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“Avowed Racist” HP Lovecraft will No Longer Represent the World Fantasy Award, 4 Years After Nnedi Okorafor’s Initial Call

BintiLagoonWho Fears DeathThe Book of PhoenixLagoonKabu Kabu

 
It was announced on Monday that winners of the World Fantasy Award will no longer receive a bust of HP Lovecraft as their trophy. The decision was made in the wake of growing discomfort among authors who regard Lovecraft as an inappropriate figure owing to his “fundamental racism”.

The Guardian reports:

The World Fantasy Award trophy will no longer be modelled on HP Lovecraft, it has been announced, following a campaign last year that called the author out as an “avowed racist” with “hideous opinions”.

The change was revealed at the World Fantasy Convention on Sunday, where David Mitchell took the top award, the best novel prize, for The Bone Clocks. It beat titles by authors including Jeff VanderMeer, Robert Jackson Bennett, Jo Walton and Katherine Addison to the best novel prize, with other winners at the Saratoga Springs convention including Ramsey Campbell and Sheri S Tepper, who took life achievement awards.

Daniel José Older, who started a petition to introduce the change last year, tweeted:

Jeff VanderMeer tweeted:

In 2011, Nigerian-American fantasy and science fiction author Nnedi Okorafor received the World Fantasy Award for her novel, Who Fears Death. She was the first black person to win the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel since its inception in 1975.

In a blogpost at the time, the author recalled showing her trophy to a friend, who reacted by introducing her to a poem Lovecraft had written in 1912 entitled “On the Creation of Niggers”.

On the Creation of Niggers (1912)
by HP Lovecraft

When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceiv’d a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a Nigger.

Okorafor was enraged. She decided to find out what other authors had to say about Lovecraft’s racism, and took to Facebook, where several authors (including Steve Barnes and Jeff VanderMeer) weighed in. The previous year’s World Fantasy Award winner China Miéville, who’d done extensive research on the horror writer, said that “the depth and viciousness of Lovecraft’s racism is known” to him and that it goes further than mere racism; his entire oeuvre is “inspired by and deeply structured with race hatred”. Miéville referred to Michel Houellebecq, who said that it was “racism itself” that raised in Lovecraft a “poetic trance”.

Okorafor writes: “This is something people of color, women, minorities must deal with more than most when striving to be the greatest that they can be in the arts: The fact that many of The Elders we honour and need to learn from hate or hated us.”

Read the article:

Do I want “The Howard” (the nickname for the World Fantasy Award statuette. Lovecraft’s full name is “Howard Phillips Lovecraft”) replaced with the head of some other great writer? Maybe. Maybe it’s about that time. Maybe not. What I know I want is to face the history of this leg of literature rather than put it aside or bury it. If this is how some of the great minds of speculative fiction felt, then let’s deal with that… as opposed to never mention it or explain it away. If Lovecraft’s likeness and name are to be used in connection to the World Fantasy Award, I think there should be some discourse about what it means to honor a talented racist.

I loved China’s way of dealing with his “Howard”. He said:
“So where does that leave the World Fantasy Award? Well, in my case, I have always done something very specific and simple. I consider the award inextricable from but not reducible to Lovecraft himself. Therefore, I was very honoured to receive the award as representative of a particular field of literature. And the award itself, the statuette of the man himself? I put it out of sight, in my study, where only I can see it, and I have turned it to face the wall. So I am punishing the little fucker like the malevolent clown he was, I can look at it and remember the honour, and above all I am writing behind Lovecraft’s back. ”

 
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Image courtesy of nnedi.com

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://www.redbubble.com/people/merrypranxter" rel="nofollow">merrypranxter</a>
    merrypranxter
    March 11th, 2016 @20:19 #
     
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    I kinda think this is sad. Yes he was terribly racist. It showed in many of his works. But so were most white people in his day. I don't wanna have to play the "he was just a product of his time" card... But he kinda was. He was also laid the groundwork for so much of modern fantasy and like, most, horror that has come since. The tropes he created to use in his work were unheard of at the time (if there was a monster you described how horrible it was... Until he showed the world how much scarier things can be when they are so terrible you can't even begin to wrap your head around them, much less describe them... Leaving the readers' imaginations to fill in all of the horrifying blanks).
    He was a racist asshole but also the father of so much of what makes fantasy and horror what it is today. I hate that he is losing his spot in history and his legacy as one of the major founders of the genre just because he happened to have been born into and raised by a family of bigoted shitheads during a time when, frankly, being a bigoted shithead was the norm.
    I am in no way condoning his racism. Im just saying that with all the genre owes to him, his racism shouldn't be the final thing the world focused on from him.

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