Retro Hugos, Dragons, and Why I Don’t Care (for the most part) About the Private Lives of Authors

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© James Pyles – My brother, my parents, and me. I’m the one on the far left. Yes, I used to be thin. The photo was taken about 35 years ago.

Just when I thought I was done with the Hugo Awards and with all this year’s drama and trauma, I ended up reading Looking Forward on Looking Backwards at the Hugo Book Club Blog co-authored by Amanda Wakaruk and Olav Rokne. I don’t know which one of them I talk to on twitter, but they seem like pretty good people.

Anyway, the blog post focused on the Retro Hugos, which are sort of “lifetime achievement awards” for science fiction and fantasy authors who were active before the Hugo awards existed. Being an “older fellow,” I’ve read more than a few in my day, plus a lot of old school Hugo Award Winners. That is, science fiction Hugo winners before the Hugos (in my personal opinion) became less about the quality of a story and more about the “wokeness” of the tale and the writer (both being a necessity these days it seems).

To quote their blog in part:

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Tolerance, Intolerance, and the World of the “Stale, Pale Male Crowd”

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Image of the cover of Orson Scott Card’s book “How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy”

On the heels of my blog posts Looks Like the 2020 Hugo Awards Once Again Sucked, Loving and Fearing SF/F Fandom, and the currently highly popular Is SciFi Author/Editor Robert Silverberg Really Racist and Sexist (or has the internet once again lost its mind)?, a library book I just finished and am about to return caught my attention.

Written by Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead) the small book How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy was my choice to re-read in the hopes of dragging myself out of my current writing slump.

Published in 2001, all of the advice about how to publish, market, and, of course, win awards (Card won two Hugos, a Nebula, a Lotus, and in 1978, the John W. Campbell [now renamed Astounding] Award for Best New Writer) are outdated and useless.

But his lessons on how to write remain pretty much timeless, especially when you are actually learning the craft rather than trying to promote a social position, attitude, or bias (I say that knowing that all stories contain the biases of their authors, but lately, it’s gotten so much more obvious and even blatant).

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Looks Like the 2020 Hugo Awards Once Again Sucked

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George R.R. Martin –
Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Well this explains it. The article George R.R. Martin Accused of Racism, Generally Sucking After Hosting Hugos (also found at Vulture) contains a link to my December 5, 2018 blog post Is SciFi Author/Editor Robert Silverberg Really Racist and Sexist (or has the internet once again lost its mind)?. It’s gotten hundreds of hits in the last day or so, and I couldn’t figure out why.

Interestingly enough, the article I found as a pingback to Updexnews.com used the phrase “racist history” as part of the link when referring to my Silverberg article, and I hadn’t intended to call Silverberg a racist (really, I’m shocked I haven’t gotten even a single piece of hate mail yet).

On this twitter account, I found the following image posted prominently. It was the first indication I had of yet another WorldCon social purging by the righteous (yes, I’m being snarky…I’ll explain below).

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Loving and Fearing SF/F Fandom

EDIT: I picked up some additional material on the twitter stream and thus the content. Any changes I’ve made in this blog post are bolded.

I started following fantasy author Jeannette Ng on twitter after she gave a rather “unusual” acceptance speech upon receiving what used to be called a “Campbell Award.” I recorded my reactions HERE.

I follow her, not because I’m likely to read anything she’s written, or even that we agree on much (if anything), but to understand differing points of view. Most of the time, I don’t give her much thought, but today, I saw a thread on twitter that caught my attention. I only read part of it since, due to the nature of twitter, threads get nested in interesting ways requiring a lot of clicking and time to open them and read.

So I took a screenshot (several actually, and I edited them together) to capture what I thought were the most representative points. Apparently, the discussion was about what got various people interested in Science Fiction and Fantasy (SF/F).  However it was also a debate regarding progressive vs. traditionalist voices in SF/F, and if it were possible to speak to the positives of what an author crafted while setting aside the more “difficult” aspects of their life (More text beyond the screenshot).

Update: Someone I know on twitter captured a much more straightforward vision of this thread Here. Since people sometimes delete their material, I redid the screenshots and updated the image below. Oh, and Ms. Ng, if you ever get around to reading this… “Stale, pale, male crowd.” Cute.

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Why Ed Kramer is Evil but Marion Zimmer Bradley Isn’t. Go figure

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Undated photo of the late author Marion Zimmer Bradley found at Wikipedia

The world is a funny place. On Mike Glyer’s “fanzine” File 770 this morning, I read an article called New Child Porn Charge Against Ed Kramer. I’d never heard of Ed Kramer before, so I looked him up. According to Wikipedia, he is:

an American editor and convicted child molester. Kramer lives in Duluth, Georgia and was a co-founder and part-owner of the Dragon*Con media convention. Kramer has also edited several works in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Before pleading guilty in 2013 to three counts of child molestation, Kramer was the subject of a long-running legal battle that began with his initial arrest in August 2000.

The word DragonCon got my attention. DragonCon has been associated with more conservative elements in Science Fiction and Fantasy. In and of itself, that means nothing. If you’ve been sexually abusing children or been into child porn, you are evil and deserve to be in prison, regardless of your politics.

But what gets me is that certain demographics in SF/F fandom seem to give other, similar people a pass because of their politics and because they are feminists, or at least they seem to do so.

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The Sins of John W. Campbell Revisited

Author Jeannette Ng – image found at the Angry Robot website

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.

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Science Fiction, Opinions, and Why It’s Okay to Disagree

A statute honoring Ray Bradbury was unveiled outside the Waukegan Public Library just after sunset on Aug. 22, 2019, the 99th anniversary of the late author’s birth. (Dan Moran / Lake County News-Sun)

I just read an article at File 770 called Waukegan Public Library Unveils Ray Bradbury Statue (click the link and read, the story’s pretty short). Waukegan was Bradbury’s hometown and I’m thrilled to see that he is being honored. He is a truly timeless writer, and I can prove it, since my 33-year-old son Michael just read Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Over a year ago, I wrote my own wee Bradbury essay titled Should We Burn Ray Bradbury’s Books?. I crafted my missive in response to Katie Naum’s essay at Electric Lit called The New ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Movie Fails to Reckon with Bradbury’s Racism.

I seriously doubt he was a racist, at least in the dictionary definition sense, but assuming Bradbury had character flaws and perhaps some dated beliefs given that he was born in 1920, that doesn’t change his influence on the field of science fiction, nor make him unworthy of being honored.

Of course, we’ve seen this sort of thing before.

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Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award Acceptance Speech and Here We Go Again

Author Jeannette Ng – image found at the Angry Robot website

Here we go again. British fantasy writer Jeannette Ng was presented with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon recently, the 47th winner. Of course, she accepted the award, and then began to rip the late John W. Campbell apart, calling him, among other things, a fascist. An edited copy of her acceptance speech is hosted at Medium.com with the profanity removed.

Last December, I wrote an article called Is SciFi Author/Editor Robert Silverberg Really Racist and Sexist (or has the internet once again lost its mind)?. Silverberg had created his own response to allegations of his own racism on File 770, a popular SciFi fanzine after, apparently, he privately said that author N.K. Jemisin‘s 2018 Hugo acceptance speech (the third consecutive Hugo she won for best novel) was “weaponized.”

I looked up Campbell, not knowing much (if anything) about him personally, and found he held a bunch of “difficult” attitudes, but then again, he was a product of his times, having been born in 1910 (he died in 1971 at the age of 61). There’s no denying that Campbell shaped much of 20th century science fiction, having discovered talents such as Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, so it’s certainly understandable that, based on his career, he is worthy of having a science fiction award named after him. Does he have to be a perfect person by 21st century progressive, politically correct standards to still be considered significant?

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