Nnedi Okorafor, this year’s winner of the World Fantasy Award for best novel (and a contributor to the upcoming Apex Book of World SF 2!), has a post up discussing the issue of the award statuette being shaped in the likeness of H.P. Lovecraft, a notorious racist (favourite quote – “ stunted brachycephalic South-Italians & rat-faced half-Mongoloid Russian & Polish Jews, & all that cursed scum!” – courtesy of Scott Edelman).
A statuette of this racist man’s head is in my home. A statuette of this racist man’s head is one of my greatest honors as a writer. A statuette of this racist man’s head sits beside my Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa and my Carl Brandon Society Parallax Award (an award given to the best speculative fiction by a person of color). I’m conflicted.The first thing I did was consult the hive mind on facebook. And what a conversation ensued. Several authors (including Steve Barnes and Jeff VanderMeer) weighed in on the topic. See the conversation here. This discourse led me to ask the winner of last year’s World Fantasy Award for Best Novel China Miéville (he’s also written and lectured extensively on Lovecraft) what he thought. He had much to say on the matter:
“Yes, indeed, the depth and viciousness of Lovecraft’s racism is known to me …It goes further, in my opinion, than ‘merely’ *being* a racist – I follow Michel Houellebecq (in this and in no other arena!) in thinking that Lovecraft’s oeuvre, his work itself, is inspired by and deeply structured with race hatred. As Houellebecq said, it is racism itself that raises in Lovecraft a ‘poetic trance’. He was a bilious anti-semite (though one who married a Jew, because, if you please, he granted that she was ‘assimilated’), and if you read stories like ‘The Horror at Red Hook’, the bile you will see towards people of colour, of all kinds (with particular sneering contempt for African Americans unless they were suitably Polite and therefore were patricianly granted the soubriquet ‘Negro’) and the mixed communities of New York and, above all (surprise surprise – Public Enemy were right) ‘miscegenation’ are extended and toxic.”It’s not as if I haven’t encountered this issue before. One of my favorite authors is Stephen King. Yet, in several of his novels (including one of my all time favorites- The Talisman), he features Super Duper Magical Negros. That’s a very mild example. I certainly don’t feel that King hates black people.…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 Iknow I want it 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. – read the full post.