Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Morris

The question of the World Fantasy Award, which is a bust of H.P. Lovecraft. There are two problems with having Lovecraft as the award. One is, he was apparently a poisonous racist, and hated of the The Other is apparently key to his fiction. (I am relying on other people's opinions. I haven't read Lovecraft for years and don't intend to go back to his work.) The second problem, as I see it, is -- he is not important to the development of modern fantasy. Horror, probably yes. But not fantasy, which derives from 19th century fantastic fiction: gothic fiction, children's fantasies, William Morris, maybe Wagner. I don't want to put Wagner on the World Fantasy Award, because he was a jerk.

William Morris was a white guy, and I would like a bit more diversity. Still and all, Morris was a remarkable person. The award could be called the Morris and could be a cube covered with Morris wallpaper patterns.

Or the award could be a miniature Morris chair, maybe containing a tiny dragon.


Blogger Russell Letson said...

HPL was, line by line, a pretty awful writer of fiction. His essay on Supernatural Horror in Literature, however, is a pretty decent outline of what goes on in one department of the fantastic. And I would argue that "modern fantasy" is rooted as deeply in what became (often in vulgarized form) "horror" as in the branches that became "secondary world" (similarly vulgarized as elfy-welfy high and/or heroic fantasy) and other less-negatively-charged subtypes. If one devalues HPL's branch of fantasy, one is also devaluing E.T.A. Hoffmann, Sheridan Le Fanu, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, William Hope Hodgson, and M. R. James, right up to and through Fritz Leiber. And most of these writers can trace part of their literary DNA back to the gothic, which is strongly about fear and the uncanny. (Actually, there would seem to be a number of interesting divides within the fantastic, some of them based on the metaphysical assumptions of the stories and others on the psychological mechanisms evoked. HPL's model invokes both. My own model distinguishes between metaphysical and psychological-eversion families, though there are plenty of crossovers.)

10:13 AM  

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