Racism Wasn’t Lovecraft’s Problem

 

A white supremacist towered over me shouting about how he ought to kill me when I was in the fourth grade. He was a Vietnam vet and a gun owner and was only restrained from attacking me by, well, people restraining him. I had committed the grave error of fighting back against his little brother-in-law who was my age.

This is the family that had discharged their firearms at people playing basketball at night from their balcony. They also kept a German Shepherd on their balcony, four floors up, with a giant bloody bone hanging from a chain on the wall to keep it company— a German Shepherd trained to attack on the command of “nigger.” The dog was set on me once using that command, biting my thigh when I complained about it getting sick near me; I was only able to escape due to that very sickness preventing the dog’s pursuit.

These memories came to me in the wake of the decision to retire the bust of H.P. Lovecraft used as the World Fantasy Award, during which time whites with guns patrolled a university campus looking for black people to shoot. There was debate online about the past being in the past, and fiction being about fun and not politics, and why do people with dark skin have to make everything about race. After all Lovecraft was alive a long time ago so what’s to be offended about? There were arguments about how racist Lovecraft really was and how damaging could that really be.

We’re talking about a time when Birth of a Nation was a huge film release lauded by the press and even receiving a standing ovation from the president of the United States, when segregation was enforced by the populace itself, when lynchings occurred throughout the North and South, when the cartoons in literature of the day did their best to portray almost every ethnic group in a horrible light, when the eugenics movement of the United States was so prevalent that it provided inspiration — and even direct support — for Hitler’s political career. The truth is that in comparison to his contemporaries Lovecraft’s bigotry was merely common. To view him, and his body of work, in that light is to acknowledge that much of what we consider classic literature all the way up through notable contemporary works was made by racists.

How we receive Lovecraft and his body of work is distorted by the fact that much of his era’s cartoons, film, music, and literature are out of print or lost to the sands of time. English is not an uplifting and inclusive language for many of us, nor have its stewards been uplifting or inclusive. English language writing has been the mortar of the wall separating us from opportunity for many years, shaping the thought processes which led to our condition.

As the title above suggests I posit the problem of Lovecraft’s legacy is not his bigotry. After all, there is a long stretch of history during which people were tortured for being left-handed. This is common knowledge, and there are still left-handed people among us, yet the cruel fate of so many left-hand people no longer figures significantly in our perceptions. Why? Because society adapted to include the left-handed fairly in all levels, and there are very few — if any — of us remaining who perceive the left-handed as a threat and something to stamp out.

Which is quite telling when it comes to racial bigotry: those of us who are of ethnicity not supported by Lovecraft’s bigotry react strongly because we are, in the course of our daily lives, still the target of such bigotry… And more importantly many of us still feel misgivings about those with dark skin pigmentation and whether they are to be trusted.

Even more crucial, though, is that which society fails to train us to look for. After all, institutionalized bigotry is now recognized as a “bad thing” but there are so many other issues which our society fails to address so readily. For example the lack of female existence in Lovecraft’s work or, when recognized, its malicious nature. As we are in a patriarchal system misogyny seeps into our world view when we are children, to such a degree that as adults it’s very difficult to even recognize what is in front of our faces. It is clear from the writings of Lovecraft that women are really better off not existing. When I read his work I am often reminded of the autobiography of Malcolm X in which he at one point proclaims Mecca so wonderful, and at another point comments that you would never know there were any women living in the city, but never directly connects the two thoughts, which add up to wonderful cities being places where there are no women. Lovecraft’s work is similarly wonderful, and while exploring it you would have almost have little indication that women existed in it. Save for the stray witch or two.

More startling still is Lovecraft’s depiction of the working class commoner which is far less kind than that of the farm animals which run afoul of the mutilating creatures populating his world. You see, the only worthwhile being in existence – for even gods are portrayed poorly by Lovecraft — was the one staring back in the mirror, which he perceived as being a highly educated man of reason hailing from English descent. Other pale skinned men from the westernmost reaches of Eurasia receive hideous treatment by Lovecraft, which I believe if perpetrated by myself or another dark skinned author would be received with anger or at the very least trepidation. Compounding the issue is Lovecraft’s seeming self-satisfaction at being an anthropologist working to preserve the various dialects of the North in the wake of post-Civil War efforts at language hegemony. I say compounded because he uses that very same dialect in character interactions to denote precisely whom is a worthless lump of meat to be ground underfoot by both cosmic horror and contemporary progress.

It goes without saying that the aforementioned racism applies not just to people of African descent, extending to those who are Arabic and from Eastern Eurasia or the Pacific Islands. If you’re from the Middle East or the Pacific rim it’s pretty much assured you are a devil-worshiping blight on the world – although it is likely you are at the very least more knowledgeable than those subhumans from Africa.

I originally intended to post this blog on the day of the Paris attacks, but when I saw the news I held back. My speaking out on issues of race and domestic terrorism in the past, when terrorism occurred overseas in foreign lands on the same day, resulted in my message not being well received. The intervening week and a half, though, have provided much in the way of insight.

The interval has seen “white student groups” on college campuses organizing to fight the “terrorism” of Black Lives Matter protesters, political candidates and voters alike proclaiming their radicalization, the mass shooting of protesters against police violence, the announcement of an award featuring a distinctly white bust of H.P. Lovecraft (as opposed to the bronze WFA bust) by those who wish to promote “white greatness” in literature, and so much more. *

I’ve also witnessed during this time quite a few people avowing their willingness to go overseas and protect citizens of other countries while remaining silent on the campaign against mosques and black churches, and reactionless in the face of violence against citizens of color and their continued inability to get justice.

Only after much struggle and effort have we managed to do something about a racist who was around 100 years ago, but it seems the racists who are around now are only growing stronger. The problem is not Lovecraft or his racism, the problem is us. Are you the person who took action and held back the white supremacist coming after my 10-year-old self, or are you the person who stood back and made excuses for him?

* Ironically this group tarnishes the memory of those they seek to deify by promoting their noteworthy “whiteness” as opposed to enshrining their works of exceeding skill, casting aside white greatness in favor of great whiteness. Whoops-a-daisy!

If you enjoyed this article please consider showing support by purchasing Sing Me Your Scars by Damien Angelica Walters or Luna Maris by Steven Archer. My own books can be accessed free through Kindle Unlimited or the Kindle Lending Library.

Related articles I’ve written are:

And now, “Dig Dug Has a Posse” by Rabbit Junk:

Women in Horror 2: The Revenge

WomenInHorrorDetails21We had scheduled this panel discussion in February for Women in Horror Month but it was postponed due to a snowstorm. However any month of the year is a good time for a Q&A with some of the most creative minds in the field, so we hope you’ll come out and join us. From horror poetry and short stories to novels and illustrations our panelists will make you check under the bed, twice! For up to date info join the Facebook event.

Ukazoo Books: Dulaney Plaza Shopping Center, 730 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson, MD

To prepare for this event we’ve done a series of spotlight interviews with each panelist. Here are links to those interviews:

Bios of the women participating:

Moderator: Stephanie Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, a book reviewer for Nameless Magazine, and a well-known coffee addict. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association and a graduate from Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her debut poetry collection, Hysteria, was a finalist for the Stoker Award and her follow-up, Mourning Jewelry is currently under consideration for this year’s ballot.

Donna Lynch is a dark fiction writer and the co-founder—along with her husband, artist and musician Steven Archer—of the dark electro-rock band Ego Likeness (Metropolis Records). Her written works include Red Horses, Isabel Burning, Driving Through the Desert, Ladies & Other Vicious Creatures, Daughters of Lilith, and In My Mouth. She and her husband live in Maryland.

Andrea Marie is a freelance Model and Actress currently based in Northern Virginia. Andrea has worked with various indie film companies and photographers up and down the east coast. When she was very young, Andrea’s love of horror began when her father introduced her to Abbot and Costello. From there it was all about the Universal monsters, which then led to interest in other horror films such as Subspecies, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre just to name a few. Andrea values every opportunity that comes along, no matter how big or small. Andrea is the featured model for the March 2015, Volume 1, Issue 2, of Maleficent Beauty Magazine.

If you would like to stay up to date on Andrea Marie’s latest projects, you can connect with her via Facebook, IMDb, and Instagram. For bookings and availability, email Andrea directly at: drea0906@yahoo.com. Serious inquiries only, please.

Jessica McHugh is an author of speculative fiction spanning the genre from horror and alternate history to epic fantasy. A prolific writer, she has devoted herself to novels, short stories, poetry, and playwriting. She has had sixteen books published in six years, including the bestselling Rabbits in the Garden her bizarro sci-fi novel, The Green Kangaroos and the first book in her edgy YA series Darla Decker Diaries. Visit the McHugniverse.

As a child, weekly trips to the library fostered Damien Angelica Walters’ love for reading. At the age of eleven, she saw the movie Alien and read Stephen King’s The Shining and her attraction to all things dark and atmospheric turned into true love. Her novel Ink was released in 2012 by Samhain Publishing (under the name Damien Walters Grintalis). Sing Me Your Scars, a collection of short fiction and Paper Tigers, are both coming in 2015. Visit her online.

Deena Warner graduated from UNC Charlotte with a degree in illustration. She has long had an interest in the horror genre and her artwork has been commissioned by presses like Cemetery Dance, Necon Ebooks, and Raw Dog Screaming. Deena has presented work at conventions across the country and was artist guest of honor at the Bram Stoker Weekend in 2011. She currently lives in Staunton, VA, with her husband, author Matthew Warner, two sons, and one loving feline.

RDSP On the Final Stoker Ballot

three stoker award finalistsWhen people ask me about publishing I always tell them I have a great job because of the caliber of people I am afforded the opportunity to work with, perform with, hang out out with. I’m sure a lot of publishers feel this way, but the people whose writing we publish are special. It’s nice to see the Horror Writers Association agrees with me! The HWA released the final ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards earlier today, and three of our books made it into that exclusive group. They are:

I would also like to congratulate our recent Women in Horror panel participant Damien Angelica Walters for her nomination in the short story category, although we have not been lucky enough to work with her in a publishing capacity. In fact, everyone on the ballot deserves accolades. Check out the other works listed, such as those from ChiZine, John Dixon, and so many others. The full details are available at http://horror.org/final-ballot-bram-stoker-awards/.

Women in Horror Success, the First of Many…

WomenInHorrorDetailsThank you to everyone who attended the inaugural Google+ On Air Hangout hosted by Raw Dog Screaming Press! We had a wonderful time, and the audience questions kept us on our toes. In fact, the reception online has been so strong that we plan to continue with a series of author interviews, panels, readings, lectures, and more via the On Air Hangout format. Stay tuned for details!

In the meantime you can watch our Women in Horror panel in its entirety at the Raw Dog Screaming Press Youtube channel, or using the link embedded below. I filled in for a participant who was unable to attend due to technical difficulties. Naturally, as the sole dudebro in the mix, I was the only one unprofessional enough to be caught stammering, “Uh, sorry, what was the question?” Regardless, there were plenty of insightful moments throughout, and it was an honor to join Jennifer C. Barnes, Jessica McHugh, Damien Angelica Walters, and Deena Warner for this event.

Today’s Women in Horror Event Reloaded

WomenInHorrorDetails You are invited! We have decided to make our Women in Horror event available to everyone worldwide instead of just limiting it to the crowd at Ukazoo Books in Towson, Maryland. You can now participate via the Goodle+ On Air Hangout scheduled from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time today.

February is Women in Horror month so we’re marking the occasion by having a panel discussion with several women working in the horror field. From poetry to short stories to novels and book illustrations these women will make you check under the bed, twice! Participants include Stephanie Wytovich, Jessica McHugh, Damien Angelica Walters & Deena Warner.

Of course, the inclement weather helped us to make a decision to move the event online. I should also add that Ukazoo Books has been incredible to work with, and I recommend you support them. Please help us out by sharing this change of plans far and wide using the share buttons below this post. Thank you so much! And, if you or your friends enjoy horror please consider attending the On Air Hangout at https://plus.google.com/events/c7lun2ilnbsfov7mbdga0f2j38s.

Three of our horror titles by women are on the preliminary ballot for the Stoker Award! Check out these brilliant books and talented authors at http://rawdogscreaming.com/3-rdsp-titles-make-preliminary-stoker-ballot/.

Want to support Women in Horror Month? Visit the official shop, make donations, or get involved at http://www.womeninhorrormonth.com/.

Also, check out the official trailer for our Women in Horror On Air Hangout: