina.
    Shut up, says the Governor of Singapore.
    Shut up, says Strydom.

    Hell no shut up! say the people
    with no titles in front of their names.
    Hell no! It’s time to talk back now!
    History says it’s time….

  9. Mike: I don’t think Contrarius is themselves arguing that, I think they are dealing with having to argue against it on another forum by checking responses here to the notion.

  10. I believe Lenora Rose is correct re: intent, but the way Contrarius has gone about it feels awfully close to “lets you and him fight” with undertones of “maybe I was persuaded by this argument” and has rather got my hackles up. Again, I don’t believe that was Contrarius’ intent, but I can’t help feeling irritated nonetheless. Which is why I’m staying out of this one.

  11. Lenora Rose: I didn’t miss the point of Contrarius’ rhetorical exercise — I objected to the pretense that it was primarily a rhetorical exercise.

  12. @Mike —

    Contrarius: Even though you agree Campbell is a racist, you think Ng is obligated to say nothing about it? That doesn’t put you in very good company.

    Absolutely not. I support Ng all the way, and I have been arguing so at length on that other blog I mentioned.

    I posted the question over here because my efforts to convince the blog’s owner of my points have failed over the last two days, and I wanted to see what responses additional minds over here could come up with.

    Incidentally, my initial rebuttals on that other board were most like Rick’s in character, but I’ve found all the other input very interesting as well.

  13. Thanks (not) for using my blog as your test kitchen.

    People are already running around Twitter telling each other this is a bastion of white fragility.

  14. Thanks (not) for using my blog as your test kitchen.

    Hey, this is the place I know of that has large numbers of people on “my” side of this particular debate, that I knew were already discussing the subject. What better place to go for more ideas?

    As long as we’re on the subject, there are only two things I would have changed about Ng’s speech: 1. I would have left out the word “sterile”, not because of what she meant, but just because the word sounded confusing in context and was open to misunderstanding; and 2. I wish she could have taken a few deep breaths to calm down a bit, since her obvious nerves led to quite a bit of rushing and muddlement. I’ve got no problem at all with either her message or her choice to deliver it in that venue — I thought she was brave to do so.

  15. To put the “Male. White.” in context, this is what the speech said:

    Through his editorial control of Astounding Science Fiction, he is responsible for setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White.

    So the claim is that Campbell used his editorial control to promote a white, male dominated SF. Is anybody seriously disputing this?

    cf. for instance Samuel Delaney’s account in https://www.nyrsf.com/racism-and-science-fiction-.html:

    I submitted Nova for serialization to the famous sf editor of Analog Magazine, John W. Campbell, Jr. Campbell rejected it, with a note and phone call to my agent explaining that he didn’t feel his readership would be able to relate to a black main character. […]In the phone call Campbell made it fairly clear that this was his only reason for rejecting the book.

    Does the speech imply in any way that being white or male is bad? No!
    If somebody mentions the fact that Hitler envisioned a world ruled by tall, blonde, white, people, and argues that this would be a terrible world, it would be absurd for me to take offense, even though I match all these criteria.

  16. @microtherion —

    Does the speech imply in any way that being white or male is bad? No!
    If somebody mentions the fact that Hitler envisioned a world ruled by tall, blonde, white, people, and argues that this would be a terrible world, it would be absurd for me to take offense, even though I match all these criteria.

    Right.

    As I’ve argued elsewhere, accusing Ng’s speech of being racist or sexist is similar to claiming that the statement “Hitler is a white man” is racist and sexist. It’s silly.

  17. microtherion: Does the speech imply in any way that being white or male is bad? No!

    I’d like a refund of the IQ points it’s costing me to read this whole line of discussion. There’s no reason for anybody to be sensitive to the choice of those words and the delivery? You do a disservice to a gifted writer to act as if she has not identified and influenced her audience.

    Is there somebody who thinks Colin Kapernick can’t figure out what he’s doing when the national anthem is played?

    Ng could write a letter to the editor, but she is trying to effect change in a way that is not easily dismissed. I, for one, would have found it quite easy to ignore a letter to the editor. I couldn’t ignore this.

  18. @Mike Glyer:

    Ng could write a letter to the editor, but she is trying to effect change in a way that is not easily dismissed.

    And the uproar from the usual suspects is evidence that she was effective in this (a hit dog hollers, etc).

  19. Microtherion: Not only them. I spent a quiet couple of days contemplating the stake Jeanette Ng drove through my own heart with her John W. Campbell Award speech. I was quite upset about it. But she wasn’t wrong. I could easily pass an examination on the failings of John W. Campbell, about his offensive opinions about slavery, failure to develop women writers, involvement with Scientology, and partisanship for other crackpot schemes.

    On the other hand, he was important to me when I was young. I corresponded with him, a little — to protest against something in one of his editorials, but I enjoyed that he answered (everybody knows he loved to argue.). I submitted stories to Analog, which he didn’t buy. (They weren’t good.) I would have even edited a posthumous collection of his letters if Perry Chapdelaine hadn’t outmaneuvered me. I thought it was a great idea to name the award for him. So I have been pondering why, in hindsight, was I perfectly fine with all of this? I haven’t completely fathomed that question yet. However, developments of the past decade have made me recognize my great ability to avoid any change that isn’t forced upon me. Which tends to undercut my self-image as someone who wants to welcome to the field anybody who wants to contribute to it as a creator or fan.

  20. Very interesting observations! With your reaction and Scalzi’s, I get the impression that there are generational and insider/outsider differences in the reactions. Those of us who largely grew up post-Campbell and never interacted with him seem to have less mixed feelings.
    I saw something similar when Jerry Pournelle was no-awarded for his editor nomination recently. Scalzi argued (as, I believe, you did), that this was an unmerited slight of a writer with a distinguished career. I still feel, based on the material he edited, that the no-awarding was justified.

  21. “What better place to go for more ideas?”

    Absolutely anywhere but here. We have enough bad faith actors anyhow without regulars also starting to throw out arguments they don’t believe in themselves.

    Arguing against bad arguments written here is enough. Starting to bring bad arguments from other sites here too is just being nasty.

  22. microtherion: I saw something similar when Jerry Pournelle was no-awarded for his editor nomination recently. Scalzi argued (as, I believe, you did), that this was an unmerited slight of a writer with a distinguished career. I still feel, based on the material he edited, that the no-awarding was justified.

    His only qualifying work that year was There Will Be War X, a mixed anthology of reprint and original stories. “Seven Kill Tiger” and “Flashpoint: Titan” were crap, and “What Price Humanity?” was serviceable.

    I don’t care how fantastic a career an editor has had, when their only qualifying work for the year shows a marked lack of quality, I’m No-Awarding them. Best Editor Short Form is not a career award.

  23. JJ: Best Editor Short Form is not a career award.

    That is a technically correct statement.

    Does it govern the behavior of all Hugo voters? Probably not that many, else would Gardner Dozois have won this year?

  24. @JJ, exactly. In particular, publishing “Seven Kill Tiger” was a completely disqualifying act as far as I’m concerned.

    @Mike Glyer: It seems to me that there is a difference between not having done much in particular in a year, and having produced actively bad work in that year (and garnering a non-organic nomination, though through no fault of his own).

  25. @Contrarius wrote:

    2. I wish she could have taken a few deep breaths to calm down a bit, since her obvious nerves led to quite a bit of rushing and muddlement.

    You know, for all that the brief speech was (for obvious reasons) a bit impromptu, it was nonetheless keenly articulate and spot-on (as OGH just said). Even if she hadn’t gone to bat for my home town (Hong Kong) in its time of need, I’d still have thought it the best speech of the evening.

    Campbell did good and important things, along with the several regrettable ones. Nobody’s (to my knowledge) trying to erase that, just to say what is long overdue to say. I think fondly of the good bits, just as I remember fondly the many excellences of the the Good Doctor (Asimov) while thinking it more than fair to regret nobody having ever decked the sucker for perennially pinching women’s posteriors. (He spoke at my college in the 1970s, and I had absolutely no idea. Talk about your ‘broken stair’ problem.)

    (On another note, ‘paskudnyak’ was quite a bit too harsh in relation to Mr. Engholm, and should be reserved for irremediably horrible persons, rather than those merely guilty of repeated asinine antics. I regret the exaggeration.)

  26. @contrarius:

    If you want to recruit a think tank, or a handful of people to help you hone arguments, please say so explicitly and then take the argument/discussion somewhere else before OGH points out that he doesn’t want you using his blog as your test kitchen.

    A year or two back, I had to explain to someone I loved that hearing her say “listen to this horrible thing Trump said” and then repeat the horrible thing in her own voice hurt. Because what comes through, emotionally, isn’t “my beloved is mocking Trump” or “is warning me about the enemy”–what came through, emotionally, was the words themselves, in a voice I am inclined to listen to and trust.

    What you did isn’t that bad, because I don’t start with the belief “Contrarius is on my side and will go out of her way not to hurt me.” But at best you’re pressuring people to help you sharpen an argument that may not be listened to anyhow. That’s time I could be using to play Scrabble, read an SF novel, or do the dishes. Beyond that, it’s increasingly difficult to believe and remember that you are on my side, and don’t actually believe the dishonest arguments that you’re relaying.

  27. microtherion: It seems to me that there is a difference between not having done much in particular in a year, and having produced actively bad work in that year (and garnering a non-organic nomination, though through no fault of his own).

    This illustrates a point I often make, unconvincingly it seems, that if you have strong arguments (like these) it only dilutes their strength to accompany them with weak arguments (not a career award).

  28. @Rick —

    You know, for all that the brief speech was (for obvious reasons) a bit impromptu, it was nonetheless keenly articulate and spot-on (as OGH just said).

    Yes, I applaud what she had to say. OTOH, my favorite passage from her speech ended up being a bit lost in the rush — and it isn’t included in full in the written version, or at least not some of the written versions I’ve seen floating around. Specifically, she said:

    “From that we have grown a wonderful, ramshackle genre, wilder and stranger than his mind could ever dream or even would allow. I am proud, and I am humbled to stand before you, a girl born in Hong Kong, to thank you for this.”

    I liked that a lot.

    @Vicki —

    If you want to recruit a think tank, or a handful of people to help you hone arguments, please say so explicitly

    In this case, I didn’t want to pre-shape the responses, as a more thorough intro would have done. But I did make it clear that it was not a claim that I had made myself.

    But at best you’re pressuring people to help you sharpen an argument that may not be listened to anyhow.

    Yes. Guilty on this count, though I would use a different word than “pressuring”. I think of it more as crowdsourcing.

  29. @Contrarius–

    Yes. Guilty on this count, though I would use a different word than “pressuring”. I think of it more as crowdsourcing.

    That may be how you’re thinking of it, but this is a situation where what the people on the receiving end are feeling as a result of what you’re doing matters, and tends to determine the reception you get for it.

  30. @Lis —

    That may be how you’re thinking of it, but this is a situation where what the people on the receiving end are feeling as a result of what you’re doing matters, and tends to determine the reception you get for it.

    Oh sure, and I’ve got no complaints about the reception. I’m a big girl, I can take it.

  31. Mike Glyer, for some time now I have admired you for all the work you put into File 770. But today….

    So I have been pondering why, in hindsight, was I perfectly fine with all of this? I haven’t completely fathomed that question yet. However, developments of the past decade have made me recognize my great ability to avoid any change that isn’t forced upon me. Which tends to undercut my self-image as someone who wants to welcome to the field anybody who wants to contribute to it as a creator or fan.

    …today, I admire you as a human being

  32. @JJ

    Best Editor Short Form is not a career award.

    But it is more of one than most Hugo awards:
    “The editor of at least four (4) anthologies, collections or magazine issues (or their equivalent inother media) primarily devoted to science fiction and / or fantasy, at least one of which was published in the previous calendar year.”

  33. I am in full agreement with Nancy Sauer. Thank you for saying this, Mike.

  34. @OGH: “So I have been pondering why, in hindsight, was I perfectly fine with all of this? I haven’t completely fathomed that question yet.”

    The item on today’s scroll about Gamergate not going away suggests a reason which rings true for me on similar issues in my own life: I thought we’d killed the bad ideas so dead that celebrating people with significant virtues who also believed and advocated those ideas wasn’t irresponsible now.

    I should have known better; I hope I do now.

    I’m still willing to celebrate Campbell’s editorial virtues in isolation, because they were virtues; I’m not willing to put him into a place of honor, because he doesn’t deserve it.

    The other thing is tipping points: It’s easier to accept a new idea (or abandon an old one) when enough other people around you have done so.

  35. Mike Glyer: “Best Editor Short Form is not a career award”… is a technically correct statement. Does it govern the behavior of all Hugo voters? Probably not that many, else would Gardner Dozois have won this year?

    As much appreciation as I have for his work, and as high as I’ve ranked him in the past, he was on the bottom half of my ballot this year.

    I understand peoples’ desire to honor beloved authors and editors we’ve lost, but I disagree with their tendency to give awards to people who can no longer appreciate them, when there are stronger candidates who could and should be recognized.

  36. Mike Glyer: This illustrates a point I often make, unconvincingly it seems, that if you have strong arguments (like these) it only dilutes their strength to accompany them with weak arguments (not a career award).

    You’ve said this to me on more than one occasion, and while I always appreciate your input because it makes me think, I will point out that your definition of strong and weak arguments often varies from mine. I don’t think the “not a career award” is a weak argument at all.

  37. I wasn’t all that thrilled at Dozois winning this year, either (or most of the misc Le Guin nominations/wins over the past couple of years for that matter). But then, none of my primary heroes have died directly before being nominated for a Hugo yet, so perhaps my opinion of sentimentality guiding voting will change once I’m confronted with the same dilemma. I’d like to think it wouldn’t, but I expect it’s the sort of thing where you don’t know how you’ll feel about it until it happens.

    The editor categories are probably more susceptible to career award motivation voting than most, simply because of the difficulty many voters have in voting on them at all. Pournelle didn’t benefit from it due to the strong distaste caused by his working with Castalia House and not even producing a good book to make up for it outweighing his historical achievements. “… and also it was terrible” is a different argument from whether career awards are a good idea, though, and not one that addresses whether No Award was an act of disrespect against his prior career, since that was in itself an argument for giving Pournelle, if not a career win, a career higher-place.

    I don’t personally think that career awards in categories that aren’t designed for it are a good thing (I realise that it’s likely that not all, or even most, voters agree with me; at least not when it’s a career they want to celebrate). There are plenty of examples of that distortion effect in (to use an example that isn’t the Hugos) the Oscars, and in most (all?) cases the best finalist in that year did not win, which I can’t agree with. My understanding is that Worldcon’s Guest of Honour system has effectively been treated as an unofficial “Worldcon lifetime achievement award” in the past, but perhaps that isn’t enough?

    @Mike Glyer

    I can only speak for myself, but I have always felt welcomed here by you. I think your ongoing interrogation of your own beliefs and assumptions contributes to that feeling.

  38. @nickpheas: Gernsback can be gigged for bad payment practices, but not on social issues so far as I’m aware (and if anyone does know of such things regarding him, I would like to know), but theoretically I personally have only minor issues with returning the Hugos to their original “Science Fiction Achievement Awards” name, if doing so helped service the idea that the awards should not be named for individuals – or named temporarily (as I’ve suggested elsewhere).
    The hit I’d take would be no longer being able to casually note that the magazine I publish was started by the guy the Hugo Awards are named for (and I can recover most of that by saying “used to be named for”).

  39. @Mike Glyer: thank you.

    I don’t think that’s a bad idea (naming it for the previous year’s winner) – but that could also be accompanied by issues with that individual (though a year’s time is a short window, but still).

    I think it’s something that should be looked at very carefully for each year’s award – and it could be named in honor of things other than people – an achievement in space exploration (named in honor of the Viking Mars mission), or an organization (named in honor of Dr. without borders), etc (though those examples may not be strictly appropriate).

    What I’m thinking is that as people – or things – achieve noteriety over time for good and positive influences, they can be considered.

  40. (Too many different things to comment for having time with it now. I might get back to it, though. But one thing:)

    Reply to Joel Zakem regarding his comments to Jeannette Ng being reported for breach of CoC:

    You totally miss the point. I didn’t report Ms Ng for breaking any law, but for breaching the convention’s own “private law” called the Code of Conduct. And this CoC leaves substantially less room for what is acceptable.
    Whether you are personally addressed doesn’t matter because the CoC demands you to in general “show respect towards…the various communities associated with the convention” and it aims for a “harassment-free convention experience for all”, something not tolerated “in any form” including “Comments intended to belittle, offend or cause discomfort”.
    However if you are a white male you ARE also directly addressed – you are among the evil “Sterile. Male. White.” glorifying “imperialists” etc that “haunts” the genre. And such slurs are specifically banned by the CoC.

    –Ahrvid
    ahrvid@hotmail.com

  41. Ahrvid, “sterile – white – male” was a complaint addressed at Campbell attempting to restrict SFF to a single demographic, and largely succeeding. It was not a complaint addressed to that demographic as a whole. I understand that your reaction may have been visceral, but I think if you think about it you will see that my statement is true.

  42. @Ahrvid —

    Sorry, Ahrvid, I have extremely little sympathy for you.

    I didn’t report Ms Ng for breaking any law, but for breaching the convention’s own “private law” called the Code of Conduct.

    The problem here is that she didn’t actually do anything of the sort.

    First, it’s impossible to either harass or intimidate a dead person.

    Second, none of her remarks were directed to anyone in the audience — they were criticizing Campbell himself, and pointing out the legacy he left from the Golden Age.

    Third, she did not criticize or deride or denigrate or harass or intimidate anyone in the current sff community, nor anyone attending the con.

    Whether you are personally addressed doesn’t matter because the CoC demands you to in general “show respect towards…the various communities associated with the convention” and it aims for a “harassment-free convention experience for all”

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I think you (and probably others) missed an important passage in Ng’s speech. I went back to the video to capture what she said, which was this:

    “From that we have grown a wonderful, ramshackle genre, wilder and stranger than his mind could ever dream or even would allow. I am proud, and I am humbled to stand before you, a girl born in Hong Kong, to thank you for this.”

    Read that a few times until it sinks in. She quite clearly calls the sff community WONDERFUL, and states that she is PROUD and HUMBLE and THANKS the community for allowing her to participate.

    In other words — she shows TONS of respect for the sff community as it now exists.

    However if you are a white male you ARE also directly addressed – you are among the evil “Sterile. Male. White.” glorifying “imperialists” etc that “haunts” the genre. And such slurs are specifically banned by the CoC.

    Stop trying to play the victim game. She was talking about how restricted the genre was in the Golden Age, not saying anything about white males being evil OR sterile.

    As I’ve noted before, and as microtherion expressed better than I did — your complaint is analogous to calling someone a racist if they happened to say “Hitler was a white man”. It’s nonsense.

  43. Ahrvid Engholm on August 25, 2019 at 9:55 am said:
    However if you are a white male you ARE also directly addressed – you are among the evil “Sterile. Male. White.” glorifying “imperialists” etc that “haunts” the genre. And such slurs are specifically banned by the CoC.

    Maybe don’t appoint yourself as the guardian of white males. Frankly as somebody who is white and male, I’m finding what you are saying wayyyyy more offensive about people who happen to be both than anything Jeannette Ng said.

  44. Frankly as somebody who is white and male, I’m finding what you are saying wayyyyy more offensive about people who happen to be both

    You took the words right out of my mouth!

    Ahrvid, I want you to sit down and listen to that speech again, and this time, try to see if you can figure out why it had so many white men—including me—jumping up and down and cheering!

    And if you can’t, I want to assure everyone that it’s not because all white men are stupid or incapable of understanding plain English. Just you.

  45. @Ahrvid Engholm: Thanks, man, our collection of lame bushwah was running low, so you’re just in time.

    You are entirely aware that Ms. Ng’s view that Campbell’s long career as the most influential SFF editor ushered in an era dominated by Caucasian male writers writing in a very characteristic style he insisted on, that in the view of Ms. Ng and innumerable others imposed a relative sterility of imagination. You are equally aware that only a blithering idiot or a polemicist adopting the infamously tiresome ploy of imaginary persecution would claim to have, in 2019, been harassed or disrespected by Ms. Ng’s 90-second speech on account of merely being ‘white’, or male (or even sterile, I suppose).

    You don’t speak for anybody at all, but you most specifically don’t speak for me. As it happens I’m Scandinavian-American by kinship. (You may perhaps have heard of us, over there in Sweden.) In my case, kinship and genetics are disjoint, a concept called ‘closed adoption’, but I happen to be pastier-skinned than your average Swede, something even California sun cannot fix. (Apparently, bio-mom was also someone named Hanson, so stick that in your Swedish pipe and smoke it.) And, to complete the trifecta, necessary surgery in 2009 left me reproductively sterile, albeit saving me from one of the few extremely male forms of death not entailing alcohol or firearms. Et voila: Male, pasty white, and sterile — and calling your latest annoyance yet another fraud.

    As my dad’s folk would say, ‘Ha en fin dag.’

  46. Ahrvid, as a white male, you most definitively and definitely do not speak for me.

  47. I just read the edited speech again and it gives the impression that Ms. Ng has a low view of males and/or whites, even if that wasn’t intended. The moral of the story is, if you’re up for an award, write the speech in advance.

    As for those arguing about the definition of fascists, it’s true that meanings of words, especially nouns, are defined by usage. But the question is, “whose usage?” People have a variety of understandings. Asserting one’s own definition as the correct one seems essentially authoritarian, regardless of the arguments used.

    One other thing: Isn’t the excessive use of labels a sort of intellectual laziness?

    Note: I’m trying to follow my own advice; I’m not sure I’ve achieved complete success.

  48. Jeff Jones: There seem to be some who feel on safer ground trying to turn this into an argument over definitions of words and tone.

    When Ng’s speech got me upset, after I took inventory of my wounded feelings I decided the effect wasn’t by accident. I would not think someone had to grow up in the Sixties to recognize one of the tactics of social change, but I did, and I’ve seen this often before.

    Last year’s Campbell winner Ada Palmer got zero action from her civil statement.

    This year, Jeannette Ng is getting magnitudes more response, and perhaps will even get people to change the name of the award, or drop it.

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