I 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:
- A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)
- “Wakulla Springs,” Andy Duncan & Ellen Klages (Tor.com)
- “The Prayer of Ninety Cats,” Caitlín R. Kiernan (Subterranean Spring 2013)
- Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois (Tor)
- The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Subterranean)
- 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
- Ellen Datlow
- Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
I 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.
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.