I recently got into the iOS version of a popular Fantasy Flight game called Elder Sign (Elder Sign: Omens for iOS). It's a table-top game with a myriad of cards, representing investigators, adventures, and items, as well as various types of tokens. Your outcomes during adventure play are determined using dice, but there's a whole lot of strategy involved.
The entire thing is based on Lovecraft mythology, something I previously only had a passing knowledge of. I knew he was an inspiration for Stephen King and the creator of the Cthulhu mythos. But the more I dug around, the less I liked what I was learning about the actual author, namely he was a big fat racist (well, he wasn't actually overweight, but you get the gist). Though he was wed to a Jewish woman, he was an outspoken racist who seemed to believe that people of color were trash.
Now, it's easy to say, well, that shouldn't affect your appreciation of his work if the writing itself is good, but I think it's understandable that anyone would be concerned about, at the very least, being subconsciously influenced by such a destructive personality trait -- that was my initial response.
But the Call of Cthulhu mythology is undeniably alluring, with its noir settings and absolutely dreadful creatures and outcomes. The Elder Sign game is addictive beyond belief, and I must admit, I'm now quite curious to delve into some of Lovecraft's novels. It's an interesting quandry, but one I don't think can be so easily dismissed.
I think another concern is, are the other folks into his writings interested solely because of the horror tales, or are they in agreement with his racist views? It's impossible for me not to wonder when encountering folks who are raving fans of Lovecraftian lore.
The guy's been dead for close to a century now, but it seems his horror has lived on in more ways than one. Is there a writer/game maker/artist that has presented you with a similar challenge philosophically?
I have loved the Cthulhu mythos since my early teens and as for me I didn't really notice any obvious racism in Lovecrafts books. I wasn't even aware that he was racist until much, much later, so I wasn't looking for any such thing when I first read the stories and just didn't read any such things into them.
The main characters in his books are usually only caucatians (if indeed not exclusivly caucatians) and when anyone "of color" appears in his books they are usually just supporting characters and not fleshed out very much at all... If one reads the books looking for the racism one might very well find that the colored and jewish people he is describing might be quite sinister, but as for me I never thought of that as a statement about ALL such people, just the ones that happens to be in the story. To be fair, most of the caucatians he describes are a fairly unsavory lot as well, up to and including the protagonists. It is the Cthulhu mythos after all and unsavory characters is pretty much a staple of the franchise.
I could go on for quite a long time on this subject if I allowed mysef to do so, but the short of what I am trying to say I guess is this: No, you don't read Lovecraft to get your racist jollys on and as a fan of the stories I am acctually somewhat insulted by the suggestion. Just read the books before worrying about any goosstepping squid-fans out there, and do please try to keep the looking-for-racism goggles off while you are doing it.
what came to mind was my loathing for ea and my love of an old game called Dark Omen and Shadow of the Horned Rat.
I hate Tom Hanks when I see him in interviews, there was one in particular that he did shortly after Forrest Gump, and it left me with a bad impression of him as a person, but I do enjoy his work, lol.
We live in a different time. History is littered with incredible artists and prominent figures that did things which would be considered horrific or appaling by todays standards. From Da Vinci, to Ghandi, many historic figures held questionable beliefs or commited disturbing acts just as, if not more shocking than Lovecrafts.
It's not overly present in his stories, so it has no bearing on my enjoyment of them or my respect for him as a writer.
I'd read or heard somewhere that towards the end of his life, after his marriage to a liberal Jewish woman, Lovecraft essentially repented of his former views, and wound up voting for FDR!
At the Mountains of Madness is my personal Lovecraft favorite. I have compilations, and reading one story after another... the formula begins to become predictable. But Mountains has a great build-up, is well-paced, and definitely a good place to start.
Never read Lovecraft; does of the aforementioned racism come out in his writing? Some of the best artist are terrible (or very flawed) people.
@yomonkey Not so much. It was his private opinion, kept to letters to like-minded friends and perhaps essays (though he wasn't much of an essayist).
but yeah Raven Software were the people who made the game and they made an AWESOME game at that!!
Anyways loved the game and that dev company!!!
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I'ma huge fan of Jedi Knights 2 & 3 but I think they were both published by Activision.
That game is awesome, always got the best scores
Single Saber + Strong Stance jumping attack
Force Pull with keybind backstab or jumping backstab
Tons of other tricks but don't have the time to post them all
Too bad it was from Activision who *cough* would pull something like corporate espionage and 'block' the public from that truth as much as possible.
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As somebody who has read all of his works (save "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath," which for some reason has escaped my attention) and many of his letters, I can assure you his works are far from racist. I would not worry about that.
I also feel I need to correct you a bit. He did not believe that other races were trash, but he did believe they were less evolved, which was a commonly held belief of the time, and an especially common belief of the 19th Century, which is where Lovecraft's sensibilities seem to have been stuck. The belief in lesser races leads him, as it lead many and is natural, to believe that evolutionary law requires us to leave the lesser races behind in order to advance, just as one would not carry a brick if you were running a marathon. He was not hateful, he just did not believe others were as advanced as his own race. It was, in fact, a very common belief, not just amongst authors, but of scientists, scholars, and academics. The entire purpose of Darwin's second book was to accentuate the idea that mankind's races are intermediate forms, and that text did not come out so long before Lovecraft began his career. The fact that he was outspoken on his opinion of it means little save that he had an opinion of how to best advance humanity as a whole.He was wrong, of course. I feel I should state that, in case you confuse a defense with an agreement. Lovecraft looked at the facts and the opinions of those above himself and reached a conclusion that mankind would be better off without having to drag around "lesser" races, much as his predecessors did. I think that if there existed "lesser" races, he would be correct. His opinion that we leave them off was only at fault because we now know and accept that we are all human, all equal, and all have something to contribute.
@nomoredroids Not to go off on too much of a tangent -- and I do appreciate your comment -- but to say that "if there existed "lesser" races, he would be correct," that too would still be racist. "Lesser" is always going to be subjective unless you're...God. I can't see it in any one human being's purview to cast such a judgment. And what would be the judgment if it were? Perhaps the same judgment we have rendered on the rest of animal life on this planet -- to trudge over it until everything but us is gone? Sounds bleak to me.
Lesser? How about different? Sentient doesn't necessarily equal sovereign. The universe seems like an awfully big place.
@GeekyDad My point is not that he wasn't racist. He most certainly was. My point is not that 'lesser' is accurate. It certainly isn't. My point is that Lovecraft was not an anomaly; he was merely vocal in his opinions, which happen to be shared with a myriad of others from the same time. In addition, I mean to state that to fault somebody for being wrong about something is hypocritical.
When I say "if there existed lesser races," I mean it as a hypothetical, not factual. Surely Lovecraft is correct in believing that to achieve we must throw off hindrances? The difference is that Lovecraft was operating under a false set of pretenses and facts. Particularly, the untruth that certain other races are less developed. If there are races less developed and natural selection is the means by which we evolve, then it is only natural that we stop caring for those who happen to be less developed, if we wish to evolve.
In my own opinion, which I have not divulged before now, I do not see evidence that supports the idea of racial inequality, inherited traits, or genetic attributes unique to race. I suspect you don't either. To us, then, and to many in the culture, the idea that we leave behind a people group is absurd and unkind. They are all people, after all, and they all contribute. So for us, to advance we believe we must learn to cooperate and meld one culture into another, so that we gather the good things of both without sacrificing either, supporting the weak and needy.
I am not saying Lovecraft was correct, merely pointing out that he was operating with false information. Information that was common belief amongst scientists and scholars of the time. I say this because I find it is unjust to throw out his work based on a misunderstanding of his position.
@SeptuagintXXX @GeekyDad That is almost precisely the definition of racism. The belief that different races have differing, innate traits. Racism does not imply hatred, only that you believe there are genetic traits passed on among the races. Which most everybody believed back then. Which made them racist. Only then, it wasn't a dirty word, it was just a belief based on the evidence as they had it. I feel like I'm repeating myself. Oh, wait. I am. Please read my posts in full before you tell me what I mean by something.
@nomoredroids @GeekyDad you say that he "most certainly" was racist. This just isn't true, at least not in the sense that you mean it. The idea that the races are "equal" didn't come about until the 1980s and the whole psychiatry and politically correct movement. Even the most ardent abolitionists believed that certain races were superior to other races. In fact, up until very recently with advent of neuroscience and the ability to map pathways in the brain, all of the objective, empirical evidence suggested that certain races were superior to other races.
Interesting blog! I am inclined to go with what SciFiCat Bravo said. There should be no reason that you can't enjoy the works of someone that you personally find abhorrent. I think if you are aware of a person's particular leaning and influences then you can read their work with an objective head.
Also, it is worth reminding yourself that in the case of Lovecraft he was writing in a different time, when ideals were different to present day. I think it becomes very problematic to start to censor works from a certain time because, political, social, economic, etc. beliefs and values differ from those of today.
You show me greatness and enduring talent and ninety nine times out of a hundred I'll show you a dramatically "uneven" personality.
There is a pervasive liberality in America that inexorably condemns certain unsavory traits - particularly racism and sexism, lately - and while it's correct to educate against bigoted/antisocial ideas, I think that too much of our idealistic consciousness plays into the dark and private motivations of those who's works we admire. The same broad stroke seems to be applied for those who might be relatively harmless ranting loons and those who are outright malevolent and destructive.
Whether someone dies alone and abandoned due to their societal transgressions or they live what they thought was a rich and full life, never truly having known freedom from their ignorant views, I believe the karmic punishment tends to be proportional to the "crime" -- even if it's a hit to their legacy and reputation long after they're dead.
A less long-winded take: You bring up a great point. Enjoy the books, shrug and shake your head at the flawed persona and assume that anyone in the intellectual realm of Lovecraft fandom is as bright, open-minded and perplexed about the whole thing as you are.
Lovecraft lived at a time when Western powers owned the rest of the world. Only after the disastrous World Wars did people begin to question the high tide of Western powers' time in the Sun. As for me, Poe and his cousin-marrying antic isn't the most endearing, but he did his job, right?
I find T. S. Eliot's anti-semitism appalling, yet his The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is my favorite poem.
I learned long ago to separate the work of art form its creator. No matter how disagreeably to the public are the beliefs of the author of the work, it is undeniable that these individuals have created elements that have become part of human heritage to a level that influences our lives and those of future generations for the better by enriching humanity's cultural legacy.
The act of creation of works of art, be these literature, paintings, music, sculpture, movies, etc, that transcend beyond the life of its author is a achievement that cannot be under appreciated, regardless of how we might judge the author in retrospect.
I've been reading through Lovecraft's books, and the racism is definitely in there. It's also more like Britishism. But, the stories more then make up for it, and well worth reading. Fair warning, they are very creepy and don't often have "happy" endings. Also, keep in mind the time period they were written in.
Other books I like that I disagree with the author's views are the Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card and Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard, and the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, among others. I don't have to like the author to like what they wrote. I avoid non-fiction by them, though.
Video game wise, there's none I can think of right now.
However, movie wise, I say Star Wars. I absolutely HATE George Lucas. Certainly a benefit for Star Wars Episode VII!
For authors, I really enjoyed the Ender's Game series, only to find out that Orson Scott Card had some rather...questionable opinions on certain communities throughout the world. I love the book so much, but upon hearing about the author's history, I began to feel discouraged in liking it.
For games, I love Gears of War, but Cliffy B always came off as an egotist who seemed to pride himself and his company on pushing games forward, despite other developers pushing it forward in different ways (like the indie community's method). He seemed like a "my way or the highway" guy. Despite my rather dislike of his character, I'm curious to see if he can quote-on-quote "fix" the Resident Evil series. Who knows? Maybe he can.
@AK_the_Twilight Regarding Orson Scott i was actually considering reading his books untill i read about his religious affiliations. Your post suggests its worth it anyway though
@Xx_Kares_xX @NeonNinja @gufberg @AK_the_Twilight Holy crap balls, I loved the Ender series. Never knew Card was a homophobic fruit cake. Mind you, if I had known, I wouldn't have picked up his books, and would have missed out on so much entertainment.
Maybe its better not to know personal things about authors/writers/directors/actors.
Agreed with everyone above, I love the Ender and Shadow series... my favorite books of all time, I was sad to find my idol (orson scott card) turned out to be a huge jerk whom I shared little to no morals with, but it's simply a shame not to experience the books just because the author is an ass.