The award caused some discomfort for Nnedi Okorafor, a Nigerian-American writer who won the World Fantasy Award for best novel in 2011 for her novel Who Fears Death. Okorafor expressed her unease with the award in a blog post after reading a racist poem that was written by Lovecraft. The poem that prompted Okorafor to take to her blog reads:
When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceiv’d a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a Nigger.
The author writes:
“She [Nnendi Okorafor] saw it and became completely dismayed and hurt that this professional honor, which she’d been so proud to receive, was in the shape of the head of someone who would think these kinds of things about her.”
Following the controversy, a petition asking for the removal of Lovacraft’s bust and a bust featuring Octavia Butler as its replacement was created. Others that are in support of removing Lovecraft’s image from the bust ask that the award not be made in the shape of any specific person.
Supporters of Lovecraft are rising up in opposition to the petition. Lovecraft’s fans feel that their idol has been attacked and ask that the discussion ceases.
Despite their feelings, not even Lovecraft’s fans can deny that he was a racist. One supporter of Lovecraft said:
“Everyone was racist back then; Lovecraft’s racism was perfectly natural when you consider his upbringing; getting upset about Lovecraft’s racism serves no purpose.”
Lovecraft falls in line with a slew of other iconic figures, including Walt Disney and Babe Ruth, who are known to be racist.
This year, the WFA will still present the Lovecraft-shaped awards; however the WFA board of directors said they will have discussions about changing the bust at a series of meetings during this year’s World Fantasy Convention.
Read more at NPR.org.