World Fantasy Award

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World Fantasy Award
Awarded for Best fantasy or science fiction works of previous year
Country International
Presented by World Fantasy Convention
First awarded 1975
Official website

The World Fantasy Awards, established in 1975, are presented annually at the World Fantasy Convention. The World Fantasy Award has been described as one of the three most prestigious speculative fiction awards, along with the Hugo (voted on by fans and professionals) and the Nebula Awards (voted on members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America).[1] Writers, editors or artists can receive awards. The award statue was formerly a caricature bust of H. P. Lovecraft designed by cartoonist Gahan Wilson in honor of Lovecraft's work and contributions to the world of fantasy. The award had the nickname of "Howard", after Lovecraft's first name. In 2015, the old award statue was retired because of protests over Lovecraft's racism. A new award design has not yet been announced.

Award process[edit]

World Fantasy Award winners are chosen by a panel of judges, differing every year. For example, the judges who presided over the 2010 awards were Greg Ketter, Kelly Link, Jim Minz, Jürgen Snoeren, and Gary K. Wolfe.[2]

Winners are chosen from groups of nominees (generally five or six per category), also selected largely by the judges, with two picked by members of the annual WFC. The World Fantasy Awards thus differ significantly in administration from other notable genre awards, such as Hugos or Nebulas. For the Hugos, the nominees and winners are chosen solely by members of the World Science Fiction Convention, while the Nebulas are awards for authors chosen by authors, specifically members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Thus neither the Hugos nor Nebulas have overseeing judges.

Because of the small number of judges for the World Fantasy Awards, and because they usually try to read very comprehensively in the field, selections for the awards are often eclectic. For example, low-selling but high-quality works from small press publications, which may be overlooked by other awards, often receive a critical spotlight in the World Fantasy Awards.

Unlike the Hugos and Nebulas, World Fantasy Awards have award categories for single author collections and for anthologies.

At the 1991 awards, comic book The Sandman issue #19 "A Midsummer's Night Dream" scripted by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Charles Vess, won the Award for Best Short Fiction.[3] The widely circulated story that the rules were subsequently changed to prevent another comic book from winning is not entirely true. The official website states: "Comics are eligible in the Special Award Professional category. We never made a change in the rules."[4] Gaiman and Vess, however, won the Award under the Short Fiction and not the Special Award Professional category.

Current and past categories for the awards[edit]

Lovecraft controversy[edit]

For 40 years (1975-2015), the World Fantasy Award took the physical form of a caricature bust of H. P. Lovecraft by cartoonist Gahan Wilson, leading to controversy in part because of Lovecraft's history of racism.

In 1984, Donald Wandrei refused to accept a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement because he felt the statuette was a caricature of Lovecraft.[5][6] In August 2014, author Daniel José Older started a petition to change the World Fantasy Award statuette from a bust of Lovecraft to one of African-American author Octavia Butler.[7] Kevin J. Maroney, editor of the The New York Review of Science Fiction, also supported the call for the WFA to be changed from Lovecraft's face, suggesting it be replaced with a symbol representing the fantasy genre. Maroney argued this should be done "not out of disrespect for Lovecraft as a writer or as a central figure in fantasy, but as a courtesy to generations of writers whom the WFA hopes to honor."[8]

In September 2014, the board of the World Fantasy Awards announced it was "in discussion' about the future of the award statuette.[7] In November 2015, it was announced that the World Fantasy Award trophy would no longer be modeled on Lovecraft.[9] Author Daniel José Older told The Guardian newspaper by email, "If fantasy as a genre truly wants to embrace all of its fans, and I believe it does, we can’t keep lionising a man who used literature as a weapon against entire races. Writers of color have always had to struggle with the question of how to love a genre that seems so intent on proving it doesn’t love us back. We raised our voices collectively, en masse, and the World Fantasy folks heard us. Today, fantasy is a better, more inclusive, and stronger genre because of it."[9]

However, Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi expressed anger at the decision, calling it "a craven yielding to the worst sort of political correctness". Joshi argued that the change "was meant to placate the shrill whining of a handful of social justice warriors who believe that a ‘vicious racist’ like Lovecraft has no business being honoured by such an award." Joshi added that he had returned the two World Fantasy Awards he had won back to the committee, saying "I will never attend another World Fantasy Convention as long as I live. And I will do everything in my power to urge a boycott … among my many friends and colleagues". [10]

Lenika Cruz in the Atlantic Monthly defended the decision, stating that "Lovecraft’s removal is about more than just the writer himself; it’s not an indictment of his entire oeuvre". She noted that the the award's symbolism "has inevitably meant that some recipients, like Sofia Samatar and Nnedi Okorafor, were expected to feel honored by an object shaped like a man who thought of them as lesser". [11]


  1. ^ Tan, Corrie (2013-09-17). "'It's not like I can sell awards for money'". The Star. Star Publications. Archived from the original on 2013-09-24. Retrieved 2013-09-24. 
  2. ^ 2010 World Fantasy Award judges
  3. ^ 1991 nominees and winners
  4. ^ World Fantasy Award Judges
  5. ^ Sullivan, Jack (1986). The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural. New York: Viking Press. pp. 448–449. ISBN 0-670-80902-0. 
  6. ^ Morrish, Bob. "Wandrei, Donald". In Grant, John; Clute, John. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. pp. 994–5. ISBN 0-312-19869-8. 
  7. ^ a b "World Fantasy awards pressed to drop HP Lovecraft trophy in racism row". The Guardian. 17 September 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  8. ^ "Editorial: Chance of Face, Change of Heart". The New York Review of Science Fiction (312). August 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Flood, Alison (9 November 2015). "World Fantasy award drops HP Lovecraft as prize image". The Guardian. 
  10. ^ Flood, Alison. (11 November 2015) "HP Lovecraft biographer rages against ditching of author as fantasy prize emblem" The Guardian.
  11. ^ Lenika Cruz, (12 November 2015) "The Atlantic".


Two anthologies have been drawn from the World Fantasy Award winners:

External links[edit]