Lovecraft - the geek laid bare

A shame Lovecraft didn’t extend such courtesies to blacks and people with ‘swarthy’ complexions. Let us also drape a veil over the batshit racism of “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family.”

I am a massive Lovecraft fan, but I will not excuse nor defend nor try to explain away his racism or his many failings as a writer. He was a bit of a shit, most evident when even a Texan like Robert E Howard was gobsmacked at his bigotry.

Perhaps the real reason, however, that Lovecraft’s bigotry is controversial is because it lays bare the ugly truth of geekdom - far from being ennobled by our marginalisation, we instead internalise it and embrace all the other nonsense that gets shoved into the margins to boot.

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There’s a reason I said that the Mountains of Madness was the least xenophobic thing he wrote. I think if you read that one book you wouldn’t necessarily be aware that Lovecraft was a vile racist (though it would hardly surprise me if there are some offhand racist comments for no reason that I just don’t recall - I mean, you’d think that Dream Quest wouldn’t need to be racist but he just couldn’t help himself, apparently).

My objection to David Nickle’s blog post that started the thread is that I think he’s just dead wrong about where Lovecraft’s horror comes from. (My own rebuttal blogpost has a staggering 34 pageviews!) I think that being meaningless is the central theme of Lovecraft, not xenophobia. Racism is so baked into Lovecraft’s own worldview that you can see it dripping off his work.

By saying that Mountains was the least xenophobic thing he ever wrote, I’m not even remotely saying he wasn’t an awful racist, or that his racism isn’t so bad that it leaps from the page in many of his stories, but I do think that Mountains was an accidental island in that sea of racism. I guess I find the idea that someone could read that and come away thinking that the central fearsome thing in the story was the old ones bizarre. The central fearsome thing in the story is that there were old ones, and older things still.

None of that means that Lovecraft wasn’t racist. Lovecraft was crazy racist, and probably just an awful person.

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