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. Interestingly, it seems this announcement came not long after Toastmaster Paul di Filippo used the word “miscegenation” during his speech.

  2. Good decision. And long overdue.

    I wonder if who will be asked to design the replacement sculpture?

    And who shall it be that gets honoured? There are certainly women whose lifelong contributions to fantasy literature make them worthy nominees to be honoured such as Diana Wynne Jones, Patricia McKillip and Ursula Le Guin. I’d even toss in Ellen Datlow for editing exemplary myriad fantasy anthologies over many, many years.

  3. I honestly think it’s probably a mistake to make the award look like any particular person living, dead or fictional.

    Probably go with some fantasy image. I’m told dragons are quite popular.

    Maybe Nick can convinced them on the chimera, though chimera have been in the news recently for other reasons.

  4. I’ve always thought that using Lovecraft for the World Fantasy Award was an odd decision–not because it’s a mistake to model an award on a person, or because I knew he was racist (I didn’t, at the time), but because I always associated Lovecraft as much with horror as with fantasy. Of course, I believe this award predated the establishment of the Stoker, so that might explain some of it–the award designers were trying to represent all literature of the fantastic in one person–but still. Even back in 1975, if you wanted to honor fantasy, Lovecraft seemed an odd choice to me. Especially since the award wasn’t ever named the Lovecraft, I don’t think. (I have a vague memory of some people arguing that it ought to be called the Howie, but I don’t think that ever stuck.)

    Oh, well. I do hope they get someone good to design the new award . . . we could use something elegant, as long as we are losing the Gahan Wilson statuette. (Which always made me laugh, mostly because it made me think more of Gahan Wilson than of Lovecraft, I imagine.)

  5. Unlike Daniel Jose Older I don’t think Lovecraft was a terrible wordsmith, but it was clearly time for the award to move on and acknowledge that Lovecraft’s time is not our time – reading his work with a filter of “this was 90 years ago” is one thing, but using him as an ongoing figurehead for a genre in a way that makes people increasingly uncomfortable is another.

  6. Mary Francis: the complete collection of the cartoons that Wilson did for Playboy in its first fifty years has many, many male characters that sort of look like his HPL for this Award. It’s definitely a strong styling of his.

  7. Long overdue, but still welcome.

    I think the replacement should NOT be a person (real people are always liable to disappoint), but rather something involving dragons, a wizard hat/wand, etc. A really swell winged dragon would brighten up anyone’s award shelf.

  8. (Crystal Huff’s Twitter now informs us that to follow up his “miscegenation” remark of last night, di Filippo’s now showing pictures of scantily clad women and making fun of pagans.)

  9. I too have been baffled as to why Lovecraft was thought to write fantasy; I suppose I am also baffled as to why miscegenation featured in the Toastmaster’s comments. I look forward to seeing the video.

  10. In its earliest years The World Fantasy Convention was little more than a horror convention. Looking at the attendees, nominees and guest of honours, it’s composed 50% the surviving contributors to Weird Tales and Unknown and 50% the emerging names who would define the subsequent horror boom and the small press fanzines. The first WFC was in Providence, and was largely a tribute to HPL, though according to Fritz Leiber’s con-report even then there was “spirited” panel discussion about Lovecraft’s racial prejudice.

  11. Lovecraft and horror, yes. Lovecraft and SF, sure; the Elder Gods were aliens, after all. Lovecraft and fantasy, though? That never made sense to me.

  12. The Dreamlands are pretty much fantasy aren’t they? Early material, and if they were all he’d written we’d have forgotten him long ago.

  13. Well, if you interpret ‘fantasy’ broadly enough, as simply ‘literature of the fantastic’, it includes horror, and can even include SF. The WFA has always had a broad understanding of fantasy, not confining itself to the otherworldly stuff; a lot of what it honours is on the borderline, either with SF or with mainstream (as indeed this year’s results show.)

  14. Horror is, at least to me, as practiced by Lovecraft and many writers to this day, a subset of fantasy literature as it deals with things of a fantastic nature that were also terrifying.

    Ramsey Campbell to use a current author wrote a novel some years back called The Darkest Part of The Woods that could be fantasy or could be horror; Kingsley Amis wrote The Green Man which was marketed as mainstream fiction but could have easily slid into being either fantasy or horror.

    The genre walls are really not that well-built.

  15. Lovecraft seems seminal to much of modern fantasy.

    That is not the objection, surely.

  16. While I strongly agree with the decision, Lovecraft wrote a significant amount of fantastic literature, and played a significant role as a critic in the genre with his Supernatural Horror in Literature, which is referenced by a number of critics of the fantastic, notably Todorov. His more explicitly fantastic work can be seen in the Dream Quest of the Unknown Kadath and earlier work, I believe.

  17. Well, I’m thrilled. 🙂 I wonder what it will be replaced with? (If not a DRAGON, then I vote for a lamassu, because they’re awesome.)

  18. Even my household HPL fan is optimistic about this change, on the grounds that it was ugly and whatever they replace it with probably won’t be nearly as unpleasant to look at.

  19. nickpheas says:

    Some context on the miscegenation would be nice.

    Given the earlier kerfuffle, I half expect that there will turn out to be a bet involved.

  20. I vote for something based on this idea. Kurt Busiek, for the win!

    Oh–ETA: Got the Twitter link from Scalzi’s tweet.

  21. @P J Evans

    They still look pretty cool even with the signage. 😀

    There’s some brilliant ones in the British Museum, which I would link to only the pictures on the website have sort of sucked all the majesty out of them. Still: They’re pretty great.

    @Mary Frances

    Makes me think of City of Stairs which is a good start. 🙂

  22. PJ Evans: I remember the first time I saw that complex, in the early 80’s. It was a car full of fans and we were all “Bwuh? Sumerian? Cool!” We couldn’t remember the name “lamassu” (and it was long before the internet) but we recognized the iconography, even going by on the freeway.

  23. Meredith: Eh. I figure no one’s going to listen to us anyway, so why not make some fun suggestions? Or speak out in favor of them, or something. I like lamassu, too, by the way. The University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute has some cool ones.

    I also like the idea of a pegasus, the winged horse of the muses, if we’re going all mythological, but I suspect that that might come off as too cutesy.

  24. Obviously the replacement shouldn’t be a dragon given their sexist/misogynistic propensities regarding eating “young maidens”. Compounding this is the implication that these “young maidens” can only be rescued by “knights in shining armor” which does nothing but increase the patriarchy’s influence. The best solution is to use a perfectly smooth sphere, anything else would be too phallocentric.

  25. Make it look like a remarkably attractive, Brancusi-like sculpture of iridescent globes. Something that looks spacy and fantastic without using anyone’s face as a model.

    And no one needs to know that it’s really a statue of Yog-Sothoth. At least not until the paranormal activity begins.

  26. I’d have to agree with robert wood: The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath certainly read as fantasy.

  27. Approved by Meredith™

    I can confirm that both of those were totally official. 😉

    @Mary Frances

    Brainstorming is fun, anyway. 🙂 It could be a pegasus with sharp pointy teeth! Sort of a cross-over with the Mares of Diomedes or a kelpie. Plus, that would bring in the horror end of the fantastic. Maybe mechanical or robotic wings for a sfnal look?


    That moth is fabulous,

  28. Commission Charles Vess to design the replacement. He’s designed fountains, and he, among with Neil Gaiman, created the only comic book to win the award.

  29. I remember the first time I saw that complex

    It’s pretty hard to forget Assyrian, when it’s right there where you can admire it. And that one is a local landmark, treasured, which is why it’s still mostly there.
    I’m kind of disappointed that the people who turned the tire plant into an outlet mall didn’t run with the existing style: planters set so that the stuff hangs down over the walls on the store side of the structures, fancy patterns in the concrete, and lamassu keeping an eye on things. (They can lose the digital signage though: it’s distracting and ugly. Turning the brightness down would be a good start.)

  30. Pingback: And a Terrible Wordsmith, Too! | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

  31. a dragon wrapped around the earth* would make an awesome statue.

    You mean like the worm Oroboros.

    A well done snake-like dragon could be very good given that is how the Chinese dragons look and I know Australian Aboriginals have stories of a creater spirit called the Rainbow Serpent.

  32. Meredith on November 8, 2015 at 6:28 pm said:

    … @Hampus

    That moth is fabulous,

    I will name him George, and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him.

  33. All of this political correctness is such weak tea. Without HPL there would be no World Fantasy Con ( originally the World Horror Con, I believe). Without HPL there would be no organized horror/fantasy publishing (Arkham House was devoted to keeping HPL’s work alive), and probably no horror/fantasy fandom, either. He published fanzines, wrote fiction, created a universe, and was unfortunately a man of his time. But knowing that puts it and him in perspective. It’s called context.

    To quote Jon Stewart: “Historical context, it’s why old people are sad.”

    And who wants a dragon wrapped around the world when you can have a Gahan Wilson statue? Get over it you ninnies.

  34. Without HPL there would be no World Fantasy Con ( originally the World Horror Con, I believe).

    No, this isn’t so.

    Without HPL there would be no organized horror/fantasy publishing (Arkham House was devoted to keeping HPL’s work alive).

    Well, there was an entire legion of pulps. They were pretty well organized. At any rate, I don’t see why reason why Gnome Press wouldn’t have been founded if Arkham House wasn’t.

    …probably no horror/fantasy fandom, either.

    Not so.

    He published fanzines,

    Sort of.

    wrote fiction,

    Yes, you got one!

    created a universe,

    No he did not.

    and was unfortunately a man of his time.

    No, he was a right-wing creep even for his time.

    But knowing that puts it and him in perspective. It’s called context.

    The current day has a context as well.

    And who wants a dragon wrapped around the world when you can have a Gahan Wilson statue?

    Indeed, a dragon would be a very stupid idea.

    Get over it you ninnies.

    You pooped your own diapers, pal. Wasn’t me!

  35. Dan Steffan:

    Yes, some of the rhetoric is troubling. He was a terrific writer, his influence on fantasy cannot be underestimated, and if we are policing the attitudes of long-dead authors, it’s not clear where that stops or how one chooses the targets for condemnation. Andre Norton was more vocal about her opposition to gay fiction, much more recently, for example, so why hasn’t that award been canceled?

    On the other hand, the purpose of giving the award is to honor the recipient. Several have stated unequivocally that they are unhappy receiving it. I don’t see how there is an easy solution to that.

    Perhaps WFC could find a creative way to honor Lovecraft’s place in the genre and make use of the exquisite bust without necessarily ritually handing it to authors who say they don’t want it.

    Just a thought.

  36. Peace Is My Middle Name:

    Lovecraft seems seminal to much of modern fantasy.

    That is not the objection, surely.

    True. I was just explaining why I see no reason to fight for the statuette–which was partly because I wasn’t particularly thrilled with honoring Lovecraft as a writer of fantasy in the first place. In other words, this doesn’t strike me as a hill worth dying on.

    That isn’t my only reason, of course, but it is one that doesn’t seem to come up too often.

  37. Make the new award a cat. Facebook proofs that cats are always popular, and they hurt nobody’s feelings (as long as you aren’t a dog).

    P.S.: But a snake eating itself would also be nice. Symbolism and irony can’t be that wrong.

  38. Pathetic. Not a single one of these idiots will ever write anything that will be read nearly a century after their death. Not a single one of them has contributed as much to the genres of fantasy, horror, and sci-fi as H.P. Lovecraft. But someone cries “RACISM!” and they shit all over his grave.

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