Dealing with authorial identity in SF

It’s always been a story, we’re just reporting on it more now. Authors, particularly white male authors, have often been (and continue to be) shitty people. The spec community, like the fan community, seems to EXTRA draw out the worst in some people. (In fairness, the very air itself seems to draw out the worst in some people these days.) But hopefully change is afoot. I’m glad Jeanette Ng stood up and said this. Cram the incel/bot-led fanboy keyboard-jocky babies into a box and set it on fire, I say.

Painting by Paul Vermeersch

…when Jeanette Ng – who had been awarded, by popular vote of the attending and supporting members of the Convention, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer – used her acceptance speech to question, in a rhetoric of biting righteous anger, the award’s continuing to be named after Campbell. True, his editorship of the magazine Astounding Science Fiction (later Analog) between 1937 and 1971 had seen him foster the careers of many important writers, but on the other hand he used his editorial platform to push crankery, pseudoscience and vicious racial prejudice.

“[Campbell] is responsible”, Ng said, “for setting a tone for science fiction that haunts this genre to this very day. Stale, sterile, male, white, exulting in the ambitions of imperialists, colonialists, settlers and industrialists.” The hall cheered her wildly, in a way it would not have even a decade earlier – perhaps partly because the authors Campbell fostered, the sorts of story he encouraged, have ceased, for younger readers, to dominate SF’s assumed canon.

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