Jeannette Ng was right: John W Campbell was a fascist

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/11/04/life-isnt-a-ledger.html

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lol, Cory is still going on about the “Cold Equations”.

By that logic, we should shun Star Wars fandom, not because Darth Vader got into Force Heaven, but because Alderaan was genocided merely to emphasize that Space Nazis are Evil.

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So… I’m normally rotten when it comes to saying thanks to people… BUT i am trying to change that.

Growing up… Asimov was one of my heroes and so ANYONE who he mentioned… i would check out at the library if i could find anything about them there…

There was a lot of stuff i liked… some stuff that i didn’t… such is the nature of fiction in general… but there was a lot of stuff that i kind of liked… but things sat in an uneasy way with me… even then. I wasn’t exactly sure why… but it did

Jeannette Ng was right to call it out… Cory did a great explanation adding to
the debate about ‘The Artist vs his works’

I’ll admit… i haven’t read anything by Jeannette Ng… but i think i will…

Maybe i’ll like it, maybe i won’t… such is still the way of fiction… BUT in the same way that Asimov was a gateway for me to other writers then… if people i respect and admire talk about Ng… then she’s bouncing up to the top of my reading list.

We need people to call it when they see it… and not pretend it isn’t there out of ‘respect’ to ‘tradition’

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This is very true and a lot of people would benefit from considering it. Demanding that we never read or watch or listen to anything made by problematic people would make the world a much poorer place. Instead we need to start considering the fact that people in the public eye are actually people, not angels or demons. Having someone you like turn out to be an asshole hurts, but it often doesn’t erase what you liked about them. It adds context. And might make you think twice about honoring them as a person. John W Campbell shouldn’t have awards named after him. But people should still read his work, especially if they know the context of who he was.

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People weren’t celebrating his own writing, I’ll assume you meant that people should still read the people he edited, and not the racist editorials.

They should still also read more of the people he dismissed, career-damaged, and side-lined. If people want to be “fair”.

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Almost reads as an apologia for Richard Stallman. I guess because it’s fairly a generic position that can be applied to any flawed hero.

Sometimes - people are just assholes.

Like some crank who actually complained about thalidomide being banned.

https://www.free-culture.ir/Analog_1963_Jan_The_lesson_of_thalidomide.html

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But he was the guy who read the submissions of fifteen geniuses, and chose three to share with the world! Why are people not thankful enough for the three geniuses he gave us? /s

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But you need to understand him in the context of his times.

Nobody who was of age to serve during WW2 knew anything about Nazis? Of course- he didn’t serve during WW2 - so there is that data point.

“ Both Heinlein and Hubbard are Navy veterans and Asimov worked as a civilian researcher in support of the war effort. What happened during World War II plays a huge role in Nevala-Lee’s story and we’ve got an excerpt that details Heinlein and Asimov’s time working at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.”

“ 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. ”

“ 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 .”

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Well, there was also his “Who Goes There?” from 1938, a novella which was the basis for the 1951 movie “The Thing From Another World”, and its better remake, John Carpenter’s “The Thing” from 1982.

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People are welcome to re-read it if they wish.

I know there are works of equal importance or greater quality by people who weren’t boringly racist.

That’s not erasing the past, it’s remembering the parts he skipped over.

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Well - I may be just a simple country gal - but that right there sounds like the difference between history and hagiography.

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An aside to that: In his eulogy for Bester, Asimov mentioned that “Alfie” would frequently grope his butt when they met. This caused Asimov to become wary of coming across Bester – which, in turn, made him consider how young women might be wary of him.

In essence, Bester ruined groping women’s butts for Asimov by treating him the way he treated women.

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Thing is, if he had saved the girl, that would be yet another little remembered "steely eyed hero saves the day story.

Authors Roald Dahl and James Thurber were known to be assholes. Still funny, though.

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I used to love Bill Cosby because he seemed like the ultimate dad figure–in TV and his stand up comedy. His rape conviction (and dozens more alleged of young women over the years) certainly adds context!

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It is important to be willing to adjust your opinion of people in the face of new knowledge.

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Agreed with one amendment:

I think that understanding that the good that people do doesn’t erase the harms they cause (and vice-versa) is critical to navigating a world of flawed people.

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I always find these topics to be like two people sitting around wondering what to do.

Person A: Let’s go for ice cream, I thought up a brand new way to do a sundae.
Person B: Wow, that is the best idea I’ve heard in a while. You’re a genius!
Person A: The only way we can get there is if I kick a puppy on the way there.
Person B: I don’t want to go any more.
Person A: Why are you against ice cream all of a sudden? Why did you stop calling me a genius? Don’t you remember how I was the only one who could have suggested ice cream?


Ice cream is a nice idea. It doesn’t mean you’re committed to someone for life, or that your opinion of them can’t change, or that you have to hold that person up as a hero for one thing they once did, while actively minimizing shitty things they’ve done.

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Asimov still tried to grope my mom, when she met him at a convention in the ‘80s (I was there) -.-’ .

Re: Campbell: This isn’t meant as an excuse or justification, but this was endemic behavior for his class of people, at that time (white, well-off). In other words, he wasn’t breaking society’s norms at that time, so it shouldn’t be so surprising, that he also garnered popular support, awards named after him, and etc.

Andrew Carnegie was arguably much worse than Campbell. Bluntly, Carnegie was a brutal thug, responsible for the injuries and/or deaths of many people. Yet there’s still the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction. Notice how Carnegie’s sins aren’t mentioned at all, in the description of the award? He’s just given as a “philanthropist”…

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The thing is people don’t seem to see degrees of “bad” in what they want to erase.

I never read SF magazines and came after John Campbell died, so all I have is his stories. It’s not unlike Heinlein, people calling him a fascist, but I don’t get that from his writing, though I find some things annoying, but nothing to erase him.

I also wonder how many people form their own opinion, and just react because someone said something, often an “expert”.

There’s also degree if “bad”. Writing an editorial is not the same thing as being part of the klan, and his position on the four killed at Kent State represents reality at the time. I don’t think he marched with a hard hat, like some did.

If Asimov groped women, that’s not good, but isn’t the same as if he went further. He’s also dead so it’s no longer a problem for women, though the same behavior from other men now woukd be.

There’s also a difference between speaking out, and acting out. Tge former is always valid, the latter shoukdn’t just be a reaction, it should come after careful thought and even debate.

If you want to erase, erase nazis. I can’t see any good in them.

Back in April the doctors said I had an incurable disease, though it can be kept in check. I can’t remember if they said it, or a read it afterwards, but it’s named after a doctor who was a nazi. Last week another doctor used a different name, at first I thought it was a side issue. But when I looked it up, it was the same disease. But, the first name had been erased or lowered in importance. Either I was too wonky in April, a possibility, or tye planned renaming happened in six months. A disease I’d never heard of before.

That’s an erasure I can live with.

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