Friday, August 20, 2010

The Anniversary of HPL's Birth

So, it occurs to me that a certain old gent from Providence was born one hundred and twenty years ago this day. My big HPL post was a week premature. I have to confess that, while I love HPL's weird fiction, I tend to find it comical, rather than terrifying. The one tale which I have always found unsettling is The Colour Out of Space, which portrays a family suffering a slow, debilitating illness due to the predations of an alien force. To me, most of Lovecraft's tales aren't really scary, they are just narrated by people who are scared (in fact, I think the best possible "adaptation" of 1935's The Shadow out of Time would be a goofy Office Space style workplace comedy). The scariest thing about The Shadow Over Innsmouth is that the narrator would consider "a fair supply of cheese crackers and ginger wafers" to be an adequate lunch.

One feature of the Old Gent's writing that has never failed to rankle was a pervasive racism and xenophobia, readily apparent in 1926's The Call of Cthulhu, The Horror at Red Hook (written in 1925), 1925's He, and 1922's Herbert West: Reanimator. Lovecraft's racism seemed to have relented somewhat as the man grew older and, presumably, wiser- he didn't include as much gratuitously racist imagey in his fiction. As an older, mellower writer, in 1931's At the Mountains of Madness, Lovecraft's narrator shows a remarkable empathy for the alien entities (marooned in time and space, trapped in a hostile environment) he encounters. One can only hope that he'd extend the same sort of empathy for his fellow humans of "duskier" hue.

I was tempted to add something to the effect that HPL was a product of his time, but the racialist component tends to be pretty damn caustic. An author such as Mark Twain, while he'd be considered very "non-PC" by modern standards, was pretty far ahead of the curve. Yeah, gotta take Uncle Howard warts and all...


Substance McGravitas said...

I still like The Dreams in the Witch House.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Mark Twains don't come along very often.

Smut Clyde said...

... then suddenly there's three in a row.

a certain old gent from Providence

Limerick competition!!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Limerick competition!!

A certain old gent from Providence
Wrote for pulps for petty pence
He wrote of night terrors
And summoning errors
Against which there is no defense.

Smut Clyde said...

Belated link.