Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi, still enraged by the decision to stop using a bust of H. P. Lovecraft bust as the World Fantasy Award, ferments a mix of false equivalence and bitter mockery in his November 19 blog post “More Crusades for the Crusaders!”
I have been led to believe that the celebrated editor Ellen Datlow was a major force in getting the Lovecraft bust discarded from the World Fantasy Awards. If this is so, it casts a dubious light on Datlow herself. One has to wonder about the moral compass of a person who has materially benefited from Lovecraft’s increasing reputation by opportunistically assembling two volumes of Lovecraft-inspired fiction (Lovecraft Unbound  and Lovecraft’s Monsters ) and who then turns around and kicks Lovecraft figuratively in the posterior. Sadly, she does not appear to be alone in this kind of behaviour.
Joshi continues on, constructing arguments why crusaders should also attack Edgar Allan Poe (icon of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award), L. Frank Baum, George Washington, Daniel José Older and Jeff VanderMeer.
I repeat what I’ve said before: Lovecraft will be around a lot longer than any of his current dectractors. Let’s have a show of hands, people, to see who you think will be more remembered in history: H. P. Lovecraft or…Scott Nicolay? Nick Mamatas? Jeff VanderMeer? Daniel José Older? S. J. Bagley? Edward Morris?
Okay, okay, I’ll stop laughing now.
Wow. There’s a lot of stupid in that post.
On the plus side, I rarely mind when people I haven’t read make themselves unpleasant since there are countless other wonderful things to read by people who aren’t jerks (or at least so publicly).
Joshi is in full cantankerous old white guy mode and it is incredibly off putting.
I have to feel all this is completely beneath the notice of the Elder Gods.
I’d wonder more about an individual who materially benefitted from his reputation either refusing to criticise him when the criticisms are honestly felt, or, perhaps, squalling endlessly about (inaccurately depicted) criticisms of others.
Can’t think who might fall into the latter category.
I fear Mr. Joshi has lost all sense of proportion.
A literary award which has nothing to do with either horror or Lovecraft’s oeuvre is changing the physical form of its trophy. It will have no effect on Lovecraft’s reputation or legacy.
These personal attacks are very strange.
I have to wonder if Joshi has forgotten that the slavish cultists in Lovecraft’s fiction were the villains, not the suggested role-models.
I believe Joshi is Indian. Cankerous mode sounds about right, though!
Someone said the other day that not being on the award might even help his reputation, since there won’t be regular yearly rehashes of Lovecraft-was-a-bit-racist-wasn’t-he every time the things are given out.
Has anyone suggested Joshi eat a Snickers yet?
Too much self-worth and self-identification caught up in another person is never a good idea. It makes you histrionic and stupid.
(‘Specially when the object of your blind worship would have considered you one of the teeming oriental swarthy hordes, as far beneath him as we mere mortals are beneath the elder gods.)
Old man yelling at clouds.
Funny how he hasn’t weighed in on his idol being taken up as a white supremacist award.
He’s wrong, though. He says Lovecraft will be remembered long after his critics, but he’s clearly forgotten that once an author’s likeness has been removed from an award that is at best tangentially connected to their preferred genre, their reputation instantly implodes and no one ever reads them again. A week from now, I doubt even Mr Joshi will remember anything about this Lovett chap.
Wait, what were we talking about?
Somebody got their tentacles in a twist.
Have Rocket, Will Unravel
To Flail Beyond the Sunset
Off on a Comment
Plan Whine from Outer Space
The Big Flounce
Well, Joshi cannot (one assumes) get on Charlie Stross’s case on his exploitation of the Elder Ghods.
I love that series….. Stross has backed his main character into a corner (hehehe) in the latest book.
There is a paragraph early in the series about Unix admin that is absolutely *brilliant*. To the steaming masses, it reads like techno babble. To those with the right background, it is spot-on and communicates *so* much about Stross and his background, plus the environment his main character has to work in.
And a goth gay punk couple Pinky and The Brain. I giggle a bit when I read or think of them.
Let’s wait until Scott Nicolay, Nick Mamatas, Jeff VanderMeer, Daniel José Older, S. J. Bagley, and Edward Morris have all been deceased for 75+ years before making the invidious comparisons between their future reputations and Lovecraft’s present one, shall we? I wouldn’t put it past one or more of them to build an exceedingly great career reputation, but they haven’t had the time to do it yet, you see? If you’d proclaimed in the 1920s that Lovecraft would be still read, renowned, appreciated, influential, and much studied by academics 90 years in the future, even Lovecraft would probably have laughed at the idea.
It’s hard to understand someone who has developed such a decent literary reputation for themselves, turning around and working so very determinedly to destroy that.
But given that Lovecraft’s Greatest Hits did not impress me and I’m not a fan, I can’t say that I really care.
The Flounce On The Doorstep
Beyond The Wails of Creeps
The Lurking Fear Supports Me In Email
I predict these will be Scroll subtitles in the near future…
Not familiar with most of the writers Joshi mentions, but I’ve read some Jeff Vandemeer, and hope someday to have time to go back and re-read.
No such feeling for Lovecraft’s work. Read once, that was plenty.
I have observed that Brian Z. takes a lot of heat for what he writes here, but his parody titles, along with Josh Jasper’s, had me laughing aloud for several minutes, and both deserve applause for cleverness. Even my elder son Kevin, who doesn’t know that much about fandom, laughed after I explained the background of “The Lurking Fear Supports Me in E-Mail“.
“I have been led to believe” = “I got this idea somewhere, and
if I checked it might turn out not to be trueranting is more appealing than fact-checking.”
Will my work still be read in one hundred years?
Pfft, I’ll still be alive in one hundred years!
Mister Scrollman, Bring Me A Screed?
RE: Poe. Poe was a nineteenth century figure; his politics don’t map to contemporary issues the way Lovecraft’s do. (This is why Lovecraft has been a propaganda weapon for various white supremacist and white nationalist outfits, whereas nobody seems to bother with Poe.) There’s also significant evidence that Poe didn’t consummate his marriage with Virginia Clemm for three years; sixteen is the age of consent in thirty-one US states here in 2015.
Poe also did a much better job with forsaking alcohol in later life than Lovecraft did was racism.
Clearly, Joshi has lost his cool, perhaps irreparably so. Still, I don’t think implying that he’s an “Uncle Tcho-Tcho” is helpful (neither is criticizing him for being a typical “white guy”, of course — that’s the kind of thing that invalidates your argument right out of the gate). Sniffing about how Lovecraft doesn’t turn your crank doesn’t turn one into a disinterested observer, either.
Joshi knows Lovecraft had racist views (he’s called it “undeniable”). He would, as an Indian-American, have had to come to terms with statements like:
However, it would seem that he thinks Lovecraft’s work, while informed by his racism, still has, on balance, great literary merit. Many agree, and Cthulhu is practically a cottage industry these days. So arguments that reduce Lovecraft to nothing but his racism would surely disturb Joshi.
Some seem to be trying to calm things by arguing that Lovecraft is simply the wrong image for a fantasy award (so it’s not that big a deal to dump him), but that is not the spur to the objections. It’s the racism; it always has been, and that’s the message being spread far and wide, even in mainstream news media: ‘Avowed racist’ H.P. Lovecraft no longer representing World Fantasy Award.
And if Lovecraft is a poor choice for the WFA trophy because he is a racist, does this not also disqualify him in other, perhaps more fitting venues? Why would a “Lovecraft Award for Weird Writing” be any better? Why would an author uncomfortable winning a WFA be any more comfortable winning that?
Indeed, now we have
racist nutjobsCounter Currents planning such an award because of Lovecraft’s racism. I would hope that Joshi also detests that.
Maybe Lovecraft doesn’t need or deserve a statue or an award named after him. Lots of influential writers don’t have either one. But this isn’t just about an award or a statue, because it is Lovecraft’s character that is the fulcrum on which this whole thing is moving, and it is overshadowing the work — at least in the short run.
Lovecraft was a racist. There’s no doubt about that. While acknowledging it, Joshi has spent a lot of time trying to make sure that Lovecraft is known for his work rather than his racism (“pro” or con), and now he is in some ways seeing his life’s work erode. He’s upset. He’s lashing out, and showing us the Streisand Effect in action. He probably thinks he has a more nuanced understanding of Lovecraft than his critics — and he probably does. It doesn’t matter in this instance, but it probably feels to him like it does.
I can only hope that Joshi wakes up one day soon and sees that he is on the side of VD (who is quoted on both the Lovecraft and Daniel José Older Wikipedia pages on this issue — how did that happen?) and straightens himself out.
The publicity surrounding this will definitely have an effect on Lovecraft’s legacy and reputation. Perhaps deservedly so, perhaps not, and who can say how much and for how long. I keep waiting for the world to stop fêting Roman Polanski, and it keeps not happening, but it’s foolish to try to make equivalences (as Joshi is currently trying to do, I guess). Lovecraft is his own figure with his own problems. I think his writing is such that it will surpass the failings of the man. Something good and lasting came out of his life, whatever its faults. When the dust settles, I’m sure it will still be there.
Likewise, Joshi has had a distinguished career as an editor and scholar of weird fiction, as well as an opponent of the right wing in the US. I hope he regains his perspective.
PS: The Scroller Out Of Space; Pixel’s Model; The Strange High Horse In Our Midst
On comparing the Edgar to the WFA, does Joshi understand that the mystery award bears Poe’s name because he is widely considered the creator of the modern mystery novel? I don’t think Lovecraft is held to be the inventor of fantasy.
It’s sad to see Joshi lose his cool and his judgment so completely on this, but for now I’m just going to click the box and go to sleep.
I’m still saddened by a literature/English professor not understanding the difference between an award not named for an author deciding to no longer use an author’s image as the same thing as an award in the name of an author.
The sooner he lets this go and gets back to talking about Lovecraft’s work the better a job he’d be doing for both his & Lovecraft’s image.
The Doom That Came to File770
The Strange High Pixels on the Blog
The Pixels Out of Time
The Recall of Cthulhu
Maybe Joshi doesn’t quite realize how much of a cottage industry Lovecraft is these days, and that his Mythos “isn’t going anywhere”?
There’s also significant evidence that Poe didn’t consummate his marriage with Virginia Clemm for three years; sixteen is the age of consent in thirty-one US states here in 2015.
Joshi also seemed quite certain that the fact that Poe married his first cousin was a black mark against him. I wonder if he realizes that marrying one’s first cousin is legal in twenty-one U.S. states, including New York and California, and legal under certain circumstances in four more.
Remember all the stories Poe wrote about how everyone should marry their pubescent first cousin?
Yeah, me neither.
Joshi is very familiar with how big a cottage industry Lovecraft is—many new editions of Lovecraft’s work use his edits of the stories, after all. He’s also become an anthologist, with four volumes of his Black Wings series currently in print (disclosure: my story “Dead Media” appears in v2, for which I shall be remembered forever!), plus several other anthologies, including the reprint antho A Mountain Walked and the non-Lovecraftian antho Searchers After Horror (which includes my similarly immortal story “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”) Previously, his editorial work was limited to editing collections of Lovecraft, James, Bierce, etc. Because Lovecraft is so popular and Joshi a pole of attraction in the “community” (that word again!) he was able to make the leap.
If Joshi is afraid that Lovecraft’s racism will eventually do permanent damage to his literary reputation and diminish his stature, I think that’s correct. In any school where Lovecraft is taught there’s potential for controversy if students object. In any venue where Lovecraft is honored his long list of vile bigoted statements (and that poem) are likely to come up.
Though on one level it does not matter that he’s no longer the icon of the World Fantasy Award, where he was never a good fit anyway, on another it could be a tipping point. Giants aren’t always giants forever. New generations have to pick them up and carry them.
I don’t regard this as a bad thing. Future generations are under no obligation to venerate our heroes.
Possibly it’s the holiday influencing my thinking, but man, this is like one of those horrible Thanksgiving dinners where Racist Uncle Lovecraft is saying appalling things over the turkey and when he gets called out, Cousin Joshi comes in yelling that Uncle Lovecraft is just old and doesn’t know better and he was a great man and don’t give any of your lip, young lady, what have YOU done with your life–and take that stupid ring out of your nose, do you know what you’re doing to your poor mother?!
Except that over the years, it’s not just the teenagers with their music and their piercings calling out Racist Uncle Lovecraft anymore, and Cousin Joshi is yelling louder and louder and slamming his fist on the turkey and Lovecraft has been dead for years and is stuffed in an urn in the centerpiece and now we’re fighting over whether we really have to keep using his racist salt-and-pepper shakers at the table and half the family is inventing excuses to go into the kitchen and drink Grandma’s rum that she keeps for medicinal purposes.
Are you planning a holiday-themed screwball comedy fiction collection? With recurring characters, a nominal overall arc, and each story/episode set during a particular holiday?
Which is basically the premise of about 87% of all REO Speedwagon songs. Well, the ones that are overplayed on the radio, anyway.
@Soon Lee – Well, I am NOW.
I want to read RedWombat’s Holiday Tales.
I, Soon Lee, do hereby surrender any rights I might have to the idea of a holiday-themed screwball comedy fiction collection by RedWombat(TM), with recurring characters, a nominal overall arc, and each story/episode set during a particular holiday.
[I really want to read those stories.]
[Besides, everyone knows that ideas are cheap.]
[And by “everyone” I mean “writers”; sending a letter to a P.O. box in Schenectady is cheap, though you’d think that by now they would have gone online.]
lurkertype: I want to read RedWombat’s Holiday Tales.
Have you seen Jodie Foster’s black comedy Home for the Holidays*?
It’s a lot like RedWombat’s bit above; depending on whether your family puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional” the way mine does, things in it can hit pretty close to home.
* if you’re looking for a feel-good holiday movie, this is not it
Am I too late for “The Choler out of Space?”
Neither was BLACK CHRISTMAS, as opposed to WHITE CHRISTMAS.
Did I wrote something wrong?
I was amused that one of ye comments accuses S. T. of “white man rage” or some such thing. S. T. isn’t white. I have been reading his excellent three-volume set of LOVECRAFT’S COLLECTED FICTION: A VARIORUM EDITION, and it has increas’d my positive opinion of HPL’s excellent writing.
Sorry, I misquoted–“white man mode,” it shou’d be. One really wonderful way to discover what a fascinating and excellent fellow Lovecraft was is to read his publish’d letters. His letters to Robert Bloch have just been collected in a superb edition, and shews but one example of Lovecraft’s titanic influence on genre writing during his lifetime. How lucky we are that his influence grows more potent with each strange new era.
Wilum Pugmire: One really wonderful way to discover what a fascinating and excellent fellow Lovecraft was is to read his publish’d letters.
I don’t think anyone here is questioning Lovecraft’s influence on the horror fantasy genre. They are merely pointing out how utterly irrational Joshi is for throwing a big-baby tantrum about the WFA changing their award statuette — which does not remotely resemble attempting to ban reading of Lovecraft’s works.