A Statement from the Editor

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer began in 1973 as a way to honor exemplary science fiction and fantasy authors whose first work was published in the prior two calendar years.

Named for Campbell, whose writing and role as editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later renamed Analog Science Fiction and Fact) made him hugely influential in laying the groundwork for both the Golden Age of Science Fiction and beyond, the award has over the years recognized such nominees as George R.R. Martin, Bruce Sterling, Carl Sagan, and Lois McMaster Bujold, as well as award winners like Ted Chiang, Nalo Hopkinson, and John Scalzi.

However, 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.

As we move into Analog’s 90th anniversary year, our goal is to keep the award as vital and distinguished as ever, so after much consideration, we have decided to change the award’s name to The Astounding Award for Best New Writer.

The nomination and selection process will remain the same, and we will be working with the World Science Fiction Society through future Worldcon committees to ensure the award continues to remain supportive of emerging authors.

It is also important to note that this change in no way reflects on past winners or their work, and they continue to stand deserving of recognition.

Though Campbell’s impact on the field is undeniable, we hope that the conversation going forward is nuanced. George Santayana’s proverbial phrase remains as true today as when it was coined: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We neither want to paper over the flaws of those who have come before us, nor reduce them to caricatures. But we have reached a point where the conversation around the award is in danger of focusing more on its namesake than the writers it was intended to recognize and elevate, and that is something nobody—even Campbell himself—would want.

114 comments

  1. You should change the name of the award to “The George Orwell 1984 Award” since it’s evident Big Brother has arrived at Analog and that’s the kind of future the editors favor.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. As Orwell wrote, “The minor changing of an awards name is one of the clearest paths to brutal authoritarian repression. Celebrated authors coming under critical discussion by future generations is the cultural equivalent of rats eating faces off prisoners.”

      It is scary how well Orwell predicted all this!

      Liked by 4 people

  2. What Dee said. You’ve done a good thing gracefully and swiftly and also cleverly. I am eager to write of Astounding Award winners, and to find future ones in your pages.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Let’s put it this way: If an award were to be named after me and in the decades to come the world would change so, that the nominees of the award would consistently be awarded to works that would have politics opposite to mine, then I would not wish my name on that award. Nor would I wish to be awarded such an award.

    Calling it the “Astounding Award” is a class act in my book. It pays homage to the man’s work, but avoids the politics.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Do we really want to start in on this? What about the Mystery Writers award named after Poe? Anybody got a World Fantasy bust of Lovecraft on their mantelpiece? Oh, wait. He got scrubbed off that award already. I think it’s a tree now. Where does it stop? When the authors themselves start getting pulled from libraries?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In all the objections to the award’s name change posted here so far, I have seen exactly ONE that showed even an attempt to offer coherent arguments against it. (Thank you, Judge Magney!) The majority of comments are in support of the change, but that in itself is not necessarily dispositive; at one time, a majority of people thought enslaving people of color was a good thing.

    Personally, while I have some understanding of the perspective of those who feel Campbell’s legacy is being erased, I applaud this effort by the editors to show a reasoned, fair response to Ms. Ng’s perfectly legitimate concerns as expressed in her recent acceptance speech. Had she been notified ahead of time that she was to receive the award, she might well have declined it; but as the winners are generally not announced until the Hugo Awards ceremony, I am certain she did the best she could on the spur of the moment to reconcile the tremendous honor with her own misgivings about the man.

    We need to be more accepting of the perspectives of historically marginalized populations, not less. Those of conservative, heterosexual white men have been centered far more than long enough. And to those of you offering nothing but insults and attempts to turn words like “social justice” and “wokeness” into mocking pejoratives: Kindly fuck all the way off and die in a fire.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree changing the award name to “Astounding” is an improvement. But I agree also that it’s important not to lose sight of the history. Is there an easy source online where one can see some of the now outre remarks by Campbell so they can be used to educate? Thanks to anyone who can provide a link(s).

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  7. It is also important to note that this change in no way reflects on past winners or their work, and they continue to stand deserving of recognition.

    Whew! THAT’s a relief! (Seriously, good move.)

    Like

  8. I’m the science fiction writer from Poland. I remember times when communists tried to change history of culture by erasing names of improper writers, destroying their books in libraries, censoring old and new books (and of course persecution of still living writers). I never supposed that this kind of Orwelian activity will happen again, especially in US. John W. Cambell was one of the most important and influential person in the history of science fiction. It’s why this prize had his name. If you wanted to remove from the history all people who don’t meet modern standards of thinking you would have to erase 99% of people who build human civilization – philosophers, politicians, artists, inventors. You have to fire books of Dick, Bradbury, Asimov, Van Vogt, Sheckley… New Orwell world is created not by bloody regimes but free decisions of free (?) people. Sad. And danger for the human civilization.
    Best regards from Warsaw.
    Tomek

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You are all missing the point through willful exaggeration. Changing an award that isn’t created by him isn’t ‘erasure’ or ‘censorship.’ It’s recognition of changing societal standards and making the award continue to be relevant. It doesn’t change the value of what Campbell has done, or a crater on the moon, or mean we are on the way to pulling books from the library. But if you need me to point that out, you should probably be reading more modern science fiction.

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  9. To call Astounding “sterile” as the speaker who attacked Campbell did, simply shows she never read a single issue.I read Astounding and then Analog/Astounding in the late Fifties and early Sixties because it was the most stimulating and exciting magazine available. One has to remember how dull and conformist that era was. Campbell’s editorials were all over the map which made them always interesting. I’d say his most common themes were the importance of creativity, the importance of thinking for yourself. His heroes were often non-conformists in their society. If he expressed hatred for any group, it was beaurocrats, especially inefficient or corrupt ones. Yet now the meme is going around that he was a racist, fascist, imperialist etc. This is based not on what he said in his magazine or the stories he published, but on what he said in private to friends and in private, personal correspondence. What difference does it make how unpleasant he was in his personal life if he selected stories that were adventure stories usually involving someone getting out of a bad situation through thinking and scientific knowledge. He demanded scientific accuracy. If you look at the biographies of his main writers, most were engineers, physicists, etc. Now in the culture of the time, women and all minorities found it difficult to get into those schools. Therefore, Campbell did not receive stories that fitted his demand for scientific accuracy except from the white males with degrees. However, he received hundreds of stories a month and rejected almost all since the magazine couldn’t publish more than about a dozen. Therefore, he cannot be accused of prejudice in his selection of stories except a prejudice in favor of his kind of story. He raised science fiction out of the popular pulps. And for those who don’t know, it was the pulps that published the awful stereotyped stories of brawny white heroes who won with their fists, not their brains and women who were helpless and useless and all other minorities invisible. Campbell rejected all that and raised the bar for science fiction very high. He should be praised for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I like the new name, but not so much the politics involved in the decision to change it.

    If we discovered that Shakespeare had been a serial killer, would we censor his name, too?

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    1. Actually, I’d be fine with removing an authors name from an award because they turned out to be a serial killer. This stuff is more like disavowing Shakespeare because he had 16th century social and political beliefs. Which, considering that he was born in the mid-16th century, he almost certainly did.

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  11. To me JWC is and will always be a giant who shaped SF (and consequently contemporary science and culture). He did not conform to today’s cultural norms, but cultural norms have always changed and will continue to change.

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  12. Thank you. I don’t feel you are erasing at all, but rather modernizing and keeping the idea of the award contemporary and relevant, and indeed, an award, as opposed to something you toss away when someone isn’t looking. It isn’t Orwellian to move forward. No one is trying to ‘erase’ Campbell. But nor do we of current time have to condone his beliefs. Science fiction had lost me a couple decades ago, when I was tired of the same old, same old. The newest generation has pulled me enthusiastically back into the fold. The more an award can illustrate and celebrate remarkable ideas in new writers, and thus hopefully encourage and exemplify, the better off readers ultimately are.

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  13. Two of of the schools in my local school district (Palo Alto Unified School District) were renamed last year because their previous eponyms (David Starr Jordan and Lewis Terman) were “discovered” to have had less than contemporary views on the subject of eugenics. Apparently it took a Jordan student’s book report to uncover the bombshell truth about DS Jordan. Or maybe it’s been known all along that, in addition to the astonishing amount of good he did, he espoused views that today are (rightly) regarded as abhorrent, but it’s only in the current political climate that the latter outweighs the former to the extent that it becomes necessary to consign him to the memory hole.

    Both men have been erased from the histories of the schools that were named for them (at no small expense), and the schools are now known and Greene and Fletcher respectively. At least until someone does a book report on those worthies!

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  14. Hey–It’s George writing from The Great Beyond. This argument seems dumb and please stop using my name in it because it blows up my Google Alerts. Yeah, yeah, yeah I have an alert for my mentions. Deal with it.

    Oh yeah and send nachos my way. Those look good and we can’t get them here. Extra guac. Let me know how much it is and I’ll venmo you.

    George out.

    Like

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