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Old 09-03-2014   #21
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

I apologize for showing my ignorance but I didn't know anyone read Lovecraft for his racist content. I thought that everyone was like me. When I reach an overtly racist passage in Lovecraft's writing I just look up at the ceiling and say to myself, "Oh Howard! There you go again. (I have to admit I'm not a good judge of these things. I remember once a friend of mine told me that k. d. lang had come out of the closet. I have to confess that I never knew that she had ever been IN the closet.)
Seriously, there a lot of people out there who are trying to censor what we read in an effort to change our thinking to patterns that respond better to their political agenda. History is an obvious target. I guess all of Mark Twain is out the window as well as American History before the internet. No slave holders, etc. That will make it easier to substitute their own version of history for the factual, true history of this country. I think that this trend would worry both Octavia Butler as well as H P Lovecraft.

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Old 09-04-2014   #22
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

There are thematic problems with Lovecraft though; so much of his works focuses on fear of alien entities - and possibly combining with them - that it's understandable why someone might view his fiction as racist at its core. Whereas I still dislike "Fear of the Unknown" for pressing this interpretation to all others, I can no longer dismiss the possibility that xenophobia was the primary inspiration for Lovecraft. All I can say is that Lovecraft allows multiple readings - and many of these veer into subjects far more interesting and remote than racial purity and cultural conformity.

I also wonder how much of the renewed emphasis on Lovecraft's racism has to do with his association with "Geek Culture". His current vogue stems largely form his prominence in the gaming community and websites like Reddit, and these in turn have been roundly criticized for their misogynist tendencies and "colorblind" racism. The readership does reflect on the author, for better or worse.

Finally, there's the question of the end game: what do Lovecraft's detractors want us to do with him? He's a seminal English horror writer - I'd argue that his influence has outstripped Poe and others. Erasing him from history is also disingenuous when we still admire, say, the Italian Futurists for their artistic genius despite the fact that they could be considered the founders of Fascism.
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Old 09-04-2014   #23
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

Dr Locrian, maybe you misunderstood me slightly. I was not merely saying that the work stands or falls irrespective of HPL's racial views (which is true, of course), but that any attempt to explain away, or 'historicise' Lovecraft's racial views is to do the man a disservice. He was a writer of great weird fiction, the greatest epistolarian of the 20th century and a racist. Take him all in all.

And no, he was not a 'mere racist' or a simple one. He thought about it frequently and deeply. In my opinion those who seek to 'apologise' for him are merely cutting off his limbs so as to make him fit the Liberal Procrustean bed. If Lovecraft were around today would he be apologising for his views? Of course not!

And to be frank, I feel any attempts to 'apologise' for him are doomed anyway. He may have married a Jewish lady, but Sonia herself attributed the failure of the marriage largely to his anti-semitism and his reluctance to meet her Jewish friends and relatives. Also, I am not sure what Lovecraft's coming round to a modest form of socialism has to do with anything. This in no way affected his racial attitudes.

If there are those who choose not to read Lovecraft because they find those attitudes repugnant that is their choice. But when others seek to actively cut the man and his works to shreds because they do not share his views, that is unacceptable.
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Old 09-04-2014   #24
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

It's interesting that almost this entire thread has revolved around Lovecraft's racism and what it entails, despite the thread title and original issue being whether the statue should be changed to Octavia Butler. Since no one else is mentioning her, I'll just say that Butler is often at least as threatening and original a writer as Lovecraft, and in certain ways probably surpasses him. The end revelation in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" is only the beginning for what Butler does in Xenogenesis/Lilith's Brood, and Butler's Oankali seem vastly more disturbing than the Deep Ones, because their entirely alien mindset, morals and physiology are depicted realistically and in great detail rather than only glimpsed in purple flashes of horror. Sustained, believable depictions of inhuman otherworldly beings are incredibly difficult to pull off, but Butler manages it while bringing in all kinds of moral, sexual and political issues that Lovecraft mostly didn't bother with.

I still think a hybrid Lovecraft/Butler statue would be best, but if given a stark choice I'd probably choose Butler, just because Lovecraft has been culturally exhausted by this point, and writing in general would likely become more interesting if people started taking more cues from Butler instead of copying Lovecraft's ideas yet again, 80 years after the fact.

EDIT: I've read up some more and it seems that the principle objection is that Butler is not "World Fantasy" or "Weird Fiction" enough. This doesn't seem like a problem to me, but then again, I can't take "Weird Fiction" seriously as something that actually exists, so I'm probably not the best judge for this kind of thing.

FURTHER EDIT: Daniel Josť Older, who proposed the petition, doesn't seem particularly intelligent, and he does seem to be putting forward the idea mostly for political reasons, which I think Butler would have thought was stupid. It's a shame that an interesting idea like this came about from what I would consider to be pretty bad faith.
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Old 09-04-2014   #25
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

Seriously, these people are worried about HPL's "racism" from nearly 100 years ago?

Having only been in the USA 6 months I have seen more racism in the today's "now" these last months here than I have in my entire life.

HPL was a closeted/loner/et al, moreso than he was against specific races.

Mr Older should take his view to, The View, where intelligent discussion belongs.

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Old 09-04-2014   #26
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

Quote Originally Posted by Justin Isis View Post
The end revelation in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" is only the beginning for what Butler does in Xenogenesis/Lilith's Brood, and Butler's Oankali seem vastly more disturbing than the Deep Ones
Didn't know of Octavia E. Butler before this thread. Lilith's Brood sounds like fun, I'll have to read this. Also love the word xenogenesis : )
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Old 09-04-2014   #27
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

I'd object to a Butler statue due to the fact that, so far as I'm aware, there hasn't been 70+ years of films and hundreds of authors, artists, and directors crediting her as an influence.
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Old 09-04-2014   #28
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

Quote
The end revelation in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" is only the beginning for what Butler does in Xenogenesis/Lilith's Brood, and Butler's Oankali seem vastly more disturbing than the Deep Ones, because their entirely alien mindset, morals and physiology are depicted realistically and in great detail rather than only glimpsed in purple flashes of horror.--Justin isis
And that's the problem for me, Justin. If you continue to explore, say, The world of the Deep Ones after Lovecraft's climax the story turns into science fiction and not supernatural horror. I know that wouldn't necessarily be a problem for you but I'm a Weird enthusiast and although I enjoy science fiction I like my horror straight.

Fritz Leiber pointed out, rightly I believe, that the horror story by its very nature is Xenophobic. (I would add Pessimistic as well). In the horror story the unfamiliar, or the Stranger, or the unexpected revelation is never a Good Thing. Science fiction is different and a lot of the old time hacks used to think it superior because of its liberal mindset (Nothing we can't improve upon, nothing human ingenuity can't overcome, don't fear just understand the different!). It's healthy to overcome unreasoning fears but that's not what I seek from Weird fiction. Through some strange alchemy the Weird Tale at its best evokes genuine awe and wonder and transcends its limitations. But those limitations are as necessary as any border on an artist's canvas. It's a very different beast, it's not science fiction.

Robert Bloch once described The Thing as a horror film disguised as science fiction. He was right, of course.
There's a scene in the so-called Howard Hawk's version of the Thing when the scientist tries to approach it as one rational being to another. He's slaughtered. At that precise moment the film reveals its true nature.
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Old 09-04-2014   #29
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

The Colour out of Space has often been referred to as one of Lovecraft's science fiction stories. But I disagree; Lovecraft had absolutely no interest in exploring the nature of the entity or where it ultimately came from...and neither does the reader. That would have diluted the tale's power considerably. The thing rode a meteor into the valley and wrought strange and terrible destruction in its wake. Nahum was forced to follow in the footsteps of Job and watch helplessly as some vampiric thing brought madness and death to his family. It was pure horror...and all the stronger a story for it.

Why would you even dream of giving a bust of a talented science fiction writer as an award for exemplary works of horror?
As Justin pointed out, only a political agenda explains it.
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Old 09-04-2014   #30
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

Quote Originally Posted by Druidic View Post
If you continue to explore, say, The world of the Deep Ones after Lovecraft's climax the story turns into science fiction and not supernatural horror. I know that wouldn't necessarily be a problem for you but I'm a Weird enthusiast and although I enjoy science fiction I like my horror straight. Fritz Leiber pointed out, rightly I believe, that the horror story by its very nature is Xenophobic. (I would add Pessimistic as well). In the horror story the unfamiliar, or the Stranger, or the unexpected revelation is never a Good Thing.
It's an interesting point - if we grant that horror exists as a distinct genre, then we're looking at what seems to be a pretty tight formal constraint almost on the level of haiku. That kind of formal purity can be exciting, but I'm not sure the boundaries are ever that solid, or that there can be "real" horror any more than there can be "real" hip-hop.

Maybe there's truth to the idea that Lovecraft's science fiction horror is really just supernatural fiction with SF flourishes. I know Lovecraft was criticized for making the Elder Things in "The Shadow Out of Time" too human, at which point he presumably slipped into science fiction. But that said, I'd argue that you couldn't have any kind of cosmic horror without science fiction, and that the conception of an alien universe rather than just an alien forest out back results largely from the modern science with which Lovecraft was acquainted.

Similarly, I don't think science fiction's "explore it in detail" approach necessarily results in optimism, much less a liberal mindset. Much science fiction - including Butler's - often seems more horrifying than "horror", and everyone from Harlan Ellison to Greg Egan to J.G. Ballard has thrown out scenarios that are at least as pessimistic and demoralizing as anything in Lovecraft or Ligotti.

Quote Originally Posted by Druidic View Post
Why would you even dream of giving a bust of a talented science fiction writer as an award for exemplary works of horror?
Googling the World Fantasy Award, I see that it is described as "one of the three most prestigious speculative fiction awards" and is given to "those who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in the field of fantasy." There doesn't seem to be any focus on straight-up supernatural horror (which, keep in mind, Butler has written).

Anyway, as I said, interesting idea, just a shame Older doesn't have a better rationale for it.
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