Evil Hat posts about Lovecraft. Angers trolls.

People who try to maintain, despite the evidence, that favorite racists authors were just men of their times are not only frequently mistaken, they’re also typically working an agenda.

But anyway, no, Lovecraft wasn’t a “Man of his time” when it came to views on race. Heck, in 1915 when Birth of a Nation came out, it critics and audiences at the time were both mesmerized and horrified by it. The narrative, epic sweep of the film was unlike anything anyone had ever seen in movies. But contemporary audiences and writers called out the inherent horrific racism of the film just the same. Heck, there was much talk of blocking the release of BoaN even while it was still in production due to the racist nature of the film. In fact, the Griffith film essentially “made” the NAACP a major organization, since that group organized nationwide protests against the film’s release and distribution, thus requiring newspapers covering those protests to write about the organization.

You can, of course, also look at contemporary writers of the time. There are so, so, so many misconceptions here regarding Lovecraft. First: writers in the 1920s and 1930s did not write in Lovecraft’s horribly affected, florid style. He was attempting (poorly) to imitate the writing style and voice of gothic romantics of the 19th century. (A style Lovecraft wasn’t really up to the task of trying to imitate; his prose is riddled with the kind of usage, tense, and redundancy errors one normally finds in freshman english comp classes.)

But the other misconception – at least in this thread – is that Lovecraft’s racism, antisemitism and xenophobia were also “of the time”. And that just isn’t true about writing of that period. When a guy born and raised near Oxford, Mississippi like Billy Faulkner can write a story like “Dry September” in 1931, well… (And hey, the most popular, highest-selling novel of the second half of the 19th century – Huckleberry Finn – was an important, pointed anti-racism/anti-slavery narrative.) And as another tangent, even ol’ Abe Lincoln had to get a little religion on racism. Early on, Abe spoke out in mild favor of “repatriation” of freed slaves to Africa – basically, sending men and women who’d been born in the US as slaves to a continent and counties they’d never set foot upon. Abe’s own advisors pulled him aside and said “Uh, ixnay, Linc; that shit is racist as hell. Emancipation and incorporation into society, that’s where you need to land on this.” And so he did, thankfully, because he was a thoughtful man whose moral compass (eventually) led him down the right path most of the time.

Evil Sheep posts about Lovecraft. Angers Nesrie.

This is false. A LOT of cultists in Lovecraft are defined as possessing some “otherness”, mostly related to racial traits. His most prominent work with a lot of cultists (Shadow over Innsmouth) has the cultists as hybrids from another race.

I knew he was racist, but wow!
I had no idea about the cat.

Are we even talking about the same thing here?
The otherness of the cultists is monstrous in nature. Non-human.
Something like this:


or this:


That’s not racism as it has nothing to do with race. That is horror at mixing humans with another species. It’s not even speciesism, I’d say.
He’s not describing the offspring of white and colored people and calling that “The Great Other” or any nonsense like that.
You might be throwing “race” and “species” together here.

Or, and I’m going out on a limb here, maybe Lovecraft was the one doing that.

I think you may be missing some American historical context for Lovecraft’s use of metaphor.

This is part of the issue that was the impetus of the other Lovecraft thread. Setting aside death of the author. (Lond dead, in this case. Ha ha.) Once you know that Lovecraft was a horrendous bigot and classist, and you know that his actual real fear wasn’t aliens or fish-people, it was foreigners and the poor, stories like Innsmouth are easy to decode. It’s a miscegenation warning.

But, you say, the text is literally the horror of fish folk. True, but let’s flip the lesson because genre fiction is rarely ever about just the surface thing.

Take a very popular genre piece like classic Star Trek’s “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” for example. It’s a story about aliens fighting forever over which half of their bodies should be black or white. Literally. But no one who watches that episode doesn’t understand the real meaning. It’s about human racism and violence.

Also, Lovecraft included a lot of white Europeans–particularly the poorer ones, often from Catholic countries like Spain or Italy–in his categories of “degenerate” and “subhuman.” Note his use of “Northern people” in the letter Rod quoted. It was a slow process for these ethnic groups to become accepted as “whites” in the United States (unfortunately it was a side effect of the backlash against the civil rights movement for African Americans and Latin Americans, I believe).

It’s worth rereading the descriptions of the Cthulhu cultists in the Call of Cthulhu. I mean, they are literally described as

“…the prisoners all proved to be men of a very low, mixed-blooded, and mentally aberrant type. Most were seamen, and a sprinkling of negroes and mulattoes, largely West Indians or Brava Portuguese from the Cape Verde Islands, gave a coloring of voodooism to the heterogeneous cult. But before many questions were asked, it became manifest that something far deeper and older than negro fetishism was involved. Degraded and ignorant as they were, the creatures held with surprizing consistency to the central idea of their loathsome faith.”

or the description of the district in the Horror at Red Hook.

" The population is a hopeless tangle and enigma; Syrian, Spanish, Italian, and negro elements impinging upon one another, and fragments of Scandinavian and American belts lying not far distant. It is a babel of sound and filth, and sends out strange cries to answer the lapping of oily waves at its grimy piers and the monstrous organ litanies of the harbour whistles. Here long ago a brighter picture dwelt, with clear-eyed mariners on the lower streets and homes of taste and substance where the larger houses line the hill. One can trace the relics of this former happiness in the trim shapes of the buildings, the occasional graceful churches, and the evidences of original art and background in bits of detail here and there—a worn flight of steps, a battered doorway, a wormy pair of decorative columns or pilasters, or a fragment of once green space with bent and rusted iron railing. The houses are generally in solid blocks, and now and then a many-windowed cupola arises to tell of days when the households of captains and ship-owners watched the sea.

From this tangle of material and spiritual putrescence the blasphemies of an hundred dialects assail the sky. Hordes of prowlers reel shouting and singing along the lanes and thoroughfares, occasional furtive hands suddenly extinguish lights and pull down curtains, and swarthy, sin-pitted faces disappear from windows when visitors pick their way through."

the racist loathing subtext is pretty much text.

Yes, many times, Lovecraft just straight up gets racist in his text. But, the real question is what to do about the more subtle stuff like Innsmouth or Mountains? It’s obvious now what these are about.

That’s why Lovecraft Country was such a great book to me. The author, speaking through one of his protagonists, writes about the horror and sadness of learning that the stories he loved as a young boy were really about him and his blackness. His essential being was the alien monstrosities that Lovecraft was writing about. How do you reconcile that? How do you continue to love that story?

More importantly for gaming, how do you base your game on that without immediately alienating a PoC audience?

Well, when running a Pen and Paper Campaign, my personal technique was to include communities/NPCs of immigrant/PoC background/origin That had nothing to do with cults/etc. So then you’re just left with groups of people who are cultists/Cthulhu things and other groups of people who are not.

If you’re looking for the textual equivalent of Soulcutter I heartily second this recommendation.

That feels very Elric.

You say that like it’s a bad thing.

He wrote about the monsters he saw in the mirror

This is good stuff. I’m sure it doesn’t address the issue for all people, but I like it.

My example is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I know objectively that its a good movie. A great movie for many folks. But for me, it’s all about that shitty Mickey Rooney character Mr. Yunioshi. It’s offensive as hell to me and it taints the movie to such an extent that I’m unable to ignore it. If someone were to try to engage me in an RPG group based on that movie - even if they excised the racist caricature - I’d refuse because I can’t set it aside.

I would guess that for some PoC, there’s no getting around the racism in anything based on a Lovecraft work.

Maybe. Maybe not.
You can honestly interpret anything in any way you want, especially if you do it with intention.

The point is that whatever the original author wanted to say, we thankfully don’t have to do the same and can just take it as literal fish people and aliens. Which, afaik, is what pretty much everybody is doing nowadays.