John W. Campbell Was Not a Fascist

God, too, is called The Great Judge— and Democracy has a much kindlier concept; that no one should judge his fellows. This business of a Great Judge who sits in unarguable judgment, as Judge, Jury, and Prosecuting Attorney— complete with built-in and inescapable truth-perception— turns many more away from the idea of such a tyrannical system toward the kindlier ideas of Democracy-without-end.

The churches continue to prosper— but one of the most prosperous I know of is a suburban church where Sunday is the community fashion show and social get-together. Church and Courts alike have recognized the temper of the people, the popular belief that ruling tyrants are inherently evil, to be rejected— an image to be softened. Not a stern, just, all-powerful but merciful
King, but a jolly politician type, who recognizes the Will of the People, and does favors for the Right People.

That particular school of theology has been tried by other cultures, other times in other places. It doesn’t work. The culture comes apart at the seams— for the essence of that form of “theology” is that there is no hard discipline, no real necessities, in the Universe.

John W. Campbell, God Isn’t Democratic, editorial, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, April 1964


(I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the science fiction Mavens of Almost Chosen People might find it interesting.)


As faithful readers of this blog know, I like to read science fiction.  I have been distressed over the past few decades that left wing hacks have largely succeeded in taking over many of the organizations of science fiction fandom.  They are fulfilling this observation of Iowahawk as to the standard mode of operation of Leftists:

1. Identify a respected institution.
2. kill it.
3. gut it.
4. wear its carcass as a skin suit, while demanding respect.

The latest manifestation of this in the world of science fiction is when the graceless Jeannette Ng won the John W. Campbell award for best new science fiction writer, and, while accepting the award, made these remarks (This is a cleaned up, profanity removed, and shortened version.):


John W. Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fascist. Through his editorial control of Astounding Science Fiction, he is responsible for setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists. Yes, I am aware there are exceptions.

But these bones, we have grown wonderful, ramshackle genre, wilder and stranger than his mind could imagine or allow.

And I am so proud to be part of this. To share with you my weird little story, an amalgam of all my weird interests, so much of which has little to do with my superficial identities and labels.

But I am a spinner of ideas, of words, as Margaret Cavendish would put it.

So I need say, I was born in Hong Kong. Right now, in the most cyberpunk in the city in the world, protesters struggle with the masked, anonymous stormtroopers of an autocratic Empire. They have literally just held her largest illegal gathering in their history. As we speak they are calling for a horological revolution in our time. They have held laser pointers to the skies and tried to to impossibly set alight the stars. I cannot help be proud of them, to cry for them, and to lament their pain.

I’m sorry to drag this into our fantastical words, you’ve given me a microphone and this is what I felt needed saying.

The World Science Fiction Society in response to this rant promptly renamed the award The Astounding Award For Best New Writer.  Let’s take the name of the man off the award and put on the name of the magazine he will be forever associated with.  Smooth.

Who was John W. Campbell?  From 1937 until his death in 1971 he was the editor of Astounding Science Fiction.  (He changed the name of the magazine to Analog Science Fiction and Fact in 1960.)  Under his tutelage science fiction came of age and emerged from the pulp magazines into being a true literary genre.  He brought forth to the world some of the greatest writers of science fiction in his magazine.  The late Poul Anderson summed him up:  “By his editorial policies and the help and encouragement he gave his writers (always behind the scenes), he raised both the literary and the intellectual standard anew. Whatever progress has been made stems from that renaissance”.

It should go without saying that Campbell never evinced any support for the German Nazis or the Italian Fascists.  His politics tended to be all over the place.  I think technocratic libertarian, or cranky (Go here to read a collection of his editorials to see what I mean), would best define his heterogeneous  stances.  Ms. Ng labeled him as fascist, not because he was, you know, an actual fascist, but because she is a child of her time and place, and besotted with the current fad of identity politics of race and sex.  Fascism has become the all purpose insult on the Left, which usually means someone who has the temerity to disagree with a Leftist about anything.  Ms. Ng should be careful however.  Her support of the Hong Kong protestors will in time cause her to be labeled as a fascist by other denizens of the Left who will regard her as a stalking horse for Western Imperialism, especially since she now lives in the UK.

Beyond the usual SJW insanity this silliness demonstrates a complete forgetting of why we honor people.  We honor them not because they share in the common virtues and vices, opinions and prejudices of their times, but because of something notable they accomplished.  That this is lost sight of in the politically correct scramble to arraign the past for not being the present is as lamentable as it is predictable.  It demonstrates a decided lack of imagination, and that, above all, is a cardinal sin against science fiction.

Published in: on September 20, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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