Jeannette Ng, John W. Campbell, and What Should Be Said By Whom and When
Posted on August 20, 2019 Posted by John Scalzi 204 Comments
In the aftermath of the Hugo Award ceremony this year, there’s been quite the harumph harumph about the fact that this year’s winner, Jeannette Ng, started her acceptance speech by offering up the opinion that John W. Campbell, the foundational science fiction editor for whom the award is named, was a fascist (you can read the actual words of her prepared speech here). Immediately there was fallout from various quarters, on the order that Ng was a) insufficiently grateful, b) should not have put politics into her speech, c) should have declined the award rather than denigrate Campbell, d) should have done pretty much anything other than what she did up there on the stage.
Unlike most of the people who are now grousing about this, I am an actual winner of the Campbell Award, so I think I am uniquely positioned to have some thoughts about this.
And what I think is: Hey, you know what? Campbell, aside from everything else he might have been, was a racist and a sexist and as time went on pretty deeply way the hell out there, and from his lofty perch he was able to shape the genre into what he thought it should be, in a way that still influences how people write science fiction — for fuck’s sake, I write science fiction in an essentially Campbellian manner, and it would be foolish for me to suggest otherwise.
Do those bigoted aspects about about Campbell make him an actual fascist? Well, I wouldn’t have characterized him as such, but then never thought to think of it in those terms, so there’s that. Now that I have been made to think of it, I know that the people and organizations I would have unhesitatingly called fascist actively incorporated the mechanisms of American racism into their worldview. It’s not exactly a secret that the actual Nazis looked to the United States’ “Jim Crow” laws for inspiration and justification for their own racism and, ultimately, genocide. American racism — the racism that Campbell both actively and passively forged into the structure of the science fiction genre — is at the very least an ur-text to fascism, and of course racism is so deeply ingrained into fascism today, and vice versa, that you couldn’t separate the one from the other without killing both, which, incidentally, is a very good idea.
So when Jeannette Ng stands up and calls Campbell a fascist, what I can say is: It’s not the argument I would have made (in no small part because, again, I literally never thought to make it), but it is an argument to be made. Nor is it a facile, unserious or utterly indefensible argument, for the reasons I note above, and for other reasons as well –seriously, go have a deep dive into some of the things Campbell believed and espoused; the Venn diagram for “Things Campbell Said” and “Things Fascists Say” is, uhhhhh, overlappy. One doesn’t have to agree (or know if one agrees) with Ng’s fundamental proposition to accept that she has a perfect right to say it, and by saying it, to force us to haul out Campbell’s track record and words to examine and interrogate.
Moreover, she has a perfect right to say it as she is up on the stage laying claim to the award that has Campbell’s name on it. Was what she said comfortable, and happy, and appropriately cheerful? No, it wasn’t, at least not the first bit of it. Certainly when I won I wouldn’t have (and didn’t) say anything of the sort, even though by that time I was well aware of who Campbell was a person, and his various imperfections. But, and quite obviously, I’m not Ng; the world of science fiction and fantasy was literally designed — by Campbell and many others! — to take me, a chummy white dude writing in the Campbellian/Heinleinian mode, to its bosom. The ease with which I slid into its good graces is pretty much a matter of record, and you can believe I was happy to slide right on in there.
The world of science fiction and fantasy wasn’t so felicitously designed for Ng and many others who are not, shall we say, chummy white dudes writing in a way Campbell would approve. She and they have spent years working to make the genre a place where they could work and build and thrive. She and they know better than I the work they had to do, where they found resistance, where they found help and from whom, and what they had to rebel against — and still have to. And she has a right to say all of those things, while claiming an award named for a person who she could argue would have been resistant to her presence in the field. Her relationship to him is not the relationship I have to him, in no small part because he would not have been to her what he would have been to me.
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. Moreover, and especially in the last few years, the landscape of science fiction and fantasy has changed, and Campbell and the writers and forms he championed simply don’t loom as large as they did. Nor should they — if they did, the genre would be stultifying, and, yes, sterile. Campbell and his cohort will never go away, and they still rise over the plain. But they’re the Appalachians, familiar and worn, known and explored. Meanwhile, the Rockies are bursting out of the ground and rising. Tectonically speaking, that’s where the action is. And that’s where so many of the new writers — Jeannette Ng and the other writers on the Campbell Award ballot this year, for starters — are to be found. Which is as it should be.
I’m proud of having won the Campbell Award. It was given to me by fans and it was in many ways my welcome into the fannish community, and the community of science fiction and fantasy at large. My love and honor for the award doesn’t change who John W. Campbell was, and doesn’t change because of who John W. Campbell was. I accept that the namesake of the award was foundational, and imperfect, and wrong in a number of his views. I accept that other people have the right to, and will, criticize who he was, even as they claim an award named for him, and, through the work which earned them that award, make a definitive mark in the genre. Jeannette Ng has done the work, and made her mark, and in her speech, gave me a lot to think about that I hadn’t thought about before. She gave us all lot to think about. I hope we will.
In the meantime, as a former Campbell Award winner, I congratulate Jeannette Ng on her win, and support her right to have said what she said, where she said it. I’m glad to share the field with her, and I look forward to her being in it, and shaping it, in the years to come.
1. Obviously I expect this to be a contentious topic, so the Mallet is in its warming chamber. Please behave.
2. Very specifically, if I get a whiff of anyone being less than very respectful of Jeannette Ng’s person here, your comment will be whacked.
3. Inasmuch as one of the topics is whether Campbell is a fascist (and I content he was indeed racist, sexist, etc), and also he’s dead, we can discuss him a little more loosely, but let’s try to keep things focused, please.
4. For the record, I’m fine with keeping Campbell’s name on the award, but I also wouldn’t cry if it was changed. If it changed, I probably wouldn’t put anyone’s name on it at all.
5. “Yeah, but, Scalzi, is Campbell a fascist or not?” I gave my answer in the piece: I haven’t thought about it that way before this weekend (because I didn’t have to! Hey, did you know I’m a comfortably off white dude?), so now I have to think about it.
I will say that someone who I very much respect, who I will not name here simply because it was on their private Facebook page, said bluntly that racism is fascism, so by commutative property that doesn’t look great for Campbell. I again never thought of it in that terms. But then again — again — Jim Crow laws certainly do function like fascism, and the more recent attempts by at least one political party here in the US to restrict and limit voting laws is rooted in racism and functions like fascism. So at the very least on that, they’re not wrong. I’ve been given a lot to think about, folks.
[JS here — when I know I need to make a prefatory comment at the top of a comment queue, I post a comment with “.” and then go back to edit in a longer comment. I assume this “?” was posted as a response to that. Now you know why that period was there, and is not any longer]
As the 1997 winner of the Campbell Award, I sign onto this statement.
I bristled a little at the word “fascist” at first, as I think of that word mostly in terms of political power, BUT, yeah, I can see where Ng is coming from in her usage. And, yeah, Campbell died before I was born, so I’ve got no particular affection for him. The past of our genre is INCREDIBLY problematic, and people should talk about it as bluntly as they want.
I want to see an illustration of the Mallet in its Warming Chamber.
As a recipient of an award named after someone who would have fought her getting the award, I can see where she is coming from. Dead white men have a stranglehold on our culture and our minds
I didn’t tune into her speech until halfway through, so I missed the bit about Campbell and only caught the comments on Tokyo. But yes, of course she has the right to say what she said, and I respect her use of that platform, however briefly it was hers, to say it.
[JS here — … I assume this “?” was posted as a response to that. Now you know why that period was there, and is not any longer]
I was going to go with “!” but then I hit Refresh and was enlightened.
While I initially thought Ms. Ng’s opening comment was a little too out there, as someone who is disappointed that a certain history book detailing how sketchy John Campbell could be in real life didn’t do better in the Hugo voting she certainly has a point. My thought is that, perhaps, the award should be renamed to honor Fred Pohl.
I think it’d be fine to leave names off entirely.
Well said. I think it is time to have some of these conversations. They are difficult, hard to have, but necessary. If we never look to the past, then we make those mistakes in the future. I am not saying rename the award RIGHT THIS MINUTE. But is it time to have that conversation? Yes. We should start to have that talk. We have the time to look at this, discuss, and make the right decision. We strive to be better as a society, yes?
Campbell winner here. I co-sign Ng.
My hot take on this (and I think I need to think more about this): I respectfully disagree with Ms. Ng. Racism is an essential component of Fascism, but Fascism *also* stands for support for a particular kind of autocratic government, generally run by a dictator. Campbell’s racism is ugly and awful all by itself, but I don’t know that he ever advocated turning the US into an authoritarian regime (he might well have, but if he did, I haven’t heard about it). I think all fascists are necessarily racists, but I don’t know that the converse is true. And I don’t think it’s useful to equate racism and fascism–both are execrable, but fascism denotes, in addition to racism, a tendency toward autocracy that makes it even more dangerous. That said, I certainly see where she is coming from.
Science fiction is ostensibly the literature of looking forward and outward, but as a community, we do a lot of looking back and looking in a mirror. I like to think we have a nuanced view that can appreciate the achievements of an editor like Campbell without whitewashing his deep flaws.
(Alec Nevala-Lee’s excellent book “Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction” was sure an eye-opener.)
Still, I wouldn’t mind renaming that award.
First and foremost, congratulations to Ms. Ng.
Second: Racism is part of fascism, but there are racists who aren’t fascists. Many of my older relatives, for example.
I don’t know enough about Campbell as a person to speak to whether he embraced some or all of the other hallmarks of fascism (nationalistic chauvinism, contempt for individual rights, the scapegoating of some “other” ethnic group as the root of all problems, fetishization of the military, disdain for intellectuals and the arts, etc). Seems to me that, as writers and readers, we believe that words mean things, that words have power, and thus we should choose them carefully lest they lose that power.
When everything we disagree with is fascism (or socialism, or Marxism), then nothing is.
People throw the word fascist around too easily when fascism involves far more than racism. That being said, I can understand her response though I don’t know if I would have gone that route.
It’s a thorny issue when dealing with giants in a field who held controversial views. On one hand, you need to acknowledge their critical accomplishments, but you can’t sweep the ugliness under the rug. As far as the award, Campbell was foundational. Do you focus strictly on the writing accomplishments? Or change the name because otherwise it will always be a sore spot that causes tension? However, keeping the name will always serve to remind us of socially where we were at and contrast with the here and now.
^^ @JD_Rhoades expressed my thoughts much better than I did.
If you’d been born with handicaps I bet you’d have thought about this matter a lot sooner, no matter how white or comfortable you were! It may be my own confirmation bias, but there sure seem to be a lot of fascist-adjacent eugenics in the “Campbellian/Heinleinian mode” canon.
My two cents:
I wouldn’t have said what Ng said, I don’t know if calling Campbell a fascist is accurate or no and I don’t care. Ng is entitled to say this and others are just as entitled to object or applaud her remarks as they choose, I have far more pressing concerns than the possibility that someone almost 50 years in the grave was called out.
Campbell, for good or ill, was perhaps the single individual most responsible for the field’s very existence as a genre, with all the good and bad that entailed. He shaped SF. Now, Ng and the other writers who were nominated will add new curves and angles. I’d rather watch what they do than look back at dead people’s doings.
It was a strong field and does credit to Ng as the winner. The Campbell was the toughest category for me, because I could have listed any of the nominees as first choice. I’m pleased that so many excellent choices were placed before the voters. My congratulations to Ng and everyone else in the category.
I’m certainly aware I am (as I once put it) operating on the Lowest Difficulty Setting in life, so there is a lot I don’t have to think about, and when I do think about it, it’s often not from personal experience.
There is some arguments to be made about the inapplicability of the “faciscm” term to Campbell. But then….I think he would fall into the law and order crowd, and would not have had problems with repressing protests on civil rights issue. And I would consider that to be along the way to full blown facism….
As someone from the country that gave the world the nominal fascist party (an accomplishment we could have really done without), I don’t know if racism is _equivalent_ to fascism, but xenophobia is certainly one of its major tools: whether it’s skin color, religion, gender, sexuality, political leaning, coming from a different country, or even just a different region from the same country, instilling hate and distrust for the other is one of the quickest ways for the fascist forces to gain power and consent among the population.
Is that enough to say that someone who thinks more or less like a fascist is de facto a fascist? I don’t know. I personally think that fascism includes an intent to turn those beliefs into policies, but when you’re the recipient of hate, that must look like a very subtle distinction.
(As for Campbell himself, I barely know *of* him, and I definitely don’t know him either as a person or an author, so I’ll leave that argument to others)
A few clarifications might be helpful. As they continuously state at every Hugo ceremony, while it is administered by the sitting Worldcon, the John W. Campbell award is not a Hugo. It is the property, intellectually and otherwise, of Dell Magazines, so they would have to agree to any name change.
While Shrike58’s suggestion of Fred Pohl is a fine suggestion since he did champion new writers in the pages of If and Galaxy, I cannot see it happening inasmuch those magazines were direct competitors to the magazines published by Dell or its predecessor publishers. I’ve seen others suggest Gardner Dozois, who is probably also worthy and might be more likely since he worked for Dell. I tend to agree with John that it might be better to not put anyones name on it and instead use some variation of an award for best new writer.
It’s worth remembering that Campbell commissioned, from Heinlein, the disgraceful novel “Sixth Column”, of which Wikipedia says:
” In the 1941 novel Sixth Column (also known as The Day After Tomorrow), a white resistance movement in the United States defends itself against an invasion by an Asian fascist state (the “Pan-Asians”) using a “super-science” technology that allows ray weapons to be tuned to specific races. The book is sprinkled with racist slurs against Asian people, and black and Hispanic people are not mentioned at all. The idea for the story was pushed on Heinlein by editor John W. Campbell, and Heinlein wrote later that he had “had to re-slant it to remove racist aspects of the original story line” and that he did not “consider it to be an artistic success.””
Consider that novel, those of you who, like me, have read it, and wonder what “racist aspects” were too bad to be omitted. Note especially that the problem is solved by a MacGuffin that kills all people of Asian descent, including the token Asian good guy.
Jeanette Ng is one of the people Campbell’s fantasy world would have murdered.
I agree with Kevin. Racism and Fascism definitely have a Venn Diagram overlap but are separate things. Fascism is a terrible thing and I fear it desensitizes it to many people by over labeling things as Fascism incorrectly. I’m fine with not having any proper name on the award and just calling what it is – The Hugo Award for Best New Writer.
Campbell was, undoubtedly, a hater of women and people of color (though he didn’t seem to mind Jews as much). And, especially in later years, a kook.
I’d be for changing the name, but I don’t get a say: the award belongs to Dell Magazines, and the Worldcon merely administers it for them. (I don’t think Dell gives WSFS financial compensation.) I agree that the safest choice is to eschew a person’s name, perhaps naming it after a magazine. For those who wish to petition Dell, it’s owned by Penny Press.
Also note that Dell can change the name in a day; WSFS (the Worldcon rules body) would take at least two years, if they had the right to do so (they don’t).
Scalzi’s point still stands, though – whether or not you agree with the characterization of Campbell as a fascist, it is certainly not a characterization that is completely out of left field. Charles Lindbergh is someone we routinely accept as a fascist even though he wielded no political power, for example. So even if you disagree with Ng, it’s not a ridiculous argument, and it doesn’t devalue what a fascist is. That’s an easy way to get people to stop using the term when we need to use the term more than ever.
And even so, the substance of her speech is immaterial – she won the award, she gets the mic, she has the right to say whatever she wants, and, some would argue, the obligation to say important things that make us think. If people are worried about speeches and whether they are sufficiently grateful or proper or safe, then maybe don’t put a dude’s name on the award and expect everyone to have the same reverent opinion of him.
If I were to someday have an award named after me in my field (which would be ridiculous, but ok), I can think of nothing cooler than someone winning that award, decades after I am gone, and using the platform to take my field to places I never would have imagined and might have disagreed with. That would be freaking awesome.
@Kevin Grierson: LOL. I was actually thinking you’d said it better than I had.
“Jeanette Ng is one of the people Campbell’s fantasy world would have murdered.”
My God, that’s horrible. Thank you for telling us about this. As a white dude, it’s easy for me to see this as academic, but for Ng it is probably very personal. Of course she would say what she said, AND talk about Hong Kong, where millions of people in that same category (people Campbell’s world would have murdered) are fighting for their right to exist and to choose their fate. Of course.
My father is a staunch libertarian. Nothing I say can convince him otherwise. He froths at the mouth when it comes to socialism, any sort of state assistance, anything at all. He is very difficult to talk to. But all this is because in our home country of Argentina, the Peronist socialist government literally killed his father when he was 8 years old. So when my dad talks about statism and its evils, he is speaking literally about THE PEOPLE WHO KILLED HIS FATHER. I might disagree with his conclusion, but I completely understand and empathize with how he got there.
I imagine it’s very similar to Ng. And in the choice between her and someone who literally wanted to write a book killing all Asians everywhere, I choose her. By a MILE.
Probably no name is the way to go moving forward, though I was sincere when I suggested Pohl, if only as the man who championed writers such as Delany & Russ. The commercial property angle regarding Dell slipped my mind.
I teach history at a university and often have discussions with colleagues who teach literature about how we deal with this issue: how do you get students to think about people, influential ones in history and literature, who by our standards (and to be fair, many of the standards of their own day) were bigots. Best way some of us have found is to confront it and treat the students like adults so they can discuss the issue.
One minor quibble with her speech: Wasn’t Campbell editor of Astounding? Her text says Amazing Stories.
I get the two mixed up all the time myself.
My long and extremely erudite reply was eaten by gremlins… blaming nobody other than the Iluminati. Or possible the powers we don’t know about from OUT THERE. There’s a twitter trail if you’re interested unless ** they** got to it first.
Short version: An award should honour the recipient, and not some long dead problematic person. (Being invested in a personage is no excuse for ignoring evidence; nor is claiming they ‘were of their time’ when lots of people ‘of their time’ didn’t share their obnoxious views.)
And as everybody becomes problematic after death (myself included, I expect, although in my case nobody will care) let’s name the award “The World SF Community for the Best New Writer”.
Except.. oh buggery (substitute the minor expletive of your choice if you’re British — for however long British is an recognised signifier).
Whaddya mean, World?
Whaddya mean, SF?
Whaddya mean, Community?
Whaddya mean, New?
It’s a better argument, I’d argue.
It’s true that Dell “owns” the award and its name. It is also true that WSFS could decide it will not administer or feature an award named for JWC, and also could create its own award instead.
lisahertel: An interesting commentary on Campbell’s view of the Jewish people came from the late Phillip Klass, aka author William Tenn, on the text supplement to the 1971 DVD “John W. Campbell’s Golden Age of Science Fiction,” available from The University of Kansas. Thanks to Gary Farber, from whom this was stolen.
KLASS: “It was going to be THE big meeting between the great man – the great editor – and me. And it was a very important thing for me. And we went down to lunch, Campbell and I – and I was absolutely exhilarated. We went to a restaurant. And I was wearing in my lapel the – a sort of peculiarlittle eagle pin, with an eagle on it that – the device that the army gave out to those discharged veterans. We called it the “ruptured duck.” And as we were sitting down in the restaurant, Campbell pointed to it and asked me where I had served. And I told him I’d been in the army. I told him the places I’d been – England, France, Germany, Belgium. And he asked me if I’d seen a concentration camp, which – there were – the newspapers were then full of the concentration camps being discovered, and all the horrors of the concentration camps. And I told him that I had visited one a few days, about a week after its liberation. And he asked me to tell him – tell him, tell him about it. What had I seen, what was it like?
So I started to talk about it. And I described the rows of bodies. I described the gas ovens. The crematoria that were now gone cold because they were not in use. But the bodies piled everywhere. Bodies upon bodies upon bodies. Mostly Jews. I don’t remember what I said, but I d remember that I went on and on about it. It was very much in my mind.
And Campbell was very much impressed and was obviously looking for something to say to me that would show he understood. And as we sat down finally, just before we ordered, he put his hand out on mine across the table and said, “Phil, I want you to know something I’ve always believed.”
And I said, “What’s that?” And he said, “I’ve always believed the Jews are homo superior.” And I told him I wish he hadn’t said that. And he said, “Why?” And I said, “Because it’s racism. And at the moment I don’t want to hear any – I can’t live with any kind of racist formulation.” And he said, “You didn’t understand me: I said ‘superior’ – ‘homo superior’.” And I tried to tell him that whether you take racism by the top or the bottom, it’s still racism. And he didn’t understand. I told him that he ma e me smell the gas ovens again, he made me see the bodies again. And it was a very unpleasant lunch. He was baffled by me. And I was deeply angry over this business of separating human beings into compartments and saying one was superior or inferior to another, because as far as I was concerned it was the same thing.
Years later he used to tell this story to people who came to the office, and he would say, “The man didn’t hear the prefix. I said ‘superior’ – ‘superior’. He didn’t hear the prefix.” And Campbell could never understand that it wasn’t a matter of the prefix – it was a matter of racism.”
From: 1971, James Gunn’s DVD “John W. Campbell’s Golden Age of Science Fiction”
I wouldn’t have said what Ng said, for one very simple reason: I am nowhere near as fearless as they.
It takes bravery beyond that which I own to stand up on that international stage and say something like that, in the way that she said it.
We are fortunate to live in an era where brilliant writers like Jeanette Ng exist, and who challenge the status quo because, as Dr Horrible said, the status is not quo.
Frankly, I am in awe of Ng and her contemporaries.
As for the name of the award, I agree it should be changed and I agree it should not be named after a person. Maybe the simplest route would be for it to be renamed something like “The Dell Magazines’ Award for Best Newcomer” in recognition of their decades of sponsorship.
The inherent problem with “by the standards of their own day” is that it assumes that only the standards of the oppressors count. Black people never had any doubt that they were intellectually and ethically complete humans. Jews never had any doubt that anti-Semites were scum.
“I think he would fall into the law and order crowd, and would not have had problems with repressing protests on civil rights issue.”
He was very much in favour of crushing protests on civil rights issues. Also on the need to properly subjugate lesser people, like blacks, Vietnamese allies, and people from Appalachia.
“insufficiently grateful”: Sure, she just won the JW Campbell award, but why should she be grateful to now be an award-winning writer in a field in which he may have been foundational, but which he certainly made harder for Ms. Ng to break into?
“should not have put politics into her speech”: there’s no better place for politics than a well attended awards reception!
“should have declined the award rather than denigrate Campbell”: this is the one that really burns me. Sure, people do that, and for about 10 seconds she’d have got all the same reactions. And then they’d have forgotten all about her. More to the point, she’d never be able to say “I was a Campbell award winner”—which is a very big thing! By making the point on the stage, right or wrong, this is going to be talked about for a long time.
“should have done pretty much anything other than what she did up there on the stage”: Nope.
I started reading Analog in the fall of 1964 when I went off to college and discovered it in the campus bookstore. I’ve continued reading it to this day. I believe that while all fascists are racists, not all racists are fascists. JWC was definitely a racist, but I don’t believe he was a fascist. I always enjoyed his editorials and employed some of his expository techniques when I became a weekly newspaper editor, responsible for writing two or three edits a week. But while I enjoyed reading Campbell’s iconoclastic editorials, I didn’t agree with many of them. And, in fact, as time went on, he seemed to be galloping out into left field faster and faster. In that, he reminded me of Kenneth Roberts, who also got mixed up in paranormal issues. But Campbell got me hooked on SF and set the hook well because I’m reading and enjoying it to this day.
Seems to be me that when the debate is whether he’s just racist or whether that means he’s also fascist, the answer to that matters a heck of a lot less than the fact that we probably should no longer “honor” people with an award bearing his name either way.
James, I share your boggle at the idea that the Appalachians apparently got off Scots-free.
I first saw Jeannette Ng on an Eastercon panel a couple of years ago. I forget the topic, but she proceeded to comprehensively out-think, out-talk and out-argue Charlie Stross, which had the immediate result of me buying everything she had in print before the end of the con – a decision that was immediately proven right the mometi read the books.
I’ve been privileged to get to know her a little and she’s a kind and lovely person. But she’s also, rightly, furiously angry at the world and the way it insists on finding new ways to treat her as inferior. She has the ability to express and channel that rage into words, both written and spoken.
I would think very hard before disagreeing with her on any question she had given serious thought to, and I certainly shan’t on this one, where she is, simply, right.
I barely know fascism, although Americans are getting a less historic, more topical lesson in what stacks up to fascism.
But I wouldn’t dream of questioning the word use of a woman of color, from a country that is fighting an oppressive regime take over of her country.
She knows something I don’t.
Folks could try that one as a coping mechanism when they hear something they auto-disagree with.
Perhaps the speaker knows something I don’t. I’m going to listen.
I think when people complain about “political correctness”, they are mostly complaining of being shown some shitty thing they or their idols have done that they have, until that point, not had to think about or be concerned with.
And it is mind boggling to me that people can have attachment to their idealized and sanitized and compartmentalized version of an idol that lived centuries and even millenia ago.
The South fought for slavery, but you cant say that without someone who has tied their identity to the South piping up ahout states rights nonsense, and complaining about your “political correctness” for pointing it out.
Heinlein said an armed society is a polite society, which is complete garbage. A character in Stranger says 9 times out of 10, a rape is at least partially a womans fault, and that sentiment is never shown to the the garbage it is. And a character forwarded homophobic ideas. And Starhip Troopers pounded the propaganda that people who serve in the military are inherently better than anyone else, and would produce the best government ever, and that was offered without the slightest hint of irony.
But call the man fascist, and like Campbell, people who liked his stories and didnt think about the ramifications or actually LIKE the ramifications, start complaining. The puppies like these kinds of stories and this kind of writing for a reason.
If the Campbell award is about the quality of writing, divorced from any personal traits of the author, then criticizing campbell’s bad traits is in bounds. And people grousing about it are mostly grousing ahout having to think about something they conveniently never had to think about.
Centuries ago Comlumbus committed genocide, enslaved an entire race, may have wiped out an entire population of people in one area, and people today STILL bristle at the idea of changing “Columbus Day” to something else. Because they enjoy the sanitized version of history where the person they most identify with most was good and just and brave and never did nothing wrong never.
Tldr: “political correctness”: People speaking truth to people who enjoy the lie.
Lindbergh was the leader of America First, and so hardly someone who “wielded no political power.”
I admit 1) being old enough to remember (and have read) Campbell’s Analog (and have a few issues of his Astounding) and 2) being fully able to understand why the word “fascist” was used, even if not being entirely comfortable with it. (Data point: Campbell published several women; Katherine MacLean [still living] is the most obvious from the later years, not to mention Anne McCaffrey’s first Pern stories, so I hesitate to call him sexist more than I hesitate to think of him as fascist, though I freely admit this is more a “some of his best writers are” defense than anything full-throated.)
I would be more comfortable with Gardner’s name being on the award–it’s more reflexive of the current genre publications, certainly–or even it being renamed to the Dell Magazines Award for Best New Writer. (I suggest it needs a name on it because it is not officially a Hugo. YMMV, as our host’s does.)
Note also that the second-place person’s speech also went–would have gone–into the problematic nature of the name of the award. The argument Samuel Huntington has been making for decades has become mainstream within the genre not because it is popular, but because it remains true (and full credit to Alec Nevala-Lee for that).
This does not stop me loving Campbell the writer, or admiring the influence of Campbell the editor (some of which was because he paid the best, esp. 1937-1949). But literature and genre both evolve, and readers and writers evolve with them. Glad someone said that out loud.
AuntiLaura, may I steal your last two short paragraphs as the root of a Facebook essay?
I’ve written a long post about this here:
@klhoughton, it is routine for sexists, racists, homophobes, anti-Semites, … to maintain a small roster of “good” members of bad classes. Being supportive of and kind to a few women authors doesn’t outweigh a person’s treatment of other women.
If you’re a political philosopher, a historian, a political scientist, … “fascist” is a term of art with a well-agreed-on meaning. I haven’t done the reading, so I can’t speak on the term of art.
By William Tenn’s and James’s reporting, Campbell was
(A) An authoritarian
(B) A despiser of democracy because the helots couldn’t be trusted
(C) A believer in a “master race”.
For the vernacular meaning of “fascist”, that seems unarguable to me.
Campbell’s blatantly sexist attack on Dr. Frances Kelsey for not approving thalidomide(!!) is next level quackery. His argument, beyond dismissing Kelsey’s reasoning and labeling it “woman’s intuition”, appears to be along the lines of, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, or in this case, you can’t bring a useful drug to market without some flipper babies along the way. The lack of empathy is shocking.
As someone who fell in love with SF in the late fifties I was saddened by that speech. I understand the point, particularly in the context of a named award, but I value the vision of this madman, particularly as it seems to me to be realized today, whether or not he personally would have understood that.
@KenMarable: excellent point.
Madame Hardy: The inherent problem with “by the standards of their own day” is that it assumes that only the standards of the oppressors count. Black people never had any doubt that they were intellectually and ethically complete humans. Jews never had any doubt that anti-Semites were scum.
I wrote something very similar to this on a Facebook thread this morning, although not as lucidly.
If the term “fascist” is getting thrown around a lot these days, it’s probably because people are suddenly aware of how many fascists/bigots/xenophobes/racists are visible and wielding power these days.
IIRC, there is another John Campbell award floating around, which I’ve personally found more confusing than mixing up Amazing and Astounding (probably because I used to collect both). “Best New Writer” seems more than sufficient to describe this award.
One thing I take away from this discussion is that I am woefully unaware of Jeanette Ng and I will begin rectifying that today.
–Jeff Frane (because WordPress has stuck me with an old login)
@GLC, how do you handle the knowledge that his vision included racial and ethnic bigotry? It’s baked into his essays. This is not an insult to you, or at least I don’t intend it to be. I am genuinely curious.
There is a bit on the backlash that reminds me of people in the south that say we shouldn’t take down the Confederate statutes because of history or heritage.
I am in the (extremely) small minority of those who have read everything that Campbell published, either as author or as editor . Binge-reading Astounding, including the contemporaneous comments by those who went on to great prominence in the field, impressed me with one thing above anything else: he was an awesome mentor to new writers. His rejection letters were legendary, often longer than the submissions — just for one.
But I was doing this in the 70s, and by then it was obvious that the list of “Campbell Authors” was Astoundingly homogeneous. No people of color, no women , and (in content) no deviation from “Campbell stories.” I was young enough to be expecting more diversity in authors and content (the biggest discrepancy was the author list, where gender was visible.) So, as John reminds us, Campbell promoted both the field and some great authors, but at the same time lessened it by his exclusions. And, to repeat, this was clear even to a very young, very white, very middle-class young man from a very conservative family reading Campbell’s own work from before he was born. It really is that obvious.
So let us take Campbell for who he was, all in all, strengths and weaknesses. He was never a plaster saint and treating him as such does his memory no service. Likewise, though, let us recognize him for the undeniable legacy he left us, including authors who understood him both ways and, when they were ready to write stories that weren’t “Campbell stories” had enough stature to be welcome publishing elsewhere.
And, yeah, not all “Campbell stores” are flawed by being such. I have quite a few in my collection, including the original serialization of Dune, plus countless others from the 50s which have not aged well but not for being trivial as stories themselves.
 Thanks to the Special Collections department at the University of Arizona library, which has a complete set of Astounding and its other titles from Campbell’s first to my own collection through his death. I spent far too much time there when I could have been better occupied, but can’t regret it.
 Give him this: the dinosaur turned slowly but did turn. Before he died he did publish female authors such as McCaffery with her given name on the cover.
Let me preface this by saying I don’t like what I have read about Campbell as a person or many of his ideas. I also don’t care if people change the name of the Award for whatever reason.
I have a problem with fogging the lines on what terms mean. So I would be fine with her calling Campbell all kinds of things which he clearly was. But I am not going to agree it’s OK to just use “fascist” as a generic insult for people who share some, but not all of the characteristics of fascists.
As Trump and others slouch towards fascist ideas and policies, I want it to be crystal clear when I analyze political trends that I am not just engaging in political theater, but applying rigorous standards to historical developments. (The old classic of calling the police “fascist pigs” has desensitized a lot of people to the idea that there could be actual fascists in the US.)
“Campbell published several women; Katherine MacLean [still living] is the most obvious from the later years, not to mention Anne McCaffrey’s first Pern stories, so I hesitate to call him sexist”
Campbell was the editor to whom Garret sold The Queen Bee, a story whose happy ending is a woman being lobotomized to better adapt her to serving as a brood mare. Also the editor who purchased a story whose zinger was “But you wanted to be able to think like a man, and you couldn’t. You think like a woman!”
And he didn’t publish all that many women: in his last year as editor he published 4 pieces by women to 67 by men.
I agree with the content of Ng’s speech. However, I find it interesting that many of the people who are quoting and endorsing her speech are quoting the “sanitized” version which got printed. If people are going to quote her, then they should be quoting what she actually said.
But I wasn’t there, and I’ve only seen the written version, which Ng herself says got revised in the excitement of the moment. I’m happy to type “a fucking fascist”, but it’s not unreasonable to quote the text Ng released.
I hear the argument for removing Campbell’s name from the award, and I’m on board with it, in theory. (Whether something like that would make it past SFWA’s political process is totally up in the air.)
That said, there’s a little bit of a thrill to the idea of winning an award named after someone who would spin in their grave upon hearing of your win. (My wife got her masters degree at Harvard extension school, and received a scholarship endowed by a notorious anti-semite. Would taking his money make him twist if were alive to see it? Yup!)
Neither SFWA nor WSFS (which administers the Hugo) have anything to do with it; it’s the purview of Dell Magazines, which sponsors the award.
“He was certainly a piece of shit, but technically not a fascist because he only matched 94% of the required characteristics” has got to be one of the most eye-rollingly pedantic and concern-trolling arguments I have ever read.
Lots of things to think about — in the speech, this blog entry, and in the comments. Thanks everyone for that.
Good to know. Thanks!
(That makes it seem even less likely to change, IMO)
Potentially a large topic. My answer would begin with the 2nd paragraph of the speech as printed.
Apart from that I found Nevala-Lee’s book enlightening. As mentioned I began paying attention in the late fifties – very late, from that perspective.
I love the field, as it was then and as it is now.
I tend to agree atsiko. Moreover, I don’t understand the distinction drawn between racism and fascism because the latter is authoritarian. Racism (as opposed to individual, personal prejudice and bigotry) relies on supporting systems and structures that promote and enforce all sorts of racial divides either explicitly or implicitly. A racist society is *always* going to have authoritarian aspects, just not normally directed at the favored group, unless of course individuals step too far out of line. And the US absolutely has always had those overtly authoritarian aspects. It’s baked into our DNA as a nation. Trump and the current authoritarian GOP regime is just the latest incarnation. I’m not even sure I would call it the most threatening version. The Confederacy took things pretty far. And it’s not just our racist systems and structures from which the Nazis borrowed. Their forced sterilization laws were modeled after ones here. That grew into Aktion T4, but the elements underpinning it originated in no small part here. It’s hard to imagine fascism functioning without one or more scapegoat populations. But structural racism requires the fascist authoritarian element sustaining the various racist systems.
The difference between the Confederacy and the current regime, of course, is that the Confederacy did not hold the power to quite literally destroy the entire planet. The current regime does.
@atsiko “eye-rollingly pedantic and concern-trolling arguments”? So it’s not possible to agree with Ng’s sentiment but quibble with her particular choice of terms without being a troll? I guess there was no point to this conversation in the first place then. Look, if Ng had wanted to call him a “Piece of Shit” I certainly wouldn’t quibble. But “fascism” has a particular meaning, one that’s all the more important given the current state of our government, and the term ought to have some meaning beyond racism. I am *not*, by the way, saying Campbell wasn’t a fascist. He might well have been, and it frankly wouldn’t surprise me if he were. Some of the points raised in this thread by people who know more about Campbell than I do certainly lean in that direction. But I do think it’s worth having the conversation.
@Kevin, are you objecting to Ng’s cursing in public? I believe that ship has sailed. Hell, I still think that “data” is plural, and I curse in public. I even remember when “Hell” was unfit for polite company.
@Madame Hardy, no, I have no objections to her cursing in public. I don’t object to anything Ng said. I am not sure if I agree with her use of the term “fascist” to describe Campbell, but she has every right to say whatever she thinks and she may well be right–I’m sure she knows a good deal more about Campbell than I do.
I will state this:
If I win an award that I intend to accept, I accept it graciously and with honor. I do not use the time I have to bash anyone much less the person for whom the award is named.
Awards should be an honor. If you aren’t honoured, don’t accept it, decline your nomination. Be honorable in that way.
I think it honors the science fiction community to accept an award while calling out its founder’s ugly history. Using your platform, which you earned honestly, to call out injustice — past and present, as Ng did — is a gift to the community.
(sorry about double post) FWIW, @Kevin, I laid out my own reasoning about the label and Campbell here. https://whatever.scalzi.com/2019/08/20/jeannette-ng-john-w-campbell-and-what-should-be-said-by-whom-and-when/#comment-866285 I think that’s pretty good evidence.
@Madame Hardy, thanks, I appreciate it. I also found this (among other articles), which supports your thesis as well: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/9ak7y5/the-secret-authoritarian-history-of-science-fiction. So consider me convinced.
“. . . but then never thought to think of it in those terms, so there’s that. Now that I have been made to think of it . . .”
This right there is why we need voices like Jeannette Ng and N. K. Jemisin with the perspective, the vision and the courage to speak truth to power, and why it’s such a delight to have them writing stuff so good it demands recognition by the power of its excellence and makes us think of things in a way we hadn’t before (particularly when it shows where we have blind spots and makes us confront them). What a treat for the “literature of ideas”! I’m grateful for it!
And also . . . to the “insufficiently grateful” idea . . . screw that. No doubt, Ng genuinely appreciates what it means that so many people loved and voted for her work. That doesn’t mean that using the platform that gives her isn’t “grateful”. And she has no need to express gratitude to a figure or idea that would have wanted to shut her out. She doesn’t need to express gratitude for being let sit at the table, and that’s what the connotations of “insufficiently grateful” are. She earned it.
@Greg A gun enthusiast at work said that bit to me about an armed society being a polite society. I told him that any place that required the threat of murder to enforce courtesy didn’t deserve to be called a society.
So, that was you done with your Harrumphing then JS?
@Kevin, from your link:
“In the same series, Pournelle details his own efforts, during his years in academia, to put in place a system that would use test to determine which students were genetically worthy of education, and fumed when the University of Wisconsin rejected the idea as racist.fumed when the University of Wisconsin rejected the idea as racist.”
I did *not* know that.
The bizarre thing about Heinlein’s shibboleth is that we’ve had societies with endemic duels, and they were not notably polite. France in the late 1800s, for instance. The frontier American West. Duels may change who you choose to insult, and how — in France, IIRC, duelists made a habit of disposing of newspaper editors — but they don’t keep you from being insulting.
BethanyAnne: well said.
The idea that a ‘society’ would NEED to go around armed, and btw non-armed people were treated as second class citizens, is deeply repulsive. Off the top of my head RAH’s short story incorporate those ideas was, to say the least, ill-thought out.
I’ve read her fiction and I’ve read her awards speech. In both cases I’d give them a 10/10; would award again.
Wasn’t Campbell a founding member of Scientology? Bester escaped from that craziness and found Horace Gold.
Seems like Campbell’s legacy is a mixed one.
Another Italian here: we invented fascism. It never was a coherent and cohesive philosophy. It was in fact the triumph of feeling over thinking. And feeling in the basest, meanest, more debased sense.
From what I understand of the particular brand of racism that was and is America’s central sin, yeah, verily, it is fascism. When you see nothing wrong in the fact that your prosperity depends on the enslavement, slaughter, rape and torture of millions of men; when you think that such acts and the profit that derived from them are justifiable from some sort of hierarchy; yes, you’re a fascist. Even if you’re not dressed in black and ready to goosestep in the street. You might be anybody’s favourite uncle, many fascists are. That is not a great consolation to the people at the sharp end of your policies.
Jada Diaz says:
AUGUST 20, 2019 AT 5:20 PM
I will state this:
If I win an award that I intend to accept, I accept it graciously and with honor. I do not use the time I have to bash anyone much less the person for whom the award is named.
Awards should be an honor. If you aren’t honoured, don’t accept it, decline
You are confusing honor with deference. They are not the same thing.
Maybe I should stay out of this whole discussion as I have no experience with Campbell or Ng nor heard contents of the speech she gave at Worldcon. However I think it important to point out we need to be careful be aware of the innate frailties of human personalities and how culture changes over time lest we be judged the same way. If Campbell was judged in his time to be both racist and sexist, so was the society he lived in. Hopefully things do tend improve over time. Recognize that and move on.
Revisionism is a slippery slope. People can spin heros into villains missing the point that the person was worthy of something special and continues to be so in spite of their shortcomings. We honor people with an award in his name, not for the person; but for what that person ultimately left us as a legacy.
My tuppence worth: I was a fan when Campbell was still editing, and I remember writers in other publications (because of course no such views would appear in Astunding) using their stories, their platform, to crticise his racism. ‘Man of his time’ is not a valid defence.
I was in the Hugo audience and part of the very loud cheer for Ng’s first line.
For the most part, I think it’s a sign of intellectual maturity to be able to separate the artist from the art, to hold emotion at arm’s length while evaluating the work. I can loathe Roman Polanski the sexual predator, while appreciating the genius that is “Chinatown”. I can hold Kevin Spacey in contempt for his behavior off the set, but still acknowledge that “L. A. Confidential” is a masterwork. Usually, the artist’s personal behavior does not shape the work, which can be valuable on its own.
For people like Campbell, it’s a little harder to separate the man from his work. As an editor, he shaped the foundations of this genre. For that, he earns my respect. As an editor, he also baked in the racism and sexism that, even in his day, were not universally acceptable. For that, he earns my contempt. It’s not like he held fascist and/or racist views which he did not allow to spill over into his work; quite the contrary, he went out of his way to impose those views on the field. He did NOT separate the artist from the art, but judged (and rejected) the art based on its creator, not on its own merits. For that, he earns only my scorn.
What it comes down to, for me, is that this award was founded by people who wanted to honor new writers to this field, and wanted to encourage new ones. Whether the name on the plaque is John W. Campbell or someone else, it’s about welcoming the newcomer. If the name no longer reflects a welcome, if it interferes with the message that this community is sending, it is time to reconsider it. Words matter. Names matter. If we care about the writers who are being honored with this award, we should make sure that they are not, at the moment they are honored, insulted by being linked however peripherally with someone who would have despised them.
As for Robert Heinlein being racist in Sixth Column, I read in a recent forward to it that the hero keeps getting mistaken for a nonwhite, such as when he joins resistance workers around a campfire.
I read that Heinlein’s hero in Tunnel in the Sky is black, (although few notice) His postwar nonfiction book on politics and political clubs opens with a couple paragraphs or so quoting the wisdom of a famous black. In the modern footnote, the interpretation is that this is to discourage racists from reading any further. Not being a time traveler, (I wasn’t born then) I can’t judge that interpretation for myself. Incidentally, today we go “Bowling Alone in America,” but postwar, before TV, there were political clubs like where Podkayne’s uncle hangs out.
That same political book had some “woman’s liberation” (permission and advocacy to go against social conditioning) for women getting involved in politics that was decades ahead of its time. (At least, I assume it would be “Dick and Jane”(children) to us today) You will recall that postwar, if a gameshow contestant said she was a housewife, the applause would rise to the rafters. (According to the book Reasonable Creatures) I’m glad society has progressed; my own progress comes after I read folks like Jeanette Ng. (Yes, I have a life, but I read too)
Speaking of society, I hope our kids (I live on the Canadian prairie) will forgive us for foolishly taking until the 21st century to believe in rights for our schoolchildren being gay, transgender and non-binary. As recently as, say, 9/11, where I live, we were horribly oblivious. Oh well, we are all time traveling into the future at one second per second.
“Usually, the artist’s personal behavior does not shape the work, which can be valuable on its own.”
. I would like solid evidence for that “usually”. Woody Allen made *Manhattan*, a paean to an older artist with a sixteen-year-old lover. Mariel Hemingway, who was and played the sixteen-year-old, says he kept hitting on her on-set. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s sexual abuse of children parallels some sexually abusive and exploitative material in her novels. Human beings do not separate, like Legos, into the artist piece and the human pieces. The human cannot but influence the artist: what you find beautiful or ugly, what you find appropriate or wrong, what you find interesting or dull, all affect what you put into the work.
There are authors I love who were horrible human beings; Robert Frost is a good example. There are artist I loved who turned out to be such horrible human beings that I can no longer enjoy the works; Woody Allen is a great example. Neither decision shows maturity or the lack of it.
“As for Robert Heinlein being racist in Sixth Column, I read in a recent forward to it that the hero keeps getting mistaken for a nonwhite, such as when he joins resistance workers around a campfire.”
@Sean, The war-winning strategy in *Sixth Column* is genocide of every Asian in America (the world? I forget), including those who aren’t part of or sympathetic to the invasion. You may argue that this is inevitable given the novel’s setup, but Heinlein is responsible for that setup. You don’t get abstract initial conditions in a novel. Heinlein/Campbell created a premise for which the appropriate solution is genocide.
” (permission and advocacy to go against social conditioning) for women getting involved in politics that was decades ahead of its time. ”
The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), founded 1874, had a large and successful lobbying agenda, including, most notoriously, the Volstead Act The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920. The first woman elected to Congress, Jeannette Pickering Rankin, was elected in 1916. The 83rd Congress, which would have been in session when Tunnel was being written, boasted 13 Congresswomen, two of them Senators. It was not novel, in 1955, to support women’s active involvement in politics; especially if, as I mentioned earlier, you were a woman.
Agreeing with @Scott Morizot: it’s hard to believe racism is really sustainable in a fully participatory system without the structures of fascism to perpetuate it. (Cynically, of course, “democracy ain’t what it used to be.”)
@Ergative: I see no mention of Tokyo in Ng’s prepared comment. Maybe there was something extemporaneous in an actual recording from the event?
I applaud her for calling him out. ALWAYS call out fascists. Anywhere, any time.
So, a few weeks ago, I gave the Toastmaster speech at ArmadilloCon. While none of my statements had Ng’s boldness, I had this part that was relevant to these discussions:
NK Jemisin wrote a thread on twitter, white supremacy *is* fascism. Yep. Captures what I was trying to say except she, of course, did a much better job writing it in form, substance, and breadth of what she covered.
I’ve always been bothered by what to me looked like fascism in early SF. It cut into some of my enjoyment of the genre, even while, as a straight white male, I probably missed a lot of it. But I think I’d be sorry if the award were renamed. There’s an important difference between being a famous bad person, and being famous for being a bad person. Robert E. Lee was famous for being effective in a horrible cause and nothing else. He deserves no memorial and teaches nothing. Campbell is famous for helping create a genre that still informs. He has a claim on our memories, good and bad, and keeping his name current–even on an award–is valuable in ways the Jeannette Ng just demonstrated.
As an elderly fan I can’t resist telling Ms Ng that it was Campbell’s generation that actually fought fascism and paid a heavy price for people like her to have the place to condemn a man who contributed to the structure that allows her to be successful in writing.
Whether she likes it or not he saved science fiction from itself and opened the door for it to grow as a genre. Her comments remind me of a spoiled child who whines that its great grandfather didn’t understand the problem with what it wasn’t taught or couldn’t see but did manage to feed, clothe and educate the children so that they might spread their wings and fly.
I confess to never reading Ms Ng. I doubt that I ever will. She obviously has nothing to say of any real importance.
Norman Spinrad called out Campbell’s favored style as fascist in his satirical novel “The Iron Dream,” which came out in 1972.
(To be fair, Spinrad was attempting to explicitly call out *Joseph* Campbell’s universal hero archetypes. But it’s not too difficult to see how exactly the story matches John W. Campbell’s tastes.)
In the novel, an alternate history, Adolf Hitler emigrates to the US after WWI, where he becomes a pulp sci fi author. The book is allegedly one of his works, an epic of a superman with pure genetics who euthanizes mutants in a mass genocide and sends a super-race of perfect specimens to conquer the stars.
In the fictional alternate history fandom embraces this book. It wins a Hugo and cosplayers dress up in its uniforms and goose-step happily around sci fi conventions.
As yest another older white man living the life of Riley, I feel obliged to chime in with my opinion. Mostly my opinion is “oh wow, buying a copy of everything she’s written is surprisingly expensive” because right now I feel like doing that. I have read one of her books via the library, but now suddenly she’s fallen into the camp of “I don’t normally like hiphop but 77% is an awesome song”… stuff that I find for political reasons that I turn out to enjoy. Political reasons include “I should expose myself to more diverse opinions”.
I love the subtext “is the US right now really fascist” because as with the OP, if you have to ask the answer is generally affirmative. As our Italian commenters remind us, Fascism wasn’t coherent and wasn’t supposed to be coherent. Asking that is like quizzing Trump on how his policy is supposed to produce whatever nonsense he spouts about it.
Jeannette Ng could have conveyed the same message in a much more graceful fashion and been beyond any legitimate criticism. And since she was being honored for her writing ability, I think it’s fair to judge her by the manner in which she expressed herself. There were any number of more creative ways to convey her message, but in presenting herself to the entire SFF community she chose to settle for a common expletive and a political term that is
at best not a perfect fit for describing Campbell. Instead of using humor or some other device to demonstrate her delight at receiving an award that might well have sent its namesake spinning in his grave, she resorted to rather crass name-calling – as if we don’t get enough of that from the current occupant of the White House. So no wonder she is being criticized. If you’re going to attack the man whose name is attached to the award you’re receiving, do a thorough job of it.
But since I think everyone deserves a second chance, and that no one should be judged by his or her poorest decisions, I’m going to try reading her work and see whether the Hugo voters knew what they were doing…
IIRC, the story containing the quote “an armed society is a polite society” proposes a society one would really not care to live in.
That’s the thing about Heinlein: if you try to say “RAH believed this” based solely on his written work, you end up trying to reconcile “Starship Troopers”‘s authoritarian militarism with “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress”‘s anarchism with “Stranger In a Strange Land”s hippy dippy free love ethos, and you end up tying yourself in all sorts of knots.
@Jim Lewis: If we get credit for our generations, then I definitely claim credit for women’s ascent into Space. After all, *some* woman my age did it, right?
In the first place, “There was a war and therefore you don’t get to criticize unless you fought that war” is an irrelevant argument. At the time Americans were fighting in WWII (which I assume you’re referring to?) other Americans were in concentration camps because their parents or grandparents were Japanese. Other Americans weren’t allowed to serve in the Navy, other than as servants, because they were black. Other Americans were women and, unless nurses, debarred from serving. And on and on.
In the second place, I haven’t seen any evidence that Campbell even served in WWII. He would have been thirty-one; perhaps that wasn’t draft-worthy. Or perhaps his war service isn’t easily Googlable.
In any case, Campbell commissioned (and according to Heinlein, came up with the premise of and input into) a novel in which an SF device is used to murder all people of Asian ethnicity, and this is presented as a good thing. Ms. Ng is under no obligation to a man who fantasized about her extermination.
“John Campbell is the same age as many WWII vets, some of whom were fighting for the equality of men” is not an argument I find a refutation of “John Campbell said a number of extremely racist, authoritarian, and anti-democratic (small d) things.”
@P Cleburne, why is an artist required to be charming or funny when she’s making a serious, deeply felt political statement?
@MHardy Didn’t mean to suggest that she had to be charming or funny, just that I expected better than a crass expression lacking in context or explanation. She gave us a conclusion attached to an expletive. Have you noticed how many folks in this thread have confessed to not knowing enough about Campbell to know whether he was a “fascist”? If you’re going to trash the name behind your award, at least tell us why. Calling someone a crude name in front of a large audience that has only a vague idea about who he was is beneath someone who possesses the skills to do better. And apparently she has those skills, or she wouldn’t have been up there in the first place.
@P Cleburne re expletives.
In the August 1971 issue of New Humanist, Philip Larkin had a now-legendary poem. It begins
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
Larkin used “fuck” deliberately. The poem could have said “mess”. It could have had some two-syllable word consonant with the meter. The poem was memorable because he did neither of these; he said “fuck”. It got people’s attention. It still gets people’s attention. Not just because it’s obscene, but because that obscenity conveys a depth of anger and revulsion that polite language doesn’t encompass.
As to fascism, Ng had a very few moments; she didn’t have the time to pull out the cites that (for instance) James Nicoll has brought out in this very thread. There’s ample evidence outside her speech that she is correct about Campbell and fascism.
Man, the tone policing in this thread…
“When they behave properly, you will say there is no problem. When they complain loudly, you will say they cause their own problems with their impropriety. And when they are driven to extremes, you say you will not reward such actions. What will it take for you to listen?”
― Ann Leckie, Ancillary Sword
Ms. Ng made an argument that she thought important. How she said it ― forcefully ― is the only way that works because “politely” or “gracefully” are just other words for expressing a format “so that I don’t have to listen”.
@P Cleburne ― Looking at you here, in particular.
“it was Campbell’s generation that actually fought fascism and paid a heavy price for people like her to have the place to condemn a man who contributed to the structure that allows her to be successful in writing.”
Since she’s ethnic Chinese, I’m sure she’s acutely aware of how much her elders lost in fighting the Japanese.
But you’re confusing the issue by conflating Campbell with his generation. What is praiseworthy about someone who was alive to witness the horrors carried out by both Germany and Japan during WWII against ‘inferior’ races, yet considers it fine and dandy to write and promote polemics insisting ‘inferior’ races of his choosing should be erased?
Why should Ng give one f*ck that, after fighting through the walls and ceilings against her gender and ethnicity set up by Campbell and his ilk, and all too enthusiastically by his successors, she is now ‘allowed’ to be successful at what she excels at? Are you asking her to be *grateful* for that struggle?
“I confess to never reading Ms Ng. I doubt that I ever will. She obviously has nothing to say of any real importance.”
Ah, the usual response from the usual suspects. Run along, then. Your lack of participation doesn’t deserve a trophy.
“Jeannette Ng could have conveyed the same message in a much more graceful fashion and been beyond any legitimate criticism.”
Actually no, as N K Jemisin proved a couple of years ago with her own funny, warm, deeply personal speech wryly acknowledging the struggles *she’s* faced to get where she has, just as Ms Ng has. Have you forgotten the sour, nasty response to that? And how she was, before Ms Ng, also lectured about being properly graceful and gracious and grateful?
“she resorted to rather crass name-calling”
If calling a fascist a fascist is more offensive than being a fascist, something’s gone very awry in society.
And if the only way to preserve the reputation of an alleged giant in the field is to crap over anyone raising any criticism of them, then that reputation was never much to begin with.
“If you’re going to attack the man whose name is attached to the award you’re receiving, do a thorough job of it.”
I think she did what she wanted to do. We all know by now, as evidenced in this thread, how much of an attack she would have faced for doing more.
Why do woman of colour have to be utterly perfect in word and deed in a genre which venerates Campbell, Ellison, and Asimov? Cut them the same slack you cut the boob squeezers and the Asian haters and the sexist pigs. That would be an excellent start.
I would not have said what she said while winning an award, because my personal experience doesn’t mirror hers.
But having read (a transcript of) her speech, she’s right. And if your counter-argument is that the truth can only be spoken by the right (colored, gendered, wealthy, abled) people at the right time and place, with the right honeyed words … well, I hear that and think “At best, there’s someone who knows the truth and wants to keep ignoring it”. At worst, well …
To I hope clarify and expand on some of the technical issues raised here.
SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) does not operate Worldcon, the Hugo Awards, or the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
WSFS (the World Science Fiction Society) consists of all of the members (attending and non-attending/supporting) of the current World Science Fiction Convention. WSFS makes the rules for the Hugo Awards through its constitution. Changes to the Hugo Award rules have to be agreed to by a majority vote of the members of the Worldcon attending the WSFS Business Meeting, which is held at every Worldcon and is open to all members. There is no WSFS Board of Directors or President who makes the rules. The members make the rules.
The committee of the current Worldcon administers the Hugo Awards (and the JWC).
Dell Magazines pays for the JWC award plaque. It does not pay money to Worldcon committees or to WSFS as a whole.
The reason that the JWC is mentioned in the WSFS constitution is that it was “grandfathered” into the rules when WSFS made rules to prevent non-Hugo Awards from appearing on the same ballot as the Hugo Awards. (Worldcon committees had started doing this, and WSFS members objected and prohibited it, except for the JWC that by then was well established.)
IMO, the reason that there is not a Hugo Award for Best New Writer is because of the presence of the JWC on the ballot.
WSFS can’t change the name of the JWC; only Dell, the sponsor of the award, can do so. If they did so, WSFS would probably change the name mentioned in the constitution, using the two-year amendment process.
If Dell were to decide to stop sponsoring the award entirely, I think it possible that WSFS members would move to create a Hugo Award for Best New Writer, which would take two years to be voted and ratified (assuming the Business Meeting members were in favor of it.)
I hope these things help inform the conversation, because some of the comments here suggest to me that not everyone participating actually knows the mechanics of the situation.
Do not attempt to hide Campbell the person behind the skirts of people of his generation who actually did fight fascism.
My grandmother was exactly the same age as Campbell and SHE traveled on her own dime to Spain to fight fascists and came home with the baby of a dead man.
Campbell? Not only did he never serve in the military, he didn’t even do any civilian work for the war effort, to Robert A. Heinlein’s eternal disgust.
From “Astounding,” by Alec Nevala-Lee:
“Campbell remained unsure of his prospects for getting a reserve commission, however, citing a list of ailments, including bad vision in his left eye, a poorly healed appendectomy scar, an irregular heartbeat, and what he called ‘fear syndrome’ in his psychiatric records. Ultimately, he didn’t even take the physical. His attempts to find a position at the National Defense Research Committee faltered—his contact was often out of town—and it became clear that his limited lab experience made him less desirable than the most recent crop of engineering graduates.”
“Heinlein told him that if money were an issue, he and Leslyn would be happy to contribute a stipend for Peedee, but he conceded, ‘Truthfully, we aren’t shorthanded enough to recommend it.’ But he also advised:”
“I strongly recommend for your own present and future peace of mind and as an example to your associates that you find some volunteer work. . . . I predict that it will seem deadly dull, poorly organized, and largely useless. . . .I am faced with that impasse daily and it nearly drives me nuts.”
“He anticipated many of Campbell’s objections: ‘Remember, it does not have to be work that you want to do, nor work that you approve of. It suffices that it is work which established authority considers necessary to the war.’ And he concluded pointedly, ‘But find yourself some work, John. Otherwise you will spend the rest of your life in self-justification.’”
“Campbell never did. He found it hard to subordinate himself to duties that didn’t utilize his talents, and he was disinclined to make the sacrifice that Heinlein had bitterly accepted. In the end, he decided to stay with his magazines, a civilian role with a high priority rating because of its perceived importance to morale. Heinlein never forgave him, speaking years later of ‘working my heart out and ruining my health during the war while he was publishing Astounding.’”
I did a quick search on this page and didn’t find the string “inga”, so I don’t think it has been mentioned that last year the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal was renamed to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. That initially offended my sense of nostalgia.
I don’t remember her books as racist, but when I read them in second or third grade, I lived in Jasper, Texas. It was the early 70s, and I was a middle-class white boy who lived in a modest house, but we nonetheless had a black housekeeper in a white uniform who came every day to clean up our messes, and another black woman in a white uniform who came most nights to cook our dinners. We thought of these women as family, though of course they had families of their own. And when we moved away, we left them behind.
Incidentally, where we ended up settling, was Hempstead, Texas, where I did most of my public schooling, and where I graduated high school. Each of these towns would go on to receive national attention (years after I lived there) for horrifying race crimes. Neither incident fully defines the town, but they didn’t happen in a vacuum.
All of this is to say that even if I don’t think of Laura Ingalls Wilder or her as racist based on my memory of reading them as a child, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t.
And if the recipient of an award feels pain when they are meant to feel honored because the name of the award also honors someone who opposed your existence, then it’s time to rethink the name of the award.
Laura Ingalls Wilder received many awards, including the one that was named for her. She doesn’t need to re-win that award every year, sixty years after her death.
“For the record, I’m fine with keeping Campbell’s name on the award, but I also wouldn’t cry if it was changed. If it changed, I probably wouldn’t put anyone’s name on it at all”
Maybe give it the name of the prior winner. So the next person would receive the Jeanette Ng Award for the Best New Writer.
At least then if a particular name develops a taint down the line, only one writer will have received the award with that name. And if the taint is severe enough, it would be feasible to replace the one trophy.
Fuck me sidewise, but there are people who are really deeply fucking traumatised by a single use of the fucking word “fucking”, I wonder how they survive in a world where much more offensive fucking things, like children torn from their parents and basically fucking tortured with cold, hunger and sleepless nights?
All I have to say is contribute this great piece of Edwardian manners: https://youtu.be/Vqbk9cDX0l0
Malvina Reynolds said it well:
“It isn’t nice to carry banners
Or to sit in on the floor,
Or to shout our cry of Freedom
At the hotel and the store.
It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice,
You told us once, you told us twice,
But if that is Freedom’s price,
We don’t mind.”
That, for all you tone-policers and hand-wringers.
As for the Greatest Generation and “product of his times” crap… no, everybody in the 50’s wasn’t a sexist, racist, anti-democratic, authoritarian bigot. It was not a requirement. You do not get a pass for being one of the bad’uns when there are those around you who are good’uns.
pax / Ctein
If Ng didn’t say what they said *in the way that they said it* there would not be as much discussion about it as there is.
*Could* they have been more gracious? Of course she could.
Would that have made as many people sit up and listen? Of course it would not. This is an important discussion and it’s being had because of Jeanette Ng.
*Should* they have been more gracious? Hell, no! They were given 90 seconds on that stage and they made every. damn. second. count.
I am so glad that there are people like Ng willing to stand up and be counted, and to force the rest of us to participate in a discussion that we would, in all likelihood, have otherwise ignored.
I believe Jeanette Ng said something that needed to be said. I was not aware of the depth of bias in the field in America until I read Alec-Nevala Lee’s Astounding, a biography of Campbell and his closest circle. A society cannot grow unless these biases are brought to the table, these conversations are had, debated over, and the truths laid bare. And after all, how often does a non-white, non-American person get an opportunity to speak such truths in a forum willing to listen to them?
1) The “actual fascists” that Campbell’s generation fought were also Campbell’s generation, as were the people who closed the borders to the victims fleeing fascism and sat on the sidelines, so that argument doesn’t give him anything close to a pass.
2) We are “actually fighting fascists” right now . . . or supporting them. Your choice.
And that was one of the major thrusts of Jeannette Ng’s speech, calling attention to the struggles against autocrats happening right now, and the heavy prices people are paying. Metaphorically sitting on the sidelines and closing the borders while people enact authoritarianism and extermination rhetoric now won’t get a pass either.
In general, I think we, (and in particular the “younger generations” in fandom and others that get lambasted for being “SJWs”) are getting more nuanced about understanding that while you can’t always simplistically “separate the artist from the art” it’s possible to “like problematic things” and recognize the complexities and failings of humans and their art. But that it’s important to do so in a way that acknowledges that where things might not hurt us personally, they may be over the line of harmful for others. And listening to and respecting that will help us create better things. Hell, there was just WorldCon panel on that with some very nuanced views.
Acknowledging Campbell was a fascist doesn’t negate the good parts of his influence on the genre, but to understand his influence fully and to understand how it affects where we are now and where we want to go from here, we need to acknowledge it. And hell, it’s not like he’s the only literary figure with outstanding influence or excellence whose fascism needs to be confronted. Ezra Pound was absolutely a fascist. W. B. Yeats was an occult fascist.
Vis-a-vis Campbell’s wartime service, or lack thereof, check out the portion Nevala-Lee’s “Astounding” wherein Heinlein chides Campbell for not being willing to put himself in service to the greater cause and learning to respect higher authority. Perhaps the magazine would not have survived with out Campbell’s guidance but one suspects that Campbell would have been a better man for the experience.
It’s interesting how the vaunted “Mallet” lets a dozen white men nitpick a woman of color over the meaning of fascism, and permits a comment dripping in white (and presumably both male) privilege like Jim Lewis’s and P Cleburne’s through.
Oh, right. “Civility.”
Fuck your civility.
If you’ll pardon me for going seriously meta:
As a white, male, etc. geezer who has (noted above) read all and collected a large share of Campbell’s work, who grew up on Campbell and the authors of that era:
Thank you. All of you, all points. Because I really haven’t thought this through in the past and you are driving me to do so — which, IMHO, I really need to do.
It’s not so much civility as letting people tell on themselves.
The other commenters seem to be doing a decent enough job of poking holes in their positions. I’m inclined to let them do so.
I am fully in support of Ng’s statements. They did an outstanding job in their acceptance speech.
I found out just two years ago how deeply racist and misogynist he was.
There should not be an award in JWC name, especially for Best New Writer.
Campbell did a job, a biased job, and as a field we’re only beginning to overcome these imposed limitations upon the creators of our field.
Rename it now for Vonda N. McIntyre, in deference to Vonda’s work at Clarion, and in the interim two years required for ratification we vote to make it a Hugo.
I posted a relevant section from “Astounding” a little earlier up the page.
Tldr: Campbell neither served in the military nor did any volunteer work for the war effort, despite being urged by Heinlein to do so. He was not a part of the “Greatest Generation,” but one who stood by in comfort while others sacrificed and fought.
You folks can dump on me all you want. Bottom line is that any one of you could have written her speech to convey the same message and be beyond any legitimate criticism. She chose to be crass on purpose. And all that does is make enemies and burn bridges. It’s not constructive. But I can tell from the responses on here that lots of people are more interested in destruction than construction. So be it. But it will only make it that much harder to fix this beaten down old world of ours. I’ve even been accused of white privilege for my remarks. Good grief. You know nothing about me.
@Nope: Yours is my favorite. “Fuck your civility.” So Trump wins, huh? That’s disgusting. And I reject it. See how far it gets you in life.
“It’s not constructive.”
Well, no; you don’t think it’s constructive. On the other hand, if you think an edifice is dangerously decrepit, an eyesore and full of tetanus waiting to happen, you have to bring it down to raise something better in its place. In which case you bring blasting tools.
I was in the room when Ng said what she said; the result was electrifying. In the wake of her words people are asking whether this particular edifice should be brought down and something better (or at least something else) raised in its place. As others have pointed out, this is an overdue discussion. And I for one see that as constructive.
All of which is to say that Ng, a writer of no small skill, chose her rhetorical tools to deliver a specific effect, and achieved pretty much the effect she intended.
Your problem appears to be that you don’t like the tools, or the effect. But Ng didn’t ask you, and doesn’t need your permission.
BethanyAnne, i hadnt even thought of it that way before. My new response to “an armed society is a polite society” shall be:
That’s not a society. That’s a gang.
I’ve loved science fiction since I was a very young girl. The more I learn about its history, though, the happier I am to have been too isolated and too broke to be involved in fandom. Idols and their feet of clay and all that.
Thank you Kevin Grierson and JD_Rhoades for asking a perfectly valid question: “Was JWC Jr., in fact, a fascist?” And thank you Madame Hardy and James Nicoll for answering in a way that not only removes all doubt, but does so without bitchiness about “nitpicking” and “concern trolling.” If we all knew everything for certain, what would be the point of having a discussion?
As it is, mileages vary. If I hear someone make a shocking statement, my first question is, is this factually true? Followed by, has the speaker avoided logical fallacies in their argument or assertion? And finally, what motivation is there for saying this thing? What does the speaker hope to achieve?
At the risk of having to spoon out my own eyeballs, I suppose I could read the “Collected Editorials from Analog” to confirm the awful truth for myself.
The text of Ng’s speech ends with “”. I wanted to share her video of the hat thing on this thread because it’s frankly pretty awesome. I’ll take people like her over fascist racists any day of the year.
Ms. Ng is awesome and should be listened to closely. The moment I heard her say ‘fascist’ in that speech, I thought, well, about 30% of fandom’s going to go off on a pointless round of dictionary combat, even though her meaning was obvious and her point apt and well made.
What I personally thought rather more significant, and deeply appreciated, was her words about our shared home town of Hong Kong, about which we’re both worried. (I was touched, and thanked her when I briefly encountered her in the auditorium lobby after the ceremony.)
Oops. I had put the text from the end of her speech in without doing anything to escape the gt and lt signs, so naturally those got interpreted as html tags. Her note to herself was “do the hat thing” Then she shared the video on twitter demonstrating the “hat thing” for those of us who didn’t have a chance to see it in person.
People who use eugenics and/or elimination rhetoric don’t deserve politeness. I find the concern over decorum to be tiresome. Also, Ng’s UNDER THE PENDULUM SUN is a lovely gothic fantasy and worth checking out.
Cleburne: “She chose to be crass on purpose.”
So the issue is she was impolite to fascists?
“And all that does is make enemies and burn bridges”
You think facists built friendship bridges to her and she burned them down?
Also, it seems entirely inaccurate to say she was ineffective and did nothing but make enemies. It seems that there is a sincere conversation going on about possibly renaming the award after some nonfascist, specifically because of what she said.
A few years ago I was in a used bookstore and saw a copy of The Mightiest Machine by John W. Campbell. I knew nothing about Campbell other than the name on the award, so I was eager to read a book by someone who must be an important figure in the history of Science Fiction. It was horrid! It was blatantly racist to an extreme I would never have expected and embraced genocide as the best solution for a conflict situation. Even if you are willing to overlook that, it was very badly written. All crisis were instantly solved by inventing a new technology. Too far from the sun? Invent faster than light travel! Solved the problem… There were lots of problems with the plot and the characters were all stereotypes.
I keep hearing how we understand that he had “problems”, but what he did for Science Fiction apparently outweighs those issues. Maybe I should read more by him to find writing that is not garbage, but one was enough for me. I wonder if the nostalgia for the John W. Campbell that so many feel isn’t really the reality of his accomplishments. Maybe Science Fiction would have flourished just as well under other leaders and his influence is overrated, or may have actually been negative? How many great women authors did we lose because of Campbell? How much diversity in storytelling was missed as so much writing became Campbellian?
Everyone has had the experience of going back and reading a book or watching a movie they dearly loved growing up, only to see it as absolute drivel as an adult. I would recommend any fan of Campbell read The Mightiest Machine and see what they think of him after that.
Rename the award!
@P Cleburne, as Ann Somerville pointed out on this very page, N K Jemisin’s award acceptance was exquisitely polite and carefully phrased, and received the same amount of outrage. You can never be polite enough to satisfy people who don’t want to hear you.
@Kevin, if you’re curious, start with the two Wilder illustrations in the Debbie Reese, a Nambe Pueblo scholar, rundown of the renaming controversy. https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2018/06/a-changethename-moment-laura-ingalls.html Illustrations aside, the phrase “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” appears four times in the books. There’s also an incident in which the young Laura wants to steal an Indian baby and keep it for her own. There’s a lot of bad stuff. And yes, I adored those books, too, and it made me very sad to be educated about what’s there that I took for granted. From Reese’s list, this article seemed to me to do the best job of discussing the book rather than the naming controversy. https://www.scarymommy.com/laura-ingalls-wilder-award-renamed-childrens-literature-legacy/
@Lee, wow. I had no idea she had 90 seconds. She sure did pack a lot into those seconds, didn’t she? (Did a quick google to verify that Ng prefers she/her.)
I was thinking about this as I went to sleep. A dueling society rewards the biggest bully and, often, the richest man (very, very rarely a woman). It takes money and time to afford the best guns/swords and the best training so that you have the best chance of surviving. If you want a look at how dueling actually worked in practice, see the excellent and engrossing Barbara Holland book, Gentlemen’s Blood. I was sad, reading it, because it blew my romantic fantasies about dueling to little tiny shreds.
@Greg: And you think renaming the award under pressure after a crass, divisive remark won’t make enemies? As opposed to a reasoned argument that no one could take issue with?
I just returned from a visit to the beautiful country of South Africa. After years of strife and horrible violence, a couple of wise men rose up and turned that country around. They didn’t resort to name-calling and the like. They used their personal strength, wisdom, understanding of human nature, and an amazing dose of forgiveness, to transform an impossible situation into one of great promise. Though they still have a long way to go.
We could all learn a lesson from the examples of Mandela and de Clerk.
@mme_hardy. Yes, there is a screen next to the podium that counts down from 90 seconds (I was a nominee this year, so I got to see it during the acceptance rehearsal).
I put “they” as Jeanette’s Twitter bio states a preference for both she and they.
In one of my vintage 1950s sci-fi fi magazines there is a very interesting ecological story with female politicians and ambassadors by one “Julian Chain,” about whom I can find very little except that she was apparently a woman.
A nice little vignette, it stood out among the classically Campbellian stories of manly astronauts in a nearly all-male world using tech and science handwaving to make hard choices, and I marveled that it was ever published and wondered why there were never more like it.
I guess now I know.
Sorry, John, I just noticed that you’ve gone after me too. I offered my opinion; I never said anything about anyone needing my permission to do anything.
I’m just sitting here wondering how the hell our country ended up where it is. And I’m beginning to understand it. You folks come across just as mean-spirited as the right-wingers who have hijacked the country. And you don’t seem willing to listen to anyone who sees the world differently than you do.
Thanks for listening and all the piling on. I’ve learned my lesson and I’ll take my leave now.
I grade your flounce a solid “C+.” It’s adequately affronted and obeys all the forms of being offended that people don’t see you as the voice of reason here, albeit without any special flair. Thanks for playing.
@ P Cleburne,
Here’s N K Jemisin’s polite speech about racism in SF.
It caused a furore. Almost as if it’s the content, not the framing, that matters.
Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is always, always worth reading. Relevant to your argument is this bit.
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” ”
You can never be nice enough when you’re demanding change. You can never be nonviolent enough, polite enough, righteous enough in the justice of your cause, when you’re saying “This stops now.”
I want to talk about tone policing. I grew up in an academic setting. I went to college. I was forged in the fires of Usenet. (pause for polite laughter). I learned how to express my emotions in a way that appears dispassionate: I’m merely making this intellectual argument, and you can’t criticize my emotions because they aren’t there. This means that, when angry enough, I can stab somebody to the heart in a way that *technically* isn’t rude. Technically.
This is a tool of the established order, any established order. You can ignore anybody who expresses anger in their speech, because the established order knows how to express it the right way. Anybody who’s been in academia for any length of time knows that “It seems to me that you have overlooked” translates to “You idiot, you didn’t even read the literature”. The phrasing is, on the surface, polite, but both the speaker and the listener know, and intend, the semantic content.
When somebody stands up and says “I’m angry, the system sucks, and we need fucking change”, they may not be using polite or academic language. The appropriate response is not, “Did they use the codified polite language?”, but “Are they telling the truth?”
@Lee, whoops! I looked at the same bio and only noticed she/her. I was trying not to be rude to Ng, and instead I was rude to you. I apologize.
Yeah US history, in fact most Western Civ history, is dominated by white, prejudiced, domineering men. It is fact that you are not required to like, but at the same time does not automatically entitle you to belittle the achievements that paved the way for you to be honored in current times. The name Walt Disney comes to mind. He unquestionably matched up with Ms. Ng’s comments about Campbell. Yet the megalithic company is now well known for its’ inclusive policies and generally accepting attitudes. Time can change perspectives and attitudes. Another example is Planned Parenthood which was started by aNazi supporter who wanted to reduce the non-Aryan population. Campbell had many faults but he also helped a lot of writers. Note that Ms. Ng did not refuse the honor.
Mme Hardy – “You can never be polite enough to satisfy people who don’t want to hear you.”
You… didn’t read the piece this comment thread is attached to, did you?
[Deleted because P Cleburne had already announced they were leaving. When you flounce, you flounce, P Cleburne. Bye, now — JS]
I just returned from a visit to the beautiful country of South Africa. After years of strife and horrible violence, a couple of wise men rose up and turned that country around. They didn’t resort to name-calling and the like. .
Snicker. Were folks paying attention AT ALL when this was happening?
Are we seriously, in 2019, clutching our pearls over the word “fuck,” used by an adult, to an audience of adults?
I will reiterate what I said about the “impeach the motherfucker already” comments: the only people who care about four-letter words these days are over seventy* or in a cult. Either way, their opinions are unlikely to be or remain relevant to society for very long.
* And not even all of them–a few mentors and my parents manage not to flip their shit over a good solid Anglo-Saxon verb (though Dad did argue the point with me about ITMFA, but Dad likes an argument).
Cleburn: “wise men rose up and turned that country around. They didn’t resort to name-calling and the like”
Mendele? The dude founded the MK, the military arm of the ANC. They got guns and attacked government and military instalations. Members of MK killed people. Mendele was convicted of sabotage, i.e. blowing stuff up.
Are you saying he was *polite* while founding and arming an armed uprising and blowing stuff up?
To quote the pirate: “You mean, you’ll put down your rock and I’ll put down my sword, and we’ll try to kill each other like civilized people?”
Is that what you’re saying?
@Dennis, that’s a gross libel of Margaret Sanger. She was a eugenicist, but never a Nazi. Her enthusiasm for eugenics was to prevent the birth of diseased (her word) children, not to wipe out lesser races. http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/articles/sanger-hitler_equation.php This is still immoral stuff, but “wanted to reduce the non-Aryan population” is a flat-out lie.
> in fact most Western Civ history, is dominated by white, prejudiced, domineering men.
This would come as a great surprise to the Arab world. Islamic civilization preserved and developed Greek philosophical and scientific texts that were lost in Europe. Without the Arab world, European civlizations don’t have a path back to reading the Greeks. See here for details, if you’re interested. https://www.mei.edu/publications/islamic-civilization
You don’t get “Western civilization” (misquoting Gandhi, it would be a good idea) without Chinese gunpowder, without the Indian invention and Arab refinement of Hindu-Arabic numbers, without Phoenician trade, without, in short, the cross-fertilization of ideas across many cultures, Western and otherwise. Moreover, a large number of “Western” heroes/heroines aren’t white, insofar as whiteness is meaningful in a premodern context. St. Augustine, one of the foundational Christian scholars, was African.
I was just talking to my son (or, rather, he was teaching me!) about the enormous differences between how he was taught history in his childhood and what he learned about history in college-level history classes. The Whig historiography of “First came the Greeks, then came the Romans, then came Modern Civilization which inevitably led to us” isn’t just wrong, it’s deliberately ignorant.
Finally, Walt Disney the person, the anti-Semite, racist, and sexist is an entirely different entity from the Walt Disney Company, just as the flaming anti-Semite Henry Ford isn’t the Ford Motor Company. If you’re making the point that founders of good things often suck, I’m there with you. If you’re making the point that founders of good things suck less because of the good things, I’ll move over to the Group W bench.
They’ve already flounced off the thread. They won’t be responding further. Go ahead and table this.
Perhaps someone here has solved this problem: I’m trying to donate to one of the Hong Kong groups Jeannette Ng mentioned. They have fb and paypal, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to donate except through logging into paypal. Because paypal has decided I am not me, that’s not an option — but I sure can use a CC.
Figure someone here might have a solution. Any ideas?
As we drift off-topic…
I don’t have time to research whether or not Sanger had Nazi sympathies, I am happy to believe not. But she was first and foremost a Eugenecist; it was the driving force behind her Birth Control movement. Eugenics was unquestionably a racist (and classist and sexist) movement. It was not free of those values, it was steeped and born in them. And so was she, it is utterly apparent in her writings and speeches She wanted to un-breed all us inferiors out of existence.
If Planned Parenthoods” were named “Margaret Sanger Institutes,” then yes we would be clamoring for a name change.
pax / Ctein
Madame Hardy: “Human beings do not separate, like Legos, into the artist piece and the human pieces. The human cannot but influence the artist: what you find beautiful or ugly, what you find appropriate or wrong, what you find interesting or dull, all affect what you put into the work. ”
Have to disagree. People are often very good at separating Dr. Jekyll from Mr. Hyde. Though Allen is not one of them (his work is extremely personal).
Fascism is such an overused word (like communism for my generation) and thrown around so widely I think it’s appropriate to debate whether it’s used correctly. Then again, debating whether white supremacy is fascist could easily be a distraction from how bad it is and figuring out what to do about it.
Yeah, @ctein, she was a eugenicist asshole, but not a Nazi. She advocated “humane” sterilization, with all that implies, but she never AFAIK endorsed murder of existing people. Campbell, of course, was a eugenicist, too; see James’s admirable rundown of his collected essays.
To avoid any doubt, I think eugenics was and is a horror that destroyed lots of people’s lives (both directly and by causing enormous pain both physical and mental) and is/was a disgrace. I’m not saying “Well, Sanger was a woman of her times, but…” I’m saying “Sanger was an enthusiastic eugenicist, *but she wasn’t specifically a Nazi*, nor, as far as I’ve seen, was “wiping out the non-Aryan population” ever her goal.
Speaking of books the suck fairy has visited, Jean Webster wrote a sequel to Daddy-Long-Legs, Dear Enemy, which is all about eugenics start to finish, with special guest appearances by the Jukes and Kallikaks. Oh, there’s a romantic plot, too, but.
Suffice to say that I didn’t think Ng’s characterization of Campbell was accurate, nor did I find her speech particularly compelling; others clearly feel differently, and that’s fine. I would, however, point out that the Worldcon audience – who you describe as being “electrified” by Ng’s speech – were, by dint of their personal politics, probably already inclined to agree with her assessment of Campbell.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Indeed, I think recognizing this serves as a testament to Ng’s skill as a writer, in that it shows an acute awareness of context. And that’s because her speech (which was, after all, quite short) wasn’t designed to make an argument, but rather to point something out, with the understanding that she didn’t really need to defend the truth of the observations (Campbell-as-fascist, among other related claims) upon which her speech was premised. Nonetheless, as someone who does not share many of her assumptions, her speech fell flat for me. I expect she would be okay with that.
If the Worldcon voters and attendees want to remove Campbell’s name from the award, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. It’s their convention, after all – and certainly not mine. At least, not anymore.
I think we can table the discussion of Sanger and eugenics. It’s wandered far into the weeds, thanks.
As noted elsewhere in the thread, changing the name of the award is not up to any Worldcon, or WSFS, its governing body.
> I would, however, point out that the Worldcon audience – who you describe as being “electrified” by Ng’s speech – were, by dint of their personal politics, probably already inclined to agree with her assessment of Campbell.
The Worldcon audience are quite literally the John W. Campbell Award voters. Unless you want to make the argument that pro-Campbell readers are less likely to attend the Worldcon or buy a non-attending membership, there’s no reason to believe that the Hugo audience’s reaction to Ng’s statement is unrepresentative.
Worldcon fandom is wildly unrepresentative of SF readers, of course. But SF readers as a whole aren’t consulted about the Hugo Awards or the Campbell.
Posts like this and debates like these are part of why I keep reading SF. Well done, Jeannette Ng, whose work I plainly need to read.
And many thanks to Mme Hardy for all her work on this thread, crowned with “You can never be polite enough to satisfy people who don’t want to hear you.”
Still drifting, Margaret Sanger thought that, in order for women to have a more equal footing in society and to be healthier, they needed to be able to determine when to bear children. She also wanted to prevent back-alley abortions. She considered contraception the best way to prevent abortion (it still is). She was also a supporter of eugenics, but that took a distinct back seat to her aim of keeping more women from dying from too many pregnancies and/or botched abortions.
I guess I knew Campbell was a racist, fro reading about SF over the years. Same for Lovecraft.
But if this comment above is anywhere near accurate:
“James Davis Nicoll says:
August 20, 2019 at 12:12 pm
He was very much in favour of crushing protests on civil rights issues. Also on the need to properly subjugate lesser people, like blacks, Vietnamese allies, and people from Appalachia.
Well, as a person from Appalachia, a protestor on civil rights issues, a protestor on illegal wars (Vietnam, Iraq for the biggest more recent two) AND a protestor of the current would-be fascist Mr Trump… I would have to agree that on this account, I’m going to go with racist & fascist adjectives for Campbell. The award needs to be renamed, or dropped by World Con and a new award created.
More power to Ms Ng for having the bravery to raise the issue when and as she did!! I’ll be looking for her work in the near future, after I’m caught up with Mary Robinette Kowal’s work, which I’m into the second volume of the regency novels, and they’re pretty good for an old hillbilly who never enjoyed Jane Austin that much.
Thanks for all you do Scalzi !!
Well, the word fascism is obviously being used wrongly. Fascism (the actual one) didn’t include racism, (that was german national-socialism), its values were patriotism and catholic religion, not anything racial, also it implied to be against free market economy. So yes, Campbell was a racist, but not a fascist, that’s a fact. Then the people doesn’t know the meaning of the words they use.
I have a two-part question that I haven’t seen here yet:
Could the Hugos consider refusing to administer the Campbell award altogether and then in the same 2-year period decide to sponsor their own best new writer award? It seems to me a good option to consider.
Would doing so in any way detract from the prestige of the original award—ie, in 2038, one might mention that An author won a Campbell Award and hear “what’s that?” in response?
As far as the comments on civility (last rhetorical refuge of the unrepentant domineer) go, you first. Acknowledge the horrific rhetoric, agenda, literature, and spoken words of Campbell and his ilk, and acknowledge that Campbell built all of that into the field. Approach by learning about the issue first (maybe by reading the very good previous comments!) and then grant that there is a fundamental, life and death conflict at stake for those whom you deem insufficiently civil. Acknowledge the stakes. You first.
@John Scalzi: Fair enough. I should say, then, that if Dell Magazines chooses to read the room and make a change, I would certainly have no problem with this.
I suppose I would make this argument, but it seems fairly self-evident to me. Again, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with this – not every convention needs to be representative of fandom at large.
Alex appears not to have read either the entry he’s commenting on or any of the other comments in the thread. Should he do the former, he might understand how quickly, as a matter of history, racism was added to the fascist mix. Should he bother to do the latter, he might check out the comments from the actual Italians.
The US military spends millions of dollars on the NFL. Advertising. People in uniform show up on the field with lots of flags. The Blue Angels sometimes flies overhead. The National Anthem is played sometimes to a field chockablock full of american flags. None of this has ANYTHING to do with a bunch of guys throwing a ball around.
But one guy quietly kneels during the anthem in silent protest of police abuse, and critics have the GALL to complain that he is making football “political” and that the national anthem isnt about the nation as a whole and all the people in it, but solely about people in the military, and how DARE you insult them during their song?
The NFL is practically a military recruiting device. But that isnt “political”? One guy silently kneeling is?
And silently kneeling during the anthem isnt taking up anyones time. The game and the people in the stands have put everything on hold. Kneeling is literally the quietest, most unobtrusive thing a player could do at that moment. Everyone else is standing, letting their politics be silently known. Kneeling is the quietest, most respectful, least obtrusive way to likewise let your politics be known.
Kneeling is dissent.
And lets be clear here: a lot of people cannot abide dissent no matter how it is communicated. Its got nothing to do with politeness or respect or language or making a nationalistic military recruiting campaign into something “political”. It’s the fact that he dissents that is pissing sone people off, cause some people cant abide anyone disagreeing with them.
Now is not the time?
No, you just dont like dissent.
Not polite enough?
No you just dont like dissent.
Whatever the reason you give,
Its bullshit. And the real reason you
Are going nuts about it is you’ve been
Coasting along enjoying everyone
Agreeing with your politics.
And god help the poor bastard who
Tells you that youre wrong.
If Ng had silently kneeled, or held her hands to her heart without speaking, or silently held a fist in the air, or done, literally ANYTHING to indicate dissent, there would be folks lined up saying she was impolite, rude, not the right time, politicizing something that had already established politics.
And really the only thing she did was make her dissent known in an arena of group conformity.
“They didn’t resort to name-calling and the like. … We could all learn a lesson from the examples of Mandela and de Clerk.”
Mandela quite famously said “One may be a villain for three-quarters of his life and be canonized because he lived a holy life for the remaining quarter of that life”, some time after he was one of the founders of Umkhonto we Sizwe which was all about violent resistance to evil. You’re talking about someone who served 26 years in prison for terrorism offences, and one of the men who put him there.
It goes (or should) without saying that she had the right to say whatever she wanted.
That being said, if she includes the award in her bio, if she trades on it at all, then she’s a hypocrite. In my opinion.
Nah, and for the same reason a Pulitzer prize winner might be disgusted with Joseph Pulitzer’s penchant for yellow journalism, or a Nobel prize winner might be horrified how Alfred Nobel earned the money to endow the prizes, and still put winning the prizes in their resume.
By the way, the free-but-legal collection of Campbell’s essays James mentioned is here. https://archive.org/details/collectededitori01camp I myself haven’t read it yet.
[Deleted because I asked for this topic to be tabled — JS]
Oops, sorry, John, Didn’t read before posting. Please delete my most recent!
I did, and thanks for being cool about it!
Although I am certain that there is no level of proof with which those who demand quotes would actually be satisfied, such things can illuminate Campbell’s character for anyone with an open mind and an honest interest in what actually happened.
So useful to have access to.
@David, I think you’re missing my point.
The only people who get to vote on the Campbell Award are people who buy some form of Worldcon membership. Fandom at large does not get to vote on the Hugo (and close-flying objects) unless they buy memberships. People who are part of Worldcon fan culture are self-selected on grounds including enthusiasm, wealth, circles of friends who already attend, and tolerance for Very Large Crowds.
So there are two different arguments here:
1. Are the people attending the Hugo Awards ceremony unrepresentative of fandom-meaning-SF-readers at large? Hell, yes. (Aside: I don’t know how you differentiate SF readers from the reading population at large, at this point. With the number of different SF writers who routinely make the NYT bestseller list and, more important, are top sellers at Amazon, I do not think that SF readers are a weird and special folk, if they ever were.)
2. Are the people attending the Hugo Awards ceremony unrepresentative of the con membership, both supporting and not? .
Jeannette Ng wasn’t speaking on behalf of all of Worldcon fandom. The people applauding her weren’t speaking for all of Worldcon fandom. But you need to provide some sort of evidence that Ng and the attenders were less representative of Worldcon fandom than the people who bought memberships but weren’t in the room.
@Greg, I agree with you.
Whoops. That should have been
… the con membership, both *attending* and not
Sorry about that. FTR, I’m not a mainstream convention fan. I’ve only been to one Worldcon, a Boskone in the ’80s, and no more, never again. Too many people, too much noise.
What reason is that? If you accept an award in the name of someone you detest, and then subsequently use that award to burnish your resume, that is hypocrisy. It’s factually accurate to list the award in your bio and one would be entitled to do so, but still. Hypocritical.
It was just awarded, so it’s possible Ms Ng won’t. I myself would have preferred her to show up, get on stage, denounce Campbell as a fascist, and then decline the award. Honest and clean. Would have drawn my applause. Not that she need take my preferences into account. Why should she?
As someone who holds Dr Kelsey in high regards (I consider her a professional hero), and who also works in public health/pharma, that editorial made me see red.
Not only was Campbell deeply sexist (at least he kept her title?), but shockingly callous, amoral and ignorant about how drug testing should be done, even for the 1960s. He clearly and plainly doesn’t care about the lifelong disabilities impacting children exposed to thalidomide in-utero.
I lack the writing skill to explain how horrible, awful, cruel and *stupid* that essay is.
If I had a Campbell book at home I would be deeply temped to put it on the grill, and I used to be a librarian.
To coldest, bleakest Hades with Campbell.
Miles Carter: The answer is in the piece I wrote. See if you can find it.
Also, speaking personally, if I were ever given an award named for someone who I was reasonably certain would despise me or hinder my career in the field I was given the award for, and who I found problematic, I might accept it just to have the satisfaction of knowing I’m making that horrible person roll over several times in their grave. That’s not hypocrisy, that’s “Ha ha, fuck you, I’m here and I’m awesome and you would hate me, deal with it.” I’m not suggesting that’s what Jeannette Ng is doing, mind you. Just something I would seriously consider.
> Just something I would seriously consider.
Dude, you *do* that, quite often. All this “oh, woe is me, I made the puppies all sad again by succeeding” schtick is funny, but it’s not out of character. The idea that you would accept the “Hitler-Stalin-Mugabe Award for Contributions to Literature” and make a speech pointing out that they weren’t fond of smart-arse geeks… we would all be saddened if you didn’t deliver.
I know, right? I had to stop reading there and it was the very first essay in the book.
The presumption, the arrogance, the willful blindness and the hubris on display is remarkable. With a painfully poor understanding of science, Campbell brutally dismisses Dr. Kelsey, a hero with a PhD in medicine, as a mere woman, sneering that she had to have used “womanly intuition” or possibly ESP to determine that Thalidomide could be dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn children, simply because HE didn’t understand why a trained medical doctor might hesitate at unleashing an untested drug on a vulnerable market. His grudging admission that she HAPPENED to be correct is unbelievably backhanded and ill-graced.
Oh, and his cold shrug about Babies just gonna die / be born with horrific birth defects, whatcha gonna do, it just happens, is utterly horrifying.
And these essays appear to have been chosen by someone who ADMIRED him.
Alessandra Kelley, yes, that “what’s a few dead babies” attitude is unspeakably gruesome and made me think of Dr. Mengele. Campbell clearly never considered the feelings (ew, feelings!) of the women who had the horrible experience of knowing that in all innocence, they caused the death or deformation of their own babies by taking something that was supposed to help them through their pregnancy. I suppose if he had, he would have said, “Well, dear, you win some, you lose some. You can always pop out another one. That’s what you women are for, after all.”
I hope that those like P Cleburne who object to Ng having said “Fucking” also objected to Neil Gaiman’s classic 2002 Hugo acceptance speech that ended with “Fuck! I got a Hugo!” (http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2002/09/so-long-and-short-of-it-is.asp) How crass! Surely someone like Gaiman who makes a living writing could have found some less crude way of expressing himself!
Oh, and I hope that those who object to Ng’s “crass” language also objected to George RR Martin making dick jokes on the Hugo stage about the Best Novel Hugo being “a big one,” and Silverberg approvingly quoting those jokes. (https://www.kith.org/jed/2018/08/27/silverberg-on-jemisin/)
What’s that you say? Gaiman and Martin and Silverberg are beloved white male authors who weren’t making political points and so their vulgarity and crassness don’t count? It’s only objectionable if a new-to-the-field woman of color uses such words in a political speech?
No. Just no, no, no. The award is named after Campbell. It is not given “in the name of” Campbell and it is definitely not given to honor works that support the principles or literary styles that Campbell held and respected. It is given for “best new author,” period.
Perhaps there are some voters who evaluate “best” based upon how well the author upholds Campbellian fiction, but there’s nothing in the list of recipients that supports the notion that the majority of voters do.
It is not an award honoring Campbell. Just. Not.
Had Ng won the Prometheus Award and used her acceptance speech to excoriate Libertarians, you might have a case.
This? It’s just an illogical whine.
By your reasoning, my housemate should not promote that she has a graduate degree from Stanford because, frankly, Leland Stanford was a pretty scummy guy and we both think so and aren’t afraid to say so.
pax / Ctein
As I said on Facebook, that Jeannette began her acceptance by suddenly shouting nearly sent me into a panic attack due to hostile raised voices being one of my last remaining major PTSD triggers… but for all that, I agree with her and I think she did right in what she did and said there.
Oops, sorry, I now see that you said to table responses to P Cleburn. I meant my comment to be more general than just a response to Cleburn, but if my comment falls under the area that you wanted tabled, then please delete it.
I’m very much appreciating most of the comments in this thread, especially the ones by Madame Hardy. Thank you!
I want to add one thing that a couple of people have touched on but that I don’t think anyone here has explicitly said:
Jeanette Ng is not the first person in the world of sf to explicitly call Campbell a fascist.
So I’m wondering: did the people who are upset about her using that term get just as upset when (for example) Michael Moorcock called Campbell a fascist? (Moorcock’s most widely quoted line on the subject was “By the early fifties Astounding had turned by almost anyone’s standard into a crypto-fascist deeply philistine magazine,” but in a different context he also said about Campbell, “The man was an out-and-out fascist.” In both of those contexts, he was focused primarily on Campbell’s racism, but I haven’t seen any responses to Moorcock saying “Campbell wasn’t a fascist, he was just a racist, so you shouldn’t have said that.”)
A lot of the complaints that I’m seeing about Ng’s speech seem to me to take for granted that she just made up the idea that Campbell was a fascist (or at least fascist-adjacent)—that nobody else had ever said that before. But the connection between Campbell and fascism has been around for a long time—Ng didn’t just pull that idea out of thin air.
Side note: I totally agree that Ng’s speech was electrifying; good word. There were plenty of other good speeches that night, but hers was my favorite of the evening, and the most memorable (at least to me).
(Arg, I misspelled her name, I meant “Jeannette.” Sorry about that, and sorry for the string of comments. I’m done now.)
After reviewing this entire thread I sure hope *someone* at Dell is following along!
> a Nobel prize winner might be horrified how Alfred Nobel earned the money
Or perhaps might be deeply offended at being classed with Kissinger, Peres, Obama and Aung San Suu Kyi and decide that the “Peace Prize” is not something they want to be associated with. The Nobel committee operate in secrecy partly to avoid that sort of embarassment (their comments about Peres are notable, as is their failure to make similar comments about Obama and Suu Kyi)
I note the Hugos have tried to avoid going down the same route.
Madame: You are certainly welcome to claim the success of Sally Ride’s generation as well as those who were not on the tip of the spear but in the base and stick. I hope you won’t mind if I join in your applause.
My point was that Campbell was of that generation that did a lot of very remarkable, necessary and wonderful things. That they weren’t perfect is well known. Ms Ng would have been better served to describe what she has contributed while standing on the shoulders of those who went before her.
But rather than that she appears to want to shock.
Interestingly enough, Campbell was well known to say things to shock and challenge his readers and authors.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?
@Moz, I got the impression that even Obama was embarrassed by getting the “definitely not George W Bush” Peace Prize.
@Jim, I suppose it depends on what you mean by “shock”. I am not shocked by “fuck” (as my husband would despairingly agree), nor am I shocked by calling John W. Campbell a fascist. Your mileage may vary.
Are you seriously arguing that Campbell deserves credit for laudable things that others of his generation did???
Wow, I better go look up what cool things people born in 1949 did and get my share of credit for them.
Oh, wait. I already have my share– it’s zero. A it should be
It seems necessary to belabor the point (since you resolutely ignore it) that Campbell’s odious views were NOT universally held. No one was holding a gun to his head forcing him to hold them. He may have been part of the self-anointed “Greatest Generation” (sheesh) but his sociopolitics were in myriad ways reprehensible. Both by the standards of the times and by today’s. We don’t have to honor and respect that.
More significantly, we refuse to.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’
pax / Ctein
Yes, I did read. Anyway, the word is used wrongly, period. You can’t be fascist without being catholic, I think Campbell was an atheist. You can’t be fascist and support free market economy. If fascism has several elements, lets say A, B, C and D. And I can call fascist to someone only with the element A, or A and B (this is a rethorical fallacy). Then I can call fascist also to someone with only the element D. So I can call fascist to the pope for being catholic or I can call fascist to an anticapitalist from the left for being against free market economy. Campbell was a racist? Yes. Was he a son of a bitch? Seems so, but an actual fascist? No and no.
Alex, I don’t know where you get your definition of fascism, but Merriam Webster disagrees with you entirely:
fas·cism | \ ˈfa-ˌshi-zəm also ˈfa-ˌsi- \
Definition of fascism
1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control
early instances of army fascism and brutality
— J. W. Aldridge
WIkipedia doesn’t mention Catholicism
Nor do the academic and writers cited here:
In that last cited article, fascism is described as requiring “some basic allegiances, such as to the nation, to national grandeur, and to a master race or group. The core principle — what Paxton defined as fascism’s only definition of morality — is to make the nation stronger, more powerful, larger and more successful. Since fascists see national strength as the only thing that makes a nation “good,” fascists will use any means necessary to achieve that goal. ”
Campbell seems to fit into that description.
Perhaps you could cite *your* sources, since you are so adamant that you’re right and everyone else, including Italians, are wrong?
There’s ‘Fascist’ and ‘fascist’. One can be a little-f fascist without formally belonging to the big-F party.
“You can’t be fascist without being catholic”
Given that Benito Mussolini, despite coming to an accord with the Catholic church, wasn’t himself Catholic and was in fact fairly anti-clerical, I’m curious to see who you think actually *was* fascist.
Lol, no. The fantasy version of who is allowed to be a fascist that you have in your head is not one I’m obliged to take seriously.
Also for others I would recommend not wasting more time exploring Alex’s view of who the real fascists are. It’s going down a sidetrack we need not be on.
Mussolini forced the classrooms and courts to be presided over by crucifixes, and the compulsory teaching of the Catholic religion in the public school. So that’s pretty weird for an anticlerical. Anyway, we all actually know that Campbell was not an actual fascist. His views shared elements with fascism, yes. Is that being a fascist? No, that would be a “totum pro parte” fallacy, taking a part as the whole. And it is easily explained with an example: If I say:
– Fascists are xenophobic
– John is xenophobic
– Then John is a fascist
Probably most of the people in the room will agree. But if I say:
– Fascist are anticapitalist
– John is anticapitalist
– Then John is a fascist
Probably most of the people in the room will disagree. But both silogisms are equally incorrect.
It is the same kind of fallacy/error than calling “America” to the USA. Taking a part for the whole, and all parts are equally wrong when taken as the whole. So if using fascism as synonim of anticapitalism is wrong, it is also wrong using it as synonim of totalitarism or antidemocracy, all these these things are elements that fascism had, but are not exchangable for the fascism itself.
So go and call Campbell, motherfucker, sack of shit, racist, white supremacist, or whatever he actually was. But we all know that he was not an actual fascist even when we all like to use that word as synonim for “evil”.
Uhhhh, Alex, about that “Fascism does not have racism” thing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_racial_laws
They were kind of a big thing.
I don’t care that they mainly passed those laws to appease Nazi Germany. They still did. People still suffered for it. If you uphold systemic racism for your convenience, then you are racist.
But even if they had not targeted the Jews in particular, nationalism and imperialism are still strictly tied to racism and xenophobia. Invading Ethiopia while singing that you will “free” the women there from slavery so they can become “slaves to love and duty” in Rome under a new law and a new king (that’s an actual popular fucking song from the time btw) doesn’t exactly scream “I believe in equality”.
As for the Catholic Church, many fascists were actually atheists and anticlerical, and the Lateran Treaties were basically a marriage of convenience because of the level of political power held by the Church. Like every belief held by Fascism, especially in its latter hour, it changed and swayed according to convenience and what would allow them to remain in power.
(And you know, #notallpopes or whatever, but I believe that the Popes that *did* side with Fascism in enacting the racial laws were no better than the fascists themselves)
There I was, all set to explore *my* view of who the real fascists are, and how JWC Jr ticks six or seven of eight boxes pertaining thereto. But I shall desist.
(And after having read everything in this thread and others I would at the very least define Campbell as a cryptofascist, if not a fascist outright.
But my niggle about what term *I* would have used is inconsequential. Jeannette Ng used the term that *she* wanted to use, and she had every right to use it in her speech, on her platform, in that moment. She said things that needed saying, and sparked a conversation that is worth having. That’s what matters.)
Racism? Fascism? When you’re a person of color and some person consciously decides to get in your face and challenges your intelligence, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, pronoun choices and your basic right to exist AT ALL, the academic and philosophical distinctions between the two has no fucking meaning to us.
So when you’re discussing this topic, please keep in mind that it the intellectual difference doesn’t matter at ALL. It all looks the same to us…
In this context I can’t help recalling that Campbell published for example James Schmitz’s stories featuring very strong women, Mack Reynolds tales of a corporatist future and Reynold’s novel Black Man’s Burden. An old friend once told me that in her youth Schmitz’s Telzey Amberdon inspired her to think that women could find non-traditional roles. I haven’t re-read Reynolds and have no idea how his stories would hold up today, but Reynolds was originally a socialist and I think he was trying at times to express ideas somewhat outside the norms of the time. My point is that while Campbell may have been in effect a fascist, he wasn’t only a fascist and what he published wasn’t entirely within the bounds of common stereotypes.
I kind of feel like many people here haven’t really read Campbell? They argue that “fascist” is the wrong word, but then what word should we use for someone who was against democracy and equal vote? In his “Constitution for Utopia” from 1961, he states:
“True popular democracy – true rule by the majority – establishes the government of the mob.”
So Campbell is against democracy. What does he want instead?
“Let’s make the Test for Rulers simply that the individual’s earned annual income must be in the highest twenty per cent of the population. This automatically makes them a minority group, selected by a pragmatic test. It bars no one, on any theoretical or rationalized grounds whatever; any man who demonstrates that he can handle his private affairs with more than ordinary success is a Voter, a Ruler.”
I do not have a problem with calling this system, together with his other opinions on race segregation, as fascism. Wanting to remove the voting rights for 80% of the population.
Some people here might argue that it was common in the beginning of the 60:s to want to dismantle democracy. I will not agree with them.
WRT: the shadow cast over a prize by the person it was named for.
Time changes all things. Others have questioned the Nobel prizes based on Nobel’s other work, so let it be an example. Today, very few people think of Alfred Nobel or could actually tell how he came to have the Prizes named for him because those prizes have gained stature not for their origin but for the accomplishments of Michelson, Einstein, Fermi, De Broglie, (why, yes, I’m a physicist — does it show?) and others.
I dare say that any prize of sufficient antiquity — and antiquity itself conveys some stature — named after an early individual would eventually be tarnished by the times of its origin; no one of modern sensibility would have had much chance of accomplishing anything in the 16th Century, and I know that Kepler was no saint. Still, we can’t ignore his contributions either.
IMHO Nobel is past that horizon; the Prizes named for him have since graced the name to an extent that would be ill-served at this point by changing it. With all due respect to Our Gracious Host, even John Scalzi has not given the Campbell Award enough dignity in its own right to stand independent of its namesake’s legacy. Were we having this conversation forty years from now, you would have to do without me but I suspect that it would be a very different discussion. However, this day is not that day.
There is very little in this world that is completely black or white.
“Could the Hugos consider refusing to administer the Campbell award altogether and then in the same 2-year period decide to sponsor their own best new writer award?”
It would take WSFS two Worldcons to create a Best New Writer award to replace the Campbell: one for first passage and a second for ratification. But in that interim period individual Worldcons could give out a Best New Writer Hugo, if they hadn’t already chosen some other new Hugo to give out in their year. Each Worldcon gets one special category if it wants to add one.
Those interested in the relationship of fascism and Catholicism could take a look at this book, The Pope and Mussolini https://www.amazon.com/Pope-Mussolini-Secret-History-Fascism-ebook/dp/B00EBRUAZS/ref=sr_1_1?crid=QPCKKIOIRM4A&keywords=the+pope+and+mussolini&qid=1566483028&s=gateway&sprefix=the+pope+and+mu%2Caps%2C189&sr=8-1