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or, In Which I Defend the Indefensible Man
If you follow the Hugos any more, which I don’t, you’d learn that popular author George R. R. Martin has stirred up quite the hornet’s nest. He’s being denounced as a racist, different types of -phobes, and others. His crime? He mispronounced artists’ names and he dared praised dead white men for their contributions in the past. Most notably, he talked quite a bit about John W. Campbell, editor of Analog magazine, and also Robert Heinlein, one of the winningest authors of the Hugo awards. For those who have claimed the Hugos as their own private club, this was unacceptable. And so Cancel Culture goes for George R. R. Martin not for failing to finish his series, but instead for Wrongthink.
I will note that I haven’t too much sympathy for Martin. When people were noting that the Social Justice Warriors were claiming the Hugos as their own and stacking the deck for their favorite checkboxes, Martin was there defending the latter. He helped build the gallows they want to hang him on.
I find it more interesting to look at John W. Campbell. There’s a reason there was an award named after him, and it’s because few have had as much influence on modern American science fiction than he has as editor for “Astounding Science Fiction” which changed to “Analog Science Fiction and Fact” under his editorship. He steered Science Fiction away from the pulp scene and demand his writers understand the science they were writing on and to understand people. In a notorious episode, this included a story about the development of a possible atomic bomb and how it might happen — a story that brought attention to the FBI who investigated and tried to get him to pull the magazine from the newstands as indeed, America was attempting to create an atom bomb (Campbell won out). Science fiction today owes a lot to him, and he was editor for many of the visionary greats of the time.*
As for being a racist — well, that might be true. He said and wrote some things that even at the time could be considered racist, including defenses of slavery while noting that the industrial revolution would eventually make it obsolete. He was also known to play devil’s advocate — taking the opposite to foster discussion. There are other incidents that perhaps lean generally toward racist however, which would not be an unusual idea back in the 1930’s. So it creates a bit of a dilemma for the thinking person: do we dismiss his work based on his major personal flaws, or do we recognize his great influence in spite such. Those on the Left recognize no personal flaws in themselves and tolerate no such flaws in others; they immediately choose the former option. For authors who have been writing for decades, like GRRM and others, they can recognize the influence a man had because in many ways they would not be here without such persons.
Isaac Newton famously said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” The Leftists, they stand on the same and claim they are the giants. Pretending to have perfection, they cast stones at anyone who meets their disapproval – even at those who met approval only months ago.
*A lot of the more mature writers remember the influence editors had in their work and in starting their careers. Another editor who has received praise was Gardner DoZois of Asmov’s Science Fiction magazine. DoZois passed away recently, and many older authors wrote to praise him for how he helped their careers as writers.Published in