Saturday, November 21, 2015

Trouble in Lovecraft Land - We're All Better Than This

Firstly, I apologize for the lack of updates to the blog. I've been keeping busy with fiction editing for Strange Aeons magazine, as well as writing reviews for the next issue and starting a new column of booze/cigar/book pairings. I've also been reviewing books and discussing news of The Weird on The Outer Dark podcast.

The weird fiction community means a lot to me. I started to become involved back in 2012 when I started the blog, but it wasn't until NecronomiCon 2013 that I met everyone. I couldn't have imagined a warmer welcome, and since then I've come to regard many of my colleagues as good friends.

Since then, there's been many petty feuds and disagreements. The boat is rocked sometimes, but things usually right themselves fairly quickly. In the past several months tensions have been on the rise, and due to political differences many find themselves taking a side, or doing their best to stay out of it while shaking their heads at how absurd it's all become. Science Fiction had the Sad Puppies to deal with, but that fiasco managed to infect genre as a whole. Robert Price made a speech at NecronomiCon 2015 which likened the Middle East to Lovecraft's Red Hook, and this moment was when lines begin to solidify.

The most recent issue was the decision to change the World Fantasy Award from a bust of Lovecraft to something more neutral. While many argued on either side, it's an issue that should have been dropped weeks ago, yet instead it continues to grow and become one of the biggest problems the community has faced.

ST Joshi has always been a very well respected member in the field, and the most well-known and productive scholar of HP Lovecraft. He is, understandably when one looks at his life's work, not happy about the change of the WFA. Here is a man who by all rights knows Lovecraft more than anyone. His initial protest was just that, one man making a statement against a change he couldn't stomach. If he wants to return his WFAs then so be it, that's his business. But it doesn't end there.

Joshi, and others, have been making increasingly uglier posts about the situation. It seems there are several people, including but not limited to Joshi, who feel that removing the Lovecraft bust is the first step in removing Lovecraft from everything. And this is where things get out of hand, and some people need to step back, calm down, and look at things like the intelligent adults we all know they are. Lovecraft's legacy is not going anywhere. Most of the people who were for the change don't want Lovecraft erased at all!

Changing the statue and being a fan of Lovecraft are not mutually exclusive. I think the change was a good idea. The award itself has moved away from what it started as, and it was never called the HP Lovecraft Award. In actuality, I had no strong feelings either way in the beginning, the award holders have every right to decide how their award appears, but after hearing arguments it is for the best that the award changes.

With that being said, I love Lovecraft. My blog takes its name from his work, as an homage to the author responsible for bringing me into the world of weird fiction in the first place. I have a house full of Lovecraftiana, be it artwork (those Liv Rainey-Smith woodcuts though!) or sculptures (my toddler nephews love looking at McKittrick and Broers takes on Cthulhu) or books. My League of Legends username is SeƱor Cthulhu (add me if you want, but I'm terrible). My friends have spent hours drinking booze and playing Arkham Horror. My students draw me pictures of Cthulhu. You get the picture.

So there. I'm a huge fan of Lovecraft, and I'm all for the award changing. It's that simple. Joshi and friends are smart enough that they should be able to understand that the award change does not mean that Lovecraft's influence is trying to be denied or pushed aside or covered up. There is no reason for the ugliness we are now all experiencing.

In the past week I have seen Joshi's wife telling a poet that he must not want to work with any publisher affiliated with Joshi because he posted that he disagreed with Joshi's wording on the issue. This poet was on Joshi's side in regards to the statue changing. If that's not pure insanity, I don't know what is. In the latest blog post, Joshi went after many authors and editors including Ellen Datlow, the genre's greatest editor, and Jeff Vandermeer, one of the most important voices of the the weird working today. The vitriol being spat out questions Datlow's integrity for being pro-change yet editing Lovecraftian anthologies, and accusing Vandermeer of "[...] failing to grasp the immensely complex social, political, cultural, and historical factors surrounding this entire issue." Datlow and Vandermeer have been the most inclusive editors out there. Datlow is one of the most well-read, intelligent, and kind editors working in the field. To question her morality is so ridiculously insulting it actually made my jaw drop to read it. Vandermeer has made it a mission to show readers the truer, broader horizons of weird fiction. He doesn't dismiss Lovecraft, but makes it clear that Lovecraft is a small part of the entirety of the weird. His anthology The Weird showcases this perfectly. Joshi goes on to say that all of these authors and editors will be forgotten while Lovecraft's legacy will remain, a petty and gross thing to say, taking the issue of the statue change to a very personal level.

And the situation is not limited to Joshi. Associates are now circling wagons. Some publishers are now deciding not to publish people for being on one side of the issue. The "Old Guard" and the "New Blood" seem to be truly at odds for the first time, and it's really not pretty at all.

I know most of this post comes across as anti-Joshi, and while it's true that I feel he is acting really out of hand and taking this issue much further than it needs to be, sinking to the depths of foot-stomping and making personal attacks, I don't want to use any of this as an attempt to make Joshi irrelevant. I don't take glee in the fact that his post makes him look terrible, and that it's in actuality hurting his cause even further. Some people are responding calmly, but not all, and it's just as ugly as his post.

No, I don't feel any of those things. Instead I feel a deep and profound sadness. I see a community full of wonderful people that seems ready to collapse on itself. I think ahead to the next convention, and I wonder, is it going to be so nastily divisive? Are guests going to refuse to be on panels with other guests? Are blowouts going to ensue, or are both sides going to ignore each other, lending the air a feeling of two separate and simultaneous cons inhabiting the same physical space but seeming light years apart? I don't want that.

One of the most appealing aspects of this community is the diversity. This includes the people whom I find myself disagreeing with on many levels. I don't want them ostracized, but I don't want them drawing lines either. It's my hope that the goodness of this community will shine through the current ugliness, and we will all be able to find whatever it is in ourselves to get along, or at least keep it civil, because that is the weird fiction community that I fell in love with.


  1. Well said. It seems like the weird community is a microcosm of SO MANY debates in this world. It's awful to see a debate fly into personal attacks.

  2. Clap. Clap. Clap. (stands up, keeps clapping, looks back at the rest of the audience..)

  3. Well said. I started to be involved in the weird about the same time as you. That poet and Joshi I consider as friends and those comments blew me away. This is definitely ugly and I wish we could all move on already.

  4. Unfortunately it seems that Older has made it clear it is not just changing the statue that he has as an objective but changing the whole way in which the world vies not just Lovecraft but his work as well. Trying to undermine and destroy the Lovecraft canon of work makes Older a fanatic of the kind I don't believe it is possible to compromise with. They are bullies and they have to be stood up to rather than just accepted. In this way I believe Joshi is absolutely right and we have by no means seen the end of this anti-Lovecraft campaign.

  5. Tricks, Mr. Older may have been one of the people who led the charge to change the statue, but that doesn't mean the majority of us agree with him 100%. Only a very small percentage of the "pro-change" crowd want to eliminate Lovecraft. It's not black and white. Just because some of us agree with the change does not mean we agree with all of Mr. Older's points. The statue change does not mean Lovecraft is going anywhere.