Will George R.R. Martin get canceled?
Game of Thrones author criticized for lack of “wokeness”
Some fans of the fantasy novels that inspired the HBO series Game of Thrones wish author George R. R. Martin would have stayed home on July 31 and worked on the long-overdue next book in the series. Instead, he hosted the 2020 Hugo Awards, which honor the year’s best fantasy and science fiction books.
Viewers who watched the livestream of the 3½-hour, online-only ceremony found Martin’s rambling stories about the golden age of science fiction tedious. His history lesson on the Hugo Awards also lauded writers such as John W. Campbell, H.P. Lovecraft, and Robert Heinlein, men whom later generations have accused of racism and fascism. Martin mispronounced the names of many nominees and winners of non-white ethnicity. He even made a joke about the Oscar statuette being a eunuch.
Critics attacked Martin’s lack of wokeness, but he had his defenders, too. Some fans reminded the Twitter mob that the author in 2015 supported left-leaning and minority writers when a group of writers who called themselves “the sad puppies” attempted to influence the Hugos’ nomination process to promote works they deemed more conservative. Martin said that, contrary to rumor, he did not receive a pronunciation guide for every nominee’s name—he noted he even sometimes mispronounces his own characters’ names. He also said he thought that viewers would find his observations on the “good old days” of science fiction interesting and amusing. On this last point, he should have known better.
For 46 years, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer was presented at the Hugos. The award got its name from the longtime editor of Astounding Science Fiction who mentored many of the authors from science fiction’s golden age in the late 1930s through the first half of the 1940s. At the 2019 Hugos, Jeannette Ng won the award and used her acceptance speech to attack Campbell’s legacy, calling him a fascist and a racist.
Campbell supported segregation in the 1960s. African American author Samuel R. Delaney once wrote that Campbell rejected his novel “with a note and phone call to my agent explaining that he didn’t feel his readership would be able to relate to a black main character.”
After Ng’s speech, the Hugo organizers immediately changed the prize’s name to the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Ng said Campbell’s legacy “still haunts the genre to this day,” but a year later, his legacy was exactly what Martin chose to celebrate through his longwinded anecdotes. He attempted to redeem a bit of the past from current cancel culture but in the process risked getting canceled himself. After seeing the vitriolic attacks made against him on Twitter, Martin responded with a quote from Voltaire: “We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies.”
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