Science Fiction

The Uncanny Afterlife of H.P. Lovecraft

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Edmund Wilson, then one of America's top literary critics, took to the pages of The New Yorker in 1945 to denounce a dead horror writer named H.P. Lovecraft. "The only real horror in most of these fictions," Wilson sniffed, "is the horror of bad taste and bad art." Wilson was outraged at the thought that Lovecraft, who had died, broke, in 1937, might enjoy posthumous success thanks to the recent publication of his collected writings. These stories, Wilson declared, "were hack-work contributed to such publications as Weird Tales and Amazing Stories, where, in my opinion, they ought to have been left."

Wilson was a big deal in his day, the sort of critic whose reviews could help make or break an author's career. But he was simply no match for Lovecraft, who would enjoy the last laugh from beyond the grave. Today, Wilson is largely forgotten and Lovecraft is practically everywhere, his DNA spread far and wide throughout American popular culture.

Perhaps you're familiar with Lovecraft's most enduring creation, the towering, tentacle-faced elder god Cthulhu, who lies slumbering deep in his oceanic tomb, waiting for the day when "the stars are right" so that he may rise again and wreak havoc on humanity. The modern cult of Cthulhu is a capitalist success story of epic proportions. Retailers now offer Cthulhu-themed shirts, hats, socks, costumes, toys, coffee mugs, Pez dispensers, board games, video games, role-playing games, novels, short stories, comic books, coloring books, and much else besides. The heavy metal band Metallica has written two songs in Cthulhu's honor. The Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro has found all sorts of clever ways to reference Cthulhu in his films. A popular "Cthulhu for President" bumper sticker asks, "Why vote for the lesser evil?"

Another Lovecraft signature is the obsessive researcher whose fixation on weird science unleashes an interdimensional evil that threatens to wipe out the planet. Sound familiar? In the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, shadowy government research involving children with psychic abilities rips open a portal between Hawkins, Indiana, and "the Upside Down," a spooky parallel dimension that just happens to be crawling with Lovecraftian creatures. Yes, the mad scientist trope has been around at least since Frankenstein, but the vast, eldritch terrors of the Upside Down are pure Lovecraft. So too is the tentacled monster known as "the mind flayer" who stalks our intrepid young heroes.

Academics can't seem to get enough of Lovecraft either. A database search will turn up hundreds of scholarly articles discussing the author and his work, in such serious-minded publications as American StudiesMath HorizonsCultural Geographies, and the Journal of Folklore Research. In the words of Alan Moore, author of the acclaimed graphic novels Watchmen and V for Vendetta, Lovecraft has enjoyed "a posthumous trajectory from pulp to academia that is perhaps unique in modern letters."

Not everybody is a fan. In 2014, the writer Daniel José Older launched a campaign to have Lovecraft's likeness removed from the World Fantasy Award, a prestigious genre prize that had taken the form of a Lovecraft statue since its inception in 1975. While Lovecraft "did leave a lasting mark on speculative fiction, he was also an avowed racist," Older argued. "Many writers have spoken out about their discomfort with winning an award that lauds someone with such hideous opinions….It's time to stop co-signing his bigotry and move sci-fi/fantasy out of the past." The World Fantasy Convention ultimately agreed, dropping the statue in 2015.

Lovecraft really was an avowed racist. His stories, essays, and correspondence are filled with all sorts of ugly statements about blacks, Jews, and immigrants. He particularly hated New York City, where he briefly lived, complaining in a 1924 letter of its "Asiatic hell's huddle of the world's cowed, broken, inartistic, & unfit."

Still, the horror/fantasy world was not uniformly pleased about the change. The scholar and editor S.T. Joshi, who has written numerous books about Lovecraft, returned his two World Fantasy Awards in protest. Getting rid of the Lovecraft statue, Joshi declared, "seems to me a craven yielding to the worst sort of political correctness."

Seven decades after his death, Lovecraft shows no signs of going away. He has scaled the commanding heights of pop culture, influencing some of the biggest names in the game while continuing to sell tons of his own books to new generations of readers. How many authors can claim a posthumous success like that?

Haunting the Dark

Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on August 20, 1890. In 1893, his father, likely suffering from an advanced case of syphilis, was committed to the nearby Butler Hospital for the Insane. He would die there five years later. Lovecraft's mother, who suffered from depression, would be confined to that same facility in 1919, dying within its walls two years later.

These are not the only episodes from the writer's life that sound like plot points from a horror story. At the age of 46, Lovecraft began keeping a sort of death diary, recording his daily sufferings and terrors as he slowly expired from stomach cancer. "Pain—drowse—intense pain—rest—great pain," he wrote in one typical entry. It was an eerie echo of his 1936 short story "The Haunter of the Dark," in which one of the protagonists continues to write in his journal even as the dreadful monster closes in on him. "I see it—coming here—hell-wind—titan blur—black wings—Yog-Sothoth save me—the three-lobed burning eye…." That's the final sentence of the story.

Lovecraft wrote for the pulps, cheaply printed magazines that specialized in the sort of sensational material—monsters, lost cities, aliens—that more respectable outlets would not deign to print. He never made any real money as a writer, though he was sometimes able to pay the bills by hiring out his services as an editor and rewrite man. The most famous of his clients was Harry Houdini, for whom Lovecraft ghostwrote the 1924 short story "Imprisoned With the Pharaohs."

Lovecraft's first major book, The Outsider and Others, which collected some of his best stories, did not appear until two years after his death. His second book—Beyond the Wall of Sleep, another story collection—appeared four years after that. They were both published by Arkham House, an independent press founded by Lovecraft acolytes August Derleth and Donald Wandrei for the sole purpose of keeping their hero's work in print.

It did the trick. Readers have been devouring Lovecraft's macabre tales ever since.

What explains this extraordinary afterlife? Why do so many of us still read his stuff today? "When Lovecraft was on the money," the writer Stephen King has argued, "his stories packed an incredible wallop. The best of them make us feel the size of the universe we hang suspended in and suggest shadowy forces that could destroy us all if they so much as grunted in their sleep."

King ought to know, having successfully borrowed a page or two from the Lovecraftian playbook himself over the years. In It, King's blockbuster 1986 novel about a small town terrorized by a bloodthirsty, shape-shifting clown, the big reveal at the end (spoiler alert) is that the monster is actually an ancient cosmic entity that crashed to Earth millions of years ago and has been periodically rising up to feed on human fear (and flesh) ever since. In The Mist, his 1980 novella about a small town under siege after secret government experiments unleash monsters from another dimension (hello again, Stranger Things!), King gives Cthulhu himself a sort of uncredited cameo appearance.

Lovecraft revealed the key to his own personal vision of horror in the opening sentences of his signature story, "The Call of Cthulhu": "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far." Pretty much any one of Lovecraft's 70 or so tales could begin like that.

A Political Horror Show

Modern critics have sometimes struggled to make sense of Lovecraft's worldview, particularly when it comes to where he might fall on the political spectrum. For many, the answer has been to label Lovecraft a conservative, pointing to his undeniable record as a racist, xenophobe, and Anglo-Saxon supremacist. "It's safe to say that if Lovecraft were alive today," The A.V. Club's Joshua Alston declared in 2016, "he'd have a 'Make America Great Again' bumper sticker on the wall of his remote cabin."

Maybe so. But Lovecraft also hated capitalism, praised socialism, and staunchly defended President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal against "the plutocrats and their apologists," as he once put it. "I am one for whom the spectre of 'socialisation' has no terror," Lovecraft wrote in a 1933 essay. "The older I grow and the more I reflect, the more I am convinced that no industrial civilization can continue to exist except through the artificial government control and distribution of resources." The real problem with the New Deal, Lovecraft added, was that it did not go far enough "toward the probably inevitable socialisation of large-scale industry and finance."

Lovecraft's combination of racism and statist economics was not exactly unusual at the time. In fact, many of the day's leading progressive figures harbored outright racist opinions. Take Woodrow Wilson. In his 1901 book, A History of the American People, the future president voiced his disgust at the new immigrants then arriving in the United States from Southern and Eastern Europe, attacking them as "men of the lowest class from the south of Italy and men of the meaner sort out of Hungary and Poland." Far more to Wilson's taste were the "sturdy stocks of the north of Europe." Socialist leader Eugene Debs struck a similar note. "The Dago…lives more like a savage or a wild beast than the Chinese," Debs complained, allowing him to "underbid the American working man." Progressive hero Theodore Roosevelt argued that it was "a mistake" to give black men the right to vote via the 15th Amendment because blacks on the whole were "altogether inferior to the whites."

Without ruling on the question of where Lovecraft might land on today's political spectrum, it seems clear that his racist and xenophobic views were in step with much left-wing thought of his own time.

Cut from the Cosmic Horror Opus?

Lovecraft's racism has inspired two interesting young anti-racist writers now working in the fields of horror and dark fantasy. In his captivating Lovecraft Country (Harper), Matt Ruff chronicles the adventures of a black family as it navigates the horrors—both ordinary and supernatural—of Jim Crow America in the 1950s. It's both a welcome addition to the Lovecraftian canon and a sharp critique of it. Jordan Peele, director of the acclaimed 2017 thriller Get Out, is currently producing an HBO series based on Ruff's novel. Meanwhile, Victor LaValle's The Ballad of Black Tom (Tor.com), which he dedicates to Lovecraft "with all my conflicted feelings," takes the critique a step further—essentially rewriting one of Lovecraft's most blatantly racist stories, "The Horror at Red Hook," from the vantage point of a new black protagonist.

In his introduction to 2019's The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft: Beyond Arkham (Liveright), a lavishly illustrated collection edited by the cultural historian Leslie Klinger, LaValle discusses his complicated relationship with Lovecraft's work. One option he considered was to "cut [Lovecraft] from the Cosmic Horror opus," he acknowledges. But then he thought twice about all the great stories that would necessarily be sacrificed as a result.

So what can be done about Lovecraft and his tainted creations? "I'm not saying the fiction is so worthwhile that we just have to shrug our shoulders and live with the rest," LaValle writes. Rather, "you can love something, love someone, and criticize them. That's called maturity." As far as LaValle is concerned, "Lovecraft will never be cancelled." He's right: The ghoulish writer has sunk his teeth far too deep into the body of American popular culture for that.

NEXT: The Outlaw Ocean

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  1. his racist and xenophobic views were in step with much left-wing thought of his own time.

    And the present. Only the virulent hate has been replaced by the condescendence of the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ as evidenced in all the economic and social ‘booster seats’ like affirmative action.

    1. Oh, don’t kid yourself. The virulent hate is still there. It shows I. The way they let scummy Quislings like Sharpton batten on the poor.

    2. I suppose it’s good that the current progressive left doesn’t openly identify with its racist, classist and xenophobic past, but ignoring it or assigning the still present tinges of racism to opposing ideologies is unhealthy.

    3. He particularly hated New York City

      See? He wasn’t all bad.

    4. I like and enjoy Lovecraft, despite him being an obvious racist, for the same reason that I can still enjoy China Mieville’s fiction (he is a communist), Kevin Spacey’s movies, or even Bill Cosby’s stand-up. People are flawed. A person can be both flawed and great. We should judge actions, not people. People are large, they contain multitudes.

    5. And let me add that as much as I like Lovecraft, I much prefer his lesser known contemporary Clark Ashton Smith. Smith was, in my humble opinion, a better and more imaginative writer. And boy, did he love unusual words. If you are a logophile, you will love Smith.

  2. Politically, Lovecraft was a standard issue leftist.

    The same kind that exists today.

    Racist, xenophobic, sexist and economically and socially moronic.

    Under the illusion that everyone must think as they do, they set out to use the obvious wedges they see in society as levers to bring themselves power to ‘fix’ the wrongs they see.

    But HP took it a step further.

    Because he was an ACTUAL xenophobe. Not the political term, the real thing. He LITERALLY felt terror at the strange. That small island of light awash on a sea of blackness was how he lived every second. Only….he could ‘see’ into that darkness and he couldn’t unsee anything from there.

    And it came out in his writing.

    Lovecraft lived with his eyes glued to the roiling darkness all around himself.

    And he told us what he saw.

    1. Italian: Here. Have some ravioli.
      Lovecraft: Homer scream.

      1. Where would we be without the green-jawed forebears of Rufus of the Face of Many Tentacles?

    2. Because he was an ACTUAL xenophobe. Not the political term, the real thing. He LITERALLY felt terror at the strange.

      That’s conservatism in a nutshell.

      1. What about his endorsement of FDR?

        That was so contradictory, because FDR never practiced racial discrimination. /sarc

  3. How tedious it must be to examine the back-story implications of every little thing to determine whether or not you’re allowed to enjoy it and how empty and shallow your life must be that you can afford the time to do so. Have we removed Ty Cobb from Cooperstown yet?

    But I would suggest our fear of venturing out into the dark woods on a black night isn’t some sort of proof of our racist tendency to fear the dark and the black, it’s just more evidence of our tendency to be more risk-averse than reward-seeking. Nobody ventures out into the dark woods on a black night hopeful they’ll find all their friends throwing them a surprise birthday party and presenting them with a puppy – the dark woods on a black night is where you’ll find ghosts and goblins and werewolves and vampires and worse things, isn’t it?

    1. I don’t go in the woods at night because I don’t want to trip over or get smacked in the face by branches.

    2. Apparently you are unaware that Ty Cobb was unjustly slandered by Al Stump in his infamous biography. Almost all of the stories Stump wrote about Cobb are fictional. Stump had some grudge against Cobb that he ‘revenged’ with his writings. In fact, Cobb was a well-loved teammate and competitor, as evidenced by his frequent barnstorming tours with opposition players. His racial views were much less virulent than were common in Georgia at the time, although certainly unacceptable by present standards. He was accepting of black players in exhibition games, for example.

    3. “the dark woods on a black night is where you’ll find ghosts and goblins and werewolves and vampires and worse things, isn’t it?”

      It speaks to us as a civilized creature. I grew up in the east, and am a hunter. Hunting in the east generally means heading out at or just before dawn, so you have some light to find your way to your spot/stand.

      Then I moved out west. Hunting there is different. It’s bigger and more open and the critters (ie. elk) are not so tied to any given plot of real estate. So it’s much more spot and stalk. That means you need to be up on top of the mountain/ridge well before daybreak. So, you are heading out up the mountain at about 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. Which, if you are not used to it, can be difficult and foreboding. But once that experience turns into a successful hunt then your attitude about that task turns 180 degrees and you come to appreciate more of what the night offers. You also come to learn that a full Moon is darn near daylight to everything else out there.

      Lovecraftian fear of the unknown works best with people who are used to being comfortable around a warm and well lit hearth.

    4. How tedious it must be to examine the back-story implications of every little thing to determine whether or not you’re allowed to enjoy it and how empty and shallow your life must be that you can afford the time to do so.

      Exactly. It’s just another case of “Is it OK to like Wagner’s music?” A lot of very unpleasant people have created great art. The art doesn’t suddenly become bad when you find out that the guy who made it was an antisemite.

      1. Re Wagner. He was virulently anti-semitic. As were a number of famous composers.

        Plenty of famous people hold/held dubious if not abhorrent views.

        1. And of course, “abhorrent views” are a constantly moving target. In a few hundred years, our descendants might consider all of us “abhorrent” for not treating children as social equals and eating meat.

        2. Yet, according to Wikipedia, Lovecraft was not anti semetic or anti hispanic. He looked down on the Irish and Germans and blacks. If he just stuck to the antiwhite bigotry his reputation would have been fine with people like Rev. Kirkland.

          1. Ironically, of all groups, races, castes and subcultures, Lovecraft probably poured most of his vitriol onto rural-dwelling people that today would be called rednecks and hillbillies (particularly if they were of Dutch descent).

            But white people hating white people doesn’t compute to the “it’s impossible to be racist against white people because something-something “systemic” Shamblers.

    5. The Ty Cobb myth of him being a racist was pure slander it turns out.

      Prager U did a video on it.

    6. The thing about Lovecraft’s racism is that it permeates his writing. It’s not as if you can enjoy the work and ignore the artist’s views as expressed elsewhere.

      But the work has undeniable power. So, one has to acknowledge the flaws while praising the power.

      1. Yes, but of course we can ask who Wagner’s dwarves were supposed to represent, etc.

    7. I agree. All of this obsessing about the political views of every artist, writer, performer or musician is ridiculous.

  4. Who knew HP Lovecraft was so awesome??? 😉

    1. Not funny coming from you.

      1. Oh come on, who doesn’t like bagging on the Irish or Italians a little bit? I for one don’t have a problem with Jews, in theory, I just don’t like that 70-80% of American Jews are left wingers. The ones in Israel are pretty legit though.

        The fact is that floods of low skilled/problematic immigration always IS a real problem. The fact that shit eventually settled down, AFTER we stopped the flood into the US, and after decades of forcing them to assimilate into our Anglo dominant culture, makes us forget how many problems even the later European immigrants brought to the USA when they first got here.

        I’m not open borders nut, but I also don’t have a problem with immigration… But the type of immigrant matters. Open borders retards are retards.

  5. I’m not comfortable judging anyone from the past by the standards of the present. At most we can place them in historical context. And to that extent Lovecraft was an East Coast Progressive – racist, misogynistic, and prudish while being largely irreligious. His xenophobic thinking is directly descended from the Puritanical culture of his birthplace.

    While I enjoy his works, his success seems to me less about the actual writing, and more about the specific ornamentations that appear within. His actual style borrows tremendously from people like Sheridan LeFanu and early Robert W. Chambers (it is impossible to read The King in Yellow and not see Lovercraft’s writing whole cloth.) For whatever reasons the tidbits of detail he gave about his supernatural entities successfully coalesced into a unique and identifiable oevre that strongly resonates with the public.

    In that sense the academic study – especially folk studies – makes perfect sense.

    1. You won’t judge Mao or Stalin or Hitler?

      Genghis Khan?

      Pharaoh?

      Zog the 17th?

      1. How many million people did Lovecraft kill?

      2. “You won’t judge Mao or Stalin or Hitler?”

        Is that supposed to be a joke? They were judged evil by the standards of their own day.

    2. “… racist, misogynistic, and prudish …”

      Lovecraft once wrote he did not enter a debate with a view to prove himself right, but with a view to find out what the truth was. He changed his mind whenever he was convinced he was wrong. I suspect a lot of new criticism of Lovecraft is based on views he later repudiated.

      He once stated generalizations about ethnic groups should not be used to judge individuals. He aided and befriended numerous female writers. Lovecraft married a Jewish woman Sonia Greene. He used his check from Harry Houdini for writing “Imprisoned with the Pharoahs” to buy her engagement ring. While he did not believe in public displays of affection beyond entwining pinkie fingers with a gentle squeeze (yes, he was prudish and did not change), he prepared for marriage by reading sex manuals (reading French novels taught him sexual frustration was not good for women) and Greene described him as an excellently adequate lover. They divorced after 2 years because an unemployed man supported by a businesswoman wife did not look good in Rhode Island society. Greene found that after Lovecraft’s death, the divorce decree was in Lovecraft’s papers: He could not bring himself to sign it and submit it to the authorities.

      Lovecraft is a hell of lot more interesting than his politically correct critics. He will probably be remembered long after his critics are gone.

      1. Not after they release the great censor virus of 2035, which won’t just delete everything that’s blacklisted, (Ironically, including use of that term.) but will use AI to update the list as it goes.

    3. Ah, but Lovecraft’s views were behind the times when he wrote. Yes, bigots abounded, but so did people ready to express more tolerant positions.

      I’m not condemning Lovecraft entirely. Just saying that his alienation from other races is part an parcel with his alienation from just about everything, and drives the sense of isolation in his writing. Not condemning, but not excusing either.

      1. Lovecraft was “tolerant”; As far as I know there’s no record of him attacking people he didn’t like. It’s quite possible to be both tolerant and bigoted. Or for that matter un bigoted and intolerant, a combination frequently found on the left.

        The “tolerant” permit things, that’s what “tolerate” means. It doesn’t mean that you like them.

      2. What’s wrong with looking down on a bunch of dysfunctional rabble, when you’re used to higher standards than that?

        The immigrant slums back then were even more disgusting and debased than your average trailer park or black/Hispanic ghetto is today. A lot of the people were in fact very crude types of people, who committed crimes at rates far higher than native born Americans, and had “strange” foreign ways that seemed stupid.

        I guess what I’m saying is if the standards you are used to are superior, why wouldn’t you look down on people? People surely look down on trailer trash today. It’s a pretty natural thing, and the ultra egalitarian nonsense hadn’t gone nearly as far back then, so looking down on lower class people wasn’t even much of a big deal.

  6. Beyond the basic general thought of the time, Lovecraft wasn’t a racist.

    It’s things like the black cat named Niggerman (in a world that sold bags of brazil nuts as ‘niggertoes) or his disgust at ‘degraded’, ‘mongrelized’, ‘corrupted’ peoples(who, despite screams of ‘racism’, could be white–and, in fact were USUALLY white AND degraded by some sinister outside source, to boot), or his revulsion at the new and modern(while, bizarrely, contributing to it greatly).

    But the most telling fact that shows that Lovecraft wasn’t racist is this–

    Meanwhile, Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom (Tor.com), which he dedicates to Lovecraft “with all my conflicted feelings,” takes the critique a step further—essentially rewriting one of Lovecraft’s most blatantly racist stories, “The Horror at Red Hook,” from the vantage point of a new black protagonist.

    See, there’s something no one really talks about when they talk about this story–one of “Lovecraft’s most blatantly racist”.

    What is it you ask?

    Everyone in it is white. Irish, Dutch, Spanish, English, German.

    It’s that ‘Spanish’ that gets the SJW to literally shake–because, to them, Spain is a country of minority brown people.

    But they’re not. Spain is the European country that sent Columbus to these shores. The country that built an empire here.

    And it’s chock full of white people.

    Yeah. That’s Lovecraft’s “most blatantly racist” story.

    Those degenerates in the Call of Cthulhu? What were they then?

    White. They were Acadians(Cajuns) who were looked down upon by the sophisticates of New Orleans–both white AND black.

    Just read it, ignore the incessant SJW whine that everything is racist, and see for yourself.

    Lovecraft was no more racist than anyone else of his time–and probably a lot less so considering that he married a jewess and hung around with bohemians.

    But you go on believing leftist morons to whom the past is a dark mystery that cannot be deciphered.

    1. That points up the problem of the changing meaning of the term racism. Lovecraft, like most of his time, not only saw a difference between black and white, they also drew multiple distinctions among those who we would considered white. The old line – Dutch, English, and Germanic stock looking down on a racial pecking order of Scandinavians, lower Germans, French, Irish, Spanish, etc. With some degree of overlap, and money/class distinctions muddying the waters.

      1. Yeah, but who doesn’t look down on the French? Ammirite???

    2. That’s just what one would expect Azathoth to say

    3. to them, Spain is a country of minority brown people

      What? Not in my experience. The SJWs I’ve heard from and read about definitely do NOT consider Spaniards to be “Hispanic” or “Latin#@*+”.

      1. What? Not in my experience. The SJWs I’ve heard from and read about definitely do NOT consider Spaniards to be “Hispanic” or “Latin#@*+”.

        Really?

        Then why are they up in arms over the racism that they see in the Horror at Red Hook….which is all about white people from various parts of Europe?

        It’s incredible that you can read an article in which they’re doing exactly what I describe and say that “The SJWs I’ve heard from and read about definitely do NOT consider Spaniards to be “Hispanic” or “Latin#@*+”.

        It was in the article right there. You literally JUST read it.

        1. Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize I was supposed to forget everything I had previously heard and read on the subject upon reading this article.

    4. You know, i’ve read a bunch of Lovecraft, but I’m not sure I ever read The Horror at Red Hook.

      However, a number of Lovecraft stories central intended horror is miscegenation. Sometimes its outright human racial mixing. But even when its human/outsider crossbreeds (e.g., Shadows over Innsmouth), the intended horror is at the mixing of ‘white’ blood with the other. This does not have to be horrifying – just witness the explosion in D+D and D+D-adjacent materials of half-breed protagonists, heroes, and even just plain old folks, from the Tolkien-derived half-elves to even half-demons/devils as heroic characters. (See also various anime). And while you could theoretically argue that somehow Deep Ones are intrinsically horrifying outside just the fear of miscegenation, its both the case that (1) being intrinsically worse than half-devils is a high bar to pass, and (2) Lovecraft never makes that argument. He simply holds out their existence as hybrids as horrifying.

      I’m of course willing to concede Lovecraft’s views are complicated – but it’s hard to argue that a fear of miscegenation isn’t racist.

  7. The scholar and editor S.T. Joshi, who has written numerous books about Lovecraft, returned his two World Fantasy Awards in protest. Getting rid of the Lovecraft statue, Joshi declared, “seems to me a craven yielding to the worst sort of political correctness.”

    On the other hand, Joshi’s attempts to explain away the Lovecraft’s obvious racism are pathetic. All they do is play into the PC regime. Instead of admitting Lovecraft was a racist and championing his fiction anyway, Joshi tries to say it’s OK to like Lovecraft because he wasn’t really a racist. Yeah, sure.

    1. The point is that his views on race were unremarkable for his time, including among those who are now viewed as heroes by self-annointed “anti-racists”.

      1. I totally agree with that. He was about as racist/bigoted as the average New England WASP in the 1920s.

        But Joshi has tried to go further and claim that Lovecraft wasn’t racist, which is both absurd and unnecessary.

        1. No, because he married a Jew and hung around with the weird sci-fi people.

          And he, a WASP, married a Jew when doing so had repercussions.

          People don’t seem to grasp that Lovecraft was a weird guy who hung out with weird people and did weird things.

          He was part of the counterculture before it even had a name.

          1. I think this quotation from a 1934 letter by Lovecraft speaks for itself (emphasis added for those in a hurry):

            Regarding the negro—I don’t know what the outcome will be. But I greatly doubt where any general assimilation will occur in the United States. Fortunately the American people seem to have no wavering in their determination to keep African blood out of their veins, so that nothing could precipitate such a mongrelisation as occurred in Egypt, & in later years in Brazil & the Caribbean nations. It is no novelty for Aryans to dwell as a minority amidst a larger black population—such has been the case in Alabama & Mississippi for decades, & the upper part of South Africa is having a similar experience. But the effect of this condition is generally to heighten rather than relax the colour-line. The white minority adopt desperate & ingenious means to preserve their Caucasian integrity—resorting to extra-legal measures such as lynching & intimidation when the legal machinery does not sufficiently protect them. Of course it is unfortunate that such a state of sullen tension has to exist—but anything is better than the mongrelisation which would mean the hopeless deterioration of a great nation. Naturally, the negro resents his relegation to inferiority—but I doubt if he can do anything dangerous about it. Much as he may increase in the United States, his numbers will never be enough to give him a military advantage over the united white population. And his intelligence could never be equal to a contest with the strategic skill & experience of a massed Caucasian nation.

            More here.

    2. You want blatant racism, read the textbook at the heart of the Scopes Monkey Trial: its message was human beings are evolved from monkeys and whites are better evolved than blacks (the heck with that “all Men are created equal endowed by their Creator with unalienable Rights” nonsense); the basic theory behind the Virginia 1924 Racial Integrity Act which was copied by the Third Reich (hey, do I get the Godwin Award or has someone already mentioned Hitler?)

      1. Just FYI, the whole “all Men are created equal endowed by their Creator with unalienable Rights” business… The founding fathers DID NOT actually believe everybody was equal. That’s absurd, and nobody actually believes that. Some individuals are better than others. In the case of the founders I don’t think a single one of them believed blacks were equal to whites either.

        They just meant equality before god/under the law, that kinda thing. Like we’re all humans bro! Not that there was LITERAL equality. Don’t misuse that phrase like retarded commies do.

  8. The problem with Reason and many conservatives and many libertarians is that they equate capitalism with a free market and they equate socialism with state socialism (socialism mandated by the state)

    Both of which are false.

    1. they equate socialism with state socialism (socialism mandated by the state)

      I’m having trouble imagining how you could have socialism without a state mandate.

      1. You can’t, above the level of the family, and other small groups held together by similar bonds of love or some shared goal. And those situations don’t scale.

        1. Nor is ‘individual socialism’ actually any sort of socialism. At most it, like family group socialism, is a type of communalism.

  9. I really enjoyed this article. Nice work

  10. Not everybody is a fan. In 2014, the writer Daniel José Older launched a campaign to have Lovecraft’s likeness removed from the World Fantasy Award, a prestigious genre prize that had taken the form of a Lovecraft statue since its inception in 1975. While Lovecraft “did leave a lasting mark on speculative fiction, he was also an avowed racist,”

    Who gives a shit? Really. I’m Italian and couldn’t care less about his views. You can enjoy the art but don’t need to meet the artist lest you be disappointed of the mental image constructed of them.

    Honestly, this is a simpleton, myopic, faux-righteous take so prevalent with the zeitgeist.

    “It’s safe to say that if Lovecraft were alive today,” The A.V. Club’s Joshua Alston declared in 2016, “he’d have a ‘Make America Great Again’ bumper sticker on the wall of his remote cabin.”

    No, it’s not safe to say that at all. If anything, he sounds less a populist and far more like a modern progressive. Or even the progressive of his time who were anti-human to put it inelegantly.

    This person also assumes the iconoclast or loner living in a cabin is a racist. Talk about your typical left-wing caricatures of deciding who are ‘deplorables’ in their mindset.

    Here’s but one example of this position using Dante:

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/return-of-dante-the-guelphs-and-the-ghibellines-850012.html

    1. Lovecraft inherited an interest in a rock quarry owned by his grandfather and operated by an Italian family. He took a group of friends to the quarry to hunt for fossils. Their account was he was extravagant in his praise for the Italian quarry operators.

      Lovecraft was very critical of French Canadians in New England. His travelogue of visiting Montreal and Quebec was filled with respect for French Canadians in French Canada.

      Lovecraft also championed a gay poet for his poetry and was mum about his lifestyle.

      In the 1920s he was very much a 1920s New England upperclass white anglo-saxon atheist.

      I also like the stories of Verne, Wells, Orwell, Bradbury and I am sure if I looked hard enough I could find something about them to condemn. It would not undermine the value of their work or make me better than them or make their admirers less.

      1. Very interesting.

        Not surprised about this nuanced reality about him. Which only further cements the stupidity of playing ‘outrage’ like Older. It’s not only unfair to make such proclamations it also lacks the reality of the virtues and vices that drive humans in all our imperfect being.

        With that, Lovecraft sounds like he was, well, just plain human.

        1. Possibly. Or maybe descended from the Old Ones………

  11. . . . pointing to his undeniable record as a racist, xenophobe, and Anglo-Saxon supremacist.
    . . .

    . . . Lovecraft also hated capitalism, praised socialism, and staunchly defended President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal against “the plutocrats and their apologists,” . . .

    I don’t know – sounds like a Democrat to me. I think he might have been the first Progressive.

    1. He described himself as supporting FDR and the New Deal.

    2. Hardly the first. Progressivism was already well established before his birth.

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  13. Lovecraft fits well into the ‘so bad it’s good’ department of writing. His prose is turgid, his vision repetitive. There is always someone willing to sign on to this kind of thing, and once they do, beware crossing them.

    There are a few stories worth reading, with the rest more cartoon than literature.

    1. I bought The Collected Works of Lovecraft white visiting a friend in Providence last year. I can see what you mean.

      In any event, reading up on him, I eventually ended up learning about ‘Weird Tales’ publications and even picked up a copy on Amazon.

    2. I’ve read all the Lovecraft fiction that’s in the public domain. He’s fun to read (YMMV). Most of the time, he can be depended on to provide a particular kind of experience that some of us like. He’s a typical author of genre fiction in that sense.

    3. Always gotta be that guy who tries to look cool
      by dismissing the popular and long-lasting.

  14. Edmund Wilson is not forgotten but is probably only known to literary geeks. Meanwhile Lovecraft is known largely by sci-fi geeks.

    The idea of someone like Wilson reviewing genre stuff like Lovecraft is like today asking James Wood to review a random harlequin romance. It could only be viewed as satire.

  15. If Lovecraft wasn’t a racist, I’d be hard-put to say who was. Not only that – and consistently with it – he was part of the New Deal coalition and apparently a socialist.

    I won’t say you can neatly separate the artist from his art – but many (not all) of his stories manage to sublimate his racism and fear of the Other into a broader frame which can scare even the most militant non-racist. His creation of a whole mythos and his ability to draw fear regularly from that well marks him as sufficiently talented that denying ourselves his art would be to cut off our noses to spite our faces.

    Take a much worse example – George Bernard Shaw. He engaged in the equivalent of Holocaust denial by denying that Stalin was massively starving Soviet citizens (Holodomor denial). Yet, again, it would be pure masochism to deny ourselves the products of Shaw’s great talent simply because he was a comsymp eugenicist socialist.

    Just don’t consult these guys for political guidance – not even if (like Shaw) they *want* you to do so.

    1. I’d even say that if a moral reprobate does something useful for the public the public should be all the more happy to accept it, just as we accept license plates made by convicted felons. Let these folks even out their balance sheet with the community.

      1. just as we accept license plates made by convicted felons

        I wish I’d thought of that one.

  16. I will do to ‘Lovecraft Country’ what I did to Peele’s The Twilight Zone. Ignore It and focous in the original. I am honestly uncomfortanble with Peele’s views. The ‘Not All Men’ episode was just a ‘The Birth of a Nation’ remake.

    1. Peele should remake To Kill a Mockingbird, with its timeless message of antidiscrimination and the importance of due process and innocent until proven guilty.

  17. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

    1. Truer words have never been spoken.

  18. Karl Marx was a vicious racist who devoted much ink to his hatred of blacks, and his desire to see Jews undergo systematic genocide.

    I wonder why the Left keeps passing him over with this “erase the past to protect my feelings” comb?

  19. How uncanny is his afterlife? Is it more uncanny than say, the X-Men?

  20. Considering he married a Jew, I don’t think he was all that racist. He apparently also corresponded briefly with the black husband of one of his early collaborators (Winifred Jackson) cordially enough.

    What he really didn’t like was certain cultures. He really tore into the Germans with his story the Temple. He didn’t like Christianity (apparently he briefly was a Muslim, though was mostly an atheist)

  21. The other thing is that Robert Howard, the Conan guy, was far more racist than Lovecraft, yet that never gets mentioned.

    And Robert Howard never really traveled much. HPL actually got around most the East Coast and lived in New York City. He might not have liked cultures, but at least he came by his likes first hand.

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