World Fantasy Award

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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 is 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 has the nickname of "Howard", after Lovecraft's first name.

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]


In 1984, Donald Wandrei caused some controversy after he was offered a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement but refused to accept it.[5][6]

The award is a bust of H.P. Lovecraft. Author Nnedi Okorafor, who takes exception to the usage of Lovecraft's visage as the award due to the racism that exists in his literature, won the award in 2011. She wrote that she approved of China Miéville's solution to reconciling Lovecraft's influence with this facet of his personality by stating: "I put it out of sight, in my study, where only I can see it, and I have turned it to face the wall. So I am punishing the little fucker like the malevolent clown he was, I can look at it and remember the honour, and above all I am writing behind Lovecraft’s back."[7] Miéville, who has written and lectured extensively on Lovecraft, further wrote in response to Okorafor "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’."

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.[8] 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."[9]

Others insist that Lovecraft's racism should be overlooked, like the Lovecraft and Weird Fiction scholar S. T. Joshi has addressed this controversy in a series of blogs[10] about the topic. An excerpt from one such blog entry to clarify: "The overriding, catastrophic error ... can be very simply expressed: The WFA bust acknowledges Lovecraft’s literary status in the field of weird fiction and nothing more. It says nothing about Lovecraft’s personality or character—just as the Hugo Award says nothing of the character ... of Hugo Gernsback. Lovecraft’s status in weird fiction, in American literature, and in world literature is now so assured that attempts to deny or denigrate it are restricted to cranks and ignoramuses."

In September 2014, the board of the World Fantasy Awards announced it was "in discussion' about the future of the award statuette.[8]


  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. ^ "Lovecraft’s racism & The World Fantasy Award statuette, with comments from China Miéville.". Nnedi's Wahala Zone Blog. December 14, 2011. Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b "World Fantasy awards pressed to drop HP Lovecraft trophy in racism row". The Guardian. 17 September 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  9. ^ "Editorial: Chance of Face, Change of Heart". The New York Review of Science Fiction (312). August 2014. 
  10. ^ "S. T. Joshi - Blog". 

External links[edit]