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Old 09-02-2014   #1
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Topic Winner Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

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Let us admit...the hallucinatory nature of the world. Let us...seek unrealities which confirm that nature.
-- Jorge Luis Borges

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Old 09-02-2014   #2
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

I read Joshi's post on this fellow's campaign to make a bust of Octavia Butler for the W.F.A. award instead of the current H.P. Lovecraft one. S.T. Joshi is right in ridiculing Mr. Older efforts at being "holier than thou". Lovecraft held racist views in the context of his time, as did many of that period. Even H.G. Wells made some statements that today sound like he was in favor of "ethnic cleansing". Should we judge his whole work on the basis of these statements? If we want to be politically correct and narrow minded, the answer would be "yes", but we would be committing a grave injustice.
Robert Bloch wrote an excellent introduction to a collection of Lovecraft stories. In it he tackled Lovecraft's racism:

"Degenerative mutation also figures in "The Outsider," "The
Lurking Fear," "The Rats in the Walls," and in the grotesque
miscegenation of "The Dunwich Horror" and "Arthur Jermyn"
. Some critics cite this as a disguised example of the racism they
find evident in "He," "The Horror at Red Hook,"The Call of
Cthulhu," and other stories.
If Lovecraft was a racist we must recognize that the
term was not generally considered pejorative during his
own time. In the twenties and thirties, Anglo-Saxon super-
iority was virtually taken for granted not only in literature
but in daily life. And nowhere was this belief more pronoun-
ced than in New England. Here the D.A.R.(Daughters of the
American Revolution) held sway, and the inhabitants of the self-
styled Shrine of Liberty shuddered as their communities
were invaded by immigrants. Ignoring the fact that most
of these "foreigners" had been imported by blue-blooded,
100 percent Americans to provide cheap labor for their
factories, they watched in dismay as cities became crowded,
old landmarks gave way to new construction, and their
political, economic, and social control gradually vanished.
To Lovecraft these changes were anathema, and ex-
pressed his attitude both privately and in print. But his
views were not inflexible. As he matured he gradually came
out of his shell and his outlook broadened; the racist ele-
ment of earlier efforts is muted or absent in later tales.
And what sort of anti-Semitic author marries a Jewess,
associates with Jews as friends, and retains one as his
literary agent?"

This is the type of analysis the so-called Marxist China Mieville should have made.

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Old 09-02-2014   #3
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

There are always people with a wild hair up their bum who are all too willing to educate us on what they perceive as ignorance, whether it exists or not. I believe that Lovecraft would have moderated with the times. I'm sure there will be boycotts, speeches, and enough harrumphing to go around for years to come. No wonder the human race can't get out of its own way!

"Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

Lucian pigeon-holed the letter solemnly in the receptacle lettered 'Barbarians.' ~ The Hill of Dreams by Arthur Machen

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Old 09-02-2014   #4
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

I think it's fairly clear that good ol' H.P. held some less than polite views on other races and said some pretty nasty things in a letter or two. But to focus on those brief excerpts and make them the basis of his entire persona is somewhat stupid. I think it would be a bit like taking Sonia Greene's quote describing her then husband as "an excellent lover" and start painting Lovecraft as a sex machine. Who cares about his fiction, poetry and essays, he was a modern Casanova!

Incidentally, in one of the background pieces in the comic Yuggoth Cultures, Alan Moore puts forth the idea that stories like Innsmouth, Arthur Jermyn, Rats in the Walls and the like are not stories about racial fear, but about something akin to hereditary horror. I quote:

Quote
There seemed, in the story of Lovecraft's father and to a lesser degree his mother, to be a point where all the horrors of Lovecraft's stories actually connect with the real world of Lovecraft's life. A point where, if you can decode this babbling syphilitic traveling salesman of a father, screaming his paranoia into the night when he has a mental breakdown on the road... If you can decode that somehow into the Outer Gods of Lovecraft's fiction, of Wilbur Whately's brother screaming his father's name on Sentinel Hill before he dies...

In Lovecraft's stories there's a fear of degeneration, the fear of hereditary illness. The Lurking Fear, as Lovecraft himself puts itóthe idea that families could degenerate. And this is probably because Lovecraft feared that he may have had hereditary syphilis himself. He didn'tóhe'd got worse things to worry about, as it turned outóbut this was a fear that had played part of his fiction.
To me that sounds a lot more plausible than "they're stories about the dangers of diluting the race" and similar crap.
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Old 09-02-2014   #5
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

A time back some misguided soul wanted to do the same thing to the Hugo.

One is always free to create an additional award for excellence and call it The Octavia. I'm sure they can think of a category.
And remember: Writers are not forced to accept an award. They can always decline the honor.

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Old 09-02-2014   #6
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

I'll admit to being a fan of China Mieville, but he does speak a lot of nonsense at times. I think he's probably a bigger fan of Lovecraft then he lets on, but because he's so associated with the left wing in terms of politics, he probably feels the need to pay lip service to the whole "Lovecraft racist" angle.
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Old 09-02-2014   #7
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

I believe Mark Samuels once pointed out that Lovecraft's views on race were really not out of synch with the science of his time. That's certainly correct. {Even today you have a minority of scientists like James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA structure, putting forth views that most would probably label racist.} Lovecraft's racism adds, for me, a certain authenticity to the few stories in which it really appears (like ramonoski, I don't care to hear anyone insisting "Shadow Over Innsmouth" is just Lovecraft railing against the immigrants!). We cannot and should not pretend that Institutionalized racism wasn't once a force in this country. That's not a history lesson we should forget. And you can't blame Lovecraft for it. Other writers of the time, Jack London for instance, had views pretty much identical to Lovecraft's. Some people think they are making amends for the past when, in fact, they are trying to rewrite it.

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Old 09-07-2014   #8
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

I read somewhere recently--I forget where--that the accepted chronology of the actual writing of Hodgson's novels (based on their publication), may well be incorrect. It was fairly persuasive; and, if true, the order suggested by the essay's writer would be a complete reversal with The Night Land being his first book. In that case, we would be seeing Hodgson's evolution as a writer very differently. The House on the Borderland always struck me as very well written.

I, too, love The Night Land but Lovecraft is right: the second half is pure torture until the final pages.
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Old 04-25-2017   #9
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

I am extremely "touchy" about S. T., who is my hero and my greatest friend, and Lovecraft, who is the reason I became a weird author. Both S. T. and HPL come under attack so often, it seems--online, that is, which seems to breed a desire to post attacks. S. T. has never discuss'd awards with me, & keeps his in a dark corner in his basement, out of sight, rather than on ye living room mantel. Perhaps I am projecting my own sentiments regarding awards onto S. T. -- the one award that I adore is ye Robert Bloch Award--a beautiful sculpture with a glowing red three-lobe burning eye! Ia!

"We work in the dark -- we do what we can -- we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art."
--Henry James (1843-1916)
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Old 09-02-2014   #10
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Re: Octavia E. Butler against Lovecraft (World Fantasy Award).

We chatted of this at S. T.'s cook-out this past Sunday, where I defended China, a writer I keenly admire. We are all getting rather weary of people attacking Lovecraft for his racism. Ugly as it is (I speak as one of Jewish heritage), HPL's racism is eclipsed by everything that was admirable about him. The attacks calling Lovecraft a hack and a bad writer are too absurd, and I have been stupid enough to comment on them in various blogs, a behavior I nigh try to stop. Lovecraft doesn't need his obsess'd fanboy defending him, and no one takes me seriously so it doesn't help. Instead, I've been discussing why I so admire his work on my own blog, and continue writing book after book that pays aesthetic homage to Lovecraft's weird fiction. Just got a new book deal with Hippocampus Press this week and will spend ye rest of this year writing ye new material for that as yet unnameable tome.

"We work in the dark -- we do what we can -- we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art."
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