Phenderson Djeli Clark has a cracking article over on Media Diversified looking at the racism of old HPL and the refusal of some amongst the Lovecraftian fandom to acknowledge his virulent racism.

Now, I’ve always known that HP Lovecraft was racist. Reading The Horror at Red Hook when I was a teenager made sure of that.  Horror at Red Hook aside I never really thought much about it as, in his other works, the racist commentary seemed to be little other than the sorts of thing that were, to my knowledge, common parlance in the 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. I guess I simply attributed them to him being ‘of his time’.

That argument is utter rubbish however when one considers that this was also a time when groups like the Industrial Workers of the World were actively campaigning against racism and against groups like the Klan. The workers of the I.W.W. were equally as ‘of their time’ as HPL and yet they did not express such vile opinions of people.tumblr_m1vn4dSiVt1rp5l6oo1_400

I was, until about ten minutes ago, completely unaware of quite how extreme HPL’s racism was. To be honest I was shocked and I’m not one that’s easily shocked by racism or other bigoted language.

Of course they can’t let niggers use the beach at a Southern resort – can you imagine sensitive persons bathing near a pack of greasy chimpanzees? The only thing that makes life endurable where blacks abound is the Jim Crow principle, & I wish they’’d apply it in N.Y. both to niggers & to the more Asiatic type of puffy, rat-faced Jew. Either stow ‘em out of sight or kill ‘em off – anything so that a white man may walk along the streets without shuddering nausea.–Letter from Lovecraft to A.E.P. Gamwell, February 1925.

Seriously HPL. WTF? O_o That’s a whole lotta racism for so few words.

I’ve always been aware that I really wouldn’t have liked HPL as a person. He was conservative, racist, and an admirer of Adolf Hitler. Me and such people tend to only have brief and rather confrontational relationships at the best of times. How then can I balance my love for the guy’s literature against what I know of him as a person?

There is a particular SF writer from Utah who had a film starring Harrison Ford in the pictures recently. The film looked like it was a good bit of fun and the book is supposed to be a classic. I, however, can’t bring myself to read it nor to watch the film. The reason for this is that the author in question is a virulent homophobe. More than just being an outspoken homophobe he actively promotes an agenda of discrimination by funding homophobic advocacy organisations. Because of this any money I give him through purchasing his book or the DVD of his film goes towards promoting his hatred of people who love the ‘wrong’ gender. Fuck that. I could just download the film or the ebook. But then I would, if I enjoyed them, feel the need to tell other people about them. I know what I’m like and I don’t want to advertise for someone like this.

So what’s the difference with HPL?

Well, to put it bluntly.

He’s dead.

He is an ex-racist.

A former bigot.

He’s passed on, deceased, his metabolic processes are now history(fill in the rest of the Dead Parrot Sketch til you get bored).

His non-corporeal nature means that he can’t be actively engaged in promoting bigotry and hatred. It also means that he can be held up as a fine example of a person who creates great art also being an utter moron, as well as being an example of the barbarity of the conservative and racist mindset.

If HPL were alive today I doubt that I would read him. So I guess I’m glad that he’s dead. 😀 I’m also glad that as Weird Fiction has developed this reactionary bigotry has been left by the wayside. As China Mieville said, the good thing about the New Weird is that we have a lot less fascists. I heartily agree.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “The Old Racist from Providence

  1. The problem is if you banned from a library every work that was written by a racist, homophobe, misogynist, woman beater, criminal, Nazi-sympathiser, religious zealot etc the shelves would run empty. I think you have to separate the person from the art, so long as the art itself is free of it, but agree that it’s quite difficult at times. A modern-day equivalent of Lovecraft would probably be boycotted off the shelves, and his great works would be missed from future horror literature. That would a great shame but then again reading those words did make me feel sick.

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  2. Oh I wouldn’t ban anything. But I think that, even if Lovecraft was about today, I probably would end up buying his stuff as the most vehement of his writing seems to have been confined to private letters. So, aside from the fact I probably wouldn’t know about his views, I wouldn’t be supporting the promotion of bigotry.
    That SF author I talked about however actively goes out and funds terrible bigoted organisations. Something I’m not going to be happy giving my money to. I don’t really have a problem with bigots, per se, so long as they keep it to themselves. A kind of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy for bigotry. 😀
    Still, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about that so much with HPL.

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