Science fiction is basically involved with the longer term, however the style’s previous, dominated as it’s by white males, is more and more up for debate amongst a brand new era of writers. The newest episode occurred this week, when the journal Analog Science Fiction and Truth mentioned it might drop John W. Campbell’s title from its annual prize for greatest new author due to racist sentiments he had expressed.
Campbell ran the journal below its earlier title, Astounding Science Fiction, from the late 1930s till his demise in 1971, and was one of many style’s most influential editors, working with such writers as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein. He was the writer of sci-fi below his personal title and as Don A. Stuart.
He additionally wrote in help of segregation, known as slavery “a helpful instructional system” and claimed black writers didn’t or couldn’t “write in open competitors,” along with making derogatory feedback about ladies and homosexuality. In a 1998 essay, “Racism and Science Fiction,” the award-winning writer Samuel R. Delany recalled Campbell rejecting a submission of his, saying the editor “didn’t really feel his readership would be capable to relate to a black primary character.”
The choice to take away Campbell’s title from the award got here after this 12 months’s winner, Jeannette Ng, criticized him in her acceptance speech. “He’s chargeable for setting a tone for science fiction that haunts this style to this very day,” she mentioned. “Stale, sterile, male, white, exalting within the ambitions of imperialists, colonialists, settlers and industrialists.”
On Tuesday, Analog Science Fiction and Truth mentioned it was altering the prize’s title from the John W. Campbell Award for Greatest New Author to the Astounding Award for Greatest New Author. In a blog post explaining the decision, the magazine’s editor, Trevor Quachri, wrote: “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.”
Ng, who wrote the fantasy novel “Under the Pendulum Sun,” said in an interview on Wednesday that she was delighted by the decision. “It’s a good move away from honoring a completely obnoxious man who kept a lot of people out of the genre, who kept a lot of people from writing, who shaped the genre to his own image.” Thanks to the change, she added, “we’re now celebrating a little more neutrally a piece of history that’s not attached to his name.”
Alec Nevala-Lee, whose book “Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction” examines Campbell’s contributions to science fiction, also supported the change. “It was clearly the right call,” he said. “At this point, the contrast between Campbell’s racism and the diversity of the writers who have recently received the award was really just too glaring to ignore.”
Quachri credited Nevala-Lee’s book and Ng’s speech for pushing his publication, which is owned by Dell Magazines, to act. “Reading an early draft of Alec’s book is when I realized that the name change would need to happen eventually,” he said. Ng’s speech, he added, “really gave me a wonderful opportunity.”
For Nevala-Lee, it’s unavoidable that, as a creator of science fiction, Campbell would be judged by how well he anticipated societal changes. “He asked to be judged by the highest possible standard, as a man of the future,” Nevala-Lee said, “and I think he really fell short.”