World Fantasy Award To Abandon Lovecraft Bust

World Fantasy Award

World Fantasy Award

David Hartwell announced at the World Fantasy Award ceremony on November 8 that this will be the last year that the award trophy will be in the form of the traditional — and controversial — H.P. Lovecraft bust designed by Gahan Wilson.

Last year Daniel Jose Older collected over 2,500 signatures on a petition calling for the replacement of “avowed racist and a terrible wordsmith” H.P. Lovecraft on the World Fantasy Award.

The Guardian reported last September that the “board of the World Fantasy awards has said that it is ‘in discussion’ about its winners’ statuette”.

When Sofia Samatar won in 2014, she made a statement about the controversy in her acceptance speech, which she later expanded into a blog post —

  1. The Elephant in the Room I think I used those words. I think I said “I can’t sit down without addressing the elephant in the room, which is the controversy surrounding the image that represents this award.” I said it was awkward to accept the award as a writer of color. (See this post by Nnedi Okorafor, the 2011 winner, if you are confused about why.) I also thanked the board for taking the issue seriously, because at the beginning of the ceremony, Gordon van Gelder stood up and made an announcement to that effect: “The board is taking the issue very seriously, but there is no decision yet.” I just wanted them to know that here I was in a terribly awkward position, unable to be 100% thrilled, as I should be, by winning this award, and that many other people would feel the same, and so they were right to think about changing it.

In May, File 770 reached out to the WFC Board about the status of the Lovecraft image but received no acknowledgement.

295 thoughts on “World Fantasy Award To Abandon Lovecraft Bust

  1. Soooo Doctor Science just mentioned a nice idea in the other thread – a crystal globe etched with a different dragon (or eldritch creature) for each convention.

    I vote DRAGON, obviously.

  2. Meredith, Nick suggested citations, which prompted me to reflect that I couldn’t really think of droves of African-American writers up for an Edgar these days – but it’s not a field I follow as avidly as SFF so I thought I’d ask if there are more I’m unaware of.

    I agree with you that part of the issue in this particular case is how there might be a visceral reaction to the googly-eyed bust. In my uninformed opinion, as I’ve never had one stare at me, nor read a poem in which the person it was modeled on compared me to an animal.

    Is the answer, “if a couple recipients express unhappiness, then change it”? Seems to be in this Howie case, a genre with more diversity – if I’m not getting that wrong – than MWA with the name AND the bust.

  3. Favorite Lovecraft: The Colour Out of Space. Also very fond of a number of others; Pickman’s Model springs to mind.

    My suggestion for a new award: A heart hidden inside a duck’s egg in a well in a church on a island in a distant lake. It would have practical value!

  4. RedWombat, off topic, but there’s a typo in the most recent Hidden Almanac; you have “nus” arriving on the Isle of Shun. Thought you’d like to know….

    (Also, I’ve finally caught up on The Hidden Almanac. I have to say, I always like hearing from Pastor Drom….)

  5. Everybody read tLtWatW first which is a mistake since it is neither first chonologically or best story.

    It is not the first in internal chronology, but in my view it makes perfect sense to read it first, since TMN is very clearly framed as a prequel, to explain the origin of things the reader is expected to already know about.

    As for whether it’s the best – well, I think it is a different kind of story from the others; it is a rather dream-like story where anything may happen, while from Prince Caspian onwards, the series turns into a much more conventional fantasy with worldbuilding. Once this has happened, TLTWTW turns out not to fit in perfectly, which I think is one reason people don’t like it; but if you do like it, it may make sense not to read the others.

  6. It is not the first in internal chronology, but in my view it makes perfect sense to read it first, since TMN is very clearly framed as a prequel, to explain the origin of things the reader is expected to already know about.

    The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is also about what Lewis clearly thought was the most important part of the story: Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. The Magician’s Nephew is just Genesis, and that was clearly a tertiary matter in Lewis’ mind.

  7. Everybody read tLtWatW first which is a mistake since it is neither first chonologically or best story

    Publication order is always an acceptable reading order

  8. @Ray

    Publication order is always an acceptable reading order

    I prefer it, unless I have a particular reason for reading them another way. I like watching things change.

  9. (Late to the game, again, I know)

    On Lovecraft:
    I did a re-read of the complete works of Lovecraft about 3 years ago. He produced some brilliant works, and a lot of hackery. The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath was Lovecraft writing Mary Sue fanfic of his own work.

    On the statue (just for Mike):
    It should be a bust of Hitler. There’s no question he was a fantasist, and we can show how tolerant we are of racists who were just products of their time.

  10. Red Wombat: “So, hey, what’s everybody’s favorite Lovecraft, if you actually do like his work?”

    At the Mountains of Madness. The perfect collection: The Library of America tome, but I wish they had included Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.

  11. Coming in late:

    Suggested WFA award: a wing upswept, with room for different years to decorate it differently.

    Favorite Lovecraft: Dang, there’s a cluster of stories I like a lot. At The Mountains Of Madness, “The Whisperer in Darkness”, “The Shadow Out of Time”, “The Colour Out of Space”.

    But these days I’d be more likely to recommend Laird Barron’s collections The Imago Sequence and Occultation instead. I think he gets, deeply, Lovecraft’s cosmicism, but anchors it in better prose and values. Others I’d recommend include Caitlin Kiernan’s The Red Tree, and T.E.D. Klein’s “The Events at Poroth Form” (finally back in e-print in one of those mega-collection things).

  12. Let’s go for Lovecraft’s inspiration, Robert W. Chambers, and make it a statue of The King in Yellow.

  13. @Brian @ SFF Chronicles:

    No idea at all. We’re just random fans on the internet speculating, not some magical zeitgeist which knows the workings of the inner circle at WFC.

    We’ve been playing with ideas, sure, but we don’t have a clue who — or what — the new award would look like.

  14. It sure is fun tossing ideas around, though. Especially since none of us have to worry about gaining consensus or executing them. Or intellectual property issues.

    ETA: Maybe we could pretend to be a magical zeitgeist! We could make up all kinds of bollocks until stuff happened to contradict us.

  15. I do not pretend to be a magical zeitgeist, I am a magical zeitgeist! I have spoken, and it is so!

    For certain values of “so”, but let’s not quibble.

  16. @Meredith* – In this situation, we are all Brian Z, Idea Man.

    I see the appeal.

    * I’m typing this on my phone and initially wrote “Merefith.” Almost corrected it to Merefifth and left it at that.

  17. C. S. Lewis’s expressed preference was that readers should read the Narnia books in chronological order.

    He didn’t exactly say that — he said that the series wasn’t planned beforehand and that he was not sure that the later books were even published in quite the same order in which they were written. “So perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone reads them.” The boy he was writing to suggested chronological order and he went along with that, but very mildly and as if he hadn’t put a great deal of thought into it himself. (He was also writing about three weeks after his marriage to the terminally ill Joy Gresham, who was not doing well at all at that point, so was presumably half distracted at the time.)

  18. I just tried to think seriously about what I’d want as a fantasy statuette if I were dictator magical zeitgeist of the World Fantasy Awards. It went pretty much like this:

    Me: What would be the coolest fantasy thing?
    Self: A dragon.
    Me: But Self, a dragon is maybe a little too cliched. What would be nearly as cool as a dragon?
    Self: Nothing is nearly as cool as a dragon.
    Me: Good point. A dragon it is.

    I’m sure this will come as a surprise to everyone here.

    @Bruce Baugh

    If you commit to your dreams nothing can stand in your way!


    You know, despite my general dislike of misspellings, I wouldn’t have minded that one. 🙂

  19. Meredith: “…nothing can stand in your way.” Particularly since I don’t have a new cat yet. 🙂

  20. I’m going with “The Colour Out of Space”, because eek! I got a used paperback of “Dream-Quest” but haven’t read it yet… small type, long lambent coruscating words. I’m getting new reading glasses soon, so maybe I can give it another try.

    The award is just FUGLY. I wouldn’t want to have to look at it. And it shouldn’t be any one person, anyway. I like the thought of a basic element with changes every year, like the Hugos does. Dragons encouraged. Turkish Delight on the side, perhaps as a party favor?

    Also, I need Pusheen merchandise, stat.

  21. Well, okay, I really do like the idea of a lamassu. Lamassu’s might not be nearly as cool as dragons, but they’re nearly nearly as cool as dragons.

    @Bruce Baugh

    Occasionally I feel bad about my lack of SJW qualifications, but tonight I found out one of my neighbours has six cats and I reckon I can probably just stroke them every now and then when I see them outside and that will sort of count. Ish.


    Perhaps Cally’s dragon writing at a desk could be nibbling on Turkish Delight. 🙂

    The Pusheenicorn plushie is decent quality. Not quite as special as the newer Blizzard merchandise plushies (if that’s a useful comparison), but better made than your average children’s toy. Mine had a minor flaw (a little of the mane had got trapped in the seam) but it was only tiny and hardly noticeable. Also, very cuddly and squishable without obnoxious hard bits (I, um, like plushies a lot, so I have developed Opinions). I only have the plushie so I can’t speak for any of the other stuff, but if it’s all of similar quality then I doubt you’d regret it. 🙂

  22. lurkertype: The award is just FUGLY.

    Yeah, I’ve always thought it looked like a moai from Rapa Nui. A really, really ugly moai. If I saw it and didn’t know any better, I’d have thought it was a World Horror Association Award.

    Much as it is such an honor to win a WFA, I can’t blame anyone for preferring some more attractive token of recognition.

  23. Gah! You people who keep posting the word “lamassu” have me hearing Buddy Holly singing in my head.

    Lamas Su, Lamas Su
    Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, Lamas Su

    There. Now you all get to hear him singing in your head, too.

  24. JJ: In my head, now, it goes:

    Lamassu, Lamassu,
    Does whatever a lama do
    Guard your temple, yes they do
    Look out, they also known as shedu

  25. Edith Wharton once described cats as “snakes in fur,” so I’m not sure if that’s a vote for or against having a cat as the new trophy. 😉 On Paul Di Filippo’s “miscegenation” comment during his speech, there might be a clue in Bruce Sterling’s essay that appeared in STRANGE TRADES. Lovecraft and Di Filippo share Rhode Island as a home state; although it’s unclear how the former might feel about that. Looking forward to seeing what happens next with the new design for the award.

  26. If I recall correctly, At the Mountains of Madness is the Lovecraft story with the giant blind cave-dwelling man-eating penguins. I think a statuette of one of those creatures would make a great award. It would reference Lovecraft and who doesn’t like penguins?

  27. Nigel : “A fairy. A unicorn. A leprechaun. A noble elf. A surly dwarf. Scooby Doo. A wig of long flowing shining lustrous hair. A piercing gaze. The nuclear launch code on a cunieform tablet. Neil Gaiman. A knight on horseback. A horse on knightback. A knight on knightback. A performance of Macbeth.”

    A mulatto. An albino. A mosquito. My libido.

  28. Cathy: At the Mountains of Madness is the Lovecraft story with the giant blind cave-dwelling man-eating penguins. I think a statuette of one of those creatures would make a great award. It would reference Lovecraft and who doesn’t like penguins?

    Given the advent of flatscreen televisions, this would just lead to disappointment that the award could not be displayed sitting on top of the telly.

  29. Meredith: then you take something small and pointy and carefully pull the mane hair out of the seam so you have the perfect Pusheenicorn. I was leaning towards one of the t-shirts.

    oh lamas’, my lamassu-ooo.

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  32. It kind of breaks my heart that people are insinuating that H.P. Lovecraft’s worth is somehow diminished because of his bigotry. I don’t deny that he was a bigot, but if you are going to reassess the worth of an artist based on their racism, bigotry or misogyny you would be hard pressed to conjure a single worthwhile author from the past capable of meeting this new standard. You might as well dismiss Hemingway, T.S. Elliot, Patricia Highsmith, Lois Ferdinand Celine, Roald Dahl, Mark Twain, Ezra Pound, Shakespeare, Harriette Beecher Stowe, Virginia Woolfe, Dr. Seuss, James Thurber, Rudyard Kipling, H.L. Menchen, and I could definitely go on much longer. I don’t mean to make it appear as if I don’t understand the criticism. When I first read H.P. Lovecraft I was surprised by his weird racism for sure, but as a person who loves literature I knew enough to take in to account the time the work was written in, and also to appreciate the humanness behind the writing, which includes all of the ignorance and fear that go along with the condition. I hope someday people will learn to think about, and laugh about, the ignorance of our past, and accept it for what it is, something we’ve grown out of, because I would far rather live in a world with culture and intelligence, and the occasional bizarre racism in a hundred year old ghost story, than a world where I’m never offended.

  33. @kath

    I think most people are very happy to acknowledge his worth as an artist; there was quite a nice subthread here about what people’s favourite stories were. It’s whether that worth trumps the discomfort of the people whom the award is supposed to honour (that is, not Lovecraft, but the nominees and winners) that is in question – and I think most people have concluded that they would rather the recipients felt honoured without the discomfort that being handed a Lovecraft bust (or pin) is causing some of them.

  34. @kath,
    While there have been commenters who dismissed Lovecraft’s writing because of his racist views, that’s not the sense I get from commenters here who have recognized his writing and undoubted influence (and have been discussing their favourite Lovecraft stories too).

    Speaking for myself, his stories are very effective and his flowery, somewhat archaic prose suits his style of storytelling. I’m a fan of Lovecraft’s stories despite his racist views. I am not sad that the WFA trophy will no longer be a Gahan Wilson bust of Lovecraft either.

    In other news…
    Lamas Su Su Su, push pineapple, shake the tree
    Lamas Su Su Su, push pineapple, grind coffee

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