Dublin 2019 Answers Engholm’s CoC Complaint About Ng’s Campbell Acceptance Speech

Ahrvid Engholm recently published Dublin 2019’s determination that “We do not consider Jeannette Ng’s speech to be a breach of our Code of Conduct.”

As reported in the August 21 “Storm Over Campbell Award” roundup, Swedish Fan Ahrvid Engholm filed a complaint that Jeanette Ng’s Campbell Award acceptance speech at the Dublin 2019 Hugo Awards ceremony violated the convention’s Code of Conduct. His complaint has since appeared in a letter to Locus, (screenshot at the link). The text of Ng’s speech is here. The award has now been renamed the Astounding Award.

Engholm posted the full text of Dublin 2019’s letter to him along with his own comments in response here.

Dublin 2019’s letter says:

Hi Ahrvid,

Thank you again for reaching out, and apologies for the time it took to get this response to you.

We do not consider Jeannette Ng’s speech to be a breach of our Code of Conduct.

From our perspective Ng was speaking to Campbell’s part in shaping the sci-fi landscape, which was notably exclusionary of minorities, people of colour and women at the time during which he was a part of it and which has had knock on effects to this day. Our Code of Conduct was, in a large part, designed to ensure people who have previously been excluded from fandom were safe and included at our convention – not to punish people who speak out against its exclusionary past.

We do not believe her words were targeted at anyone other than Campbell and his actions. There is no issue with being male or white, and unless a person also identified with Campbell’s more problematic beliefs and actions, they have no reason to feel attacked. Additionally, being a fan of Campbell’s work does not mean you need to stand by his beliefs; it is possible to appreciate his contribution to the community whilst also understanding some of his viewpoints were problematic.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us with your concerns – I hope this helps clarify our position on the situation.

Kind regards,

Sarah Brennan, Listener and Code of Conduct Area Head Dublin 2019

Engholm, in his commentary, says he believes the Code of Conduct has been applied inequitably, whether judged by past precedents, or on its own terms.

Thanks for a reply, even if it took two months…

But the reply is not very satisfying, and I’ll explain why. A basic principle for acceptable ethics is that it applies equally to all. If not, it’s unethical, immoral – in crass terms, evil.

In 2016 Dave Truesdale was kicked out from the Worldcon for talking about “snowflakes” – a rather mild expression – not pointing to any person or ethnic or social group. But in 2019 it seems perfectly OK to accuse a named person for being a follower of one of history’s most evil ideologies, on the worldcon’s biggest stage.

It becomes clear that this does not apply equally to all. You – ie all responsible for the CoC – even openly admit that not being applied equally was what “Our Code of Conduct was…designed to ensure”. Thus the CoC loses its legitimacy. It’s a set of made-up private laws that allows the intimidation it pretends to protect from.

Engholm disagrees with Sarah Brennan’s evaluation of Ng’s speech (“There is no issue with being male or white…”)

As for Ng’s racist slurs, you seem to simply ignore them, the charges about “whites” being “sterile” and “haunt” the genre. You just falsely claim it’s “no issue” – but it is. You can’t even follow your own instructions that “We do not tolerate harassment of convention attendees in ANY FORM”. That’s what it says, but obviously you do tolerate harassment if it is in the form certain people like. People have reason to feel attacked!

“I certainly did. As a white male writer who goes back to the Campbell era I felt directly under attack, as well as being angered by the inaccurate slander being directed at Campbell, and I was so upset by her statements and the obvious audience approval of them that I left the ceremony as soon as I could appropriately get out the door “

That was a a testimony from a well-known longtime sf professional whom I shall not name.

Engholm asserts that what people complain about in Campbell is the byproduct of his “intentionally provoking intellectual style.” He also tells why in his view (and that of Harry Harrison) Campbell was not, politically, a fascist, therefore Ng was mistaken in calling him one. The complete text of Engholm’s commentary is here.

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:

Disney Film To Be Dubbed Into Sami

By Ahrvid Engholm: Disney’s coming Frozen 2 will be dubbed into Sami language! It’s an animated fantasy film for children, and such movies are often dubbed in Sweden, because most children can’t read subtitles. (Animation Magazine: “‘Frozen 2’ Will Get Sámi Language Version”.) Frozen 2 is said ro be based on Sami culture. (I haven’t seen it or the first Frozen film.)

The traditionally reindeer herding Sami people are, sort of, the Indians of Scandinavia. They are some 65 000-100 000 — the span due to how to define belonging to the group — shared between Sweden, Norway and Finland (plus a couple of thousand in Russia) in the North. (Wikipedia entry: Sámi people.)

Today most are integrated into the regular society but about 6,500 of the Sami are still into reindeer herding. Smoked reindeer meat is considered a delicacy and can usually be found in supermarkets all over Sweden, and some is also exported. (Sorry, all of you who are thinking of Santa’s reindeers… We eat them.)

One snag with dubbing this film is that there are several Sami dialects (a Finno-Ugric branch on the language tree, not related to Indo-European languages) not always intelligible bewteen speakers, but North Sami is the biggest dialect so I supposed that’s what they’ll use. Some Sami languages are near extinction, now spoken by just 20 people… See Sámi languages. It’s the first time I think a major film is dubbed into Sami! (But there have been regular feature films shot in Sami before.)

As I googled around I stumbled upon the debate around the Frozen films – KnowYourMeme –  “Disney’s Frozen Whitewashing Controversy”:

 A “debate /that/ has come to include accusations against Disney of “whitewashing” the Sámi, the indigenous people of Scandinavia. The controversy began on Tumblr, and is largely driven by social justice bloggers who accuse the movie of racism, and fans of the film who are outraged by these accusations.”

I haven’t dug deeper into this, but anyone interested can probably find more info.

A trailer for Frozen 2:

More resources:

RIP Bertil Mårtensson (1945-2018)


By Ahrvid Engholm:
A giant of the Swedish sf field has passed away. Bertil Mårtensson died in hospital Sunday November 4 from effects of smoke inhalation, after a fire in his home broke out the Thursday before. He was in bad health the last few years from severe diabetes and rather immobile, which may have contributed. He was 73 (born in 1945).

Bertil Mårtensson entered sf fandom in 1961 and began being published in fanzines as well as doing his own (one title was Ogre). Together with John-Henri Holmberg and Mats Dannewitz Linder he formed the fannish group WDVF (Witterhetssällskapet Din Vän Fandom) which in the 1960s did a series of satirical, witty fanzines under different titles, now considered classics. The group also edited and contributed to SF Forum, the leading fanzine from the Scandinavian SF Association – a heavyweight publication, at present the only Swedish fanzine still being done on paper – at times with Bertil as sole editor. His last issue as SF Forum editor came in 2002. He was also Guest of Honour of several conventions.

He made his literary debut with a short story in the prozine Häpna! in 1963 and his novel debut in 1968 with Detta är verkligheten (“This is the Reality”), oddly enough first published in Danish in April that year (translated by Jannick Storm) but in Swedish not until September the same year. The novel was given the 1972 Eurocon Special Award and was followed by many other titles. Notable ones are Skeppet i kambrium (“The Ship in Cambrium”, 1974), Samarkand 5617 (1975), Jungfrulig planet (“Virgin Planet”, 1977) and the fantasy trilogy Maktens vägar (“The Roads of Power”, 1979-1983; revised in 1997). He also wrote crime fiction, of which his novel Växande hot (“Growing Threat”, 1977) was awarded the 1977 Sherlock Award as the best Swedish crime novel that year. For a list of his around 20 titles (but excluding his academic non-fiction) see the Wikipedia entry for Bertil_Mårtensson.

Four of his short stories have been translated to English, beginning with “A Modest Proposal” in the New Worlds 7 anthology, 1974, but many more have been translated to French and other languages. He is translated to Danish (as noted), German, Spanish, Italian, Czech and Croatian. (I find info, though, that he had a poem in English already in June 1966, in an issue of Leland Sapiro’s Riverside Quarterly, which shows international fandom contacts early on.) His literary output shrunk when his academic career as philosopher took over, as assistant professor of Umeå University and head of the philosophy department of Lund University 1988-1993.

Yours Truly remember meeting Bertil for “real” the first time during a long conversation at a breakfast table with him and his wife Bodil (they divorced in 2005) on my third sf con, Bacon 1978 – though he must have been present also on the 1977 and 1976 cons I went to. Later, in 1981, we had the fake-Nazi scandal about the Lund Fantasy Fan society (LF3), where Bertil had been chairman. He wrote a sharp letter in the student paper telling them to take their made-up story and stick it up their…fake news existed already them. In my Fandboken I note how Bertil “slaughtered the ‘scoop’…speaking as a founder of LF3 (the club accused of being Nazi in Lundagård /the student paper/), in a letter to the editor which went through the story point by point”. (The student paper editor – following the old motto “don’t check a good story, it may be debunked!” – later became editor-in-chief of one of the biggest newspapers, but was a laughing stock in fandom.)

As Bertil lived far down south I met him rather seldom (usually on a con), last time must have been when he was GoH on the 1999 jUnicon. Before this, in the early 1990’s we were in touch as I made a VHS with Swedish fandom’s amateur films, and included Bertil’s “Tidsmaskinen” (“The Time Machine”). It’s an 18-minute-long 8-mm production from the mid-1960’s. The film where Bertil plays the main character exploring a disaster-struck, future world is available here: https://vimeo.com/12849707

Oddly enough I did later have some contacts with his ex-wife, Bodil Mårtensson, who began writing crime novels and has had quite a success with it (she has lately turned to historical novels). Bodil was for a while member of the Short Story Masters society I’m a member of too. Through her I heard a little about how Bertil was doing – but not entierly good news.

Bertil was also into music, played the synth and did cassettes – it began before recordable CDs – of his own compositions. Some of his music can be found here: https://soundcloud.com/flying-bird-produktion. Last time I tried to connect him with was through a friend who does a home page about Swedish filksongs and sf music. I didn’t get any reply.

Bertil Mårtensson – a fannish nickname was “Balte” – was multi-talented, a very fine writer, a true Big Name Fan and one of the pillars of Swedish science fiction. You’d better believe that he’ll be missed!

Margit Sandemo (1924-2018)

By Ahrvid Engholm: The Norwegian-Swedish – born in Norway, lived in Sweden and wrote in Swedish – fantasy author Margit Sandemo passed away September 1 at age 94.

She wrote the long-running Sagan om Isfolket (“The Ice People Saga”) paperback series, 47 books in total, as well as other long book series like Häxmästaren (Witch Master) and Legenden om Ljusets Rike (The Legend of the Realm of Light). Her different series would sometimes connect to each other, in a genre described as “magic romance”. Despite beginning to publish only at the age of 40, she authored at least 185 books, including an autobiography.

The Wikipedia entry about Sandemo says:

Her books, which weave supernatural themes with historical facts, have made her well-loved throughout Nordic countries and beyond. Her books can be read in Danish, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish and Swedish.

Sandemo is reputed to have sold nearly 40 million books worldwide.

Her work is available in English with half a dozen titles, the first being Spellbound (The Tagman Press, 2008), the beginning of the Ice People Saga.

But her books are very popular and she has her own fan club, Sagan om Isfolket-föreningen (“The Ice People Saga Association”) and there are several fan sites on the Net (e.g. https://www.facebook.com/SaganomIsfolket/ ).

Being widely read and able to entertain readers isn’t the worse fate for an author.

2018 New Prize in Literature Finalists

By Ahrvid Engholm: The Den Nya Akademin (DNA – “The New Academy”), a private initiative organized among Swedish culture workers because there’ll be no Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018, has announced the finalists for the 2018 New Prize in Literature.

After nominations were taken from librarians, the finalists were selected by popular vote. A jury will select the winner. The prize is to be revealed October 12 and handed out December 9. The finalists are:

  • Haruki Murakami
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Kim Thuy
  • Maryse Condé

The New Academy is presently running a Kickstarter appeal to raise $27,318 to pay for the award ceremony.

It’s said to be a one-year thing because there’ll be no Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018. However, there are hints that if the scandal-ridden Swedish Academy can’t get their act together, there might not be a prize for 2019 either (and will The New Academy Prize step in for 2019 in that case?)

The New Academy was founded to warrant that an international literary prize will be awarded in 2018, but also as a reminder that literature should be associated with democracy, openness, empathy and respect.

In a time when human values are increasingly being called into question, literature becomes the counterforce of oppression and a code of silence. It is now more important than ever that the world’s greatest literary prize should be awarded.

The New Academy is a non-profit organization, politically and financially independent. It consists of a wide range of knowledgeable individuals. The New Academy works within the time frame of the Swedish Academy and in five different committees….

The New Academy will be dissolved in December.

Following weeks of internal bickering, sex-abuse allegations and a financial investigation by police, the Swedish Academy, the body that hands out the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature, announced in May there would be two Nobel Prizes for Literature given next year, the 2018 prize and the 2019 prize. The decision was made on the grounds that the group was in too deep a crisis to choose a Nobel winner properly.

Since then, there has been more news about the “Old” Academy and the fate of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

On July 18, the daily Dagens Nyheter revealed a heated mail exchange between the Academy and the Nobel Foundation. The Nobel Foundation controls the Nobel Prize money and is worried about the Academy’s competence, reputation and legitimacy — especially the last two. They thus demand that the Nobel Prize should for the time being be decided by a separate Nobel committee in which no Academy member who has been compromised in the recent scandals may take part (say, Horace Engdahl…). Such a committee would have non-Academy members, maybe being a majority.

But the Academy says no.

Instead they want to elect four new members this autumn (if they can, with only 10 active members) and continue as before.

This is a serious conflict, because the Nobel Foundation has the money and the power to remove the Prize from the Academy. It has been suggested it may be taken over by the The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, as the lengthy English name goes (Vitterhetsakademin in Swedish), a body of circa 60 scholars including many in the field of literature and language. This would be possible since Alfred Nobel only stipulated the body to be “the Academy in Stockholm,” where Vitterhetsakademien also is situated.

At the same time, we had the “Summer” talk by the former permanent secretary Sara Danius on Swedish Radio. The radio show “Sommar” (Summer) is a very popular – millions of listeners – show where a celebrity talks for 1.5 hour and plays his/her favourite music. She of course talked about the Academy crisis, for instance quoting the support (including from Horace Engdahl!) she got when she suggested to let a law firm investigate the affair last November.

And then Horace turned against her. And there was a lot of internal conspiracies that finally forced her to resign as permanent secretary and also as a working member of the Academy. She sounded very bitter in her radio talk: “History won’t be merciful towards Horace Engdahl,” she said. Her program is here, if you know Swedish: https://sverigesradio.se/sida/avsnitt/1077323

On top of this, the Jean Claude Arnault trial begins next month, the case against the man married to Academy member Katarina Frostenson who is charged with two cases of rape (other cases have been dismissed as being past the statute of limitation). This will put the Academy scandals in even more focus. The 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature has been cancelled because of this mess, but it’s not certain that there will be a 2019 prize either.

Then, in August, the three members of the Swedish Academy who earlier announced they’d “quit working for the Swedish Academy” (Sara Danius, former permanent secretary, Kjell Espmark, and Peter Englund, also a former permanent secretary) said they’ll return to help the Academy elect four new members this autumn. This is necessary to reach the quorum of 12 (they were 10 active members, now they’ll be 13) which the statutes require. (See Reuters’ August 30 story — “Three members returning to scandal-ridden Swedish Academy”.)

At the same time they’ll drop – for the time at least – their earlier demand that Horace Engdahl must resign. It is unclear if they’ll come back temporarily just to elect new members or if they’ll return in full to work for the Academy:

They have stated that they will return to save this old institution, which has been ridden with scandals the past year (sex crime allegations against the husband of an Academy member, economic irregularities, leaks of Nobel Prize winners, members quitting, harsh statements and ultimatums going back and forth).

My speculation is that this move has probably come out of negotiations between the three and the “rump Academy” and that is was no big concession to withdraw the demands on Horace Engdahl. He has been so vilified in media already and that would seem like sufficient “punishment.”

As I’ve noted before, there are several people with old connections to the sf community who could be potential Academy members! These are Erik Andersson, Steve Sem-Sandberg, Inger Edelfeldt and Anna Gustafsson Chen. Especially Erik (praised translator of James Joyce and himself an author) who in the 1980s was a leading fanzine editor and fandom columnist. Gustafsson Chen is a sinologist who could replace Göran Malmqvist, who at age 94 could be expected to pack his suitcase any day. The other two are authors with long, acclaimed careers. But we’ll see who they pick. (A delicate question is if people they ask want to join.)

The sexual assault trial against Mr JC Arnault — who ignited the whole thing as his past caught up with him — will be held in Stockholm September 19th, 20th and 24th. Expect extensive coverage in international media.

Nobel Becomes Ignoble or, The Popcorn Report

By Ahrvid Engholm: Last fall saw the beginning of the Fall of – or at least serious problems for – the literary influential Swedish Academy, the body deciding the Nobel Prize in Literature. This Prize has earlier been awarded to writers of fantastic literature (at least partly) like Doris Lessing, Jose Saramago, Maria Vargas Llosa, Elfride Jelinek, Gunther Grass, Harry Martinson and others.

On November 21, 18 women appeared in the big morning daily Dagens Nyheter, accusing a culture club organiser of serious sexual harassment, a man named Jean-Claude Arnault. This club had tight connections to the Swedish Academy: it received grants from it, Mr Arnault is married to Academy member Katarina Frostenson and Academy members were often appearing on this club. [If you run the article “18 kvinnor: Kulturprofil har utsatt oss för övergrepp” through Google Translate, it is very readable English.]

The Permanent Secretary – the Academy’s spokesperson and executive officer – Sara Danius commissioned a law firm to investigate the situation. The scandal soon grew. Frostenson was suspected of having leaked Nobel Prize results in advance, which you can bet money on (strange “movements” of those odds have been observed). The scandal also got momentum from the so called #Metoo events.
When the law firm report recently arrived last week – things exploded!

The report concluded e.g. that it was likely that Frostenson had leaked Nobel Prize winners in advance
and that she was a partner in a company in connection to the culture club receiving money. Both things are of course against the Academy rules.

The Academy last Thursday (they meet every Thursday) held a vote about sacking Frostenson due to these breaches, with negative result. Three members of the Academy – Kjell Espmark, Klas Östergren, Peter Englund – next day announced they quit in protest. You sit in the Academy “for life” and can’t formally resign, but you can withdraw working for it. Two members already do, for unconnected old reasons, so the Academy of 18 is now down to 13 working members. Member Sara Stridsberg says she’s considering withdrawing from the Academy, which would make it only 12 working members.

And if they become less than 12 on their sessions, they can’t vote to select new members! All according to the Academy statues, written in 1785 by the then-king Gustaf III, who was also the founder. If Stridsberg decides to call it quits and one more leave it will be extremely serious.

Kjell Espmark for instance motivated his withdrawal with “Integrity is the very soul of the Academy. When Leading voices within the Academy put friendship and other irrelevant considerations before this integrity – then I can no longer take part.” Peter Englund bashed the Academy for “decisions taken I don’t believe in and can’t defend” and Klas Östergren talks about a “betrayal towards the Academy, its founder and it’s High Protector…I’m leaving the game, I’m out of the game”.

Eight voting against an Exclusion Act (no connection to Nycon 1939…) wrote in the daily Svenska Dagbladet April 9th (see the Google Translate version here): “By excluding Katarina Frostenson, the Academy would have issued an extrajudicial punishment, which in its entirety would have exceeded a never-so-called legal judgement, a penalty without appeal or grace.” Member Per Wästberg writes in the same newspaper that he voted for exclusion, but unlike the three quitters he choose to stay in the Academy for the time being.

Permanent Secretary Danius, who has worked for exclusion and has the support of the renegades, was called to the Swedish king Carl XVI Gustaf Sunday April 8th, since he is High Protector of the academy. On the table is to change the statutes to allow academy members to resign entirely, so new members can be elected. (The Swedish constitutional monarch has only ceremonial powers, but maybe he has the power to approve of changing statutes of what is formally a Royal Academy. He is the successor to the founder, after all.) After the meeting with Sara Danius the King made a rare appearance for the press and said they “were working towards a solution and hope to do something that will be for the best, for all involved”. We’ll see. What will her supporters do if Frostenson is sacked?

The law firm’s report also concluded that the culture club Frostenson had interests in had paid wages under the table and broken tax and similar laws. They recommended to turn this over to the police. As for sexual harassment no Academy member had personally seen any, but they had heard rumours and stories about it and seen “unsuitable behaviour”.

There are certainly more exciting news to follow. Swedish newspapers are full of front page headlines, and media abroad also has extensive coverage – probably more than for the literary Nobel Prize itself! The Nobel Prize could be in danger when prominent members leave and the work-flow of the institution becomes poisoned and disrupted. Kjell Espmark was for instance the chairman of the Academy’s Nobel Committee.

As we all enjoy having our popcorn when we sit by the ringside, as the slugging goes on in the World of Fine Arts, it’s interesting to note how the price of corn has risen. Zoom in Dec 2017 to early April 2018, price is up from ca USD3.45 to USD3.90 per bushel: http://www.macrotrends.net/2532/corn-prices-historical-chart-data
Not that we can be certain it has with the turmoil in the Swedish Academy to do…but grab your popcorn as Nobel becomes ignoble.

The /p/o/p/c/o/r/n /d/i/s/p/e/n/s/e/r  — the Swedish Academy’s English home page – is at the link.

Note: An onging joke from Yours Truly is that the ficticious, fannish poet (a serious Vogon challenger) Comet-Johan Bensin jr every year believes he’ll be the next Nobel Prize laureate…maybe he stands a chance now!

A fitting Nobel Prize cartoon.

Jörgen Peterzén (1941-2018)

Jörgen Peterzén

By Ahrvid Engholm: Swedish book editor and fan Jörgen Peterzén (born 1941) passed away in early March. A friendly, humorous man I knew rather well. We bumped into each other at conventions, meetings of the Scandinavian SF Association (where he earlier was chairman) and publishing events. He also served in the jury for the short story competition Fantastiknovelltävlingen several times, which my SKRIVA E-mail list founded nearly two decades ago. In the 1960’s he published the fanzine Fregna and was also responsible for printing the leading sercon zine SF-Forum on his mimeograph, which he named Atla Press. Jörgen was Guest of Honour of Nasacon 7, 1986, and Upsala SF-Möte VII, 1998.

He joined fandom in the early 1960s when he became member of Sam J Lundwall’s Hyborian Legion club, also known as Legio de Hyborealis, which was Sam J’s old 1950’s club, Cosmos Club of Hägersten, in a revised version. There he became engaged in the famous Fannish War as Lord Jorge, leader of the hyborian state Atlan. (This “war” was a sort of satire or parody of mundane world politics “fought” through fanzines, correspondence, tape recordings and even 8 mm amateur films.)

Later he together with Sam J and Anders Palm founded the Stockholm Tolkien society Forodrim (where he was known under the alias Dallben), which took place in the Men’s Room during the SF*72 sf con, in the early 1970’s. It was Jörgen Peterzen who wrote Forodrim’s statutes, which became an interesting pastische of old, solemn language. (A little-known fact is that Forodrim was formally founded simply as the renamed Hyborian Legion, which in its turn was Sam J’s sf club from the 1950s! The Stockholm Tolkien Society was formally an SF club from the beginning – I suspect Gandalf and Bilbo are unaware of this!)

As a book editor, he began working for Askild & Kärnekull in the 1970s, which was later re-named Legenda and finally swallowed by the Natur & Kultur publishing house, where he remained until his retirement. They published a lot of sf and fantasy, including Stephen Donaldson, Isaac Asimov and Robert Jordan. Jörgen Peterzen also worked as a translator and wrote a book about magic (Magi, 1971).

It is extremely sad that another one of our Old Owls now flies away into higher spheres. The threads to the past break, one by one.

An Investigation into Bheer

By Ahrvid Enghom: What fuels science fiction and its fandom? Easy: bheer! (Yes, I spell it that way.)

Sweden has a complicated relationship to bheer. Strong bheer was actually banned until the rationing book (“motboken”) system on alcohol was scrapped in 1955, but you could buy weaker pilsner lager. When stronger bheer became legal people ordered “a strong bheer” in the pubs and even “a big strong one” (“en stor stark”).

Few Swedish pubs offer “a pint”. You order “en stor stark”. The problem is that there’s no definition of how “big” (“stor”) such a bheer is! The local paper Mitt i Södermalm has rushed to rescue, and put their top investigative reporters on the problem: how big is “a big strong one”?

In its latest issue, February 6, they have measured the liquid contents of “en stor stark” on 100 Stockholm pubs.

Should you come to a convention in Stockholm (the next one is Fantastika/Swecon June 16-18, https://fantastika2018.wordpress.com/in-english/ ) you may benefit from the following statistics:

  • The biggest big strong one was 57 cl (72 SEK) or a pint – yes, you can get those, and it was of course served on the English-style pub The Tudor Arms on Grev Street.

  • The smallest big strong one was 25 cl (40 SEK), and the place to avoid is Habibi on Skåne Street,

  • The most expensive one costed 89 SEK (around 10 Euros) for 40 cl and if you’ve just signed a golden book contract you can waste your money at Proviant on Sture Street.

  • The cheapest one costed just 25 SEK (40 cl) at Lion Bar on Långholms Street. Overjoyed fans are seen checking their maps – and the closest Metro station is Hornstull.

  • The AVERAGE big strong bheer (from the 100 tested) was 41.64 cl, and the average price was 61.64 SEK (slightly less than 6 Euros).

  • The paper also calculated the alcohol/SEK (alcohol per Swedish crown). 1 cl of alcohol costs 29.36 SEK (ca 3 Euros) on average.

  • The best alcohol/SEK is to be found at D-Pub Klosterkeller on Horns Street, which by offering 50 cl for just 30 SEK (ca 3 Euros) gives you 1 cl of alcohol for 12 SEK (ca 1.2 Euro). All of fandom cheers!

Everything from this important feat of investigative journalism when it at its best can be found here: https://alltomstockholm.se/restaurangbar/krog/krogar-mycket-glaset/. It’s in Swedish, but if you have a few strong ones, that will not be a problem.

Swedish Fantastic Short Story Competition

By Ahrvid Engholm: The Swedish Fantastiknovelltävlingen (means “The Fantastic Short Story Competion”), organized by the country’s oldest writers’ E-mail list SKRIVA (est 1997), reached a record 125 entries in its 17th incarnation. The jury, authors Karolina Bjällerstedt Mickos, Pia Lindestrand and Niklas Krog, decided that the following three shall split the prizes (consisting of ca €210 in money and free subscriptions to the writers’ magazine Skriva).

  • 1st prize: “Rickard erövraren” (“Rickard the Conqueror”) by Gustaf Grandinsson
  • 2nd prize: “Riten” (“The Ceremony”) by Eva Häggmark
  • 3rd prize: “Skyskraporna i Densai” (“The Skyscrapers of Densai”) by Joakim Broman

Honorable mentions went to stories by Tobias Alfredsson, A R Yngve, Liv Vistisen Rörby, Oscar Westerholm Ulf Lidsman, Joakim Szczypinski and Jenny Eriksson.

Some words from the jury citations about the winners.

“Rickard Erövraren”: A romantic comedy with an unhappy ending, told from two different perspectives. He is a ship computer which has obtained emotions and she is a somewhat unsensitive ship’s captain. A really well told and twisted version about Artificial Intelligence which would pass the Turing Test, and what would happen then? (Pia Lindestrand)

“Riten”: A primitive village on a distant planet, the bond between mother and son, and the exotic environment – it’s all delightful. The reader wanders together with the characters towards a fantastic goal: the see ther Saviour. When the end comes it erupts with a laughter and you feel exhausted when the story is finished. (Karolina Bjällerstedt Mickos)

“Skyskraporna på Densai”: Diary notes from a life as a slave labourer on an alien planet. An almost Intolerable description of hopelessness that eats into the reader. There is longing, also dreams. But nothing indicates that those will become a reality. A genuine dystopia. (Niklas Krog)

The competition is supported by the Novellmästarna (“Short Story Masters”) society, the publishers Wela and Zen Zat, and the magazine Skriva. Stories from this competition have previously been translated and published abroad. If you run a publication that may be interested, contact the competition administrator (me, ahrvid@hotmail.com) and something may be worked out.