Lovecraft Country

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is a fan of the works of H.P. Lovecraft. He doesn’t believe he’s made any secret of this ever. He discovered Lovecraft’s works when he was young, and loved them. He was, and still is, a Lovecraft geek.

That being said, Lovecraft was a terrible racist. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t mean this in the way that the term is thrown about with all the ease of calling someone with whom you disagree “as bad as Hitler.” He means that Howard Phillips Lovecraft really was a racist. He hated Jews, Blacks, Asians, Italians, and probably the Irish and Catholics too. (Not sure about the Irish and the Catholics… You might still be able to be prejudiced against those two. (He kids. Really, kidding… Or is he?)) His letters are full of racist material. Certainly there are outwardly racist bits in his writings, as well as some racist material through interpretation. Your Maximum Leader didn’t catch the offensive themes, or at least didn’t focus on them, when he was young. He has noticed them since he’s gotten older. Indeed, he never thought to interpret “A Shadow Over Innsmouth” as a metaphor for the intermixing of races until someone suggested that interpretation to him (probably around 2005). After re-reading “Shadow” after this was suggested to him, your Maximum Leader saw it clear as day. He supposes that he’d never thought of the story as anything more than a horror story about half-fish people…

Anyhoo…

HBO is putting out a new series in a few days (a week maybe - the DVR is already set) called “Lovecraft Country.” Your Maximum Leader admits that he is all giddy with excitement for watching it. The story is, simply put, one of a Black Korean War veteran who travels during the time of Jim Crow** to learn about his family along the way encountering the racism of America of the time as well as supernatural horrors.

Why is all this coming up right now? That is to ask, why is your Maximum Leader bothering to blog about this? Well, some intertoob algorithms have somehow connected your Maximum Leader’s fondness for Lovecraft and this show and is pushing news articles to him. Here is one from the LA Times by Meredith Blake that he read: “H.P. Lovecraft was a virulent racist. How “Lovecraft Country” confronts his legacy.” The piece, towards the end, does start to deal with writers who are conflicted by their dislike of Lovecraft’s personal beliefs (some of which translate to the page) and their love of the stories themselves and the mythology they create. There is one paragraph that struck your Maximum Leader as noteworthy. In it Hugo Award winning writer N.K. Jemisin is quoted. Here is the part:

But Jemisin doesn’t think Lovecraft — or his canon — should be canceled. Instead, she has argued that readers should acknowledge the potential harm of his writing, then engage with it “when they are strong enough” to do so. “You have to recognize that these are people and that the things that make them sometimes horrible people are sometimes the things that make them good writers or good artists, and that’s what you want to engage with,” she told the New Yorker.

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t handle the “cancel” culture well. He thinks it is intellectually and socially stifling. It causes good people to stay quiet when their ideas might challenge the mob. It also emboldens the mob as it does its best to tear down that which makes civilization civilized. So he was heartened to read that a noted award winning author was against cancelling Lovecraft. He supposes it is good advice to suggest that someone wait until they are strong enough to read the works of Lovecraft before they do. Are there really people that sensitive that they can’t manage to read a book or story written by a man dead nearly 100 years? There must be or else people wouldn’t talk about it so much. Your Maximum Leader will suggest that if one doesn’t have the fortitude to read works that might offend or challenge their beliefs or world-view, then please leave them alone. And leave them alone enough for the rest of us to decide how to approach them.

In this vein… Your Maximum Leader wonders if William Faulkner is on the list to be cancelled before too long…

Your Maximum Leader may choose to buy the book upon which the TV show is based and see if he likes it. Not too long ago he bought a collection of Lovecraft inspired stories from various authors and enjoyed it very much. Some of the stories he enjoyed even more than Lovecraft’s on account of a more modern style of writing that was more conducive to his tastes.

Carry on.

**UPDATE: As of the end of episode 1, the story protagonists do not travel to the Jim Crow South, as your Maximum Leader wrote originally. They are traveling from Chicago to Massachusetts during the 1950’s and are subject to not only Jim Crow laws, but the racists who support them. As many reviewers have noted, and it is worth repeating here, there are two sets of villains in the story the first are racist whites the second are the supernatural monsters.

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