Oh, how I wish this could be my final word on Lovecraft’s racism

But mere words cannot express how sick and tired I am of this subject. And I fear the floodgates will yet burst open one day, and the virulent politically correct crowd will not rest until they’ve managed to utterly destroy Lovecraft’s legacy, one way or another.

The pattern is always the same. These people take some of the very worst Lovecraft quotes they manage to find, almost always from his early letters, then blatter on for a while about what a horrible racist he was – and there they stop. And by stop, I mean they don’t go any further in their “analysis.” Lovecraft said some racist things, therefore Lovecraft is more evil, hateful and despicable than Satan and Hitler combined. Case closed. It’s the fashionable opinion, nowadays, so nothing more is needed.

For the politically correcties, it’s always been about one thing and one thing only: their pathological need to show everyone else what great and noble people they are, knights in shining armour, fighting the good fight for all those poor, oppressed, down-trodden (non-white, non-male) victims everywhere, who are apparently utterly incapable of helping themselves. Is this a fair assessment? I’m arguing on the same level as the Lovecraft haters here, so they should recognize and welcome the sophistication.

But this alone is why I simply cannot endure any more of their crap – having had it forced down my throat endlessly for decades now. It’s never about literature, it’s never about the stories, it’s never about the craft of writing – it’s all about politics. And there are few things in this world I hate more than politics, regardless of what end of the full spectrum of shit we’re talking about. But Lovecraft was a white male conservative (though he changed his political stripes late in life), and it’s not exactly difficult to guess the political leanings of most of his detractors. I wish at least some of them would read something like, say, George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant,” and then bitch about that for a while, but that never happens.

Anyway, as I see it, the question boils down to this:

Lovecraft was a racist. There is no need to defend this or justify it or explain it away, it’s simply a fact. However, the reasons for his racism and how and why it manifested itself, and whether this had any bearing on his stories, are very complex questions about which lengthy studies could and maybe should be written – by people without ideological axes to grind.

My personal opinion is that Lovecraft’s racism, while often lurking in the outskirts, had a marginal impact on his stories. Lovecraft was primarily concerned with mood in his writings. Lovecraft truly understood, better than most people, the utter pointlessness and futility of human existence, and what the impact was of fully realizing this, and that is what most of his stories are trying to convey. What is mere racism compared to this cosmic outlook? But it’s exactly this kind of easy, lazy, simplistic arguing that the Lovecraft haters love, probably because it’s so easy, lazy and simplistic. It takes no effort, while at the same time broadcasting loudly in all directions what non-racists they themselves are. (And I can’t help wondering if some of these people aren’t perhaps protesting a bit too much, given the subject.)

In some of Lovecraft’s stories (although nowhere near as many as you think), you can find a detail here, a throwaway line there, that reveals Lovecraft’s racist thinking. But you cannot go from that to arguing that the story as a whole is therefore “about” his racism. That’s like saying that the entire Star Wars saga must be about race-car driving, because of Luke’s landspeeder, and the pod race in the first prequel, and other references here and there, and because we know George Lucas wanted to be a race-car driver.

The fact is, if you read Lovecraft’s stories for pure enjoyment, without knowing anything about his racism, you’d probably never even notice that there’s anything there since the racist references are so few and scattered and marginal (with some very rare exceptions). But some people are determined to see Lovecraft’s racism everywhere because they want to see Lovecraft’s racism everywhere, and they have decided even before they start reading how they are going to judge the story. And if that is not bigotry, I don’t know what is.

To clarify (futile, I know, but still): I’m not saying that Lovecraft’s racism should not be acknowledged. Of course it should, but so should everything else that also informed his stories – but it never is. At least not among his detractors, most of whom, I’m guessing, have never even bothered to try going beneath this superficial surface, to find the real author underneath.

Latest Lovecraft links (August 21, 2014)

And in honour of Lovecraft’s birthday, which was yesterday:

And finally a bunch of Kickstarters:

Interview with Cthulhu’s godfather

Which would be none other than Sandy Petersen:

Let me put it this way. I’ve designed a lot of games that sold better than Call of Cthulhu. I worked on the original Doom, Civilization, Quake, I was involved in the Age of Empires series that sold tens of millions, but when I’m invited to conventions around the world it’s never because of those games. It’s always Call of Cthulhu, that’s the one people love!

Lots of interesting stuff here, including how the people at Chaosium apparently were a bunch of ignorant dicks, back in the day (my words, not Petersen’s).

H. P. Lovecraft vs. Aleister Crowley graphic novel

Kickstarter:

What if the Necronomicon were real? What if we took Aleister Crowley at his word? What kind of story plays out? This is the story of what would happen if H.P. Lovecraft and Aleister Crowley were two sorcerers engaged in a bitter rivalry. Continuing his father’s work, Lovecraft is preparing to solve the riddle of the most difficult spell, the Abramelin, and Aleister Crowley will be damned before anyone else performs it. In desperation, Crowley employs the help of two paranormal detectives, Dr. Styx and Diane Rosen. While questioning his intentions, the two decide it is in the world’s best interest to stop H.P. Lovecraft at all costs.

Already funded, four days left.

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Is Maplecroft as good as everyone keeps saying?

I have no idea but Annalee Newitz at io9 seems to think so:

Lizzie Borden’s infamous murders took place just a couple of decades before H.P. Lovecraft first dreamed up the horrors of his greatest invention, the cosmic ocean monster-god Cthulhu. Cherie Priest has taken this historical confluence and turned it into a wild, awesome page-turner called Maplecroft.

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I stole this image directly from Cherie Priest’s website, but I meant well.

Maplecroft does sound like something I would enjoy greatly, especially that bit about Lizzie and her sister buying a mansion and “fitting it out as a perfect monster hunter’s lair.” That sort of thing is enough to make me salivate, right there.

Ed Brubaker on the cosmic horror of Lovecraft in Fatale

But it was also really fun to have the bad guys and the evilness underlying all the horror being that Lovecraftian unseen stuff because that fits so well with the stuff that influenced the book — the Hammer horror films and “The Devil Rides Out.” I don’t think I could ever do a horror story where you actually saw the monsters. That’s what appeals to me about Lovecraft because if you take out the idea that there are cults who worship these gods and the gods actually exist, you might as well be reading a noir story because it’s just following around people who believe in something that doesn’t actually exist. If Jo didn’t have any powers and Bishop and his people were just a weird religious cult with no real gods, this would be one of the creepiest noir stories ever. It’d be all these people chasing a woman so they could sacrifice her to a nonexistent god. That’s almost scarier than something that actually exists.

This and lots more here.