Monday, March 15, 2010

Happy Death Day, H.P.!

This just in: people in the 1930s were racist. So were people in the 1940s, '50s, '60s ... I've even heard rumors that a few are still kicking around today. And by "a few" I mean "a few million."

Despite what Hollywood would have you believe, racism and sexism were a formal institution in America until the 1960s when we began the process of dismantling the useless, evil machinery that kept us all in the bonds of ignorance. It's not gone, mind you. It's just wounded and pissed off.

I brought my soapbox to this column because I wanted to recognize the anniversary of the death of H.P. Lovecraft, that lovable woman hating white supremacist who gave us the Cthulhu mythos (which is kinda misnamed, given the low-status that Cthulhu actually has in these stories.)

It's difficult to talk about Lovecraft today without someone in the peanut gallery shouting out "But he was a racist!" Yeah, well so was William Shakespeare. And, most likely, your own parents. So shut the fuck up and quit trying to argue philosophy with a dead man because he's never, ever going to change his mind.

It was on this date 73 years ago that writer Lovecraft died. I've been a fan of his since reading a few of those Del Rey anthologies back in the 1980s. His work was a little more difficult to find in those days because horror was being published in three primary categories: Stephen King ripoffs aimed at the housewife market, out-and-out pulp garbage, and the short-lived Splatter Punk movement which was more interested in moving forward than looking backward. Even though horror was booming, there wasn't much room for Lovecraft.

If you were persistent, though, you could occasionally find Lovecraft's books on the shelves. I think my firsts were The Tomb: And Other Tales, and The Lurking Fear and Other Stories. I've been hooked ever since but have sometimes struggled with Lovecraft's dated, ugly points of view on race and class. I've since reconciled that problem by chalking up those opinions — just like the stories — as products of their times.

Oddly, I haven't been able to do the same with the Our Gang movies.

In recognition of today's date, allow me to direct your attention again to H.P. Lovecraft's Twitter account.

(With special thanks to houseinrlyeh for bringing my attention to the significance of today's date.)

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