Friday, September 12, 2014

H.P. Lovecraft was a Racist

I ran across this article about a subject that crops up every now and again in the genre world, H.P. Lovecraft's racism:
It’s OK to admit that H.P. Lovecraft was racist 

Yes, H.P. Lovecraft was a racist. That should be apparent to anyone who has read his works. However, Lovecraft was also an imaginative creative writer who has inspired others. Let's not forget that aspect of the man's legacy. Let's also remember that Lovecraft was born in 1890 and died in 1937. He was not a 21st century man with 21st century values and beliefs. He was a man of the early twentieth century who possessed some pretty awful early twentieth century values and beliefs.

I've said this before elsewhere, and I'll say it again here: if we only read works by authors free of character flaws, distasteful beliefs, or unsavoury opinions, we might never read anything at all! I doubt there are such beasts, writers totally free of offensive views or values. No writer walks on writer, and I doubt many are saints.

Of course, some writers have a tendency to be whiny publicity-seekers who love the attention they get from being at the center of the latest writing world tempest in a teapot. There are far too many of these brouhahas brewing all the time in the writing world . It appears to be a constant. One of the regular uproars seems to be "Lovecraft was a racist/the WFA trophy is offesnive".

I have to admit, I'm with S.T. Joshi regarding certain recipients of the WFA bitching about the form of the trophy. If someone is that offended by the trophy, that person should put their money where their mouth is and give the bloody thing back in protest! Maybe the offended should never have accepted such an offensive trophy in the first place. Such an action might send a louder message than accepting the award and then complaining about it afterward. As it is, those who received the award and then complained about the offensiveness of the trophy sound like people raising a stink just to grab even more attention for themselves.

A final thought, in the form of a question: what do those who keep bringing up H. P. Lovecraft's racism want fans of Lovecraft to do about it? Really, what are we supposed to do about it? Stop reading his works? (Apparently not, according to the author of the article I linked to above: "Of all the people currently expressing their reservations about Lovecraft and the WFA trophy, I’ve yet to find one who’s telling others to stop reading him".)


Richard Fay said...

I almost get the feeling that I am being accused of being an apologist for racism because I happen to be a fan of H. P. Lovecraft's works. Here is what I say to that:

however, I'm going to make a prediction. Sooner or later, I'm going to be accused of being a racist because I am a fan of Lovecraft's works and I happen to be a while male.

Richard Fay said...

Somewhere along the line, I think the fact that I publicly acknowledged that H. P. Lovecraft was a racist with some pretty awful values and beliefs got lost in the mix.

Richard Fay said...

If the whole purpose behind these discussions about Lovecraft's racism is to spread awareness of that racism, I think I've done that. Of course. some may be offended by other things I say regarding the subject. I'm almost guaranteed to offend somebody somewhere. I'm guaranteed to lose.

Richard Fay said...

I am half-Slovak on my mother's side, and yet I am a huge fan of Bram Stoker's DRACULA. In the novel, Slovaks are not necessarily portrayed in a good light. Stoker had Jonathan Harker saying they were "more barbarian than the rest" and "rather wanting in natural self-assertion". Slovaks also numbered among Dracula's evil henchmen. It could be said that Stoker's portrayal of Slovaks displayed an ethnic prejudice.

BTW, this portrayal of Slovaks as Dracula's evil henchmen is carried over into BBC's 1977 COUNT DRACULA. Even so, I am a fan of the film.

I could be offended by both Stoker's DRACULA and the 1997 BBC film adaptation of the novel, but I'm not. I could complain about Slovaks being portrayed as barbaric thugs lacking independent identities, but I don't.

Richard Fay said...

I bet there is a lot more talk in the genre community about Lovecraft's racism than there is about Stoker's ethnic prejudice.