Cthulu Game Creators Acknowledge That Lovecraft Was A Racist

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Cthulu Game Creators Acknowledge That Lovecraft Was A Racist

H. P. Lovecraft was a very talented writer whose Cthulhu mythos is one of the absolute great works of modern fiction. He was also—and this is something very few companies profiting off his works will acknowledge—a massive racist.

I’m not talking about “oh, this was the old days, he had some antiquated views like a lotta folks did” kinda racism. Lovecraft was a straight-up white supremacist, whose personal writings on Italians, blacks and Jews were as horrific as any of his supernatural horror stories. This excellent piece for Literary Hub by Wes House summarizes:

His letters overflow with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of an underground Jewry pitting the economic, social, and literary worlds of New York City against “the Aryan race.” He warned of “the Jew [who] must be muzzled” because “[he] insidiously degrades [and] Orientalizes [the] robust Aryan civilisation.” His sympathies with rising fascism were equally transparent. “[Hitler’s] vision . . . is romantic and immature,” he stated after Hitler became chancellor of Germany. “I know he’s a clown but god I like the boy!”

And his contempt for blacks ran even deeper. In his 1912 poem entitled “On the Creation of Niggers,” the gods, having just designed Man and Beast, create blacks in semi-human form to populate the space in between. Regarding the domestic terrorism of white minorities in the predominantly black Alabama and Mississippi, he excused them for “resorting to extra-legal measures such as lynching and intimidation [because] the legal machinery does not sufficiently protect them.” He lamented these sullen tensions as unfortunate, but nevertheless says that “anything is better than the mongrelisation which would mean the hopeless deterioration of a great nation.” Miscegenation permeates his letters and stories as his most corporeal fear; he insists that only “pain and disaster [could] come from the mingling of black and white.”

Yeah, yikes. So it’s nice to see Evil Hat Productions, the team behind the upcoming tabletop RPG Fate of Cthulhu, include a note in the book referencing this:

Here’s a bigger version if you’re on a phone:

I say it’s nice because across comics, board and video games, I don’t remember ever seeing this before, despite it being one of the great unspoken facts behind so much of Lovecraft’s inspiration and writing.

Nobody is saying don’t indulge in works of a Lovecraftian nature. This is coming from the folks behind a game based on Cthulu, after all. But, just as Warner Bros. has done with its pre-cartoon warnings, it’s still important in the 21st century to acknowledge (if only for the sake of education) that some of our most beloved works come from a less than agreeable place, and hopefully this convinces other companies working from Lovecraft’s writings in 2020, like Fantasy Flight, to follow suit.

Comments

  • The block quote was more offensive than the concept of this article, or awareness of Lovecraft’s overt racism, in works hardly anyone would read, not tied to the mythos… Shedding light on a negative niche of clearly appalling writing, thereby promoting it wholly, well done…

    • While I see your point, I’ve seen so much pointing out that Lovecraft was a racist without providing any detail to back that up. Even that manual asks you to look up the cat’s name yourself, and when I did, the primary result was a forum post defending him.

      I guess my point is, at least the author is attempting to back themselves up with evidence.

      • If it makes everyone feel better, he was never able to support himself from earnings as an author and editor. He died an early lonely death from intestinal cancer at the age of 46. Unsuccessful from any of his literary works, He was never in his life able to support himself from his works as an author or editor and he died in abject poverty.

      • sadly that is the modern standard of journalism at work here.make a lot of allegations and provide no proof of those allegations,look at all the forms of media today.i do not see any difference in approach. even our own politicians are in on this game.and it does not matter what part of the world you come from it is the same. just my thoughts and observations over 47 years of life.

        • The Streisand Effect is when attempting to hide information results in much more people knowing about it. Not really related to the correlation between expostion and promotion as far as I can tell…

          • It’s an inverse relationship, I guess? In theory exposing it lessens the Streisand Effect, therefore achieving the opposite of promotion?

  • ‘Look I’m going to spend a pile of internet ink explaining that for his time Lovecraft wasn’t *that* racist.’

    Sure, but given you feel the desperate need to do that, what’s YOUR excuse in 2020?

    • Who are you referring to? Not the author of this article, obviously, as they spent ‘a pile of internet ink’ explaining that he was quite the racist. And the team behind the game spent some real-world ink pointing it out when they didn’t really have to… The point of this article.

      • ….and why did this happen?

        Because lots of people (and by people I mean racists) over the years have engaged in this behaviour.

        If you’re curious as to what a self-identified racist may look like, check out the downvotes on comments here.

    • guessing his boss was breathing down his neck to get a story out.as there seems little research was done with this story.

    • To be fair, I think this is an entirely personal decision, there’s no objective answer. I like Burzum’s albums even though I think Varg Vikernes is a massive idiot; I still enjoy Black Books and The IT Crowd, even though Graham Lineham is a detestable human being.

      However if people object to certain works due to the creator’s ideology, I think its entirely understandable.

      • Ok now I’m intrigued. As another Blook Books/IT Crowd/Father Ted fan why is Graham Lineham a detestable human being (I guess that’s my second Google search after HP Lovecraft’s cat)?

    • Less relevant when they’re dead.

      I don’t want a racist to benefit from my patronage but if the bitch is dead then bring on some Cthulhu.

  • But… is it relevant to the game? I feel there’s a difference between

    “Tom and Jerry shorts may depict some ethnic and racial prejudices that were once commonplace in American society. Such depictions were wrong then and are wrong today.”

    And:

    this game “deals with many hard topics, including mental health, systemic abuses of power, and the deaths of huge portions of the human species.” Oh, and by the way, the author was a giant racist.

    Feels like saying “Tom Cruise was great in the new Mission Impossible – I really liked the way he did that scene where he did the thing. I feel I should mention he’s a scientologist, though.”

    I introduced my dad to Rats in the Walls and Cats of Ulthar and a few other of his short stories a couple of years ago, and because of everyone’s need to caveat his stories, I mentioned his racism – his response was “Why? Is it relevant?” I had no response, because no, it really wasn’t.

    • A closer analogy would be saying “Battlefield Earth is a science fiction movie, it’s also based on Scientology propaganda”.

      His racism often bled into his stories (he was especially fond if describing violent outsiders as being “half-ape”) and it’s something that should be discussed.

      • What would be the reason to have to discuss it though other than to feel morally superior? Feels like a low hanging fruit considering the bloke can’t even defend himself anymore.

        • Because you shouldn’t look past the shit or excuse it. You should acknowledge it so that people have n honest understanding of the work and how they feel about reading it.

          • Brave and stunning to pat each other on the back about being morally superior to a guy who died 83 years ago. I feel like that energy could be put to better use doing almost anything else.

      • he was especially fond if describing violent outsiders as being “half-ape”
        I’d encourage you to read some of his works that aren’t The Horror at Red Hook – it’s oft cited for its overt racism, but I don’t think anyone would actually recommend reading it, and it’s not indicative of the rest of his stories. Hell, it was written in the space of just two days, and even Lovecraft didn’t think it was very good.

        You say he was especially fond of it, but a cursory search for “ape” or “simian” in the full texts of his major works of fiction (with the exception of Red Hook), as published on hplovecraft.com, returns a lot of references to literal apes and some fanciful creatures/monsters (eg. The Lurking Fear), but just two references to people – one from Shadow over Innsmouth (which I read as a being a cautionary statement on inbreeding for centuries in an isolated community; potentially offensive but not particularly racist), and one in a co-written story I’ve honestly never heard of – The Diary of Alonzo Typer – that is probably more objectionable.

        • From firsthand experience, I was referring to Herbert West Reanimator (which I know doesn’t have the best reputation of being a good example of his best prose). But, I have heard the reputation of Red Hook. It’s more that knowing Lovecraft’s personal biases allows us to read into his subtext, something I find worthwhile for all writers (Not just racist ones)

          • Personal preference, I suppose – I find most of his works far more compelling without his subtext. That aside, where in Re-animator is that? The only use of “ape” in that story is purely aiding in the physical description of the monster:

            in all, seventeen maimed and shapeless remnants of bodies were left behind by the voiceless, sadistic monster that crept abroad. A few persons had half seen it in the dark, and said it was white and like a malformed ape or anthropomorphic fiend. It had not left behind quite all that it had attacked, for sometimes it had been hungry.

            One would think his description of the unconscious Buck Robinson would have been considered farm more damning prose.

          • That’s exactly what I was referring to. Apologies for getting ape and gorilla confused, but it’s not to read this description of a black boxer and not say “Yeah, that’s overtly racist”.

            He was a loathsome, gorilla-like thing, with abnormally long arms which I could not help calling fore legs, and a face that conjured up thoughts of unspeakable Congo secrets and tom-tom poundings under an eerie moon. The body must have looked even worse in life—but the world holds many ugly things.

          • Fair enough. I hope you can understand my confusion, given your original comment referred to “violent outsiders”, not an inert corpse.

    • Because art is never fully removed from such things. Such things can and are tainted by an authors personal beliefs. Sometimes the art created is brilliant because of it, and sometimes (in time) it makes some works of art ‘rotten’ in modern senses.

      See novels by Mark Twain, stories by Poe, even people like Agatha Christie. On face value many of them are racist from our point of view, BUT because (for the most part) the racism or associated beliefs werent the point of the stories, merely a reflection of the social attitudes of the time. Which makes them still highly readable. Then there are some authors whose very writing is nothing but propaganda for their beliefs. A bad example is Battlefield Earth, a good example is Dune. Subtly being the key.

      So much of classic Science Fiction is a reflection of the time, like with John Wyndham. You can just read the novel, without understanding the time they were written or the authors views, and they are a cracking read but when the reader understands the author, the time they are writing, eg great threat of communism of the time, suddenly the books are far far deeper. But to your example, that is why I think saying that author is a racist IS a very relevant, as it changes the very nature of what you are reading. For me, as a history person, that is a fascinating thing. His racism defined his writing. Sometimes.

      Context is everything.

      • As an very loose aside, I’ve been watching Electric Dreams and its been interesting (and sometimes disappointing) to see how Phillip K. Dick’s short stories have been re-contextualised for a modern audience (although some episodes completely drop certain themes and commentaries Dick was making with his original story, hence disappointing).

      • This is a very well written point, and I agree with it for the most part.
        But is it really that relevant to a game that is based off the original works?

        I’m totally on board with your points, and I’m totally on board with the game team getting out ahead and saying “look, there are problems with this guys opinions, be we love his work and made a game off it”. But I would argue that it wasn’t necessary and doesn’t do anything much to contextualise the game.

        I could be wrong, and am open to other opinions on the matter.

        • True but lets face it there WILL be some who will make it a thing, whether they truly care or just trying to force an outrage campaign for their own amusement, so perhaps the devs thought ‘this is going to come up so lets get in front of it’, to own the narrative. I can personally see why they did it.

    • Well mentioning it with regards to Rats in the Walls at least sheds light on why the cat was called ‘Nigger Man’ (after Lovecraft’s own cat), although subsequent re-prints since 1950 he was called Black Tom.

  • You have to seperate the art from the artist. As the fact that Lovecraft was such a prick has little impact on the vast majority of the mythos (at least in the stories I’ve read).

    If we are going to demonize works of racist authors we are going to be here a long time.

    • We arent demonising his works, but the author himself. Sometimes his putrid beliefs had a big impact of his works, and sometimes he did what good authors do, restrained his beliefs and just told a cracking tale. So many authors, nah artists in general, the world over have crossed that line from time to time. Whether on purpose or not. As I said elsewhere, context is everything.

      • Maybe it’s more the fact I don’t quite understand the value of pointing out that he was such a horrid person (this may be the fact I knew this about him already).
        The discussion always seems to be along the lines of:
        The deceased author had X views.
        Yes
        You can see evidence of his views here here and here.
        Yes
        Was his story good anyway and still have merits despite his views
        Yes.

        All those points can be argued I guess. I just see very little benefit to be gained from it.

        • Because it gives a greater understand of the text. For better or worse. The same could be thrown at virtually every good author over the years. Understanding Stephen Kings politics helps his characters (especially in the last decade) pop much further out of the page. They are carefully drawn and highly believable in the setting but if you have knowledge of him as a writer, they are all the more scary and real. Same with Dickens, understanding who he was in his era, how he was perceived by his peers, where he came from, makes all of his novels 100 times more deep.

          Just like understanding (or trying to) Alan Moore makes Watchmen a completely different tale. Or where the world was when HG Wells wrote ‘War of the Worlds’, that science fiction morality tale suddenly means so much more.

          It is all about putting the piece of art in context of the era, in the context of who the author was. As with anything, people rarely create art because they are bored or to simply entertain. To appreciate and understand is to question things… who is telling you something, where are they coming from and why are they telling it to us.

      • You aren’t wrong. That racism did tend to leak through into his work a lot when he talked about immigrants and cult members

  • It’s not really relevant unless they plan to use exact book points in the game. if they follow a lovecraft written story then pointing it out might help to cover why design choices were made. inclusion of or exclusions of dialouge or events that were novelised et cetera. if this is their own interpretation and expansion on lovecraftian horror in general bringing it up just feels like an excercise in moral superiority by saying “at least we admit it!” .

    • It was relevant enough for them to put into the gamebook, so obviously they thought it was important to address (and, consequently, something we should talk about too).

      • I’d have to learn more about the game first. if it directly draws from lovecrafts own works (rather than their own thing or someone elses stories) then it is, otherwise it’s not. Lovecraftian horror has been divorced from Lovecraft himself for decades. their are a lot of very good horror writers out there. if every time something related came up and needed the warning it honestly feels like an insult to all the other writers working to improve the work.

        that is why I’ll stick with my prior statements. I will admit it could be relevant but, the article doesn’t really have enough information. I don’t want to take anything away from anyone but, Chtulhu and his ilk are beyond lovecraft himself now. there’s a wide world of authors making their own stories so I just don’t want the entire mythos to be perputually stained you know.

        it’s like Volksvagen. they are a far cry from their early days. it’s not like every car they sell says “no longer Hitler approved” you know.

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