Dan Simmons Criticized for Remarks About Thunberg

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

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

Here is a full screencap.

Here is a sampling of the reaction.

  • Jeff VanderMeer
  • Stina Leicht
https://twitter.com/StinaLeicht/status/1176952872761798657
  • Ilana C. Myer
https://twitter.com/IlanaCT/status/1176957922678640642
  • Adam-Troy Castro
  • Paul Tremblay
  • Robin Johnson (the game developer, not the Australian fan)
  • Sarah Pinborough
  • Richard Webb
  • April A. Taylor
https://twitter.com/aprilataylor/status/1176971725554294786
  • Paul Weimer
  • Ellen Datlow

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


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95 thoughts on “Dan Simmons Criticized for Remarks About Thunberg

  1. Honestly, the only book of his that I really loved was “The Terror.” The Hyperion books never grabbed me.

    But damn, those comments are not kosher. Think I’ll not seek out any of his more recent works.

  2. Yeah, much as I enjoyed some of his early work, I lost all interest in Simmons about the time he posted his “Eurabia” screed. Very little I’ve seen from him since has convinced me to change my mind.

  3. SIGH I met Simmons back in the early 1990s and found him to be friendly, affable and engaging. I also witnessed the most magnificent moment of grace under pressure when a “fan” treated him similarly to his behavior towards a 16 year old.

    Does Simmons have something of a point? Yes. Did he supremely go overboard? Most definitely. He could have made his point without being graceless and abusive. I can overlook graceless and obnoxious behavior from a 16 year old. An adult, I expect much better from. I love Simmons’s work and still consider Summer of Night one of the best novels of all time.

    But that was a classless and gratuitous remark.

    Just one more good reason to avoid Twitter.

  4. Echoing Laird Barron, I wish I could say I was even slightly surprised by this, but much as I love some of Simmons’ work, his crankitude has been obvious for a long time.

    @Robert Reynolds: I met Simmons back in the early 1990s and found him to be friendly, affable and engaging.
    Same here.

  5. I recently re-read the Hyperion Cantos by audiobook. Yep, Dan Simmons was a creatoe who could craft brilliant prose. I’m pretty sure I remember that Aenea was a bratty teenager. Maybe he has forgotten his creations. That was a graceless rant which was unworthy of him. Good to see he has taken it down. Apology would be good too, though sadly he seems to have moved past enlightenment to ignorant certainty. Needs to avoid twitter.

  6. I’ve kept the Hyperion books on my shelf, but I haven’t had the fortitude to revisit since ‘Eurabia’

    I find it baffling that someone who can delve so deep and compassionately into humanity in his books, is a grade-A bigoted and ignorant jackwagon as a human being.

  7. Having been a teenage girl, it shouldn’t surprise me how very angry some adults get about articulate, strong-willed, principled teenage girls with strong opinions. But I am a little surprised at how many of them are willing to look terrible in public.

  8. I just read the “Eurabia” piece of trash. Somehow I think Simmons’ books, which have been on my TBR for a long time, are never going to manage to bubble to the top before I die.

  9. Ooooofffph…..ooofff..

    Somedays you eat the bear and somedays the bear eats you and occasionally you are the bear.

    Still love your work though keep rockin it. Just lay off the children. They might just be able to do something.

  10. True story.
    I was once one of Dan Simmons’s French translators. I translated “Carrion Comfort”, “Phases of Gravity”, “Le Styx coule à l’envers” (“Prayer to Broken Stones”, with a different TOC), “The Crook Factory” and “The Terror”. I thought we were friends. When he came to France, he was a guest at my home. In 2000, for the World Horror Convention in Denver, I was a guest at his home. He asked me to contribute to his website.
    Then, gradually, I saw him for what he was. His website forum soon became a hotbed for racist, fascistic rants. I couldn’t in all conscience keep contributing to it. I told him so.
    His answer: since he couldn’t trust me anymore, he would write into his French publishing contracts a clause forbidding me to translate his books.
    This hurt me as a professional–thanks God the French publishers rallied on and told me, “You don’t work for him, you work for us”. (Dan Simmons’s current French publisher also publishes Margaret Atwood and Ken Follett; no complaint here.)
    So I moved on.
    And given the backlash Greta Thunberg gets from dumbells all over the world, I can’t say I’m surprised.

  11. For me, it was when I started reading Flashback and it was just an endless anti-Obama screed. I stopped reading it, and what with his various web idiocies, I no longer read him at all. What is it that makes old white male sci-fi writers go nuts? There just seems to be an endless supply of that sort of thing – Wright, Hogan, Silverberg, the various Pups.

  12. I was interested in Hyman’s comment, “What is it that makes old white male sci-fi writers go nuts? There just seems to be an endless supply of that sort of thing – Wright, Hogan, Silverberg, the various Pups.” I think a partial answer is that SF has always had a rather conservative, technocratic streak (not shared by all SF writers, of course). I recall an essay in Poul Anderson’s 1996 story/essay collection All One Universe in which he derided warnings of global warming as hysteria, etc. I admire much of his writing, but there are remarks on social and political themes scattered through his various essays, introductions, etc., which I find hard to take.

  13. Hyman Rosen: What is it that makes old white male sci-fi writers go nuts? There just seems to be an endless supply of that sort of thing

    I don’t think they do go nuts. I think that they become emboldened, due to age, fame, and/or resentment at being deprived of what they perceive to be their just rewards, to express the things that they’ve always thought but previously mostly kept to themselves (or limited that expression to sympathetic company).

  14. Well, I loved Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos and some of his other works, but I won’t be reading any more of his stuff for the same reason I won’t be watching anti-Semitic Mel Gibson’s movies or pedophile Kevin Spacey’s. You do not arrogantly attack children or adolescents, certainly not in this fashion. Besides, this world is dying, DYING unless we quickly do something radically different, and it may already be too late. What a __________________ (you fill in the word or words.)

  15. Huh. I’d been lucky enough not to read “Eurabia” before.

    Like JJ, I think I’ll go read other things on my TBR pile. And put Saladin Ahmed nearer the top. And so on.

  16. I still carried on reading SImmons after Flashback and still might but good grief what poorly thought out crap that post was. I’d posted a tweet earlier saying:
    “Just read one of the usual-rightwingers complain about Greta Thunberg speaking about climate change because ‘she is not a scientist’….
    100% certain you wouldn’t listen even if she was the most qualified climate scientist in the world. We all tried that already.”
    That Tweet was about a minor Sad Pup hanger-on but the same point applies to Simmons. Those attacking Thunberg for not knowing the science…refuse to listen to scientists and cherry-pick quasi-factlets. You can (and I have) argued science with the right till you are blue in face. Nor is the claim correct that Thunberg doesn’t know what she is talking about. The core facts aren’t hard to grasp if you choose to listen and use your head.

  17. @ Cam – quite. So Simmons resorts instead to an attack on her personality. Disgusting. (I too was a fan of Hyperion and its dwindling-in-quality sequels.)

  18. @Hyman, @JJ: It does feel like a pattern, does it?

    Far from everybody, obviously. But there’s a sense that a fair number of writers… calcify.

    Maybe it’s a particular peril of SF/F, where it’s easier for a new writer to be fresh and new — but being a bestselling genre author for long enough (which is a small bubble of its own, I suppose), and past one’s prime, can get people stuck in a groove, and leave them reaching more and more for basic (and poor) political allegory and If-This-Goes-On. (Do you feel like you see this a lot in non-SFF writers as well?)

    Or, it’s part of the general political polarization. Doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of middle ground anymore. And I think specifically on the right wing, there’s been kind of a process of evaporation.
    Say you’re a public figure, and started out somewhere moderately right-wing. And you didn’t move to the left “quickly” enough, by which I mean “as quickly as a whole bunch of your immediate environment.” Then you can find yourself surrounded, not by moderate right-wingers, but specifically by the more extreme or toxic ones. Even if at the beginning the differences are very small — these guys are only a little more moderate; these guys are only a smidge more toxic — you get cycle that perpetuates itself. All the individual fans have sorted themselves into “in” and “out” of the community that’s left; it’s only the author who never really has the choice of “leaving” for elsewhere. He’s got who he’s got — and by this point, he’s also fine with them, or he wouldn’t have gotten to this specific place.

    Or. Or. Or.
    Or maybe it’s just selection bias; “respected 70-year-old author writes non-controversial book/comments” probably won’t really get on our radar, let alone “respected 70-year-old author says nothing, goes about his business.”

  19. I recommend Norman Spinrad’s “The Iron Dream” for an insight into the inherent fascism of many old school science fiction writers. That book is a hiliarious satire on SF culture and the writers that inspire it. The story is a “what if” about failed Austrian artist Adolf Hitler who decides to move to America and becomes a science fiction writer.

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  21. @Standback

    Or, it’s part of the general political polarization. Doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of middle ground anymore. And I think specifically on the right wing, there’s been kind of a process of evaporation.

    There’s a graphic somewhere illustrating the political shifts in the U.S. over the last 20-30 years. Has the right moved to the right? Sure. Some. But the left has moved further left.

    Maybe the first step back to a common polity is demonstrating a consistent ability to call one’s own side to account before looking across the street?

    Separately, I’m not sure if there are supposed to be links to each of those people. I only see one for Laird Barron. Most of what I found via Twitter were single sentence variations on “I disagree”. Which reasonable people can do.

    If Mr. Simmons’ point is that the logical result of teaching kids that the path to policy success primarily involves emotional hectoring is kids bereft of nuance, persuasion, knowledge and charm, then he has a point. There certainly isn’t anything “hateful” in his statement; unless “hateful” has been redefined to mean “says something I don’t like”.

    In any case, curating a reading list based on an author’s politics will inevitably result in a lower quality reading list, IMHO.

    Regards,
    Dann
    People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. – Richard Grenier

  22. JAA :

    Or maybe a certain percentage of old people everywhere just get shitty. It’s not like we don’t see this in all sorts of people.

    I’ve been saying for years that getting old wears down the veneer of affability and thoughtfulness that are part of the social contract and what’s under that starts to come out. Some people remain lovely, others reveal their inner shittiness and rigidity.

  23. @Cheryl S.:

    I’ve been saying for years that getting old wears down the veneer of affability and thoughtfulness that are part of the social contract and what’s under that starts to come out. Some people remain lovely, others reveal their inner shittiness and rigidity.

    I think that’s true. I also think sometimes it’s actual improvement people made in themselves on which they backslide, as opposed to simply dropping the facade.

    My father, who warned me against George Wallace well enough to change my mind–something he found nearly impossible to do–started talking bad about Mexicans after he got into his eighties. It didn’t just shock me; it surprised me. They didn’t have cable until very late, and even then, they never had Fox on, so it wasn’t that.

    I don’t know if it was a facade dropping or him backsliding. I’d like to think the latter.

    But I just don’t know.

  24. @Cheryl S:

    Just my two cents, but growing old brings with it the breaking down of your body and a growing sense of your own mortality. This can be frightening, to put it mildly.

    You find yourself unable to do thing you did relatively easily not all that long ago. Some handle that with a certain grace, others become withdrawn and still others become angry and lash out at sometimes the slightest opportunity to express outrage.

    It started happening to me in my 20s (being a full-time gimp is hard on the body) and in several ways, my body resembled the body of someone in their 60s. The hardest part is watching the people I love go through the things I struggled with decades ago as we reach our 60s.

    I try to remain courteous, though some days it’s hard. On those days, I simply keep my mouth shut and try to avoid commenting online. I wait until I’m alone and scream at the walls. They take it remarkably well. No complaints from the stucco thus far.

  25. People drifting rightward as they age is nowhere near new or genre-specific; cf Clemenceau’s remark ~”He who is not liberal when he is young has no heart. He who is not conservative when he is old has no brains.” C himself was an old reactionary at the time, but AFAICT his remark didn’t surprise anyone. Ogden Nash put it more humorously, that the old suffer from “hardening of the oughteries”. OTOH, it’s not clear to me how many genre right-mouths were ever liberal — I’ve read Anderson claiming that his early work shows he was a liberal then, but I don’t see it; ISTM it’s more that the self-censors weaken (as noted above), and maybe the overall viewpoint becomes more simplistic.

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

  27. Further evidence that the brain eater has been at him.
    Pity.
    I enjoyed Hyperion, Fall of Hyperion and Ilium. But by Ilium the cracks were showing and unpleasant. It’s sad when an author you enjoyed goes down this path.

  28. A doctor friend called this phenomenon (old people getting more angry, more simplistic) “pre-frontal lobe disinhibition” — meaning that your pre-frontal lobe, which keeps you from saying and doing things you know you shouldn’t say or do, starts weakening. Ever since she said that I’ve been seeing it more and more, and not just in politics.

  29. I realize this isn’t going to be a popular stance here, but I fully agree with almost everything in that post. A kid ranting and raving about how adults suck is nothing new; giving them a global stage on which to do so is.

    I’m really starting to get worried. All norms, sanity itself, seem to be weakening or breaking down. A vulgar con man is the president, the Chinese are perfecting a system of social control that Big Brother could only have dreamed of, a surly, spoiled child is the spokesperson for a highly complex issue of global importance. How dare you, indeed.

  30. Greta Thunberg isn’t a surly, spoiled child. The people who are calling her that appear to be, though.

  31. @Miles Carter: If adults were doing their job, Greta Thunberg wouldn’t be necessary.

    I have qualms about kids being thrust into a position like this myself, whether that thrust is from self or from others or some combination of the two. When see it happening, I apply the Birmingham 1963 test: Is this important enough to put a child in danger and risk that child’s life? It’s a pretty high bar; I think it’s been met here.

  32. I’m not keen on this old-people spin on the discussion. The science fiction writers I initially saw spouting the same opinion as Simmons’s are in their 40s. True, they wish they were living in the 1950s but that’s a whole other matter.

  33. Thanks, @Camestros, I was wondering about whether to say something about that. Some of the most hateful reactionaries I know – that is, they’re part of my professional and social scene – are in their 30s or early 40s.

  34. “A kid ranting and raving about how adults suck is nothing new; giving them a global stage on which to do so is.”

    My son is about Greta Thunberg’s age and already in his high school he’s being asked to think about what career path he wants to take. Teenagers have to make important decisions about their life beginning around 16. So we think it’s fine for teens to have to deal with the expectations of job choices, university, where they’ll live and their whole future, but we expect them to think about all that quietly? We expect them to meekly agree that everything is fine? We want them to think creatively — my son is being told that we are in a new age, an information age where everything is different — but not think creatively about issues that affect them? We want them to be informed, but never do anything with that information?

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

    Great Thunberg was not the only young person speaking at the UN. She was one of many there for the UN Youth Climate Summit who went there because they believe they have something to say — people like Helena Gualinga or Bertine Lakjohn — and I’m glad they are doing this. My generation was accused of being a bunch of slackers, but it seems when teens don’t slack they still get crap.

    Well, I hope they keep fighting for what they believe.

  35. Certainly not what I would have expected.

    This 73-year-old is just as liberal as I used to be—and I am terrified that all the really horrible worst-case-dystopian stories about climate change are not only true, but not as bad as reality looks like it will be.

    I’ve decided I’m never flying again, for starters. And probably never reading anything by Simmons, either—voting with my wallet.

  36. @PJ Evans. I posted a considered, thoughtful response to the topic at hand. Please don’t respond to such with a mere insult. You don’t know me – I am neither surly, nor spoiled, nor a child. Disagree with my assessment of GT as you will, but surely you can do so without resorting to personal attacks.

  37. @Camestros. Strongly agree. I don’t like the implication that DS is old and therefore suffering from some kind of brain deterioration that is the basis of his statement.

  38. @Miles
    I expect people to treat Greta Thumberg with the respect she’s earned.
    I don’t want to know you, if you consider your personal opinion to be taken as The Only Valid Judgement.

  39. @PJ I did treat her with the respect she’s “earned”.

    Mine is not the only valid opinion or judgment. I would just appreciate not being personally insulted for expressing it. Please note that I didn’t send my opinion to GT, I simply posted it to a public discussion of her appearance. By so appearing she opened herself up to criticism.

    You feel differently. Let’s leave it there.

  40. Miles Carter:

    “. I posted a considered, thoughtful response to the topic at hand.”

    No, you did not. You posted support to anti-science ravings and insults. That is neither considered nor thoughtful. And if you don’t like people to use insulting language towards yourself, then why post support of using it towards others?

  41. I posted a considered, thoughtful response to the topic at hand.

    This?

    A kid ranting and raving about how adults suck is nothing new; giving them a global stage on which to do so is.

    If the adults in fact suck, why is it dreadful to allow the kid a platform to say so? You do not examine the possibility that she might have a point, not even to refute it. How is simply repeating the old nineteenth century dogma “Children should be seen and not heard” and getting disproprotionately upset because people are daring to ignore it…

    I’m really starting to get worried. All norms, sanity itself, seem to be weakening or breaking down.

    …like a Victorian Mrs. Grundy clutching her smelling salts particularly ‘thoughtful and considered’? Saying that her opinion is a priori invalid due to the number written by her name is not an argument.

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