I have mixed feeling about posthumous recognition. There is no doubt in my mind that acknowledging a person and their work, and acknowledging them and it fulsomely, during the person’s lifetime is the best and most appropriate approach when it comes to presenting awards, prizes and so on. There’s a feeling though, which I share to some extent, that if the person being acknowledged isn’t able to enjoy that recognition, it is somehow unnecessary or pandering or flawed.
This overlooks or undervalues a context for recognition that has value. Awards, especially career awards, are intended for their recipients, but they also act as part of our cultural memory. The recipients of lifetime achievement awards are admitted to a hall of fame where they join the company of their peers, so that they are counted when we look back our shared history.
This is very much why I welcome the recognition of Samuel R. Delany with the SFWA Grand Master Nebula, and why I continue to call for that recognition to be extended to C.J. Cherryh (both happily very much with us to enjoy the honour). But it is also why I continue to consider allowing posthumous recognition for some of these awards to be an idea that has merit.
The reason I am raising this now is that, very sadly, Lucius Shepard died recently at the age of 70. A Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award winner, Shepard for more than 30 years wrote some of the most incendiary and memorable fiction the field has ever seen. Classics like “R&R”, “The Jaguar Hunter”, “Delta Sly Honey”, “The Man Who Painted the Dragon Graiule”, “The Scalehunter’s Beautiful Daughter”, and many, many more. Were he still alive he would, in my opinion, be an obvious choice for the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award. That award, however, can only go to living recipients, or to recipients that have died during the year of nomination (in other words, 2014 is the final year Shepard could be recognised with the award).
And so I am curious, oh readers, what your thoughts are. I probably will nominate Shepard for the award, but do you think it’s an idea that has merit?