Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/08/20/needed-saying.html
Read: Jeannette Ng's Campbell Award acceptance speech, in which she correctly identifies Campbell as a fascist and expresses solidarity with Hong Kong protesters
Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/08/20/needed-saying.html
Go Girl, we hear you!
Great observations by Jeannette Ng, and a nice write up with excellent context by Cory.
The first quote is the exact thing I came here to applaud. I wish everyone could read it and take it to heart in a real, unvarnished way. The second quote, too.
Who knew that Norman Spinrad’s The Iron Dream* wasn’t really fiction but a prophecy?
*The Iron Dream is a novel in which Adolf Hitler emigrates to the USA and becomes an honored science fiction novelist spinning out his Mein Kampf fantasies as books instead of corpses.
I think if there is one thing that I wish that we could incorporate more of into our society it would be the ability to recognize that people are complex things, and quite often have both positive and negative attributes - and we can learn from both. Erasing someone completely from history instead of being frank about the problematic elements of someone’s life eliminates the ability for us to learn from either their positive or negative attributes. Wallpapering over the imperfections over the past and attempting to edit history to only showcase the positive aspects of it removes the context needed to understand current issues and their place in history.
In many ways, Campbell was instrumental in creating the Science Fiction that we know today; both the good elements and the bad elements. Instead of disappearing him, we should be more open about his flaws and the bad elements of the scifi community today so that we have a more open shot of creating the open, caring, diverse, wonderful community that most of us want.
The cure to low information is always more information, never less information.
ETA: Note that not discussing Campbell’s troubling positions is as much an attempt to wallpaper the past as eliminating him completely.
A pity about Asimov. He’s one of the few scifi authors I can easily recommend to young readers without worrying about reference to sex. I think he only admitted to writing two stories with love interests and the only one I read was terrible. His stories were centered around men, which is one thing. But being and active douche is another. Still, I’ve gone this many decades without pinching a woman’s rear (not sure I’ve even pinched my wife’s!), while reading his stuff. I think I can still feel ok recommending him to young readers.
As an aside, I have an honest question. Campbell seems to have held some odious beliefs. But can someone explain they equal being a fascist? I’m obviously missing some detail (i.e. yup, that’s clearly fascism!). Please don’t flame me. I actually googled him with regards to fascism and all I found (other than the Ng quote) was a quote from the fifties calling him a crypto-facsist. If there’s something I’m missing, it would be interesting to hear.
Recommend the comments on Scalzi’s post, where they have receipts:
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
© A believer in a “master race”.
Perfect! That’s exactly what was asking for. Thank you.
This award speech wasn’t on my radar- thanks for posting. Much of the science fiction that thrilled me as a youth is nearly unreadable to me now for many of the characteristics that Ng rightly takes issue with.
The fact Ng was given the award gives me hope that work by her and other newcomers to the field will be embraced and helped to thrive- I look forward to reading more new work from fresh perspectives!
S.M. Stirlings Domination series of books seem like a similar sort of alternate fiction stories about an extreme ethno-state.
She ain’t wrong. Campbell also saw an all-white universe with white men superior to all other humans and humans superior to all aliens. As my wife has said several times “I like dystopian science fiction more than Campbell’s future because at least in dystopian sci-fi I have a place fighting over the last rat.”
It was a good speech. I’m weird out by the response from some quarters about not judging him by modern standards, as if he lived in the 18th century or some shit. The dude as a racist authoritarian in the mid-20th century. He was pro-shooting-student-demonstrators during the Vietnam war (which he supported, of course). He was a total asshole based on the standards of the time, and it wasn’t like he shied away from expressing them in his magazine itself, either, so any “let’s keep politics separate from” arguments also fall apart.
I’m also a bit disheartened by all the people whose immediate reaction (e.g. in the Scalzi blog comments) to her calling him a fascist was the assumption that she’s being dishonest/inaccurate and only doing so because he was (famously) a racist, not because she’s also aware that he was an anti-democratic authoritarian (who was also a serious racist). It’s as if her knowledge on the subject is being denied out of hand, and/or people are buying into the right-wing assertion that “fascist” and “racist” are slurs against people one disagrees with. (Except Campbell was undeniably a racist, so that can’t get denied…)
I’d read so much in the 70s and 80s I kind of ran out of stuff to read and fell away from SF. Recently a friend recommended Fallen Angels by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle who I remember enjoying back in the day. It was appalling and so poorly written I’m surprised they signed their name to it. A couple of guys who, because they can calculate trajectories or draw up a circuit, believe they now know everything about everything, but are actually utterly clueless. To quote a modern fascist -SAD!
Rereading some of the old stuff, it’s now quite obvious; age has it’s advantages. Hats off to Ng and others who now ascend to their rightful place while calling out the “shitlords”.
Also the excellent A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar which is based on an alternate history where Hitler has to flee to London after the Nazi takeover of Germany fails and works as a rubbish private eye.
People are flawed vessels. The circumstances around us – our social norms and institutions – can be structured to bring out our worst natures or our best. We can invite Isaac Asimov to our cons to deliver a lecture on “The Power of Posterior Pinching” in which he literally advises men on how to grope the women in attendance, or we can create and enforce a Code of Conduct that would bounce anyone, up to and including the Con Chair and the Guest of Honor, who tried a stunt like that.
Sorry, new here, but I really had to say something…I’m heartbroken…my favorite SF author was a douche…I’ve read almost everything he wrote.
I believe my acceptance to all that is different, my disgust with any form of fascism and or racism comes from reading SF, all the old white male writers in SF…am I colorblind? I’m crushed and the mid twenties cannot be used as an excuse. I grew up in the seventies and eighties, started reading them in the eighties, 30 yrs after they were written, it wasn’t that long ago!
As a woman, I’ve suffered every bigotry & harrasment that goes around, SF was a heaven, now I need to redefine everything…although this is not completely new news, I had never read anything specific regarding Isaac Asimov, I guess I just didn’t want to let go of the “fantasy”…
Well, now I’m really looking forward to reading Jeannette Ng’s work…Go Girl.
Also, very happy to know someone isn’t afraid of taking a political stand and use their voice when they have one.
And Cory, as painful as it is, thank you for opening my eyes to the truth.
Excellent speech by Ng, excellent article about it by Doctorow.
Thank you to both.
Actually there were a number of female characters, including political leaders if memory serves, in his Foundation books… which is not to say that he was a feminist paragon by any stretch, but at the time they were written his books were hardly more sexist than most. Indeed, as a young girl I found his inclusion of female characters refreshing.
How Asimov behaved in person is another issue, but really his characterization of women in his writing was if anything slightly ahead of the curve. And I think it’s important to acknowledge that (although characterization of anybody was not his strong suit), his portrayal and inclusion of female characters developed over time.
To put things in context, does anybody remember Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber, Edgar Rice Burroughs? That is the tradition of pulp fantasy and science fiction that Asimov started in.