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Old 10-22-2014   #261
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

Quote Originally Posted by Druidic View Post
Rereading Conrad's Heart of Darkness recently, I couldn't help but think of Lovecraft and all the fuss over the 'racism' of a man born nearly 125 years ago. Heart of Darkness has been accused, with great vehemence and, I believe, great ignorance of being a 'racist' work. (I recall reading in Wiki that the words "racist" and "racism" didn't even exist in Conrad's lifetime.) How can a work that so vividly depicts the horrors and brutality of an inhuman and institutionalized exploitation be regarded as racist?

My point is simple: if Conrad is still subject to such charges how can we possibly expect Lovecraft to be immune to them?

For some, attacking the works of Conrad, Mark Twain, Lovecraft or other prominent older writers, is just a convenient and cynical way of pursuing their political agendas.

Touching on Heart of Darkness and Mark Twain, I am always surprised to read how high up Huckleberry Finn is on the Banned Book List. Why? Because of his use of the N word. Boy, that is a deep understanding of that novel! One of the things Twain is most well-known for his use of common vernacular. But to cry racism about Huckleberry Finn is beyond absurd. I am hard- pressed to think of a more moral book. Twain was also one of the loudest critics of King Leopold's exploitation of the Congo. I admire Twain a great deal and have read much of his work. Ken Burns did a very good documentary on him for PBS. Highly recommended.
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Old 10-22-2014   #262
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

Coincidentally, I am currently hard at work on a weird novella heavily influenced by Conrad's Heart of Darkness in which, oddly enough, all of these issues factor into it.

Along with a mind-blowing dose of cosmic outsideness of course.

Move over Apocalypse Now.

Mark S.

"You have no idea how much nastier I'd be if I were not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being." Evelyn Waugh
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Old 11-14-2014   #263
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

I'm a little late to the party, but I'd like to remind Octavia that It Could Be Worse.

I could understand the outrage if the H.P. Lovecraft bust were awarded for most positive contributions to race relations, but this is not an award honoring the author's achievements as a personal role mode. Let's not extend the scope of the award beyond its obvious intention.
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Old 11-15-2014   #264
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

Ben Noys on the intersection between malignant politics and supernatural horror fiction:
http://leniency.blogspot.dk/2013/11/...neo-weird.html

Noys is a drawing a contrast between classic weird fiction, "often resting on a sense of racial or political anxiety or threat" (HPL, Blackwood, Machen), and contemporary weird fiction where the toxic core of fascism tends to be integrated as "attractive possibility" (China Miéville, Grant Morrison, Reverbstorm...). "This is integration in the mode of disintegration, in which fascism, Nazism and racism are coded through and as the Weird ... a pained ‘enjoyment’ that reactivates the toxic core as aesthetic option."
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Old 11-15-2014   #265
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

I think it's hilarious the way adherents of critical theory desperately scramble to assimilate the weird whilst simultaneously denigrating its numinous impulse as reactionary.

Mark S.

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Old 11-16-2014   #266
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

Mark, in the case of Reverbstorm it's not exactly the numinous impulse that is deemed reactionary but the deliberate - and neutralising - representation of anti-Semitism, racism and paedophilic desire.

Beyond that I agree that it's probably reductive to explain the horror element just as effects of racial or political anxiety whether on a personal or a more cultural level. But how then to account for it?
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Old 11-16-2014   #267
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

There seems to be the same basic assumption in the article linked to that art must be subservient to politics. (By which I mean, the very common assumption nowadays that also seems to be behind the petition that this thread is about.) I have to admit that this drives me mad. To me, this is the attitude above all others that denies the possibility of shared humanity. There seems to be a complete inability with some people to detach themselves from the identification with opinion, but it is precisely the role of art to do this.

On the question of where the horror element comes from, let us, for a moment, even assume that fear has to be political (which I don't think it does). We have heard very often the idea that the right employs the "politics of fear", but in my observation the left employs fear quite as much. I have numerous e-mail subscriptions to environmental NGOs, PETA, and so on, and the headlines and rhetoric used in these constantly play on the reader's fear, often at a very childish level, telling us all how afraid we should be of extinction, or of this or that legislation, and so on.

As for the question of 'othering' - a phrase much loved by leftist rhetoriticians - there are countless examples of those on the left doing this, that is, reducing their political opponents to the level of the sub-human. To give one small example, I remember reading the story of a U.S. politician who had a child die when it was still very young. I believe it was born dead, or died soon after birth. The family decided they wanted to take the child home to spend time with it before it was buried. Online left-wing commentary was full of playground chatter about how the family were weirdos because they wanted to spend time with a corpse.

I know full well that, rather tediously, there are those who would take some of the above as an avowal of political allegiance, which it is not, but, the truth is, having grown up feeling a bit weird and othered myself, I find myself frequently alienated by the rhetoric used by those on the left because of it aggressive normative values. "Hey, we're all wild and crazy!.... But not in a dodgy way, you understand."

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Old 11-16-2014   #268
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

Quote Originally Posted by qcrisp View Post
in my observation the left employs fear quite as much. I have numerous e-mail subscriptions to environmental NGOs, PETA, and so on, and the headlines and rhetoric used in these constantly play on the reader's fear, often at a very childish level, telling us all how afraid we should be of extinction, or of this or that legislation, and so on.
I get a lot of those emails, mostly petitions, but don't you think it's at all legitimate to scare people with realistic threats? I dislike a lot of the way they are worded and I agree about the "othering" of right wingers. I dislike how supposedly caring people love such aggressive imagery.

During all that independence debate months ago, a lot of critiques were dismissed as dishonest fear mongering; in some cases maybe that was true, but why shouldn't we be scared of some bad things that might happen? A lot of the independence campaign was based on optimism but it was also fear of quite a few things.

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Old 11-16-2014   #269
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

Quote Originally Posted by Robert Adam Gilmour View Post
Quote Originally Posted by qcrisp View Post
in my observation the left employs fear quite as much. I have numerous e-mail subscriptions to environmental NGOs, PETA, and so on, and the headlines and rhetoric used in these constantly play on the reader's fear, often at a very childish level, telling us all how afraid we should be of extinction, or of this or that legislation, and so on.
I get a lot of those emails, mostly petitions, but don't you think it's at all legitimate to scare people with realistic threats? I dislike a lot of the way they are worded and I agree about the "othering" of right wingers. I dislike how supposedly caring people love such aggressive imagery.

During all that independence debate months ago, a lot of critiques were dismissed as dishonest fear mongering; in some cases maybe that was true, but why shouldn't we be scared of some bad things that might happen? A lot of the independence campaign was based on optimism but it was also fear of quite a few things.
Well, I suppose there are two main points here - one is that whether fear is justified or not is a separate question to whether it is the sole domain of the left or the right.

The point I was making above was primarily that.

But it's true that what I said was tinged with the assumption that fear-mongering is a bad thing.

I was writing in defence of weird fiction/horror in this instance, so I certainly don't think that fear-mongering is in and of itself bad (though that phrase is not neutral - I can't think of a better one at present).

I think the problem is when it descends into unconsciousness, which limits a view of one's options.

For instance, is extinction scary? I think it's enough to give information showing that we are (depending on the particular issue) a) causing the extinction of other species on the planet, b) in danger of causing our own.

At this point, someone can accept the information or not. Then, if they accept it, they can care or not. If they don't care, and one wants to make them care, one can try and use persuasion, and so on.

But let's say we accept the information, and that one of the tactics for making someone care is to say that extinction is scary, what does this really mean? Scary to whom, and why? It seems like a case of not owning the emotion - I feel scared, or even, I think you should feel scared, etc. So, it's a kind of projection.

I think that it closes off certain avenues of thought, and I think that we have to be able to explore all the avenues, mentally at least, to really know why we choose the path we do. And there are certainly better reasons to choose a path than because someone told you that the other path was scary.

There are plenty of things that scare me, and a moral sense does come in here, of course, but I have to at least wonder whether I am using morals self-righteously in such cases.

This whole thing is linked with the idea of bias, and I imagine it is impossible for a human to be totally unbiased, but the concept of impartiality is nonetheless recognised as essential in things like philosophical enquiry, legal process, psychotherapy, and so on.

I am sometimes discouraged at how rare it is for people to grasp the idea of impartiality as an ideal, even if it can never be perfectly achieved. For example, I was looking up a critique of arguments for the existence of God earlier, and found this customer review of it:




Quote
Unlike such recent anti-theist writers as Dawkins and Dennett, Mackie is extraordinarily charitable to the theists' claims, making sure to mention every possible argument in their favor and using only counter-arguments that could not possibly be considered controversial or contingent on a given scientific theory, etc. In fact, he is much more charitable in some places than is really necessary; I would not have the same patience with the meaningless phrasings of Swinburne or Küng that Mackie has.
I can only conclude from this that the author of the review has very little grasp of the aims of philosophy. Mackie is not "charitable". You don't call a judge "charitable" for consenting to hear witnesses for the defence. That is the process of law. Or, in this case, the process of philosophy. To use the word "charitable" in this context suggests the expectation that you weren't going to consider any evidence at all, but had intended from the start simply to do all you could to destroy the 'opposition'.

I think the kind of fear-mongering that I would especially flag as manipulative involves, like this, a lack of awareness of one's own bias.

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Old 11-16-2014   #270
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

I agree with qcrisp on the points he raised.
Fear-mongering is not a good thing (otherwise it wouldn't be referred to as mongering, right? LOL)
But its often done by the Experts. I don't wish to get into a debate here, don't have the time or inclination. But take much of the science today. Its become politicized to a point I find more than objectionable. These so called experts predicted an Ice Age in the eighties. In the seventies they predicted the demise of India with the rest of humanity soon to follow from starvation due to overpopulation. Do these guys ever say Man, I was really off the rails on that one? And please don't say Paul Ehrlich's time table was a little off. If I say to you that you will die tomorrow and when you don't I just repeat my prediction...well, yes, at some point I'll be right (unless I die first!).
And scientific research? Most of the big discoveries came about by accident. The cause of most cases of ulcers (except for medical ulcers) was discovered by a little guy named Marshall, a doctor in Australia who paid attention when a pathologist told him of discovering h. pylori in the stomachs of many he had down autopsies on. According to the experts h. pylori couldn't live in stomach acid. They laughed at this upstart when he put forth his theory that this little thing caused ulcers. He drank a concoction filled with it, became seriously ill and almost died from bleeding ulcers. They still laughed and mocked. Finally to shut this nuisance up they actually decided to, I don't know, maybe test it out under controlled conditions and...They stopped laughing. And what a strange coincidence followed. Now that ulcers was curable by antibiotics suddenly all thes antacids that had only been available by prescription before, hit the shelves of drugstores everywhere. Ulcer victims were no longer condemned to a lifetime of taking them so miraculously the FDA decided they were perfectly safe to buy over the counter. What a stroke of Luck for the Big Drug Companies that had faced the prospect of catastrophic financial loss! The experts had reversed themselves.
And as for Global Warming? It may be real, it may not be, but half of meteorologists don't buy into it because they know they have a hell of a time predicting the weather a few days ahead let alone a hundred years.
My point isn't about whether Warming is real or not, you can look up all the information on that and come to your own conclusion; my point is simply the experts are often wrong.
But they seldom call that to your attention. It's normal for human beings to make mistakes. It's honorable to correct them. But for too many the Experts wear badges of Infallibility. If I want to build a house, I'll turn to the experts for advice; but I'll continue to be wary of scientists and theorists who think selling the world on Fear is part of their job description.

Last edited by Druidic; 11-16-2014 at 09:34 PM..
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