In August Daniel José Older launched a petition to replace Lovecraft’s bust on the World Fantasy Award with one of Octavia Butler. About a week ago, Steven Stevenson of Australia countered with a petition to ”keep the beloved H. P. Lovecraft caricature busts”. Neither petition has fully captured the public’s interest.
Older’s petition argues —
While HP Lovecraft, whose head the current award is modeled after, did leave a lasting mark on speculative fiction, he was also an avowed racist and a terrible wordsmith. Many writers have spoken out about their discomfort with winning an award that lauds someone with such hideous opinions, most notably Nnedi Okorafor.
His petition has collected 2,603 signatures since August, however, nearly all of them came in the first month it was online – it hit the 2,500 mark on September 19. Interest has been trivial since then.
Judging from the discussion online, the loss of momentum happened when those who would do away with the Lovecraft bust admitted they do not feel Butler has a compelling claim for becoming the icon of a fantasy award, because she is primarily noted for her sf. They agree with Older about the problem, but not with his solution.
We the undersigned are Fantasy and Horror fans who are passionately opposed to this change, which we believe is driven by political correctness.
Many of us are actively opposed to racism, and though we admit some of Lovecraft’s personal opinions were less than ideal, he lived in far more racist times than ours, and like everyone who has ever existed, wasn’t always right. We forgive him his imperfections, and we love, value and miss him for his never-to-be-forgotten Fantasy and Horror stories. As the creator of the ‘Cthulhu mythos,’ HPL has had a vast, indeed immeasurable influence on the Fantasy genre….
But after the first week his petition has gathered only 274 signatures. This may reflect that no one has heard of it – outlets which immediately publicized Older’s petition like Tor.com have given it no coverage. Or it may show that people disagree with his premise about mere political correctness being at the root of the complaints.
Or the fact may be that the only people who passionately care how the World Fantasy Award looks are the ones likely to win it and be expected to display it in their homes. As WFA winner Ken Liu said the other day at the New York Comic Con —
One of my daughter’s first reactions was that she was terrified of it, so I put a sock on it as a silly hat, and now she thinks it’s hilarious. There’s a long tradition of science fiction and fantasy that has some roots that we need to examine. There’s no question that Lovecraft is important! And we’re not trying to cleanse him from the genre…
The writers’ opinions can be expected to carry a lot of weight here and not just for aesthetic reasons. Writers as well as other publishing professionals are the core participants in the membership-capped World Fantasy Convention. What they think is bound to mean more to the WFA Board than the results of any petition.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the link.]