Science fiction is dead…Long live Science Fiction!

I’m still trawling the intertubes for reactions to the name change of the John W Campbell Award to the Astounding Award. To add to the list of whiners here is the opinion of the failed fantasy writer, failed science fiction editor and failed science fiction publisher Vox Day:

“It is debatable when science fiction officially died. Historians may date it to John Scalzi’s ill-fated Tor contract, to NK Jemisin’s unprecedented and unbelievably absurd three Best Novel awards in a row, or to the disappearing of one of the genre’s leading figures. But whatever the date of expiry, there can be no doubt that it has now expired.”

Because of course, history would date things to events around two people who hurt his feelings.

But yes, science fiction is dead. It’s dead like Sir Gawain’s green knight – forever having it’s head chopped and promptly picking it up and walking away.


34 thoughts on “Science fiction is dead…Long live Science Fiction!

  1. Given that Jemisin and Scalzi are doing great, this now guarantees that the renamed award will go from strength to strength and Analog will grow subscribers.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. You can tell who hasn’t read Jemisin’s novels by the adjectives they use about them. Unprecedented, sure. We could even argue about whether you or I think they deserved all three Hugos (I think they do; I think they’re the seminal works of our generation); but to say it’s “absurd” that they won is just silly.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s dead like Sir Gawain’s green knight – forever having it’s head chopped and promptly picking it up and walking away.
    Which is a pretty SFnal concept, now that you mention it. It reminds me of a character in a Zelazny novel – I think it’s Creatures of Light and Darkness – the Steel General, who is always getting killed and resurrected. Some incarnations he’s a man wearing a steel ring, others he’s a robot wearing a ring of human flesh.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Teddy loves to declare that things which irritate him are dead.

    Pity for him that those things stubbornly keep on being not-dead in spite of his grandiose declarations.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As we all know there’s no SF outside the US. IDK but at the Dublin WorldCon were among many others Karl Schroeder (Canadian), Adrian Tchaikovsky (British) and Aliette de Bodard (French). And that’s just English language SF.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. To be fair, science fiction is declared dead or dying about every other week since the 1930’s. It is a peculiar aspect of SF fans and often authors — they are sure that the genre is limping into destruction for some reason.

    Be that as it may, the Campbell Award from Dell was never limited just to science fiction works, so changing the name doesn’t deal a blow to science fiction obviously. There is still the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, which is limited to SF, awarded by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, so even Campbell’s name isn’t gone from awards yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On that last point I’ve noticed many people commenting on Puppy blogs that the name change means that the name is now ‘free’ for a different award…apparently unaware that the other Campbell Award already exists.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Astounding! 🙂 Another puzzling reaction from people who don’t like the name change is the questioning why the new name is going over any better since it’s still associated with Campbell. Come on! I think it’s a very nice compromise. But I guess they can’t like it if the “other side” does.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. It’s almost as if they lack awareness of the field they claim to work in or something. If only there were people wiling to do some work in describing the interactions between community members and commenting upon What It All Means.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m not sure I would call that attitude peculiar to SF. Comics people declare comics to be dead or dying at regular intervals, and that’s an entire medium; for genres, in music any particular style with a loyal following tends to be declared dead if it stops being quite as popular but also if it gets *too* popular.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s a common complaint in writing about movies, too: Writer discusses Genre X’s history, then declares Hollywood will never make this kind of film again (we don’t have the actors! We’re too cynical! Etc.) They’re always wrong.

        Liked by 2 people

    3. CF:

      It’s not really surprising that they aren’t aware of it since they are “common (conservative) man” myth-makers. Part of that false narrative — and we’ve seen it a lot in bizarre ways with the Puppies — is that the academics/elites hate SFFH and dismiss it as plebian commercial trash. It’s a narrative that even non-conservative fans and non-fans, as well of course much of the media and sometimes academics, often buy into — the false dichotomy of “literary” versus (commercial) genre fiction. It’s a holdover from the old social class system and the old ways the fiction market used to be split in distribution and sales vendors back to the 1950’s and 1960’s regarding paperbacks.

      But in reality, as we know, academics do study SFFH works and those works are used in university and high school curriculum. The Center for the Study of Science Fiction is just one of those programs where it’s a special focus as well and they’ve been giving out the award since 1973, along with the Sturgeon Award, named after Teddy Sturgeon, for short fiction. It was actually put into play by Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss and it’s a juried award with a judging panel of authors and academics/critics. The award along with the Sturgeon Award is given out at the Campbell Conference at the University of Kansas that is held each year. Sam J. Miller won it this year for Blackfish City, and beat out Kowal. But as an academic award thereby, the Puppies aren’t going to pay any attention to it and pretend it doesn’t exist, I guess.

      Eli Bishop:

      Oh, it’s not limited to SF at all. Anytime something is creatively popular, people treat it like sports teams and declare that the popular thing is killing off other things in the marketplace. It’s also an effective marketing tactic — this thing is new and is going to be the only thing of the future! The fact that these predictions are every time wrong never seems to dissuade people from making them.

      But written science fiction fans, pundits, etc. in particular are fond of the science fiction is dying/dead refrain. Written science fiction (or sometimes just hard SF,) has been supposedly killed by horror, fantasy fiction, tie-in fiction, movies, television, games, virtual reality, reality shows, YA fiction, romance fiction, progress in science and technology, various political philosophies, civil rights activism of course and particularly feminism in all waves, post-apocalyptic SF, space opera SF, New Wave SF, cyberpunk, time travel fiction, alternate history SF and steampunk, SF fiction with psychic abilities, smartphones, social media, proclaimed deficient science education in schools, Star Wars, Star Trek, Lost, the fact that most people don’t do their own maintenance work on their cars these days, book publishers, e-books, booksellers, women in general, women in publishing and women fantasy fans in particular, comics and superheroes, mega-corporations, the tech-phobic, because it’s commercial, because it’s not commercial enough, less space travel by NASA, nihilistic and dystopian SF, the insistence by some that all SF is pulp in a niche ghetto, the insistence by some that SF is not limited to pulp in a niche ghetto, cosplayers (mainly the women,) changes in the magazine market, the popularity of zombies, this and that SF magazine that got popular doing stories in different veins from other popular SF magazines, etc.

      The death obsession of the SF field is so established that academics have studied and discussed it for years:

      So of course those who fear losing dominance of the past are going to declare SF dead and Campbell erased, even if that is illogical. Because the most progressive, wide open field of fiction is deeply suspicious and scared of change. It’s a weird thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Eli:

        Cats are definitely SF killers — everyone knows cats are fantasy and dogs are SF. Like “A Boy and His Dog,” a work that supposedly also killed SF.


        Oh yes, N.K. Jemisin is probably the number one SF killer to the Puppies, plus all that buying of women written fantasy novels so that nobody wants SF titles ever. (rolleyes emoji.) What was it Brad was droning on about? The last light of Campbellian hard SF or something. Not that Campbell wrote hard SF and neither does Brad, but the important thing is those liberal non-white, non-man fantasy writers killed it, by gum!

        But seriously, women fans of both SF and fantasy are routinely seen as one of the deadliest threats to SF on a regular basis. Cause our ladybrains are so unappreciative of real SF apparently.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Probably everyone knows this and I’m just being clueless, but who is “one of the genre’s leading figures” who disappeared? VD himself?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He’s referring to the change of the name of the Campbell Award to the Astounding Award. Because in Beale’s world, if your name isn’t on an award, you apparently don’t exist.


      1. Oh, that explains it. Because obviously, I didn’t think of Campbell as having disappeared. Thanks!


  8. I think sci-fi is a healthy as ever. It keeps changing, framed and re-framed around society as that changes. But it’s still there. And it’s been mainstreamed in the past generation – something unthinkable in the 1930s when it was considered ‘pulp’, unthinkable in the 1960s when Star Trek attracted a small but devoted audience who everybody else perceived as socially maladjusted and dysfunctional losers. They weren’t. But that was the image. But since then, both Trek and Star Wars have basically been the vehicles, as far as I can tell, by which sci-fi has been largely mainstreamed as entertainment and social commentary in books, film, music and so forth.

    It always was social commentary, of course – look at Cyril Kornbluth’s ‘The Marching Morons’ (1951), which still speaks to us today on so many levels. But that was usually missed amidst the dissing of the whole genre by those who felt that sci-fi was somehow beneath them.

    Liked by 2 people

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