Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A few thoughts on H.P. Lovecraft and the race issue

I've seen the issue of Lovecraft's racism come up a few times today (today being Lovecraft's 124th birthday). I really don't think I have a heck of a lot to say on the topic that hasn't been said more eloquently than others, but... of course, I would argue that I think by this point in time it's an issue that most people are more than aware of (indeed, I was aware from it even before I read one of his stories, as Robert Bloch mentioned it in the introduction to the very first Lovecraft book I ever purchased), though I'm sure there are some people who either choose to remain blissfully unaware of the fact or who try to minimize it, usually by claiming, "Well, he was a product of his time and they all thought that way back then" (when noted Lovecraftian scholar S.T. Joshi was asked about the race issue at the NecronomiCon event in Providence, Rhode Island in 2013, he dismissed that argument, pointing out that many of the leading intellectual figures of Lovecraft's day, such as Joyce, had rejected the racist worldview that Lovecraft stubbornly clung to all his life, even after science had shown that it was an erroneous view).

I feel conflicted as Lovecraft's one of my favorite authors, and in many ways I think he and I are very much alike, the racism issue aside. I do sometimes wonder if I would hold him in such high regard if I were black. To black writers working in the fantasy/horror/science fiction milieu (and it's a common misconception that such genre writing is only a white person thing), I imagine it must be frustrating to constantly see Lovecraft's name held up as the gold standard for that type of genre writing, in much the same way that many black NBA players in the 1980's hated always being compared to Larry Bird. Then again, I am gay, and Lovecraft was homophobic to some degree, and that aspect of his character doesn't really bother me (though to be fair, his homophobia is much less overt than his racism, and is mainly confined to his private correspondence, unlike his racist views, which managed to creep up into some of his fiction). Perhaps it would suffice to say that the man was fucked up and had some serious issues, though I would say that you could say that about any interesting artist. If I limited myself to only reading writers who conformed to my hippy moderate liberal worldview, my bookshelves would certainly be much thinner (hell, one of my favorite novels is The Fountainhead, which was written by an author whose political views are almost at the opposite end of the spectrum from mine). Indeed, some of my favorite writers were bigots in some way or another. William S. Burroughs was a misogynist. Clark Ashton Smith supposedly held private anti-Semitic views. Thomas Ligotti detests procreation and life itself. J.K. Huysmans hated women, the Jews, and, uh, Freemasons.

But I think what it all boils down to is the art, and all else is superfluous. I'm sure you could show me a writer who is a shining example of ultra-politically correct thought, but if their writing style doesn't appeal to me, I won't give them the time of day, no matter how closely their personal views align with mine. Granted, this is a slippery slope: it's harder to apply that rational to someone such as, say, Orson Scott Card, who's actively and financially involved with groups trying to set back gay marriage (luckily, I've never thought much of his writing style, so I find him easier to ignore). Would I have preferred it if Lovecraft wouldn't have been such a racist? Well, obviously: as it is, the man is already hard enough to defend from his detractors, what with all the people who attack his purple prose style. In my perfect world, the words "Lovecraft" and "racism" would never appear in the same sentence: but as Lovecraft was fond of pointing out, we live in a far from perfect world.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Autopsy of an Eldritch City Update #1

Some news to report on the writing front: my 2nd weird fiction collection, "Autopsy of an Eldritch City: Ten Tales of Strange & Unproductive Thinking," will most likely be coming out later this year. It's being published by Rebel Satori Press, who also published my first collection, "Grimoire," back in 2012. As the subtitle indicates, it has ten stories, each of which is illustrated by Benedetta De Alessi (plus cover and interior design by Michael Salerno). I'll continue to give further updates in the future as events unfold.


The Cursed Quilts
The Snow Globes of Patient O.T.
The Yellow Notebook
The Fire Sermon
The Aphotic Zone
The Demons in the Fresco
Ritual Quest