Thursday, November 12, 2015

A More Inclusive Fan(tasy) Community

The big news in the publishing world is that the trophy given for World Fantasy Awards, a bust of H.P. Lovecraft, will be retired. The impetus for the change was World Fantasy Award winner Nnedi Okorafor's discovery of Lovecraft's pernicious racism, and the realization that she had the bust of a man who, at at least one point in his lifetime, would have considered her subhuman, and who went to his grave without giving up his youthful racist beliefs.

I am a fan of Lovecraft's 'weird tales' (even now, I am taking a break from finishing up a re-read of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward), and I have written quite a few blog posts about the man and his body of work, addressing his racism as well as his stories. It's tempting to believe that he was reconsidering his reactionary attitudes in the days before his untimely death, but the fact remains that he harbored some heinous attitudes. Lovecraft's position in the Fantasy and Science Fiction pantheon is undeniable, though, as sword and sorcery author Charles R. Saunders acknowledged in a recent interview. Whenever you encounter 'nameless horrors from beyond' in a story, Lovecraft's shadow can be found.

There's no need, though, for the Old Man of Providence to lend his long, lugubrious countenance to an award. Speculative fiction has been enriched by such African-American authors as Samuel R. Delany, Octavia Butler, and the aforementioned Nnedi Okorafor and Charles R. Saunders. The Fantasy and Science-Fiction community is not the exclusive white boys club it used to be (a few years ago I wrote a post about women F&SF authors)- it's time the leading lights of the community recognized this reality.

With the retiring of the HPL statue, the World Fantasy Association needs to come up with another award statue- if they didn't want to rename the 'Howard', they could always rename the statue after Robert E. Howard... wait, what?


M. Bouffant said...

Heh indeed; by the time I was half-way through I was going to mention R.E. Howard, most of which I read while a callow(er) youth but you beat me.

Never read any Lovecraft that I can remember, maybe one of the most-anthologized stories forty+ yrs. ago but if so ...

His oeuvre has so permeated both genre & snarkery I don't feel I've missed anything by missing the actual texts.

And really, what can you say? Products of their times & specific environments. Robert E. certainly had his problems; I often think racism is an expression (extra easy in America) of other "issues" as we pop psychologists call them.

And thirdly, poo on awards, from the Oscars©™® down!

mikey said...

Makes less than no sense to me. It's not a civil rights award, or even a good human award. You're celebrating a human's body of work, his/her contributions to the craft, not his/her quality as a human being. The writing is, and remains, the writing. The dood, meanwhile, has been wormfood since before the second world war. I cannot see any point in conflating the social worldview, however vile, of an artist from an earlier time and the things he/she did which we celebrate...

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I can see both sides of the slippery slope. On the one hand, Thomas Jefferson and his slaves. OTOH, the treason flag, still flown proudly by our nation's bigots.