2014 World Fantasy Convention: Sunday — World Fantasy Award Winners Announced

2014 World Fantasy Convention: Sunday — World Fantasy Award Winners Announced

World Fantasy Award Lovecraft-smallI was able to attend the World Fantasy Convention this year, for the first time since 2011, and I really had a terrific time. It was fabulous to attend all the panels, readings, parties, and events — and especially to re-connect with so many old friends, and make so many new ones. Years ago, Mark Kelly at Locus Online called World Fantasy “a reunion,” and I think that’s really the best description.

The highlight of the convention is the Sunday banquet, where the World Fantasy Awards were presented. The toastmaster for the event was the delightful Mary Robinette Kowal, who gave a highly entertaining speech about rejection, and the awards themselves were presented by Gordon van Gelder and David Hartwell. I sat at Table 25 with my new friends Amanda C. Davis and Matt O’Dowd, where we had a great view of the proceedings.

The World Fantasy Award itself is a cartoonish bust of H.P. Lovecraft sculpted by the brilliant Gahan Wilson (seen at left). It’s an extremely distinct award that honors the contributions of perhaps the finest American horror writer of the 20th Century. But using Lovecraft as the poster child for the awards has also caused some recent controversy (that surfaced twice during the proceedings.) I’ll get to that in a minute.

But first, the Awards themselves. This year’s winners of the World Fantasy Awards are:

Novel:

  • A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)

Novella:

  • “Wakulla Springs,” Andy Duncan & Ellen Klages (Tor.com)

A Stranger in Olondria-smallShort Story:

Anthology:

  • Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois (Tor)

Collection:

  • The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Subterranean)

Artist:

  • Charles Vess

Special Award Professional (tie):

  • Irene Gallo, for art direction of Tor.com
  • William K. Schafer, for Subterranean Press

Special Award Non-Professional:

  • Kate Baker, Neil Clarke, & Sean Wallace, for Clarkesworld

Life Achievement:

  • Ellen Datlow
  • Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

See the complete list of nominees here, and the 2013 winners here.

Dangerous Women Martin and Dozois-smallI was especially pleased to see William K. Schafer at Subterranean Press get some recognition for his enormous contributions to the field over the past decade. Subterranean had a particularly good year, with three wins (in the Short Story, Collection, and Professional categories), and no less than seven nominations.

Speaking of the short fiction awards, I was glad to see so much recognition for online and small press venues this year, although it was at the expense of traditional print outlets like The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Asimov’s. In fact, Tor.com and Subterranean completely dominated the Novella category, splitting five nominations between them.

Indeed, not a single print magazine or anthology got a nod for any of the short fiction nominations, which I found fairly surprising. Here’s how the 10 slots shook out:

Subterranean — 4
Tor.com — 3
Clarkesworld — 1
Strange Horizons — 1
Apex — 1

This has been a growing trend over the past few years. It’s no surprise that online outlets like Subterranean and Clarkesworld are taking home all the awards.

With all the praise being heaped on Subterranean this year, we really felt the recent loss of the online magazine, which published its final issue in August.

There were other surprises as well. Andy Duncan took home a Lovecraft statue for his novella “Wakulla Springs”… a little odd, when you consider that the World Fantasy Award is a judged award and Andy Duncan was one of the five judges.

Is it weird for a judge to give himself an award — or even to allow one of his stories to reach the final ballot? Not in this case, I think, because the story was co-authored with Ellen Klages, and I don’t really think it’s fair that Ellen should have been denied a well-deserved award just because her co-author was invited to be a judge this year.

Clarkesworld 84-smallOkay, maybe it’s still a little bit weird. Still, it was by no means the strangest (or most awkward) moment of the awards ceremony.

The first awkward moment came when Gordon van Gelder prefaced his opening remarks by obliquely commenting that the Awards Committee was aware of the ongoing issues with the award and was taking the matter seriously, and thanked those who had taken part in the poll addressing the issue. That caused an immediate buzz in the audience, with many folks nodding in understanding, and a great many more leaning closer to the person next to them to ask, “What the heck was that about?”

Sofia Samatar clarified the matter in her acceptance speech, thanking Gordon (and the Committee) for addressing “the elephant in the room,” meaning the fact that she was being honored for her accomplishments with the bust of a man who expressed profoundly racist views in his fiction and poetry (you can read a summary of the ongoing controversy here.)

Earlier during the convention, Sofia had publicly wondered what she would do if she won, and was presented with a Lovecraft statute. Whatever she has said in other venues, at the podium she was articulate and extremely gracious, and she accepted her award with humility and gratitude. It was an awkward moment, to be sure, but she got through it with no small measure of dignity. I’m not sure too many others could have pulled that off.

What she does with the statue in her home is her business (I think pulling a sock over it so that it looks like Jacques Cousteau was probably the best suggestion), but on stage, Sofia Samatar was a class act.

There was another awkward moment during the reading of the nominations for Best Anthology when Gordon announced that, at their request, one of the nominees would not to mentioned. That turned out to be Flotsam Fantastique: The Souvenir Book of World Fantasy Convention 2013, edited by Stephen Jones. I had no idea that that was all about, but File 770 explained it to me later. Seems the editors of the book objected to it being listed as an anthology, rather than in the “Special Award—Non-Professional” category, and they were also unhappy about the fact that only one editor was listed (although only Stephen Jones is credited as the editor on the cover.) In any event, they withdrew the book from consideration.

Despite the occasional bumps during the presentation, overall the Awards session was a joyous and extremely well-run event. Congratulations again to all the winners! Read complete details at the World Fantasy Convention website.

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Sean Wallace

In circumstances like that, actually, a judge has to recuse themselves from the category, essentially. The other judges would have made the decision, to avoid any appearance of impropriety. This is what he was referencing in his acceptance speech and I’m sure it would have been explained at the judges panel soon afterwards. With such a small field it happens a bit.

Sean Wallace

That’s true, too. Though, going by memory, some of the selections are from the attendees, and some are put on there by the judges. So that particular story could have been put onto the ballot by the voting attendees. It seems likely.

James McGlothlin

I’ll be glad when this whole Lovecraft statue business is out of the SF&F news, which, at this point, I think means the statue is going to have to be changed. The SF&F community seems so committed to not having anything to do with any taint of ideologies of the past that this seems an inevitable outcome.

I’m sure there will be a few ongoing stories about past winners of the award feeling obliged to receive the new statue (whatever that will be). Then hopefully we can put this to rest.

Thomas Parker

Human beings – all of us, from the best to the worst – are appallingly mixed, muddled, inconsistent, flawed creatures. One would have to be a…well, a fantasist not to see that.

GreenGestalt

Political Correctness; It’s like being on a cruise liner and you notice the crew is ramming shut the pressure relief valve on the boiler because someone complained they couldn’t stand the whistle.

I’ve made lots of long rants on Political Correctness here – this time I’ll just point out the absurdity it on this issue…

Let’s see, there’s still an L. Frank Baum award… You know the guy that wrote “Wizard of Oz” and in many ways helped pave the way for the sci-fi/fantasy we know of today…

A decade before he wrote that, he edited a newspaper and he wrote an editorial supporting the genocide of the remaining Native Americans after he heard about the death of Sitting Bull and the Massacre at Wounded Knee…

“”””””
The proud spirit of the original owners of these vast prairies inherited through centuries of fierce and bloody wars for their possession, lingered last in the bosom of Sitting Bull. With his fall the nobility of the Redskin is extinguished, and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are.
“””””””””””””””””

So, every time we watch Wizard of Oz or hey a few actually read the books, we are supporting a “Genocidal Racist”.

Then I notice how Burroughs (I don’t mean the Mars one) is enshrined. He wasn’t racist; the stream of drugs and pursuit of gay sex clouded it. Matter of fact, after he accidentally shot his wife he hung out in Tangiers. (hint; Don’t play William Tell. Don’t play it DRUNK) Despite being a Muslim area he managed to use enough heroin to kill a 40s Army regiment, drink enough to pickle a pachyderm (1), smoked regular cigarettes like a chimney, likely tried hashish – AND – as if he had time for that he did have sex with many young boys. This is backed up by countless accounts from friends and associates. Somewhere in that he wrote “Naked Lunch” – funny scene from the Croneburg movie, he was in a decrepit trash filled apartment, papers strewn all over the floor, Ginsberg was reading his stuff… “…Black marketeers of World War 3…” and wild over it – Burroughs – dazed and 1000 yard stare – “You say I wrote that?”

Yet, if there ever is a “Burroughs” award people will be killing themselves – possibly each other – to win it. However, seeing THIS post, if we had a “Burroughs” award (the Tarzan, Mars one) would we have Charles Saunders proudly smash his if he won it? Would we be posting here we should not have an award in his name coz he was ‘racist’? You know, the earlier Tarzan novels had comments basically on the “Saw the breeze over the ocean for thousands of years and never imagined a sail” type…

Heh, by coincidence the Anarchist philosopher Peter Lamborn Wilson aka Hakim Bey is pilloried coz he’s gay and has supported NAMBLA and doing it with young boys. Oh, goodness, the Anarchist has a ‘non-socially acceptable’ rebellion against the norm. IMO though that’s “The Conspiracy” using anything to hurt him, his “Temporary Autonomous Zone” concept is an anarchy you can take with you and plant the seeds of later, not piles of dry study and depressing history.

Rather than any non-pc raving I’m of the impression that ANY writer of any vision to last beyond his death almost has to have some kind of “Vice” or rather “Darkside” personality trait. Oscar Wilde, Earnest Hemingway… There have to be exceptions to the rule, but if we somehow hold them as “Idols” we will always find a crack in the marble, an imperfection somewhere…

1 – Pickle a Pachyderm – that’s an old phrase that ought to be used in Steampunk – it means you consume at least 1000 gallons a year – only bad if you can’t handle your liquor…

Allen Snyder

Man, I really should have attended; I could have met you. And it was literally down the road from me, maybe a 30-40 minute drive.

But a 4-year old in the house makes getting out difficult. Our movie going has seriously diminished, although we plan on seeing Interstellar tomorrow while our daughter is in daycare.

G. Winston Hyatt

Sofia Samatar elaborates on her speech and the awards on her blog here: http://sofiasamatar.blogspot.com/2014/11/world-fantasy-awards-what-did-i-say.html

Lovecraft is indeed an iconic figure, but I can certainly understand authors’ ambivalence about his image being representative of the field or their achievements in it. We shouldn’t let the controversy hijack the discussion of the works being honored (I say I as I discuss the controversy)–but I think that the fact that this is an issue only underscores the problematic aspects of the statue itself. Regardless, that’s an argument that is beyond the scope of this overview of the awards ceremony, I think. Congrats to this years winners.

James McGlothlin

As an ethicist, this whole statue affair has gotten me wondering about the following questions: When someone claims they are offended, what moral obligations need to be fulfilled toward the one claiming offense? Are there limits? How far must we go (morally, not legally) to appease the offended?

A second question: What are suitable grounds for claiming offense? In other words, what’s the difference between being justifiably offended, and unjustifiably offended? How do we tell the difference?

Thomas Parker

It’s also interesting to consider why this sort of thing sometimes becomes an issue and why other times it’s ignored. I adore Will Eisner’s work, but there’s no getting around the fact that a key part of his greatest work, The Spirit, is a character who is undeniably a racist caricature (Ebony White). Yet I have never heard of any Eisner Award recipient making an issue of this, at least not to the point of whoever is in charge of the award considering changing its name. Why not?

James McGlothlin

@Thomas: Good point. One worry about this sort of thing is that if you dig far enough into any individual, movement, time period, or whatever, you’ll always find something objectionable. If so, can we justifiably commemorate anyone or anything?

Surely we can, but we need some sort of reasoning guidelines for distinguishing the objectionable from the we-can-live-with-it things. It’s not so much that I’m against changing the Lovecraft statue, I just haven’t heard any non-vague reasons for doing so.

Thomas Parker

One thing that makes this issue particularly difficult is that often the objectionable things can’t be separated from the rest of the work without doing great damage – in some cases, the “bad” parts are in some sense necessary, at least as the artist conceived the work – which doesn’t make those parts any less objectionable, but does point out how “mixed” all humans and human creations are. To go back to Eisner, several years ago DC published a “Best of the Spirit” book. I bought a copy as a gift for a friend who was unacquainted with Eisner’s genius, and leafing through it, I was surprised (though I shouldn’t have been) to see that Ebony was nowhere to be seen. The thing is…there are some great stories with Ebony in them; my favorite all time Spirit story, in fact, “Cheap is Cheap” is essentially an Ebony story – the Spirit himself has a brief walk-on at the end. Otherwise it’s Ebony all the way. To simply blot out this character and pretend that he didn’t exist in the name of sensitivity isn’t honest or fair to anyone. Eisner’s work is strong enough to be judged with its blemishes intact, and if people think that this offensive character cancels out the merits of the rest of the work, they should be able to make that call too – but they can’t even do that if things are swept under a rug. I think the same can be said of old Howard. At the same time, I couldn’t have blamed Sofia Samatar if she had told the committee to keep their award. The solution that pleases everyone eludes me…

James McGlothlin

I appreciate your thoughts Thomas, but as far as I can see you’re just advocating an all-out relativism about the issue, i.e. everybody should be able to “make their own call.”

Perhaps that’s the best way to approach this issue, and similar ones; but that reply completely skirts around my question of whether there is an objective basis for making justifiable distinctions as to what is objectionable and what is not objectionable.

Thomas Parker

James, I don’t consider myself a “relativist” (just ask my children), but I do think that asking for some sort of cut-and-dried, “objective” basis for making judgements of this sort is asking a bit much; people are not algorithms, much as Google would like us to be. What supreme court justice was it who said, regarding pornography, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it”? It’s especially difficult when we’re talking about a situation like this (the World Fantasy Awards), where one group of people (not necessarily homogenous) are making judgements on behalf of another (again not necessarily homogenous) group of people.

James McGlothlin

Relativism comes in different flavors, nor are those who adhere to some sort of relativism necessarily consistent–your children just might accuse you of being a hypocrite.

Putting that to one side, I’m confused why my seemingly plausible request for some grounds for making a distinction between justifiably offended and unjustifiably offended is “cut-and-dried” or algorithmic (I note you put the word objective in scare quotes). Such a characterization of my request makes it sound like it’s unacceptable in some way to you, though I don’t think I’m necessarily asking for what you’re characterizing.

Shouldn’t we have reasons for our judgements? What’s the alternative? If there are no rational grounds for deciding something, I don’t see any other position than just an everybody-is-entitled-to-their-own-whatever point of view, which certainly sounds like some form of relativism to me.

Perhaps such a request is not practical, especially for the WFA. If so, then this is just further evidence for why I don’t consider myself part of this SF&F community. If rationality is put to the side because “we just know offensible material when we see it”–no thanks. I need reasons for judgements, or at least for those judgements that I’m expected to agree with.

Jackson Kuhl

It irritated me when I first read this because on a scale of one to Mein Kampf the worst of Lovecraft doesn’t even rate, but after reading Ms. Samatar’s comments linked above, I can understand the point of making the trophy more abstract. I’ve always thought it strange it should be a bust of Lovecraft rather than, say, Tolkien or someone else who had a greater effect on the field. On the other hand, the fact that anyone cares whatsoever is symptomatic of the genre community’s absolutely disgusting obsession with awards and adulation, and I feel a little dirty having an opinion at all.

Ramsey Campbell said that Robert Aickman hacked his, keeping the stand but discarding the bust, though whether this was due to Aickman’s low opinion of Lovecraft or the grotesqueness of the statue is unknown.

Thomas Parker

Well James – you’ve got me there! No “might” about it – of course my children accuse me of hypocrisy, but I suspect that’s the common fate of all parents. (I trust you understand my use of the quotes there – I’m certainly not trying to frighten anyone…)

In any case, I think we’re actually more in agreement than the monochrome Ping-Pong of internet debate makes clear. I absolutely believe that we should have sound reasons for our judgments, I do believe that there are standards outside of human subjectivity by which we may make them. And I know the criteria that I consider sufficient.

I also know that if I were to pluck ten random people off of the sidewalk, some – perhaps most – would not agree with those criteria. That’s the problem, isn’t it? And I assumed you recognized that it is indeed a problem because you posed it as a question rather than just offering a solution.

No more Ping-Pong. My wrist is (subjectively, I must admit) getting tired!

James McGlothlin

@Thomas–Agree. I didn’t really think we were disagreeing, at least all that much. And yes, internet posts are not the greatest means of conducting philosophical questioning. Socrates would’ve never been a gadfly if he had to have relied upon the internet!

I did pose the question because I truly would like to know what counts as being justifiably offended. I get the sense in these sorts of situations that anything counts as justifiably offended, and I find that troubling.

At the end of the day I could care less about whether Lovecraft’s mug is on some award. But I do care that standards of judgement–of any kind–are being motivated by the mere winds of popularity or whim.

Very disheartening. But I can think of greater tragedies in the world.

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