New Era, New Trophy – World Fantasy Award

Earlier this month the organisers of the World Fantasy Award announced that they would be making a change. For over forty years the winners of the World Fantasy Award were presented with a trophy modelled in the image of renowned weird fiction author H.P. Lovecraft. However, now there is a wide-spread belief that it is time to shake things up a bit. The coveted award will no longer take the form of Lovecraft’s head, however influential that head may be. As you might expect, this alteration caused a bit of controversy in the sf/f community.

The organisers did not give an explanation for the change, but it is apparent that many feel Lovecraft is not an appropriate figure to represent the award. The problem of Lovecraft’s racist opinions, which some argue figure in his writings, is clearly of particular concern. Quite predictably, a schism appeared in the sf/f world. One side argued that Lovecraft’s influence on fantasy and horror was being denied, while others protested that fantasy has undergone significant transformations since the Award’s initiation, and a new trophy should reflect that. Lovecraft, it seems, represents the  exclusive old guard, whereas we have entered a new era in sf/f, one which is inclusive and embraces previously marginalised voices.

Regardless of your opinion, the Award’s organisers have been steadfast in their commitment to change. There is no going back. In fact, they have recently called for artists to submit their designs for the new trophy. So if you were upset with the decision to oust Lovecraft, you have the opportunity to offer a design for the trophy of your choice. However, the administration have stated clearly that “the ideal design will represent both fantasy and horror, without bearing any physical resemblance to any person, living or dead”, so bear that in mind!

 

For more on this topic:

The Atlantic published an interesting in-depth piece on this issue – Check out the article by Lenika Cruz here

See this short piece in The Guardian about the call for new trophy designs

Advertisements

Amazon Books – and what makes a great bookish space?

Last week Amazon caused a bit of a kerfuffle by opening a bookshop. It caused a bit of a anger, a bit of worry, a bit of soul-searching and a lot of confusion. To many the very notion of an Amazon bookstore, a physical building stocked with physical books appeared to be a non-sequitur – in fact an “Amazon bookstore” sounds like an oxymoron. And yet, the Amazon bookstore is upon us, snug and safe on the streets of Seattle.

Now, Amazon has caused its fair share of controversies in the past – news about the cut-throat nature of the corporation, the dismal conditions of warehouse workers and shoddy payment to publishers and writers are nothing new. Amazon has been dealing with these issues for years, but this latest move to open a bookshop is rather (dare we say it?) unprecedented. It is a development made all the more strange by the fact that Amazon’s entire brand seemed to pride itself on eradicating, first, the independent bookshops, and then, the highstreet chainstores. So the question is … why?

Dennis Johnson did a brilliant job answering this question on the Melville House blog, and we highly recommend reading the piece (it’s fairly short and far more factual that this one!). There seems to be no logical reason as to why Amazon have opened a bookstore, so Johnson simply has to as “why are Amazon so nasty” ? (And, yes, we are slightly paraphrasing).

Essentially, Johnson concludes and we agree, Amazon want to be the only game in town – that is ultimately their goal. To be fair, Amazon is not unique in this regard, market domination is basically the end goal for many big businesses. But this means you have to ask the question – do you love books? And if you do love books, you’ve got to ask whether Amazon can nurture that love and instil it in others. And honestly, we don’t think Amazon can do that – which is mainly down to the fact that they don’t want to and don’t care to.

Amazon is here to stay, that much is undeniable. But it is now up to the community of booklovers, and that is a world-wide community, to prove that there is a public appetite for more than just low prices. There’s a demand for more than “I want my book here, and I want it now!” – rather, there’s a demand events, author-signings, live story-readings, book clubs and all sorts of bookish-related pastimes. These things exist, and they’re fantastic – it would be a shame to lose them just because we wanted to pay a little less and found it inconvenient to take a trip to our local bookshops. Because a book is more than the sum of its parts, as any bookworm knows – a good book contains more than paper and ink, within those pages exists entire worlds. So let’s try to preserve those worlds, by building a community which maintains the magic of literature. This can be done online, as seen by the success of projects such as Goodreads and Booktube (a whole branch of YouTube dedicated to reading, reviewing and sharing books), but it’s also important to keep this bookish spirit alive by supporting those bookshops that really just love books.

The bookworld is changing, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Rather, let’s embrace it and help mould it, because bookish spaces can basically offer something that Amazon cannot – they can offer passion, authenticity and heart. Sure, Amazon is cheap – but really, where’s the fun in that?

More on this topic:

Denis Johnson’s post for Melville House (in case you missed it!)

The Guardian article on the Amazon bookstore from last week

Some theories by Rob Salkowitz at Forbes 

Read Sarah Kliff’s experience at the Amazon store from Vox