Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

Blog

The World Fantasy Award

So, at tor.com, I see there is a petition to alter the award to a bust of Octavia E Butler from its current image of Lovecraft.

I find this offensive.

It is offensive to choose a black woman as an obvious token black woman to represent a fantasy award, when she did not write fantasy. Don’t tell me there’s no difference between SF and fantasy. If that was the case, readers would in general happily read both. I hardly need to point out that they don’t, and that there are A LOT of fantasy readers who never touch SF.

Octavia E Butler was a great writer. Her early death was a tragedy for the field.

I personally loved Butler’s work. I personally hate Lovecraft’s stories.

None of that is relevant to this question.

I gather Lovecraft was clearly racist and infused his stories with racism. That’s too bad, and a fine reason to remove him as the figure representing the World Fantasy Award. But it’s also racist to then look around and pick a black author because she’s black even though she is clearly not an iconic fantasy author. That is tokenism and it is also racist.

Butler was a writer’s writer, a serious fan’s writer; she was never well known. If she had lived, I suspect she would have made her mark as a literary figure with works such as KINDRED, not as a genre author.

It would be fine with me to change the award to honor a writer who wrote high fantasy rather than horror. This person should be deceased (of course) and should have been influential on the field, and preferably have been a prolific writer.

Frankly, I’d be fine with picking A White Dude: Tolkien. You just can’t get more iconic when you’re looking for a fantasy author. But if that’s not okay with people, then fine, go with a figure that isn’t representative of anybody. The Hugo is a spaceship; as far as I’m concerned, the World Fantasy Award could perfectly well be a dragon.

Other views:

From Free Nights and Weekends: “I love Octavia E. Butler. I found her work as a strange black girl in a time before the internet could show me that there were other strange black girls out there. I, quite literally, picked up her books from around the world, squealing with delight when I found one. I wept over the news of her death. Over all the stories that she would never be able to tell. . . . But Butler, for all that I love about her does not have the same standing as Lovecraft when it comes to notoriety. Butler is well known by people who read, really read, science fiction. This is not the case with Lovecraft. Lovecraft’s work has spread to influence other writers, comics, film, etc. Lovecraft is everywhere in speculative fiction and although I would love to see Butler’s work held in the same regard because she truly deserves it, it is not and therefore does not meet Lovecraft on the scale which was clearly used to choose him.”

Nick Mamatas, making that same point but also defending Lovecraft as a writer. I thought I’d include this link because I’ve never read anything by Lovecraft, barring half a story here and there, because horror with tentacles creeps me out. But Mamatas also says, “[Butler]’s a well-loved figure though, which means that there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the petition right now. It also potentially makes a heavy brickbat for anyone who comes out against the petition.”

I think Mamatas is right, and I think it’s dead wrong to set Butler up as The Token Black Writer in order to create this kind of brickbat.

Yeah, thinking about it again, just quit with the “bust of somebody” award and go with a dragon.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

4 Comments The World Fantasy Award

  1. elaine+t

    oh, I like that more than the dragon suggestion.

    The Teen thinks everything is better with dragons and suggests a combo SitS + dragon (with properly sized wings).

  2. Rachel

    Fine, I also admit that a nice simple sword-in-a-stone award would look good. However, I am with The Teen in voting for a dragon coiling around the stone, because, you know, dragons!

Leave A Comment