Final Notes re: the Campbell/Astounding Award Name Change

First, this tweet from CoNZealand 2020 (next year’s Worldcon), regarding how it intends to proceed with the newly-renamed Astounding Award:

This is relevant because there were some folks who were saying that due to the name change and the WSFS constitution, the Astounding Award could not be administered/given out until the WSFS constitution itself noted the change of name, a process which could take two years or longer. Fortunately for everyone involved, the people who are actually running the convention recognized this was trivial nickpickery of the highest order; it’s the same award and there’s no reason not to keep doing things as they have been. So it’s good that’s settled.

Second, there’s not been any guidance to how people who won the award when it was known as the Campbell should refer to themselves in relation to the award today: Are we still Campbell Award winners, or are we now Astounding Award winners? Well, I’ve personally made the unilateral decision that I will be referring to myself as an “Astounding Award winner” and when necessary for context I’ll say “Astounding Award (formerly the Campbell Award)” or some such*.

Why? Mostly because I think it makes sense to standardize how we refer to the award and to use the current name for doing so. I think previous winners and nominees adopting the new name in reference to their nominations and wins is useful in terms of helping with the transition from one name to the next. There may be some previous award winners and nominees that prefer to continue using the former name and that’s their right, for whatever reason, but I’m fine with the new name. So: Astounding Award winner it is.

With regard to others referring to the Astounding Award, my suggestion is they also use the new name for the award, but given the history of the award and the length of time the Astounding was the Campbell, I’m not going to go out of my way to be offended if people refer to it as the Campbell. It’s possible a very small minority of people who are performatively outraged at the name change will insist on calling it the Campbell in the same way and for the same reasons that some people think saying “Merry Christmas” is striking a blow against political correctness, or whatever. Those people are silly, and also a little bit sad. But to each their own.

In any event, hi, I won the Astounding Award, back when it was called the Campbell. But you can say I won the Astounding Award for short.

(* Please note that while I am adopting the Astounding name moving forward, by and large I am not going to go back into this site’s archives and swap out “Campbell” with “Astounding” in previously written entries. That would be a lot of work, and I am lazy. I will probably update it on professional bios/CVs and such. That is much less work.)

53 Comments on “Final Notes re: the Campbell/Astounding Award Name Change”

  1. Also, let’s please not use this comment thread to attempt to relitigate the name change. It’s happened, it’s done, and griping about it here won’t change it (indeed, griping about it anywhere won’t change it). So let’s table it for the purposes of this thread.

    Also also, I suspect that some of you might want to use this thread to talk about the discussion regarding the Tiptree Award and whether that name should be changed as well. I’d prefer we don’t, thanks; there are other places online to talk about that. With that noted, I will say that were I to create an award today, what I would not do is name it after a person.

  2. I have a slightly different opinion on what to call my Campbell Award; I like the name Astounding Award, but my plaque still says Campbell Award on it. I like the idea of being a Campbell Award winner, even as I don’t like Campbell’s opinions (in fact, in some ways, that’s part of why I like still calling it the Campbell, as I won a character award in college from a House named for an anti-Semite. It’s a way of repudiating the name…). Eventually, perhaps, we might get an “official” statement renaming the previous winners to be Astounding Award winners.

  3. Sometimes, of course, it’s the other way around from the Campbell/Astounding situation, in which the new name is the neutral one. No one should be thought of as “silly, and also a little bit sad” for wanting to keep using an old neutral name when it’s been replaced by a non-neutral one. Washington National Airport, for instance.

  4. The winners, past, present, and future, are all Astounding. And they should name themselves however they like.

  5. We could do as Prince did and refer to it as the Astounding Award (TAFKAC), referring to “The Award Formerly Known As Campbell.”

    Just getting the satire in early, in case this turns into another one of those tempests in a teapot that generate spasms and frissons among some elements of fandom.

  6. I’m astounded it’s even a controversy.

    Sow confusion in the history bank! Rename it every year after whomever wins it. That’ll show . . . um, whomever it was.

  7. I think that’s a good solution. It was the CA, now it’s the AA. You’re not white-washing its history, but you’re ready to move forward and welcoming of the new name.

  8. Many folks, including myself, call the mostly-ballet theater in Lincoln Center by its original name, New York State Theater, rather than its current name, Climate-Change-Denying Recently-Deceased Billionaire Theater.

  9. This all came about as I was working through Gregory Benford’s excellent alt-history tale, ‘The Berlin Project’ – wherein Campbell is one of the minor characters. So he won’t exactly be erased from SF…

  10. Call the award whatever you like. You’ll always be a Campbell Award winner in my view, and well deserved, too. Not that my view matters even a little to anyone else.

    However, it is, and always will be, The Sears Tower. Also: Marshall Fields.

  11. My personal take is to call the old ones Campbell’s, to match the name on the plaque, and the new ones going forward Astoundings. But I’m not eligible for either so I don’t feel it very strongly. I will say that I went through the wiki list of past winners and nominees when this came up. I was surprised to find it an almost even mix of “now a giant of the field” and “who?” I guess you never can tell.

  12. Any attempt to rewrite history, to state that X equals not X, sticks in my craw. You didn’t win an Astounding Award because that award didn’t exist when you won your award. Names matter; if they didn’t, why the rename?

    If you’re confused, just look at the plaque (or whatever) you received. What does it say you won? That’s what you won. Be proud and move on. It was, after all, a great achievement. Congratulations!

  13. Miles Carter:

    “You didn’t win an Astounding Award because that award didn’t exist when you won your award.”

    Well, actually, it did: The Best New Writer award, sponsored by Dell Magazines, which is not a Hugo, did exist when I won it. I know, because I was there when it happened. Then it was called the Campbell; now it’s called the Astounding. It’s the same award and will be treated as such by both the sponsor of the award and the organization which handles the administration of the award.

    That being the case, it’s both my choice and privilege to choose by which of those names I refer to the award moving forward. You (or anyone) may disagree with the choice I make, but then, ask me if I care.

    (Also: The fact that it says “Campbell” on my award plaque is not actually here nor there on this matter. I actually own the plaque; it’s your basic “Employee of the Month” sort of plaque. I could swap out the name of the award quite easily, if I chose. And if I did — and I could, who could stop me — that wouldn’t change the fact I still won the Best New Writer award, sponsored by Dell Magazine, now called the Astounding, not a Hugo, back in 2006.)

  14. We’ll, I can understand wanting to claim you won the Astounding Award, because…. let’s face it….. you are kinda astounding.

    Awwww capitals.. Gotta love ’em.

  15. Agree on the first point, there should be no drama (but I bet somehow there will be), disagree on how previous winners should style themselves. I find Campbell Award (now Astounding Award) is more accurate in describing the award status and fits my desire for neatness of categorisation as it reflects the name of the award when…er…awarded. However since I not only never won one, nor was I ever even in the top five billion contenders for one, it is really not up to me; and whatever you lofty award winners want to go by is what we should use.

  16. Precedent: The first few awards made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were not contemporaneously called “Oscars.” Now they all are, including at the AMPAS website and in its printed official histories. Well, except for the Irving Thalberg Award that is not an Oscar…

    So maybe this year, next year, even four or five years from now, “Campbell” will continue to make sense as a referent. (And there will remain a sad contingent a couple of decades into the future who try to deny the change, with about as much justification — or success — as King Canute had with the tides.) After then, not so much.

  17. I’ve always told people you’re an astounding fellow, John, so I’m glad that’s finally going to be clear to everyone :).

  18. Completely disregarding all the issues about Campbell and what horrible opinions he had and the icky ways he shaped the genre, I do not get why anyone would not leap at the chance to call themselves an Astounding Award Winner regardless of what the actual name on their trophy is.

    I mean. You’re Astounding, and the entire world of SF/F lit thinks so! That’s way cooler than saying you have an award named for an old dead person, regardless of who the old dead person is.

  19. Acknowledging that, in the longer run, the Astounding name will win out, on the model of the Oscar story told above, even for recipients of the old version,
    And not challenging in the least the right of this author or any recipient of this award to refer to said award in any way they wish,
    Finally, concurring with others above on the Astounding qualities of our host,

    Still – considering, for the time being, Jeanette Ng as first and so far sole recipient of the Astounding Award would be a means to recognise that it was her action that brought about the name change.

    (You can argue that early adoption of the new name by past recipients is a means to show they support the change – somehow I prefer highlighting Ng’s role)

  20. I stumbled on the following website and find the following interesting because thinking back I quit reading scifi around the ’56-’60 time frame because it had became boring. I returned about 15 years ago on a very selective basis.

    [Excessive quotation of a piece snipped because it’s more than fair use, last two grafs (which get to the point) retained, with link — JS]

    “I daresay, John W. Campbell is responsible for mainstream science fiction becoming unreadable.

    So whereas you may have expected I be decrying the move by Analog at the beginning of this essay, it’s quite the opposite. I cheer it on.”

    I find that view somewhat accurate, or at least in my case. I read what I find enjoyable and as soon as the story/movie/whatever becomes a sermon I toss it. IOW, I stumbled on Scalzi and have purchased, and read, his first two novels. I found them enjoyable stories about large important happenings with likeable believable characters. So I will buy another and will continue until they no longer amuse me.

    Readers count. Authors should remember that. Editors too. In the meantime:

    Anyone can call any award anything but they can’t change the name after the fact. It is what it was. You can try but you can’t change history.

    Have a nice day.

  21. I understand and apologize for my “too much.” But I hope you will let me quote the following which, I believe, explains “why:”

    ” Campbell’s legacy as an editor was, as he aged, to reject the pulp mentality of stories and push the genre into a “more scientific” and “literary” movement, something that as it spiraled, shed readers in exchange from applause from authors in the genre. Between Campbell, Clark, and Asimov, they succeeded in using their platforms to set forth generations of unfun stories which transformed science fiction from something millions read, to something thousands read”


  22. When you get a spare minute, the third paragraph needs an edit. You meant to say “there’s no reason to keep doing things as they have been.” Feel free to delete this comment when you’re done.

  23. OK, I digress, but Really, Jim Lewis? I find it hard to believe that there has ever been a period where SF readership dropped by even a significant amount, let alone by over 99%!

  24. Being an Astounding Award winner is so much more clearly in the bones of science fiction to my mind, you are the people that give us that sense of wonder we all love or to put it another way you astound us. People may or may not know who Campbell was, but they will all know what ‘astounding’ means.

  25. ::It’s possible a very small minority of people who are performatively outraged at the name change will insist on calling it the Campbell in the same way and for the same reasons that some people think saying “Merry Christmas” is striking a blow against political correctness, or whatever.::

    Then count me among the Performatively Outraged, Scalzi, b/c in case you haven’t noticed, the Republicans you and I both used to belong to have weaponized “Christmas” as a Christian Right holiday, and love nothing more than to aggressively rub non-Christians’ noses in it.

    Wonder how they’d react if I wished them “Eid Mubarak” next May 23rd and 24th? Probably shoot me dead with their AR-15s, then claim I threatened them with “Islamofascism” and they were just Standing Their Ground…

    Referring to the Midwinter season in a non-specific manner is simply common courtesy in a culture that, little as the MAGA-Cap wearing Evangelical Hypocrites like it, is profoundly pluralistic and welcomes ALL faiths, just just theirs. Same goes for the common courtesy of referring to an award named after a notorious Bigoted Scientology Cultist by the name of the magazine he created instead.

    Nothing wrong with showing some courtesy to those often granted very little of it, is there?

  26. Derek, the author most likely over stated the drop off. OTOH, the number of magazines decreased radically.The reasons? I duuno for certain. For me, I just got bored with the product and moved on to other things. I read some periodically over the years but started reading more after retirement. I think one of the really bad things about the drop off was the loss of market for new authors.

  27. Jim Lewis:

    The disappearance of pulp magazines has more to do with market forces (affecting rather more than just SF pulps) than it has to do with any influence of Campbell, et al as editors. The market for SF/F has changed a number of times over the decades: From short story-oriented in the time of the pulps to short novel-oriented in the time of rack-jobbed paperbacks; to longer-novel oriented as rack distribution consolidated and chain bookstores rose; to our current era where Amazon is the predominant bookseller and electronic publishing has become a thing. In every era, some authors arrived, some thrived and others crashed out.

    Superversive, it should be noted, has a particular point of view it wishes to promote about the state of the industry, which may or may not be supported by things like facts and actual sales or readership numbers. Inasmuch as I myself have sold literally millions of books, and can think of authors in the SF/F field who sell as well as I do (and better), I’m inclined to take their assertions in support of their thesis with a grain of salt.

    With that said, we’re wandering afield from the topic at hand, so let’s circle back, please.

  28. I’ve had your same experience, but at a much lower level. In my military career I received a number of various awards from organizations that, due to reorganizations and other changes, had morphed out of existence and into something else. I usually referred to the new name of the award/organization, with a parenthetical notation until the new name became accepted (i.e. “Air Force Material Command” Award for XXX, formerly known as the “Air Force Systems Command” Award for XXX).

    Worked just fine, everybody understood, and there was no confusion.

  29. The new name works not just because the winners are all astounding writers, but because Astounding has long no longer been the name of the magazine. If it were, or had been recently, it would give the award a proprietary air that I don’t think the sponsors want.

    It’s worth noting, by the way, that celebrating the name Astounding this way is another critique of JWC, who never liked the name, considering it undignified. That’s why he changed it to Analog, a change not wildly popular at the time among fans, who thought that the more admirable qualities of JWC’s editing (and there were some: that’s why the award was named for him in the first place) had elevated the title.

    Anyway, go ahead and change it retroactively; there are enough precedents. However, I think it should probably be left alone in official lists of past winners of Hugos and related awards, since categories there are customarily referred to by what they were called at the time, not what they were changed to. However, most of these changes did involve changes in the coverage of the categories, and this one doesn’t.

  30. DR Darke:

    As a point of clarification, I’ve never registered as a Republican. Or as a Democrat, for that matter.

    Lee Whiteside:

    I hope never to give Brandon reason to change the name of that award.

  31. I got a degree from the Statue University of New York at Stony Brook. My diploma even says that. However, that university no longer goes by name. As such, I now I say that I got my degree from Stony Brook University.

  32. Ng was right he was a fascist. There is no downside to this, another racist white male erased from history, still many more to go!

  33. Dear Miles,

    Oh, that is just silly. The award was named in honor of Campbell but it was never about Campbell. It has never been awarded to authors based upon how well their fiction upholds Campbellian philosophies or would have been loved by Campbell or would have been likely to be published in AST/AN. The list of nominees and winners shows that beyond any question.

    Changing the name of the award has no more changed the nature of the award than renaming a street ion your town changes the street. And, when that happens, there will be residents who will continue to use the old name of the street until habit changes. And, in fifty years, hardly any will remember it ever had another name.

    But the street continues to be whatever it is.

    There are awards which are given because they support certain philosophies or principles that are associated with their name– e.g., the Prometheus and the Tiptree. In that case, changing the name of the award is more pertinent to the award itself.

    This is not one of those case, not by any stretch. You are being intransigent for the sake of intransigence.

    pax / Ctein

  34. “Well, I’ve personally made the unilateral decision that I will be referring to myself as an “Astounding Award winner” and when necessary for context I’ll say “Astounding Award (formerly the Campbell Award)” or some such*.”
    No no.
    Call yourself an “Astounding Award winner”, and if necessary correct it to ” winner of the Astounding Award”

  35. “Ladies and gentlemen, the award you’re about to see is real. Only the names have been changed, to protect the innocent.”

    (A paraphrase of a quote that John may or may not be old enough to recognize, and others certainly won’t, but oh well.) :)

  36. After reading the post, I thought that while each winner is entitled to handle this however he or she sees fit, if I were one of those fortunate and deserving few, I would be among the “refer to it as Campbell for the years when it was Campbell and as Astounding starting now” contingent. Having read the comments in this thread and thought about the various points being made, I have changed my mind and agree with the stance taken by JS. The street name analogy was probably the comment that tipped me onto that side when I was teetering on the fence.

  37. SF has had several upheavals in the 50+ years I’ve been reading it. It is ironic that a genre with the idea of change at its core contains so many people who can’t handle the reality of change.

    I started buying SF magazines during the tail end of Campbell’s tenure at Analog. Even as a teenager in 1970/1, I could tell that the times were passing him by. I remember him trying to adjust; the June 1971 issue was entitled “Balance and Ecology” and the cover featured a mallard in the foreground with a rocket launch in the background. The cover has stayed with me partly because it was a great image and partly because the accompanying editorial was such a mess. I don’t remember specifics, just that Campbell was trying to demonstrate a flexibility that he didn’t have. Or maybe reality wasn’t flexible enough to bend to his arguments. Yeah, that seems more in character.

    The cover may be found at The parent page, is an interesting walk through memory lane for older readers.

  38. ” the same reasons that some people think saying “Merry Christmas” is striking a blow against political correctness,”

    Happy mudder trucking Holidays!

  39. @zibelyne: I’m sympathetic to your argument, but considering the speed of events, I suspect Ms. Ng’s role was more like “final straw”. She was hardly the first to complain, and I tend to suspect that Dell was ready for this–and may even have been looking for a good excuse.

    That said, I think we can all agree that the worst possible outcome would be to force Ms. Ng to be the last person required to use the name “Campbell” for the award. Which is basically what would happen if we went with the “no retroactive use” some are espousing. Frankly, I don’t think anyone who doesn’t want to should be forced to associate their name with Campbell’s. Obviously that includes Ms. Ng, but I doubt she’d want anyone else to have to put up with that either.

  40. As you know, the name change is a done deal.
    Needless to say, I would never give any aide and comfort to a racist, anarchist, fascist or communist.

    If you are none of the above, and you respect any appropriate good that Campbell did, then it may comfort you to reflect that when I am petting my robot dog beside my fake fireplace and reading in my 3-D newspaper that humankind has planted a flag on Mars, Campbell will still have his footnote firmly in the digital history books.

  41. >> There is no downside to this, another racist white male erased from history, still many more to go! >>

    Wait, wait, they erased him from _history_?!

    Man, how come I still remember him?

  42. As someone who never knew the names of any historical magazine editors, and never remembered what the new writer not!Hugo was called, this whole affair has been weirdly educational. Sort of.

  43. Erasing someone from history is foolish, dangerously foolish. We *remember* Hitler and Stalin for good reason!

    (Not saying Campbell belongs in that company, at all. Millions of people throughout history – and today – have held and still hold dangerous and outright stupid ideas. Doesn’t make them all monsters. Mostly just wrong.)

  44. Yeah, not exactly erased from history. I’m reminded of a joke I saw during the whole confederate statue kerfluffle. (Not an exact quote.) “After the Revolutionary War, statues of King George were pulled down–and nobody ever remembered why we had a revolution ever again!” :D

  45. @xtifr:
    The irony, of course, being that those who complain about the confederate statues being torn down (and those who put up the confederate statues in the first place, long after the war) are for the most part also the ones who are trying to make sure that nobody remembers (the real reasons) why the Civil War happened.

  46. I would definitely change your bio. There are probably lots of people who have no idea who Campbell was who will be impressed that you got an award for being Astounding!

  47. >> There is no downside to this, another racist white male erased from history, still many more to go! >>
    The last thing I want to do is erase history. We’re in the middle of righting hundreds of millions of wrongs perpetrated by racists/sexists/etc, so I can understand the desire to pretend that the racists and sexists were monsters.But the simple reality was they were human and their sexism/racism grew out of the social norms of their time. Some exceeded those norms, some outgrew them.
    Eventually, I hope, we come to a state where there’s a consensus of which racist white males achieved enough despite being racist that it’s still worth recognizing their achievements, vs. those who were so racist that their attitude outweighs everything else they accomplished. I don’t expect to live to see that day however.

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