Today, we learned that Amazing Stories had won its very first award, the N3F Neffy for Best Magazine.
A couple of days ago we watched and updated our post covering the 2019 Hugo Awards; we were a bit surprised at Jeannette Ng’s acceptance where she made some connections between fascism in the SF field, fascism in the US and the events taking place in Hong Kong right now. Honk Kong is Ms. Ng’s home base and we are absolutely and completely in sympathy with her and the protesters who are braving arrest, and possibly worse, as they try to maintain their freedoms.
We entirely missed the misattributions of Ms. Ng’s speech; what she wanted to do was identify John W. Campbell Jr., the editor of Astounding Stories, as a fascist. She ended up naming Jospeph Campbell as the editor of Amazing Stories.
Having spoken in public before, I know how easy it is to make mistakes while standing in front of hundreds, if not thousands of people. Such errors are easily forgiven. However, Ms. Ng has been notified of the mistakes (by me as well as others) and she has so far chosen to present her acceptance speech without correction.
I am sure she is tired, chuffed, overwhelmed and, perhaps even a bit embarrassed over having misnamed Campbell and the magazine he was associated with in front of an audience and a community that knows this history without even thinking about it.
But the internet being what it is, disrespect for facts being what they are these days, I can not allow the idea that John W. Campbell – racist, anti-semite, fascist, misogynist, whatever – was associated with Amazing Stories to go unchallenged.
Hugo Gernsback founded and edited Amazing Stories in 1926 until he lost it in bankruptcy in 1929; ten years later, John W. Campbell would become the editor of Astounding Stories, a competing magazine. (Gernsback had since moved on to Science Wonder Stories.)
There is absolutely no connection between Campbell and Amazing Stories. None.
So far as I am aware, Gernsback was never accused during his lifetime, nor in the present day, of any of the isms attached to Campbell. His only venal sins were, apparently, a marked unwillingness to pay his authors on time, or at all in some cases (a fact that we have assiduously addressed by always paying on time, if not in advance). Some have accused him of “ruining” science fiction or of holding it back, others have praised him as the true ‘Father of Science Fiction’ and the truth actually does lie somewhere between those poles.
But reject a story because it had a black lead, or because it was written by a woman? I’ve read a fair number of histories of this genre and have yet to see any such associated with either Gernsback or Amazing Stories.
History is important and so are the details.
Today, there is a fair amount of discussion going on regarding the acceptance speech. About half of it seems devoted to the acceptability of making such statements during award ceremonies, the rest to the incorrect attributions.
So far as the speech is concerned: Protest is designed to disrupt; that’s its function. Protest that does not engender a response is protest without effect.
Further, awards ceremonies as political platform are totally not a new thing. In general, if you agree with with Ms. Ng said, you’ll be applauding (and thus adding to the disruption) and if you disagree, you’ll be upset that ‘your’ awards ceremony was marred by inappropriate outbursts – and you’ll be contributing to the disruption by talking about it.
I agree with Ms. Ng on the points I think she was trying to make; if I’ve approved of others using that platform to speak out in the past I have to at least give her a pass. In fact, I approve of the message she was trying to convey: fascism has no place in our community, in our magazines, in our government and what is happening in Hong Kong right now is related in kind if not in name.
Isms do not belong in our community. Our past is rife with isms of various kinds, but one of the things that I admire about our community is that it has taken our past on as a challenge to do better, and we have been, are and will continue to do better.
Which is why I do not want Amazing Stories to be identified as being associated – past, present or future – with such.
Congratulations to Jeannette Ng on her win. Please correct the incorrect attributions; and I would ask our fans, followers and contributors to correct this incorrect association wherever it is appropriate to do so.