Monday, August 25, 2014

"Don't mention the war." - Some Thoughts on H.P. Lovecraft and Race

When I went down to New Orleans last year to visit the World Horror Convention, I had just a few things on my to-do list. I wanted to see the town, sample its cuisine and take in some jazz--promote The 'Geisters, the book that I had coming out that year, as much as was graceful--and also, talk a bit about race.

Specifically, I wanted to talk about race as it pertained to H.P. Lovecraft's writings.

It seemed like the thing to do. The organizers of World Horror had found me a panel to sit on, moderated by Lovecraftian scholar, critic and anthologist S.T. Joshi, called Lovecraft's Eternal Fascination. My first novel, Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism, is the only pseudo-Lovecraftian book I've written, and one of my aims with that book was to deal with Lovecraftian xenophobia from a post-Martin-Luther-K
ing perspective--to tie Lovecraft's horrible eugenic notions together with the genuine and just as horrible eugenic fallacies that were making the rounds in early 20th century America.  As Eternal Fascinations went, I thought race might rate.

When the panel started it became clear: not so much. I brought up the topic early and affably in the panel, and just a little later but also affably, Mr. Joshi shut it down with a familiar canard: Lovecraft's racism and xenophobia must be viewed in the context of Lovecraft's considerably less-enlightened time. I recall gently objecting that Lovecraft's views may have been more mainstream in the 1920s and 1930s yet were still not universal--but, not wanting to be seen as hijacking the panel, letting things go.

A few months later, I found myself on another Lovecraftian panel in San Antonio at Worldcon--this one about Lovecraft's international appeal. There, in the midst of an excellent and exhaustive power point presentation about Lovecraft's portability to Japan, I tried again to talk a bit about race. One of my co-panelists straight-facedly claimed she had seen no hints of racism in the Lovecraft that she'd read and wasn't sure what I was talking about. I cited a few obvious examples--the proto-Tea-Party anti-immigration text (one can hardly call it subtext) of "The Horror at Red Hook," the horrific take on miscegenation at the heart of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," and a particular poem with a title that cannot be spoken, typed or spray-painted on a garage door in polite company--but didn't push it much further.* Instead I spent most of the rest of that panel sitting back and taking in all those lovely slides of Lovecraftian manga panels and illustrations for translated stories.

Because really, it fast became clear that last year at least, not very many people at Lovecraftian panels wanted to talk about race as it pertained to Lovecraftian fiction.

Is it any different this year?  The petition going around to have Gahan Wilson's bust of H.P. Lovecraft replaced with one of Octavia Butler on the World Fantasy Award is certainly generating considerable talk. Mr. Joshi, somewhat less affably than I remember him a year ago, made a Modest Proposal for an alternative to the statue on his blog -- to which the petition's author Daniel José Older rather definitively replied.**

But I'd submit this talk about race in the fantasy-writing and -reading community, while a vitally important talk to have, is not one of race in Lovecraft's fiction. And as long as Lovecraft remains such a foundational influence in so much fantasy, horror and especially weird fiction, that's a talk that, as uncomfortable as it is, is also very necessary.

I'd make the case that Lovecraft's fiction--and Lovecraftian horror--depends on the xenophobia that was endemic to Lovecraft's work to the point that without it, many of his stories lose their unique and uniquely profound effect.  "The Horror in Red Hook" is a direct channelling of Lovecraft's loathing of newcomers to New York City; the real horror of "The Call of Cthulhu" is not the octopus-headed demigod that emerges out of his underwater city to kill all the people, but the people themselves--all either eugenically unfit denizens of the bayou or "primitive" island cultures whose religious practises amount to a kind of proactive nihilism.  The manifestation of Nyarlathotep in the eponymous story is that of a black man bearing trinkets, who seduces the good white folk of America into authoring their own demise.

There are other things going on in Lovecraft too: there's the bestiary/pantheon of fantastically alien gods and monsters; that overheated prose that veers so easily between the sublime and the leaden; his fearful, bookish characters. But those are characteristics, aesthetics; not fundamentals. They are not the agenda.

The agenda in Lovecraft's fiction is clear, and woven deep into the bones of his stories.

This is an uncomfortable thing to face, for practitioners of Lovecraftian tradition of weird fiction. For most of us who write and read the stuff, the attraction is toward the aesthetic. And as borne out by Lovecraft's early disciples, that aesthetic wasn't always quite enough.

British author Ramsey Campbell was a very early disciple, coming across Lovecraft stories as a 10-year-old 14 year-old boy, in a sweet shop in the 1950s.  Little Ramsey grew up to be one of the preeminent authors of horror fiction of the 20th century, and you won't find me calling him out on his craft in later works. But have a look at "The Room in the Castle," the story chosen to open his PS Publishing collection The Inhabitant of the Lake & Other Unwelcome Tenants.

It tells the story of Perry, a fellow who after a visit to the forbidden books section of the British Museum, gathers sufficient information to determine there is something awful going on in a little English village: a demonic creature described in its full Lovecraftian glory, that first menaced the countryside but was eventually imprisioned in a cellar, where its master fed it on unwary travellers. And then, Perry heads off to check it out. Why? Even Campbell doesn't know, and expresses his frustration in the opening lines:

"Is there some lurking remnant of the elder world in each of us which draws us toward the beings which survive from other eons? Surely there must be such a remnant in me, for there can be no sane or wholesome reason why I should have strayed that day to the old, legend-infected ruin on the hill, nor can any commonplace reason be deduced for my finding the secret underground room there, and still less for opening the door of horror which I discovered."
Indeed, through the text of the story no proper motivation for Perry emerges. There is nothing about Perry beyond a schoolboyish curiosity to put him in contact with the eventually fabulously-described creature in the cellar room. There is not a hint of subtext, other than a general admonition against curiosity where terrible monsters are concerned.

Would Campbell's story have been better if he'd shot it through with the old-time Lovecraftian racism? No--partly because although I don't know Campbell personally, I've seen no evidence that he harbours those views himself, so the insertion would have been dishonest--and in larger part because, as I should probably emphasize, I don't think that added racism makes for a better story. But Campbell's collection-opening short story has a hole in it where Lovecraft might have stuffed a big wad of bigoted neuroses--a hole that the mythos-dazzled young author hadn't felt it necessary to fill.

The Cthulhu Mythos continues to dazzle more contemporary writers. And why wouldn't it? The creatures Lovecraft described and hinted at are magnificent things, and the secret-history-of-the-world is an excellent sandbox for thoughful writers, particularly ones who're willing to fill the holes in it with something else.

Charles Stross has good fun with Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos in his Laundry books, without appearing to draw on anxiety much deeper than a solid recollection of a bad time working I.T.  Where Stross blends espionage adventure with the Mythos, Laird Barron blends noirish elements with pseudo-Mythos tropes to explore themes that are nearer to Jim Thompson's brand of nihilism than Lovecraft's. Thomas Ligotti cheerily swaps out xenophobia for all-out misanthropy.

Some manage to keep closer to Lovecraft's more specific anxieties, without embracing Lovecraft's awful conclusions. Catalan author Albert Sanchez Pinol, in his 2002 novel Cold Skin,  delved into the same dank eugenic chambers as did "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"--dealing this time not with the progeny of a racially-mixed marriage, but with the inter-racial sexual politics between the potential parents, as his narrator-protagonist finds an uneasy erotic union with a female creature of a species very similar to  Lovecraft's amphibious Deep Ones.  It is, if you will, a xenophillic novel, with a dash of post-imperialist critique.

For me, the xenophobia angle remains the most interesting, and perhaps the most relevant. The legacy of racists like Lovecraft is still very much in play in contemporary society, from the Obama birthers to the Ferguson cops and most points between... and the discussion as to how to contain that legacy is far from over. In a perverse way, Lovecraft's retrograde views on race may be his most socially relevant contribution to 20th century weird literature... not as an advocate of his views, not by any means, but as an example of where we've been and what too many of us still share, an opportunity to critique those views through the lens of cosmic horror and alien gods.

It's a telling thing in our little community of weird fiction afficionados, that as much as we fetishize those immense and indestructible beasts and beings of the Cthulhu Mythos, the one monster that we cannot bring ourselves to face is the frail and fearful one who put it all together.


______________

* Those  interested in a more comprehensive accounting of Lovecraft's racist proclivities should check out Phenderson Djeli Clark's excellent survey of his writings right here. And (EDIT AUG. 27): As has been pointed out to me in the comment section of this blog, PDC's survey is not the only instance where discussion of Lovecraft's racism has come to the fore. Essays by Nicole Cushing,  Bruce Lord, Betsy Phillips and Zoe Quinn (who came up with this chilling online quiz comparing Lovecraft's words to those of Adolph Hitler) are some excellent online resources I've been able to come across immediately. I've also had Michel Houellebecq's critical work H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life recommended to me, although I've not had opportunity to read it yet. In a similar vein, I would welcome seeing other citations that I haven't been able to find myself, posted in the comment section.

** For the record, I think that Older's at least half right, and Lovecraft's bust shouldn't be gracing an award that honours creators of all kinds of fantasy from all over the world. Lovecraft's racism, and also the specificity of his sub-genre (the weird tale) implies at least an outdated hierarchy of people and theme, and ought to be discarded in favour of... something else, I'd say, rather than someone else. But that's for another blog post.


22 comments:

JoAnn in VA said...

A small correction- "Tea Partiers" are not against immigration, provided it is done legally. They are against illegal aliens breaking the law and cutting ahead of those who waited and went through the proper channels to gain American citizenship. Thank you.

Matt C. said...

Great post. Have you, by chance, read Michel Houellebecq's biography of HPL? No great revelations, but interesting nonetheless to read a misanthropist detail the life of a xenophobe. Obligatory forward by Stephen King (!).

Cheers,

Matt

Andy Hendry said...

Yup, I completely agree. It does grate somewhat the way that some in our community pipe up with the 'man of his time' argument whenever the matter is raised - and it does a great disservice to Joshi's scholarship when he himself does this. It reminds me somewhat of the way that some people pipe up with 'not all men' in discussions about sexism/patriarchy.
Funnily enough I wrote about just this subject myself today. I don't think that having the discussion detracts from the brilliance of Lovecraft's creations nor his literary achievements. Similarly I don't think swapping out the bust of HPL for something more fitting the diversity of the fantastical literary canon does his achievements a disservice.
My own feeling on the WFA trophy is that it should be a replica of a clay tablet featuring the opening of the Epic of Gilgamesh in cuneiform. That way it represents the full scope and history of the tradition of fantastical story telling.

orangemike said...

Jo Ann, that may be the official story. But it's impossible to see pictures of any Tea Party demonstration touching on immigration and not see a vast, steaming pile of xenophobia, ignorance and downright racism on the part of people whose ancestors in many cases came to this continent without the permission of its inhabitants, and simply proceeded to kill them off or (at best) shove them aside and steal their lands and goods.

Katie said...

Actually, plenty of people have been having this conversation, primarily black SF/F authors. A cursory web search would have told you that. Leaving out any mention of their relevant and excellent articles/blog posts is a pretty ridiculous oversight that renders their contributions invisible. I would recommend framing this article as joining an existing conversation, because it's damn obvious that black authors/readers have known and cared about Lovecraft's racism as long as it's existed.

Morgan said...

I read a biography years ago (25, maybe) that suggested that HPL changed his views on race at some point, going so far as to speak out against people who were much less worse than he was.

Is this not correct? For the record, I don't think this excuses the way we have whitewashed the racism in his writing, I'm just curious.

Troutwaxer said...

Lovecraft's racism is definitely a difficult topic. On one hand, I'm inclined to let it go, mainly because Lovecraft's view of the unforgiving cosmos is very realistic. What do we do when confronted with an intelligence that has been evolving - even directing it's own evolution - for a billion years? What do we do when multiple fellow humans decide to assemble themselves into such a creature? What happens when human organizations take on "Cthulan" characteristics? The potential ugliness we can assemble is, in fact, vast and inhuman - just ask the NSA. I wouldn't go so far as to agree that we are nothing more than food for some race of Elder beings, but there are undoubtedly older races than ourselves in the cosmos, and there are undoubtedly ugly traps for evolving intelligences such as ourselves. Lovecraft gave us our first, best warning about these issues.

On the other hand, much of Lovecraft's fiction stereotypes in really ugly ways and that needs to be engaged with. His imaginings of "ugly, swarthy men" performing abominations, evil Arab wizards summoning horrors, and Polynesian Islanders as the product of miscegenation with alien beings are quite ugly, but this is not the real problem, because he also imagines European villains, such as the very disturbing Whateley family. The problem is a bit more subtle, but very simply expressed; his heroes are always white males from New England. If the hideous creature called up by an evil Arab wizard could, in Lovecrafts fiction, be sent back to it's home dimension by a brilliant Masai shaman Lovecraft's work would be far less problematic. But that never happens. Never.

Digger said...

I just keyword-searched Joshi's massive "I Am Providence" biography, the Lovecraft collected essays (all five volumes), and the Lovecraft letters. The word "eugenic" occurs only twice: i) in Collected Essays: Science - in a reprint of an article by a cranky astrologer, whose lunacy Lovecraft was challenging in the local newspaper; and ii) when Joshi notes that Louis Berman's arguments for glandular heath supplements were somewhat aligned with the American eugenics movement.

Ashley McGee said...

Agreed. The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society Facebook page can't help but defend the man when racism is mentioned. We're fighting about it right now. I take his racisim as a matter of course, knowing that nothing I say is going to change it, but not excusing it either. That trait and the abominable treatment of his wife after her split with Lovecraft--and the treatment she received from certain of Lovecraft's friends--leaves me little left to respect in the author, and still so much to admire in the work. I often offer some psychoanalysis up when these "product of his time" arguments come up, saying that perhaps he is a less a product of his time and more a product of severe isolation during his formative years, when he was taught hate for the outside, fear of the outside, and obviously a fear of anyone not like himself. In this sense, Lovecraft was not a "product of his time" but rather the product of an over protective and over bearing family life that informed his opinion of the rest of the world. His descriptions of Wilbur Whateley in the Dunwich Horror, a character who (in fundamentals) seems to be so much like the author himself that one may draw a conclusion of expressed resentment: that isolation of the self has resulted in some sort of malformed introvert. Whether people saw him that way or he saw himself that way remains lost, but it's clear that if anyone in history needed a social worker to remove him from an unhealthy environment, it was HPL.

Jon said...

/* I'd make the case that Lovecraft's fiction--and Lovecraftian horror--depends on the xenophobia that was endemic to Lovecraft's work to the point that without it, many his stories lose their unique and uniquely profound effect. */

Bingo. That's been my exact point of view on Lovecraft for years.

/* It's a telling thing in our little community of weird fiction afficionados, that as much as we fetishize those immense and indestructible beasts and beings of the Cthulhu Mythos, the one monster that we cannot bring ourselves to face is the frail and fearful one who put it all together. */

Yet kind of oddly fitting, isn't it? In the end, we're just as scared of Lovecraft as he would be of us.

Baron Groznik said...

It’s interesting to see two factions fight over a trophy, and both totally missing the point of HP Lovecraft, the man. The Lovecraftian apologists pooh-pooh Lovecraft’s undeniable racism with the “product of his times” or “sheltered childhood” brush-offs, too terrified of speaking to their idol’s bald-faced bigotry. The other faction criminalizes him as some such KKK hoodlum with a seething hatred of any non-WASP. But if this debate is truly about busts and honoring writers, let’s not forget this trophy isn’t for some humanitarian award or the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s about writers who have demonstrated exceptional skill in their craft of weird fantasy. In that sense, we’re not honoring any saints here. I imagine if we unpacked the psychological closets of most of the WFA winners, it wouldn’t be a pretty sight. What I’m picking up here is not so much the latest round of Lovecraft bashing (which is nothing new) as much as deifying Octavia Butler as a more saintly and appropriate choice.

The real question we must ask ourselves is how does such a writer with such lurid, over-blown phrasing such as Lovecraft hold so much sway over us? If his overuse of “cyclopean” and “unspeakable” weren’t enough, it’s peppered with enough racist imagery to make a minstrel songwriter blush. Yet here I am, HP Lovecraft’s #1 fan, commenting on this blog and remembering with fondness the first time I immersed myself in “The Call of Cthulu”. How did this racist, admittedly bad writer become such a literary force of nature?

The genius of Lovecraft is his over-the-top, fearless baring of his tortured soul. In lieu of a good psychiatrist and perhaps anti-depressants, Lovecraft spewed forth his feverish psyche upon the page with no restraints, and with a dazzling breadth of imagination. The miracle of Lovecraft is that DESPITE his small-minded xenophobia and ridiculous plotlines, he sketched out a mesmerizing, haunting universe with implications we can barely plumb. What I’m saying is that even from a severely flawed vessel such as Lovecraft, we can still explore incredible worlds and contemplate terrible connotations. The paradox that is Lovecraft reminds us that we’re all humans, warts and all, prejudices and all. I’m not going to bore you with any cast the first stone bromides, but I’ll say this much. We should celebrate Lovecraft’s humanity and stupidity, and try to figure out why he continues to exert such an influence.

And that bust? I have a real bad idea that’s so crazy it might work. Why not make it a Janus figure? Lovecraft on side, Butler on the other. That way, everyone can be mollified, horrified, reassured, baffled, and entertained at the same time. Because isn’t that what weird fantasy is all about?

Tristan Eldritch said...

Hey David. You argue that "Lovecraft's fiction--and Lovecraftian horror--depends on the xenophobia that was endemic to Lovecraft's work to the point that without it, many of his stories lose their unique and uniquely profound effect." However, I'm not sure that you make a very strong case for this contention. In the main part of your argument, you mention just three Lovecraft stories ("The Horror at Red Hook", "The Call of Cthulhu", and "Nyarlathotep"). Racism is certainly crucial to the effect of "Red Hook", but the fact remains that it is not considered an important Lovecraft story by virtually anybody - it is barely anthologized or read today - so any claims regarding Lovecraft's fiction and Lovecraftian horror as a whole cannot be made on the basis of one lesser piece. Similarly, "Nyarlathotep" is a very short prose poem which is not really crucial to Lovecraft's enduring popularity at all. The one important and widely read Lovecraft story you mention in the main part of your argument is The Call of Cthulhu - and here you make what seems to me to be a very dubious argument. You suggest(if I'm reading you correctly) that the COC depends for its unique effect on the racism in the descriptions of the Bayou residents? This is a subjective and highly questionable view. For many readers, the effect of COC derives from its rich pseudo-historical mythology, its expression of the philosophy of cosmic indifference, and its intriguing idea of an interconnected global Jungian unconsciousness - far from being crucial to its impact, the racism is an incidental flaw that readers have endured only because they really dug the other stuff. Barring this questionable argument in relation The Call of Cthulhu, you damn all Lovecraft's fiction as being dependent on xenophobia for its effect, but actually made no reference to the greater bulk of his writing - no reference to At the Mountains of Madness, The Whisperer In Darkness, The Shadow Out of Time, The Color Out of Space - and none to The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath or any of the Dream Cycle. Without making some argument as to the centrality of xenophobia to the effect of these stories, your claim would have to be regarded as woefully overstated. Lovecraft's undeniable racism should not be swept under the carpet; but it seems to me that you would sweep everything but the racism under the carpet, without making a strong argument for the centrality of racism to the effect of any but a few of his lesser stories.

Freddie said...

I am amused by your apparent belief that the authors you read and love are largely free of racism. Any writer you admire from before, say, 1950 was almost certainly filled with racist prejudice. The only difference is that you know about it with Lovecraft.

David Nickle said...

Hey Tristan, Thanks for the reply. You've given me a great deal to think about--in part because as I sat down to pen this essay, it was in hope of easing open discussion on the centrality of Lovecraftian racism--not with an exhaustive survey in mind (that was one of the reasons I linked to other essays in support of the premise of Lovecraftian racism). And you're right in many of the stories you cite; for instance, there's little xenophobia per se in the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and the other dreamlands stories--those stories have a whimsical quality to them that mutes Lovecraft's horror, and although I've not read them in some years, are one of the few settings wherein he actually embraces the Other. I might suggest that the Dream Quest cycle represents an idealized depiction of white aristocratic privilege, but you might suggest I'm stretching the point, and I would have to agree...

As for At The Mountains of Madness, I think there's a strong enough whiff of determinism in that novella--and an Innsmouth-like horror at the idea of being somehow related to an alien species--that it fits with Lovecraft's xenophobic if not racist tendencies.

And as to some other major works, some quotations I've managed to dig up, supporting a sufficiently narrow group of views:

The negro had been knocked out [in the boxing match], and a moment's examination shewed us that he would permanently remain so. He was a loathsome, gorilla-like thing, with abnormally long arms which I could not help calling fore legs, and a face that conjured up thoughts of unspeakable Congo secrets and tom-tom poundings under an eerie moon. The body must have looked even worse in life--but the world holds many ugly things.
-from Herbert West: Reanimator

Perhaps one reason—though it cannot apply to uninformed strangers—is that the natives are now repellently decadent, having gone far along that path of retrogression so common in many New England backwaters. They have come to form a race by themselves, with the well-defined mental and physical stigmata of degeneracy and inbreeding. The average of their intelligence is woefully low, whilst their annals reek of overt viciousness and of half-hidden murders, incests, and deeds of almost unnamable violence and perversity.
-From The Dunwich Horror

One might go on, and there are lots of other folk who have. But that's not a case that I want to make. I'm willing to concede that I might've been overly simplistic in suggesting that all of Lovecraft's literature is directly founded on racism/xenophobia and couldn't survive without it. I think it's fair to say that a great deal of his fiction does, though, and that there are enough data points visible in sharp relief indicating xenophobia to mark it as a fairly consistent motive force in Lovecraft's work: something much more than a distracting preoccupation.

James said...

I would second what others here have pointed out: that this issue has been discussed before and that an acknowledgement of some of those people would have been good.

That said, really well written, thought provoking piece.
"Bigoted neurosis"... I think that is a perfect way to describe it. I sometimes imagine the sickly little man who wrote some of my favorite stories cowering in his Brooklyn apartment, his mind filled with paranoid fantasies about his neighbors.
Perhaps we should approach the works of HPL with something akin to the surrealists' paranoiac-critical method, using the racist delusion-fantasies to uncover the subconscious fears that are the fiber of xenophobia.

Ramsey Campbell said...

Thanks for citing me, David! A small correction - I was fourteen, not ten, when I read my first book by Lovecraft. I had read tales of his in anthologies before that, but CRY HORROR was my immersion. "The Room in the Castle" is indeed under-motivated!

David Nickle said...

Ramsey, thank you for stopping by the Yard! I've made the correction in the text as to your age-of-immersion. I was of a similar age when I read Lovecraft in any quantity, although I'd read Lovecraftian fiction much earlier. First, I think, was The Hounds of Tindalos, in an educational text.

Robin K said...

I don't think the effect of all of Lovecraft's fiction depends on racism, but if you've read enough of his stories, his racism is hard to miss, as evidenced by the examples cited above (including Call of Cthulhu). I would say that it adds an unintended humorous quality, which I somewhat enjoy, even if it doesn't earn Lovecraft any respect from me. The horrors he builds up crumble when you realize that the description is coming from a feeble (and in some ways, feeble-minded) white man who is scared of... darker-skinned people! One could argue that this quality fits the overstated, campy style of his fiction. Nonetheless, my favorite stories happen to be ones that are not race-related, so maybe his racism does take a little away from some of his stories.

w. h. pugmire, esq. said...

This is one of the finest blogs on this topic that I have yet read. Lovecraft is the perfect figure for the World Fantasy Award, since he worked in all three major genres of sf, fantasy and horror, and did so superbly with excellent fiction, fiction that has influenced other genre writers and will continue to do so.

Unknown said...

As a long term fan of Lovecraft I am glad that you have raised the topic of H.P.L.'s racism. frankly it doesn't get enough air time as I am sure some people will think it would detract from his value as an author.

HPL is a creature of his time and the USA in the 1920s and 1930s was a viciously racist place with KKK membership over a million and to whom Nazism played quite sympathetically in many quarters. Let us remember however that despite his racism that HPL did marry Sonia Greene who was Jewish.
That is enough excusing him however...

I don't think there is any point apologising for HPL's racism though some may try. In fact I think his intense xenophobia is one of the driving neuroses that makes his horror fiction work. Without that terror of miscegenation, the inhuman, the sub-human, I don't think HPL's writing would have had as much force.

I think mature people are able to see value despite the detritus of history and like people despite not agreeing with all their values. In many ways HPL's racism is a quaint historical artifact in which one may find a humor of the inappropriate imo.

Phillip A. Ellis said...

I've also commented on Lovecraft's racism, in a published piece which looks at the way he uses language to construct his racist tropes in his poetry. The reception of the piece has been muted but with no negative comments thus far.

Lately, as a result of personal issues involving family dynamics, I have been considering what some writers call "the wound," the central, almost obsessive concern or concerns that remain unworked upon in many people's psyches. I see race as Lovecraft's wound, especially when we remember how his father, when he was sectioned as a result of tertiary syphilis, expressed delusional thoughts about blacks sexually assaulting his wife, Lovecraft's mother. Given, also, the codependency between Lovecraft and his mother, and her own problematic relationship with him, we can possibly argue that his upbringing was far more toxic regarding race, sex, gender and sexuality than it was for the majority of his peers.

C.T. Phipps said...

You might be interested in an article I read about the existence of Post-Lovecraftianism amongst authors who have followed H.P. Lovecraft.

http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/2014/07/what-is-post-lovecraftian.html

In a real way, there's no denying H.P. Lovecraft was a racist and his racism informs his writings. That doesn't mean his fans should feel ashamed of liking his stuff nor should they not play in his sandbox. However, really, I'm not sure what there IS to say about Lovecraft and racism.

"Yeah, he was a really racist guy." Kind of a conversation non-starter.