With admirable swiftness, what was the John C. Campbell Award for Best New Writer has been re-named The Astounding Award for Best New Writer.
Named for Campbell, whose writing and role as editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later renamed Analog Science Fiction and Fact) made him hugely influential in laying the groundwork for both the Golden Age of Science Fiction and beyond, the award has over the years recognized such nominees as George R.R. Martin, Bruce Sterling, Carl Sagan, and Lois McMaster Bujold, as well as award winners like Ted Chiang, Nalo Hopkinson, and John Scalzi.
However, Campbell’s provocative editorials and opinions on race, slavery, and other matters often reflected positions that went beyond just the mores of his time and are today at odds with modern values, including those held by the award’s many nominees, winners, and supporters.
John W. Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fucking fascist. Through his editorial control of Astounding Science Fiction, he is responsible for setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists. Yes, I am aware there are exceptions.
Jeannette also used her brief speech to express solidarity with ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
For those who would like a little background, the Hugo Awards are pretty much the pre-eminent fan-voted literary awards for science fiction and fantasy. The Astounding Award for Best New Writer is not technically a Hugo, but it’s pretty close: voted for by the same constituency, and presented at the same awards ceremony. The Hugo Awards themselves have been the focus of significant political controversy in recent years.
In response to the news, Jeannette tweeted:
I am not the only one who has spoke up about this over the years. There have been petitions, letters and opinion columns before me. I stand on the shoulders of giants and I fear I am be stealing all their thunder in this. https://t.co/QYsEe22tsN
— Jeannette Ng 吳志麗 (@jeannette_ng) August 27, 2019
Earlier and elsewhere:
- Cory Doctorow on Jeannette Ng’s acceptance speech
- South China Morning Post article
- Jeannette Ng home page
- Steve Davidson: “Was John W. Campbell a F**cking Fascist, or Merely a Fascist?”
- Niall Harrison musing on Campbell, Watts, and “hard sf” in 2006
- A bit more about “The Cold Equations,” the influential and emblematic sf story Campbell had a heavy hand in
- My WorldCon 2019 report
- Wikipedia article on definitions of fascism