Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lovecraft's Racism and the World Fantasy Award

Recently a controversy erupted when an online petition was posted urging the World Fantasy Convention to change the current award, a bust of Howard Phillips Lovecraft by cartoonist Gahan Wilson (the "Howard") to a bust of Octavia Butler.  I met Octavia Butler back in the 90's at the Foolscap convention in Seattle. I was totally unfamiliar with her work; but since she was guest of honor I introduced myself (as did Rosemary Jones and Kris Walberg) and we had a lovely and long conversation with her mostly about the Clarion West Workshop, which Octavia was of the opinion would benefit mostly young writers who are tabula rasa.  "If you have a body of work already," she opined "it may not be for you."  She impressed me as a lovely, kind, supportive writer of other writers and a genuinely approachable and friendly person.  Later I learned of her ouvre and how well regarded she was in the speculative, SF field and have never forgotten that encounter.  Later I happened to glimpse her in the downtown Seattle post office, and because she seemed busy and intent on her errand, I did not approach.

Fast forward to the petition.  My experience with Lovecraft was life changing.  I like many, saw those lurid covers on the Signet reprints of Lovecraft's work and had to find out what that was all about. This was in Iowa, back in the late 60's, early 70's when something that looked like THAT was unique and unbelievably counter to the cultural grain; however, I grew up in a very strange place--I need to write about that someday.  I submit that I was the ONLY 9th grader in the state of Iowa reading about Rosicrucianism and Wilbur Whateley.  Confession: I didn't read the Dunwich Horror at that time, I'd watched the movie, which enflamed my adolescent imagination with its highly weird juxtaposition of hillbillies, ritual magic and strange creatures from another dimension (and Sandra Dee's very, very sheer shroud)), and I devoured all things Lovecraft.

When the controversy erupted, I immediately assumed it was angry women of color complaining about honoring a dead white guy, which I suppose in all honesty, points to an implicit failing embedded in my own character.  I'd heard the "racist" appellation lobbed at HPL before, and I'd always considered it a reference to the "degenerate" tribesmen in such stories as The Call of Cthulhu. Then I wondered if maybe he'd written something in his voluminous collection of letters that might have been more explicit.  Nobody except scholars want to read those.  However, to my dismay and horror, I have just learned about Lovecraft's vile 1912 poem: On the Creation of N***s.  This was written when he was 22 years old, old enough to know better, and it's really no more than a few lines of doggerel.  While most of Lovecraft's work will be forever anthologized and collected and remain in print--this poem will also survive for an entirely different reason, and will likely never be included in any print publication.

If we are to take the poem at face value, we are to be assured of Lovecraft's explicit racism; not only does he call people of color subhuman, he suggested that they are evil incarnate.

At this point two other vile screeds come to mind: Richard Wagner's "Jews in Music" and Orson Scott Card's "The Hypocrites of Homosexuality."*  Both of which deny full humanity to the subjects in their titles.  My sympathies to those of Judaic heritage and faith who cannot and will not subject themselves to Wagner's operas.  Likewise, I fully understand gay people who will never, ever, purchase another work by Orson Scott Card. And I ask myself, would I ever accept an award named after Orson Scott Card?  And my answer is a definite no.  So my sympathies have extended to those of color who cannot abide the thought of being honored with a bust of HPL.  Since I will never likely win that award, I have no oar in these waters.  I believe that the bust should be replaced by something non-human. It can therefore avoid tokenism, which the Butler choice would surely indicate, and avoid enraging old white guys like me, who chafe at being accused of holding views by dint of racial association, which we do not, and would never, have.

*Lovecraft's poem is more egregious than these examples, as he used his art to fulminate his rancid views on race--neither Wagner nor Card are primarily essayists.  But Lovecraft was a poet who perverted his artistic sensibility to further an evil intent.

An award more importantly acknowledges the work of the living, Honoring dead, past masters should be secondary. Lovecraft's work is in no danger of ever being out of print, or ceasing to influence future generations of fantasists.  Let us preserve the sensibilities of all involved, and move past this.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Black Dahlia Avenger

Recently completed The Black Dahlia Avenger by Steve Hodel, narrated by Kevin Pierce.  The book was extremely well written and edited.  And very well narrated.  His case for George Hodel as the murderer of Betty Short, the Black Dahlia, is meticulous and compelling.  It is also persuasive.  The introduction is particularly essential.  In it Steve describes his relationship with his father, which was distant, but cordial, and seemingly free of any deep seated animosity, but redolent of a 19th Century relationship--very not close emotionally.  More like a soldier addressing his commanding officer.  They professed love, but I really detected more of a mutual respect for one another's existence.  Not quite familial love, not in the way I define it.  However, it is meant to put the remainder of the book into this context--Steve had no axe to grind with his father when he began investigating his father's involvement in the Black Dahlia slaying; which did not commence until after his father's death.

Steve Hodel is a former LA PD homicide detective and so he has the chops when it comes to homicide investigation.  He begins with the known facts of the case; timings, locations, witnesses to Betty Short's final weeks of life.  Then he begins to extrapolate the evidence, and connect events

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Shame

Back when I was a kid, my parents shamed me about running away from conflict--"Don't you have any PRIDE?"  I'll never forget that lacerating sarcasm from dear old mom.  Now that I've learned that lesson thoroughly, and take no crap from ANYONE, I'm told I'm too aggressive, that I should be more tolerant and/or don't burn bridges.  What gives?  Isn't shame a perfectly good teacher?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Politics; Cantor Loses Primary


The TEA PARTY does not represent the "Will of the People" any more than the WESTBORO BAPTISTS represent the "Will of God."

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-06-10/with-eric-cantors-loss-the-republican-civil-war-is-about-to-explode

Saturday, May 3, 2014

May 2, 2014

Yesterday, May 2, 2014, was the 3rd anniversary of Osama Bin Laden's execution by Navy Seal.  And nothing much happened...  No missing Malaysian plane carrying a dirty nuke reappeared to explode anywhere.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Gl├╝ckliche Todes Tag

April 30, 1945. The Germans have a word for Hitler's final act: "Selbstmord." It's apparently something one performs--like a rite. Like seppuku. Apparently fascists think self-slaughter is theater. One wag once said: "Gotta love old Adolf--he was the guy who killed Hitler. Then another wag chimed in, "but you can still hate him, because he was the dude who killed the guy who killed Hitler."

April 30th: a.k.a. Walpurgisnacht: Walpurgis Night (in German folklore) the night of 30 April (May Day's eve), when witches meet on the Brocken mountain and hold revels with their gods...

So, have a bonfire and dance naked in celebration.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Killer Fruit

"Are you familiar with the term "killer fruit"? It's a certain kind of queer who has Freon refrigerating his bloodstream. Diaghilev, for example. J. Edgar Hoover. Hadrian."
     --Truman Capote, Answered Prayers

Answered Prayers is an uncompleted novel.  Excerpts were published in Esquire Magazine in 1976, with the result that Capote was alienated from all of his elite social contacts in New York.

I'm thinking of using "Killer Fruit" as the title for a true crime book.