Just for giggles, I revisited the comments at File 770‘s article Storm Over Campbell Award. As you may recall from my own wee missive Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award Acceptance Speech and Here We Go Again, Ms Ng, a fantasy writer based in the UK, was recently given the John W. Campbell award for best new writer, which she accepted, and then went on to point out Campbell’s terrific flaws, which included being a fascist.
There are now over 200 comments on Mike Glyer’s commentary on Ng and Campbell, and of course, they all damn Campbell, some even comparing him (more or less) to Mussolini. Further, one person said that anyone with even the tiniest hint of actually liking anything Campbell ever did is considered a fascist sympathizer. Really. I had heard of Campbell, but before this, I never had any idea about his political beliefs.
However, even according to Wikipedia, while he may or may not have been a fascist, he certainly was a racist.
His opinions go far beyond the occasional “joke in bad taste,” and many well known authors, including Michael Moorcock and Isaac Asimov, lambasted Campbell for his even then unpopular and heinous ideas.
So what to do? Everyone was aware of Campbell’s perspectives for decades, but Jeannette Ng decided to call out the long dead Campbell in the most public of ways, while accepting the award which bears his name (yes, she kept it).
While the pundits at File 770 are heartily patting themselves on the back for jumping on the “denounce John W. Campbell bandwagon,” are they willing to also shred Hugo Gernsback for his poor treatment of authors, and thus rename the “Hugos” more generically (to the best of my knowledge, no one has breathed a word about this)? For that matter, famed comic book creator Stan Lee was noted for his terrible treatment of artists, including the legendary Jack Kirby, among others in the Marvel bullpen of the 1960s and 70s. Should we drag the recently deceased Lee (Lieber) through the mud in order to make ourselves feel better, more enlightened, and, dare I say it (dare, dare), progressive?
Recently, I took another look at someone’s idea that even beloved author Ray Bradbury may have held racist ideas, although the allegations against him seem far less damning than those against Campbell. Perhaps the statue erected to honor him should be torn down and melted to slag.
He presents a far more nuanced view of racist comments in the Jewish (and much wider world including liberal Manhattan) realm relative to his being Asian. Unlike Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her #squad (or is that lynch mob in terms of Israel and the Jewish people?) who seem to think that anyone who disagrees with them about anything at all is automatically racist, sexist, and Hitler, Ho actually does an intelligent and compelling analysis of how he and his family have been treated, even by well meaning and accepting people.
Racism is certainly woven into the fabric of western culture, so much so, that we might even be blinded to how it lives within ourselves. That said, Ho doesn’t use it as a blunt instrument with which to pummel anyone who might hold a difference of opinion from him, especially when said opinion has nothing do to with race.
In Campbell’s case, yes, he was a racist. He was a racist in the 1940s and his recorded opinions make him a racist today. Should he have an award named after him? Depends. If you can’t separate his racism from what he accomplished in the world of science fiction, then I guess the award should be relabeled and Campbell’s name should be erased from the annals of history as an undesirable element (and let’s consider mass book burnings while we’re at it).
But if you’re going to do that, then, to avoid hypocrisy, you should also rename the Hugo Award for similar reasons, and never, ever create an award named for Stan Lee. While Ms. Ng was no doubt correct in calling Campbell who he was, she still accepted his bloody award, even proudly announcing it on her twitter account (yes, I follow her, and yes, I took the above screenshot just in case she decides to “poof” the announcement).