The World Fantasy Award for best novel—an honor that's been bestowed on such luminaries as Ursula K. Le Guin, Susanna Clarke, Haruki Murakami, and China Miéville—will no longer be represented by the head of a long-dead racist.
The award, presented this year to author David Mitchell for his book The Bone Clocks, has long been represented by a distorted bust of renowned fantasy author H.P. Lovecraft. It looks like this:
But, after 40 years, the World Fantasy Convention, the organizing body behind the award, announced it would no longer use the familiar bust of Lovecraft, whose racist views have come under increased scrutiny in recent years.
The sci-fi and fantasy magazine Locus reported that the WFC announced at the awards ceremony on Sunday that 2015 would mark the last use of the Lovecraft statuette:
The novelist Daniel José Older, who launched a petition for a change to the statue last year, also tweeted the news in celebration:
Specifically, Older's petition aimed to replace Lovecraft with a bust of black sci-fi and fantasy author Octavia Butler, whose work he praised for changing "the entire genre of speculative fiction by complicating our notions of power, race and gender." While it acknowledged Lovecraft's impact on speculative fiction, the petition condemned him for his racism and poor writing, while noting that "Many writers have spoken out about their discomfort with winning an award that lauds someone with such hideous opinions."
Lovecraft's racism is beyond doubt. As Philip Eil wrote earlier this year in The Atlantic, Lovecraft (who died in 1937) praised lynchings as "ingenious." And Lovecraft's racism wasn't limited to his personal views. As Betsy Phillips explained at ThinkProgess a couple of years ago, it's at the core of his stories:
His stories often hinge on the idea that “fully human” is English people and people of English descent and creeping up out of the uncanny valley to ruin things for people of English descent are bunches of different groups of people who range from not very human at all—strange islanders and non-white people of all sorts—to people who could almost pass for human, if you weren’t vigilant—like the French.
Other writers joined Older on Twitter to rejoice:
No announcement has been made yet about what will replace the statuette. Several prominent authors, including Saladin Ahmed and Joyce Carol Oates, have voiced the opinion that another bust shouldn't be used, arguing that no one author should represent the genre.
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org