November 10, 2015

The World Fantasy awards will officially stop using H.P. Lovecraft’s likeness


Neil Gaiman accepting his 2011 World Fantasy Award. (via Youtube)

Neil Gaiman accepting his 2011 World Fantasy Award (via Youtube)

During this Sunday’s World Fantasy Convention, organizers of the World Fantasy awards announced that 2015 will be the final year that winners will receive a likeness of H.P. Lovecraft’s head.

This sure-to-be-completely-uncontroversial decision comes in the wake of an author and reader campaign to change the award statue to a likeness of Octavia Butler. The World Fantasy organizers did not announce if next year’s replacement award has been determined.

The Guardian‘s Alison Flood discussed the campaign to drop Lovecraft:

Last year, [author Daniel Jose] Older launched a petition asking for the change. Signed by more than 2,500 people, the petition asked organisers to make the acclaimed African American science fiction writer Octavia Butler the model for the trophy, rather than Lovecraft, because while the creator of the Cthulhu mythos “did leave a lasting mark on speculative fiction, he was also an avowed racist and a terrible wordsmith,” and “many writers have spoken out about their discomfort with winning an award that lauds someone with such hideous opinion.”

One of those writers was the World Fantasy award winner Nnedi Okorafor, who discovered Lovecraft’s racist 1912 poem On the Creation of Niggers following her win, and blogged about how “conflicted” it made her feel. “A statuette of this racist man’s head is in my home. A statuette of this racist man’s head is one of my greatest honours as a writer,” she wrote.

Author Sofia Samatar, who won the 2014 Best Novel Prize for A Stranger In Olondriaaddressed her ambivalence about the award during her acceptance speech, and later wrote succinctly (and charmingly) about her feelings in a blog post that also serves preempts any spluttering outrage that changing the trophy would be tantamount to censorship:

“Here are a few more thoughts I’ll add…

a) Nobody’s post about winning an award should turn into a post about controversy! Everyone should be able to announce their awards with unadulterated joy! And unless the statue is changed, there will be a lot more posts like this. Can we not?

b) I don’t think the statue should be an image of any person.

c) I am not telling anybody not to read Lovecraft. I teach Lovecraft! I actually insist that people read him and write about him! For grades! This is not about reading an author but about using that person’s image to represent an international award honoring the work of the imagination.”

Meanwhile, anyone who feels as if this decision will leave a Lovecraftian hole in their lives should feel free to drown their sorrows with some Lovecraft-themed beer. Everybody wins!



Liam O'Brien is the Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.