H. P. Lovecraft

Howard Phillips Lovecraft (Wikipedia) was a nervous racist.

Though progressive in other ways, Lovecraft was uncommonly regressive on the idea of race, even for his time. This is part of his attachment to the past, which he called comfortable “illusion”: a hollow protection from meaningless chaos. In his stories, a thorough inquiry will often result in a negative self-image. For example, in “The Ancient Track” (1930), he wrote:

Too well I saw from the mad scene
That my loved past had never been—

People like to offer biographical explanations for such things. Lovecraft would not admit—perhaps not even to himself—that his father, Winfield, slowly died of syphilis while the boy began to write. His mother, Susan, ended up dead in the same hospital with the same disease. Lovecraft himself then lived as what assholes call a “penniless loser”. He loved the work of Edgar Allan Poe. Both men struggled and died too soon of avoidable causes.

No audience—not even a racist one—will recognize its conscious experience or aspiration in Lovecraft. He was interested in the distant, the unknown and the external. Born six months after Vannevar Bush, Lovecraft was the first SFF writer who understood what both Darwin and Einstein would mean for culture. He failed to break away from bad old ideas, but his focus was otherwise fruitful. By avoiding anthropocentrism, allegory and wishful thinking while retaining the dreamlike Expressionist beauty of writers like Georg Trakl, Lovecraft succeeded in building monstrous metaphors for the subconscious human fear of dysteleology. Paradoxically, this opens him up even to readers looking for themselves.


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