Is Lovecraft too racist for gaming?


I found that the Eurogamer piece probably went a little to far, but I am broadly sympathetic to the “it is important to recognize and critique racism in Lovecraft” piece of the argument and similar discussion in this thread. Some of Lovecraft’s racism is less direct than that in Horror at Red Hook and his bad poetry.

I think the Shadow over Innsmouth is the most interesting example here. The horror for Lovecraft appears to be substantially based around the fear of miscegenation, but I don’t think that the story needs to be read that way. The idea that we may all, unknowingly, have something evil inside of us ready to burst out strikes me as a non-racist cosmic horror trope. The reason to be aware of the racism in Lovecraft generally, and the Shadow over Innsmouth in particular, is to make sure that we can draw from Lovecraft without dragging along the racism.

I think that’s possible, though I understand why others would disagree.


My issue with doing this with living creators is that it gives them money. And in some cases, they then go on to use that money to push their views - e.g. Orson Scott Card donated heavily to anti-gay political groups.


This I agree with. It also means that they have publicly expressed reprehensible views. Or views you politically disagree with (its important to remember these two aren’t always the same thing, despite what the “woke” of the world would have us believe). It isn’t based off a forensic examination of personal communications.


Eminently reasonable!

Heinlin is an interesting case, both because his vocal personal and political views, but also how they influence his work. And, to be clear, I don’t think it is possible to properly understand and appreciate some of his works without some basic understanding of him as a person.

Stranger in a Stramge Land, Starship Troopers, and especially his later works, are inimicably linked to his politics and personal views.

But any and all consideration of whether to read his works because of his views is reduced greatly due to his being dead.

However I will never listen to another hung Geoff Tate makes because his (band related, not political) behavior. Even though there is no ethical angle really, I just think he’s a jerk.


I am no scholar of Lovecraft, but on hearing rumors (online statements of fact) that he was a racist I did try to do some research confirm it myself. He was definitely racist. Probably even by the standards of his time still pretty racist. However, what else I learned about his life made the racism seem a symptom of his many other flaws than the one flaw to filter all his writing through.

Because this was a deeply flawed individual. I do not mean that from a moral aspect, I mean he struggled to operate and succeed in society. His writing made him a little amount of money, but never enough to survive on. Through out his life he often suffered bouts of depression or nervous system disorder which would strand him inside his house or apartment. He lived with his mother until age 31 and her death. Shortly after he married a Jewish immigrant, who seemed to just really like his writing and used her skill as a hat maker to support him. She moved him to New York City from Providence, where he found himself in a literary club of sorts. However, he ultimately failed to make it as a writer in New York. He moved back to Providence where rent money went further, and began his most prolific writing phase. However, his fear of rejection meant many of those stories were never sent to publishers or only sent to one. He died at the age of 45, largely unknown to the wider public, and living off a dwindling inheritance.

However, he might not have been a well publisher writer, but he was your favorite published writer’s favorite writer. He had several friendships apparently built entirely on love of writing, and he exchanged letters and prose with them. He allowed and encouraged others to expand upon his “Yog Soggoth” mythos, and today a good portion of “Lovecraft” was not actually written by Lovecraft. When he died those friends worked to preserve his writing, going so far to create a new publishing house just to print his collected works. In the decades after his death, his reputation grew until his name was synonymous with the genre he created.

Some other life of Lovecraft facts.

  1. He never graduated high school, suffering some medical malady shortly before graduation. He also never attended any college class. However, he read a lot, making him an autodidact.
  2. In one anecdote, fellow aspiring writers would visit him and during these visits his mother would appear every hour to give him a glass of milk, which he drank.
  3. When his wife ran into financial difficulties, he attempted to find regular work and failed.
  4. His marriage eventually fell apart as she would travel for work and they eventually just stopped seeing each other. He agreed to a divorce, but never signed the final papers despite telling her he did.
  5. Speaking of his wife, a lot of his biographical details comes from her autobiography of being married to him. I believe this means some of the details we think we know about him might be embellished because “guy was perfectly normal” doesn’t sell books.
  6. He died living with an aunt at the age of 45.

So, we have somebody who had very limited social contacts, while being praised for his prose by a small circle. Like a lot of suffering individuals, he lashed out at a society that he failed to fit into. Part of this “lashing out” was being an Anglophile, choosing anachronistic words, and declaring himself born after his time. Another part was blaming the fall of society on the visibly different and the new arrivals (despite marrying one). If he had been born across the ocean and about one century earlier he’d be lambasting William the Conqueror as the ruination of pure Britannia.

So, the themes of man’s powerlessness and isolation? Yeah, he appeared to be writing what he knew. His fear of the “other?” This was a real fear, which he re-contextualized for himself as his natural superiority versus their natural inferiority. So, I guess I feel sorry for him. Is the subtext “certain people are inferior,” or “I am a lonely individual scapegoating my social inadequacies?” Perhaps some more confidence and getting out into the real world would have left him with different things to say about New Yorkers. He might also have been a lot less whiny and co-dependent.

What we are left with is a man who falls into the Steven Martin school of success, although success is strictly posthumous, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” Being that those works are off copyright, its not like we are denying a horrible person wealth by self censuring the mythos. Though we do deny him his far to human life by white washing the person.

This seems like a good point to just hit reply on an otherwise rambling post.


Pm don’t kick me cause I called Raymond Chandler a semi-rascist! (I’m kidding). (PM I haven’t read Farewell in a few years --but I know RC was very casual about his rascism in writing - though your point at Chandler’s writing the way things ARE in his books Is well taken).

So on this point (I’ve not followed the thread too closely) why am I a lot madder at Mel Gibson and Orson Scott Card (assuming their viewpoint is hate in some areas) but not H.P. Lovecraft or Raymond Chandler?

I have to deal with this everyday sadly. It is especially sad to learn that someone you respect had so much hate.


Probably because they’re alive, know better, and directly profit from people consuming their work.

It’s a lot harder to be mad at someone who grew up in the fucking 19th Century.


I don’t know about that, I still hold a massive grudge against James Abbott McNeill Whistler. He’s a dick!


Right you are Sir, you abject undesirable son of a female dog! what monstrous atrocities manufactured one with such abhorrent views and opinions?! The very thought freezes my cockles…


Cockles taste great when steamed with some white wine butter and garlic, and served over pasta. With a little tomato and onion, and a squeeze of lemon.

Coincidentally that’s what I had for dinner


That was yet another stellar post in this thread.

I do personally love Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night but I have always had trouble coming to grips with his violent anti semitism and support for the execrable Vichy regime.

I am pretty sure everyone in this thread can cite one or several guilty pleasures of this kind.


Let’s aim for Pythagoras. Gaming will be much better without all the racist baggage associated with physics engines. And 3D graphics.


I tend to agree with Nesrie and others on your postings in this thread overall, but this paragraph does IMO have a lot of truth in it. Leaving aside the whole “PC” thing (really, boil it down and what is being asked by the majority of people is no more than just simply be polite and don’t go out of your way to bother people for no reason), the true problems are institutional and systemic. Attacks on individuals are red herrings that serve the interest of the status quo and those in power. But people, from all sides of the spectrum, in the USA at least, seem to be constitutionally (hah!) unable to accept that their system is fundamentally flawed from the ground up and from day one.

Note that every society/government has to some degree similar structural issues. The difference is, most other nations have been forced to confront those issues, and to some extent try to rectify them. The USA, because we’ve never been throttled, occupied, jack-booted by invaders, etc., generally has never been compelled to examine itself.

Oh, and, um, Lovecraft! Yeah, bad dude. Kinda interesting stories. Would never invite him to the Purim celebration.


I was going to get offended and begin a flame war, but then I got hungry…


I wonder how Purim went down with his wife. Wow, what a muddled dude…


Actually this is a constructive comparison. I read 5 or 6 of his SoT novels before erecting a personal perma-ban. I won’t read anything he’s written, nor consume any related media. I’m trying to figure out what the difference is between him and Lovecraft for me. I’ll read Lovecraft, but not Goodkind. And I don’t know, they’re both hack writers, so it’s not quality. Maybe it’s that Goodkind’s injection of his personal philosophy into his writing is a little more obvious? Or that the SoT novels are really just polemic in a way that Lovecraft’s aren’t?


For me it’s always a case-by-case basis. I can still read Heinlein, even though I find some of his philosophy pretty odious. But I can’t read David Weber any more, despite his books being generally quite competent sci-fi fodder.


I’d agree with you logic. Now flawed comparison coming, because Lovecraft is racist and the other guy isn’t:

I, only with the foreknowledge of his personal letters and his wife’s bio later in life can see Lovecraft’s personal racist and xenophobic views in his work, after critical reading and seeing multiple allegories based on the previous private knowledge.

Heinlein (thanks, @CraigM) , however lets his personal political (not racist) beliefs positively shine through his work. I can’t think of one where his views and ideas on citizenship and the individual’s relationship to the state and society don’t shine like the sun on a clear summer’s day. No private letters and scrying stones needed there.

I sometimes thing the gaming journalism crowd just doesn’t wanna miss the “woke train” that all their other journalist pals are on. “We’re real journalists too!”. And all their young colleagues at other media outlets are all being as woke as woke can be. “I wanna be woke too!” I mean, sure, Lovecraft was a racist, absolutely. But that’s not exactly breaking news. And dealing with this sort of issue in the arts and entertainment isn’t exactly new either.


Complete side hijack but I am now imagining Lovecraft at his wife’s family’s place like an inverse of Annie Hall’s Easter…


Goodkind is literally, explicitly, and fully admittedly trying to use his work to convince you of his beliefs. He bristles at the idea of being shelved as fantasy because he thinks his books are Important ™. Lovecraft was a bigot whose bigotry manifested in his work, but they’re stories he’s telling, not philosophical treatises.