A Rebuttal To That Guy Calling Lovecraft “Our Master” with No Hint of Self-Awareness
I’m not an intersectional activist because it brings me joy or fulfillment; it is actively killing me. Every day I hem and haw over the placement of pilcrows and em dashes to best accentuate testimonies to people’s cruelty, inequity, and glib apathy to the suffering of others. And when I need a break, I check my social media, steady stream upon stream of people calling for violence against each other, applauding the police and rapists who commit it for them, and linking me to every John Cena meme they find because they heard at a party once that I liked wrestling but never bothered to investigate that any further.
I know we’re all supposed to be above this, and react to the hideousness we find with unwavering coolness; some of my colleagues are likely to think me unfit for my job because I admit it’s hard on me sometimes. But revolution comes at a cost, and we need to stop looking the other way on that and pretending there is any course of action that will achieve liberation at the inconvenience of none.
A lesson from my days as a faceless quasi-feminist that has carried over into my public works: “don’t touch the poop”, the prime directive of the infamous ShitRedditSays community. A self-imposed boundary meant to keep me free from mental infection. It sucks when another feminist calls trans women rapists; it breaks my heart to click-click-click and find that she has good recommendations for eyeliner, also likes coin-operated automata and is, once you look past her desire to cheer on the slitting of my throat, the kind of girl I’d like to fiddle through stacks of vinyl and share a milkshake with. Being a one-dimensional monster when you have violent, monstrous views is, I think we can agree, just more polite. If I think on all the otherwise beautiful people who can’t abide my existence, my despair turns to despondence.
But sometimes, be it driven by indulgence or steam desperate to escape, I have to touch the poop. Pick it up, even. Marvel at what sort of creature would relieve themselves in public, and lament on the sort of social condition that made them think this was okay to leave without cleaning after themselves.
This is one such morsel.
The context: The World Fantasy Awards are planning to discontinue issuing a bust of horror author H.P. Lovecraft as prizes, having realized (through the tireless advocacy of authors of color, including Daniel José Older) that bestowing people who could dream up the sort of stories and places that make one ache for having to live in this reality with a likeness of a guy who thought non-whites were subhuman isn’t really much of an honor.
This has made a lot of Lovecraft’s kind (i.e. dudes) super mad. This pushback to a fourty-year legacy has caused certain people within the horror/sci-fi/fantasy communities to behave not unlike those who serve The Thing That Should Not Be, throwing themselves upon fits of base instinct, elated at the coming death of the great lie that is civilization.
Like his gravest creation, H.P. Lovecraft is not among the living, forcing those of us who aren’t jazzed about subservience to indifference to human suffering to contend with his believers.
I’ve seen thousands of even less self-aware social media posts like this as part of GamerGate’s campaign to keep social justice out of games. The conservative counter-attack happening in SFF literature is more than kin and less than kind; the two are certainly related, but to their credit GamerGate’s theology department has yet to present Miyamoto as some sort of wizard-king who’s displeasure with our disobedience will cast a shadow of shame and discredit upon the medium. Yet.
Other conservative movements in modern media are pretty hyped on the idea that it’s consumer-focused. Supporters of Lovecraft seem to genuinely believe that because some of his books sold more than contemporaries of his day, that we are beholden to his will beyond the grave.
I’m not suggesting we disown Lovecraft completely, and I don’t know anyone who is. In fact, I feel, through my activism, my mental process is mirroring that of Lovecraft and his author-avatars. What I have seen, and what I know I will see, the immensity of suffering and human agony beyond even a fantastic exaggeration of my power to quell it, is slowly driving me to detachment from the waking world and its inhabitants.
And that’s why I say, if he is my master, if my zest for the horrific is kindred to his machinations, if I am in any way inspired by him, that his legacy must die. By entropy or through great spectacle.
Do you think that horror and sci-fi exist to corroborate your comfort with the world as it is?
If Lovecraft was our master, and he certainly isn’t, then we would have to do more than discontinue his likeness. We would need to smash every bust, and burn every paper copy of his racist poetry so that no one could ever profit from it.
If Lovecraft was our master, we would need to pilfer his estate and disregard anyone’s claim to copyright. We would update every textbook and encyclopedia on the genre to include his barbarity and the multi-generational subservience he and his followers expected of writers, especially those who were believe by him in his life to be subhuman and worthy of enslavement and execution.
If Lovecraft was our master, every one of his followers and servants who insisted on standing by him in this time of liberation, including you, would have your careers perish or otherwise marred in the ensuing upheaval.
Revolution comes at a cost.
Whether you’re a Sith Lord, a French Aristocrat, or a cop getting his dick hard at the thought of action, the only function a “master” has in the cause of liberty is to be overthrown. However eventually.
The master is antithetical to progress. Even cursory perusal of George Orwell, who wrote a famous novel about a government that uses media manipulation to arrest all challenges to their authority INCLUDING THE PASSAGE OF TIME, would have explained this to you.
No one is advocating for such drastic rebuke. All the “PC dweeboids” in SFF want is for someone who makes great strides in the genre to be rewarded with the likeness of someone who didn’t want them or their families or friends or spouses enslaved or exterminated.
The World Fantasy Awards aren’t segregated, despite Lovecraft’s desire for a color line. You already live in the fail-state of his hopes for society.
So: either he’s not really our master because he has only the power our reverence affords him, and we let entropy , or we are in the throes of violently dismantling his very presence in the waking world.
This is a choose your own adventure. The old guard are complicit in which door, which reality is hoisted upon us.
People are moving on. Women and people of color are making the effort to peacefully rise above Lovecraft’s legacy of genocidal leanings. They have stated their case, and made reasonable requests of a communal space to best represent the identity and aims of its constituency.
Any darkness and shame inherent in this paradigm shift is introduced by people like you, who feel a dead man’s nonexistent feelings are worth tearing apart the whole fucking community, destroying the city Lovecraft for better or worse helped build just because he couldn’t be the God-Emperor eternal.
I talk pretty(/ier than you) but: I empathize. Today’s radical becomes tomorrow’s poster girl for the patriarchy. If my dialectic isn’t itself deemed as counter-revolutionary by ensuing generations, then whatever progress I was able to make in this life will be marketed back to my brother and sister’s children as proof of what you can accomplish when you try honey, not vinegar. I’ve landed a series of writing jobs because I knew people who knew people who had faith in me; in 10 or 15 years my example might be shown to trans women of color that it just takes moxie and a charming smile to make it in this world.
And then I’ll be like “yo no that’s not what happened” and wikipedia will say “no primary sources, please”.
It’s terrifying. I know. It sucks to think that no matter the magnamity of struggle you overcame, you become a hurdle for the next generation.
But we all get that. Every critic, cleric and combatant of every conflict has to come to grips with this. And there might not be any right answer, no combination of words and actions that preserve your intent, no matter how well you document it.
All legacies die; some are vehementy dismantled, some dissipate into entropy, others stolen or otherwise misappropriated.
If the ugly bust of Lovecraft has to mean something to you, let it be a reminder that each of us have been charged with leaving the world better than we found it, and you don’t get a fucking vote on whether or not you accomplished that.
He was racist “for his time”; his time has passed.
It is their time now. The new generation of women and PoC SFF authors deserve so much more for their efforts and contributions than having an enshrined asshole who thought they were subhuman staring at them for eternity.
Someone who looks into that cynical visage and feels unfettered pride without compunction has a darkness within them that no “PC movement” in SFF could ever bring about.