Thursday, September 18, 2014

The World Fantasy Award Trophy: A Suggestion

There is a movement to replace the current design of the World Fantasy Award trophy, a bust of H. P. Lovecraft by Gahan Wilson. Understandably, a number of the award recipients have been made quite uncomfortable having their achievement memorialized by the image of a venomous racist.

And make no mistake, he was, even by the low standards of the early 20th century, an odious and extreme racist.

And he was influential, but a lot of his best work was presented as science fiction. Much of his pure fantasy was an inferior derivative of Dunsany. To the extent that he did write fantasy, his was only one of the streams that fed the modern genre.

The Hugo, of course, commemorates Hugo Gernsbach, who really did have such a critical role in science fiction as a commercial genre that he has a serious claim to be called the Father of Science Fiction. But they don't use his bust for the trophy, understandably, since he was, as Barry Malzberg has said, "pretty much a crook."

There is a petition to replace Lovecraft's bust with one of Octavia Butler. This is poorly considered.  Picking a single individual to represent the entire genre is probably a mistake, especially since she mostly wrote science fiction, and could plausibly described  as chosen because she was everything Lovecraft despised.

You could say with a straight face that Verne, Wells or Gernsbach was "The Father of Science Fiction".  You can't do that for fantasy. There are too many fathers. And mothers.

I say we replace Lovecraft with the Doors of Durin. It would certainly be an esthetic improvement.  I mean, racism aside, that is one ugly statue. Gahan Wilson is a gifted cartoonist with a taste for the grotesque, but as a sculptor he's a gifted cartoonist with a taste for the grotesque.

Or a chimera. A chimera works for me.

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