Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lovecraft, Nerds And The Uses of Ick

You might not like Lovecraft, but chances are you like something Lovecraftian--like this or this. So, one more time, let's talk about Lovecraft....

Imagine someone loved, someone you know the story of: your brother, your dog, your lover, your parent, Prince, Lemmy, yourself--someone with a definite content you can imagine, with unique details that apply only to them.

Then imagine you discover their story has ended. They're done, as are their works. Something was continuous and unique and now it isn't anymore.

That's fear of death. That fear is not Lovecraftian. The weak, worried man and his bleak work were afraid of many things, not death so much.

In his most classic works, the ones that make him important to later writers, artists, filmmakers and game designers, death is rarely the point. Death is one of many by-products (insanity, disturbing hybridization, obsessive Cassandrian documentation) of a more terrible revelation. Half the time the monsters are barely active, much less murderous. The horror is simply that there was contact.

Alien is a lot like At The Mountains of Madness (and Prometheus is even more like it, as many folks have noticed) except when it's being a thriller--Jones! Here kitty kitty--that is, when it's afraid of death.

The old gothic horror's set dressing is death: skulls, skeletons, vampires--and the gothic has love in it, so that you care about the victim when death happens. Lovecraft was another thing: characters you didn't come to care much about discontinuing--or living right past the moment they might've died and instead, at the real climax, being made witness to a horror. And what was the horror of, if not of death?

It was a horror of a pullulating, spawning, unknowable, inevitable and important otherness--that thing Werner Herzog was talking about when he went into the jungle and described as "…this overwhelming misery and overwhelming fornication...overwhelming growth and overwhelming lack of order." That is: life.


He faced death with courage. Struck by a cancer of the intestine which had spread throughout his body, he is taken to Jane Brown Memorial Hospital on the 10 March 1937. He will behave as an exemplary patient, polite, affable, of a stoicism and courtesy which will impress his nurses, despite very great physical suffering (happily attenuated by morphine).

That's from Michel Houellebecq's H.P. Lovecraft - Against the World, Against Life, which argues, well, that HP Lovecraft was against the world and against life. Ok, so he wasn't scared of dying, was he so weird as to be scared of living? Absolutely, totally and--in a letter written a few days before his improbable marriage--articulately:

And as for Puritan inhibitions-I admire them more every day. They are attempts to make of life a work of art - to fashion a pattern of beauty in the hog-wallow that is animal existence - and they spring out of that divine hatred for life which marks the deepest and most sensitive soul...An intellectual Puritan is a fool - almost as much of a fool is an anti-Puritan - but a Puritan in the conduct of life is the only kind of man one may honestly respect. I have no respect or reverence whatever for any person who does not live abstemiously and purely.

Lovecraft was so grossed out by sex, commerce and casual social ties that he left them entirely out of his fiction. As for race:

 The organic things inhabiting that awful cesspool could not by any stretch of the imagination be call'd human. They were monstrous and nebulous adumbrations of the pithecanthropoid and amoebal; vaguely moulded from some stinking viscous slime of the earth's corruption, and slithering and oozing in and on the filthy streets or in and out of windows and doorways in a fashion suggestive of nothing but infesting worms or deep-sea unnamabilities. They — or the degenerate gelatinous fermentation of which they were composed — seem'd to ooze, seep and trickle thro' the gaping cracks in the horrible houses ... and I thought of some avenue of Cyclopean and unwholesome vats, crammed to the vomiting point with gangrenous vileness, and about to burst and inundate the world in one leprous cataclysm of semi-fluid rottenness. From that nightmare of perverse infection I could not carry away the memory of any living face. The individually grotesque was lost in the collectively devastating; which left on the eye only the broad, phantasmal lineaments of the morbid soul of disintegration and decay ... a yellow leering mask with sour, sticky, acid ichors oozing at eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, and abnormally bubbling from monstrous and unbelievable sores at every point …

There are two remarkable things here: first--it's vintage Lovecraft. Second, it's not from The Horror at Red Hook, it's from HP's letter to a pal describing my grandfather's neighborhood in NYC. 

Lovecraft's specific brand of racism arose from disgust, the disgust from ignorance, the ignorance from another and larger fear: fear of unmediated intercourse with other people. That is: life.

Lovecraft is what happens when we take a familiar figure--the shy, nervous, fragile, conflict-averse, fastidious, introverted bookworm who is hopeless with money and whose main social outlet is nerd conventions--and put him in an era, class, family and professional situation where avoiding The Other is the path of least resistance. This is a man who never learned anything in a bar or a short-order kitchen or on a ballfield; he learned from parents and books and nothing he learned there taught him about these “italico-semitico-mongoloids” he lived among.

In these conditions his fear of life--which we can just go ahead and call his nerdiness--could only encourage his racism. I just want to be alone in bed with my books. And he is kind of a perfect test-case because he wasn't otherwise generally an asshole: people who he did mix with reported a courteous, kind, generous man, eager to reach out through amateur press associations (the pre-internet) to help fellow aesthetes through the terror and darkness that is this mortal coil and its ungentlemanly expectations.

He looked on New Yorkers with repulsion but he looked on New York with awe:

I fell into a swoon of aesthetic exaltation in admiring this view – the evening scenery with the innumerable lights of the skyscrapers, the mirrored reflections and the lights of the boats bobbing on the water, at the extreme left the sparkling statue of Liberty, and on the right the scintillating arch of the Brooklyn bridge. It’s something even more powerful than the dreams of the legend of the Ancient world – a constellation of infernal majesty – a poem in the fire of Babylon! (…) All of this happens under the strange lights, the strange sounds of the port, where the traffic of the whole world is concentrated. Foghorns, ships’ bells, in the distance the squeals of winches… visions of the distant shores of India, where birds with brilliant plumage are set singing by the incense of strange pagodas surrounded by gardens, where camel-handlers in their colourful robes barter in front of the sandalwood taverns with deep-voiced sailors whose eyes reflect all the mystery of the sea. 

...and, though not experience-curious, he was book-curious. He knew at least that the amoebas and pithecanthropoids that occupied its streets came from faraway places and these places had cultures--and it might be to this vision of the city and this knowledge that we owe an insight that makes his stories more than the sum of his terrified parts. The honest, perceptive, innovative artist in Lovecraft is decisively getting the upper hand over the arrogant racist whenever the stories remind us that the incomprehensible and inimical aliens are not just bigger, but older, wiser and immensely more sophisticated and significant than those they disturb.

This reveals a strange paradox of the imperial racist--the works of these foreigners are magnificent, their physical presence is loathsome. In Lovecraft, the "primitiveness" and "degeneracy" only come when the xenomorphs mix with-, or are worshipped by-, the humans--again, it is contact that is bad.

The racist made these stories horror stories, but the artist made them about gods. And if there are any gods, we should all be afraid of them. This is a fear that can be about many other things, it has legs.

Lovecraftian horror--the genre--is easy to copy: books, neuraesthenia, tentacles, all that. But if the ideas were all there were to it, we could just read Burroughs instead. Lovecraftian horror--the emotion--is rarer: disgust and awe in the face of the alien. 

Lovecraftian disgust and awe can be evoked in relation to things that don't appear anywhere in Lovecraftian fiction--for example, in Alien it's about the processes of human reproduction.

The awe is the reputable part, we understand awe, if not the objects of awe. So let's look at the disgust:

Mandy instantly dislikes anyone wearing a one-sleeved dress and I am suspicious of those who, for any reason, wear Crocs. Very many people, far past any genuine concern for physical safety, are scared to go into a porn theatre--or to certain bars.

These are minor examples of Lovecraftian disgust.

While Lovecraft was afraid of life and intercourse with people unlike himself, Lovecraftian disgust more generally--the kind the stories expand on and incarnate--is aesthetic, taste-based: an aesthetic fear so severe that it overrides the curiosity or sense of fairness that would discover whether that fear was justified.

It is kind of the opposite of Stendahl syndrome.

Lovecraftian disgust is not disgust at clear signifiers that death is near--wounds and wolf tracks--that would be rational. Lovecraftian disgust is never rational, it is emotional and emotions are evolution's first-drafts of thoughts, made for when there's no time for evaluation, or no imperative demanding one.

Lovecraftian disgust is visceral, the kind that goes ick. The feeling of having a gun to your head isn't ick. Ick is a fear of life--someone else's icky life. Fear of mollusks, for instance--which are totally harmless--is Lovecraftian.

Once I met an art student who was making a really ugly painting of bearded men at prayer and doing it on purpose. I asked why and she said they were Muslim fundamentalists and she (she was of Middle Eastern descent) wanted to make Muslim fundamentalists look ugly and ridiculous and gross, and make people associate the image of fundamentalists with grossness. This was an attempt to recruit Lovecraftian disgust as a propaganda tool.

Likewise Trump complaining about how John Kasich eats is an attempt to recruit Lovecraftian disgust to political ends. But then so is the way we retweet how hideous Trump's toupee and terrible pigleather face are. 

In Taxi Driver, DeNiro's disgust is supremely Lovecraftian:

Whatever it is, you should clean up this city here, because this city here is like an open sewer you know. It's full of filth and scum. And sometimes I can hardly take it. Whatever-whoever becomes the President should just really clean it up. You know what I mean? Sometimes I go out and I smell it, I get headaches it's so bad, you know...They just never go away you know...It's like...I think that the President should just clean up this whole mess here. You should just flush it right down the fuckin' toilet. is Rorschach's disgust in Watchmen (created by avowed Lovecraft disciple Alan Moore)--in both cases the filth is clearly literal grime and a metaphor for every other sin in the city.

The dirt in a city, the tan, the toupee, eating, praying, the simple ugliness of people we think are ugly: all signs of life, not death. And icky.

Silence of the Lambs is a fascinating case: Hannibal Lecter is pure gothic--cold, crisp, polite, intelligent, quiet, patient, efficient, articulate, inevitable, living in a stone room, arguably charming. Like Dracula, he is asexual but apparently capable of a weird kind of romantic or at least personalized affection toward our hero and he is as bald as a skull. And he is seen killing, repeatedly, because people are in his way.

Buffalo Bill--whom he never shares a shot with--is sloppy, shifty, loud (always listening to music--and pop music, not dead people music like Lecter likes), awkward, breeds moths, has a dog and long hair and moans about fucking. Bill is all about life and therefore Bill is icky. He is a whole subculture of one down in his lived-in basement. (A trans friend who loves this film said she feared transitioning for years because she was afraid of being like Buffalo Bill.) And we never see him kill anyone--and even Lecter points out that for Bill, the murder is incidental--it's simply a result of Bill's total indifference to the lives of others while carrying out his own imperatives.

Lecter is bone, Bill is flesh.

As even the dullest bulbs notice, DIY D&D and OSR gaming in general emphasize the horror end of D&D--a lot more than TSR ever did. Part of it is the high mortality rate of the low-level game: If you're playing zero-to-hero D&D, then you'll lose a lot of zeroes and when this happens the only consistent aesthetic this really fits is either Dungeonmirth/Python style life-is-cheap black humor or survival horror. Horror is totally metal and horror is grimdark and those things, done well (ie like Warhammer used to do it) are both good.

LotFP: Weird Fantasy and other DIY D&Ders have often foregrounded horror--and occasionally even went ahead and claimed horror is helpful and good for you and worth pondering.

A formidable example comes from the poet Patricia Lockwood contemplating a Donald Trump rally, which I recommend you read but which I'll excerpt a bit of here to keep life linear:

It’s us, was the undercurrent. It’s just us in here. A handshake moved through the air as the speech walloped on, and then something more than a handshake. The more he spoke, the more Trump sounded like a rich man at dinner with a young woman whose passport is her face and her freshness, explaining to her the terms of the arrangement: that he would wear her on his arm, turning her toward the lights, that she would defer to him in public, that he would give her just enough of what he has to sustain her. I wrote in my notebook, “Trump is offering to be our sugar daddy? He wants to make America his trophy wife?” What he was really promising was freedom to move in the world the way he does, under his protection, according to his laws. Nobody owns me, he keeps telling us, not the lobbyists, not the Republican high-ups, not the Washington insiders. I’m not in anybody’s pocket; hop in mine. His wives, you might have noticed, grow lovelier and lovelier. It is a practiced seduction; it has worked before. We ignore it at our peril.

An example of the dangers of avoiding horror is offered by the RPG community itself:
From Something Awful's RPG forum--where people go to reaffirm each others' Lovecraftian disgust about women not playing the same edition of D&D they do.
There's a decent chunk of people who think Lovecraftiana and other disturbing horror themes in games are badwrongfun--and in fact that all not-power-fantasy themes are badwrongfun--and they all have something in common: they definitely do not want to talk to gamers who disagree with them. They're cool with attacking them, smearing them, and even reading their books to make fun of them, but they view the idea of engaging them as a contaminating anathema. A good chunk of them would be suspicious of this essay simply because it contains someone talking about Lovecraft (who is icky).

Again: an aesthetic fear so severe that it overrides the curiosity or sense of fairness that would discover whether that fear was justified.

This person who attacked Scrap Princess for inventing a biohorror stinger monster said "I lack both the capacity and the will to understand anyone who would accept that in their game".

The person on RPGnet who attacked Shanna Germain and a part of the game Numenera she wrote said "When I read the Numenera page in question, I thought/felt 'Whoever wrote this is probably evil”--and many game designers and moderators piled on.

Fred Hicks--the game publisher who attacked Kingdom Death--refused to talk to the women who defended it or the creator of the game explicitly on grounds of his (Fred's) fragile mental health.

The designer who claimed sexy zombies appear in games because people are secret necrophiliacs explicitly refuses to talk to, say, women who cosplay as sexy zombies, refuses to talk to anyone who disagrees with them, like Fred, on grounds of fragile mental health and deletes them when they talk.

These acts of Lovecraftian disgust are the result of years spent in sheltered internet pockets being told there are no personal or professional consequences to dehumanizing someone just because they like something you think is icky--and nothing good can come of talking to someone less than human.

These sheltered, life-phobic souls: shy, nervous, fragile, conflict-averse, fastidious, introverted bookworms, whose main social outlet is nerd conventions, with their small circle of gentle hobbyist correspondents are, ironically, imitating Lovecraft because they haven't read Lovecraft, or haven't learned anything from reading him. They aren't recognizing the disgust they're feeling for what it is despite having its consequences cleanly personified in the historical record.

When there is ick, there is fear, where there's fear there is ignorance, where there's ignorance there's disgust, and where there's disgust, prejudice.

Not everyone needs to face every horror---but if you never learn from horrors, you become one.


StevenWarble said...

This is brilliant. I am wordless at this moment to do anything but stutter brilliant...

Drew said...

I liked reading this, it was interesting at several levels. And I have been enrapt with Alan Moore's current project Providence which really gets into these themes.

But why do you suppose their is so much horror in the OSR games? I find myself doing this too (I don't write a blogs, but I play an OSR game with a few people in Salem). I wonder a little if it is not a kind of common denominator (and so playable) horror is very accessible and the mthyopoeic beauty of a Tolkien is harder to achieve in a game?

Parvel Shunk said...

Bravo, good sir.

Well said.

amp108 said...

@Drew, I don't know that the OSR really does have that much of a bias toward horror. Yes, LotFP is very "ick-horror" focused and it's reasonably commercially successful, but I don't see a lot of that at Bat in the Attic, Blue Boxer Rebellion, Jeff's Gameblog, et al. D&D has always been able to handle a variety of fantasy styles, alternating within a campaign or even within the scope of a single encounter. I think it's more that non-DIY, non-OSR commercial ventures are more likely to avoid certain types of horror because they fear it will restrict their audience, and therefore their sales numbers. That makes it seem more prevalent in the OSR than I suspect it really is.

Zak Sabbath said...

Nah, Tolkien is everywhere--in Burning Wheel, in Dungeon World, in Dragonlance, not to mention the explicit Tolkien properties and in any campaign that goes on long enough

Why Horror in the OSR?
Part of it is the high mortality rate of the low-level game: If you're playing zero-to-hero D&D, then you'll lose a lot of zeroes and when this happens the only consistent aesthetic this really fits is either Dungeonmirth/Python style life-is-cheap black humor or survival horror.

It's one of 2 options if you're playing PCs with 4 hit points.

Also: Alotta OSR people are creative adults trying to use the game to explore things that weren't explored int he early game due to the commercial pressures on it. So that definitely includes horror

scrap princess said...

man I vaguely remember that weaponized womb thing when did I write that? That sounds great, I should write some more things like that.

Arnold K said...

Do ovaries next. No one ever does ovaries.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this. Brilliant.

JD McDonnell said...

This is good. There's a lot of nice writing in here, but I'm not sure if I agree with it. I don't think finding something icky necessarily makes you a bad person. I have crawled through the crawlspaces of derelict buildings, helped clear out the homes of the recently dead, dumped the lav units on passenger planes, and once had to rake a few thousand rotting fish out of a poisoned lake in the middle of a broiling hot summer. I should have quit that job on the spot but was too young and stupid to do so.

My point is that sometimes disgust is warranted. Without it we don't have taste. We don't have style. We don't have personality. Granted, Lovecraft was a hot house flower to be sure, and there are too many out there like him in this day and age, but they are their own little set of extremists. They are the ones who will wither away to nothing because they are overwhelmed with disgust for anything which is not perfectly tailored to their liking. I almost hate to group Lovecraft in there with them because from what I know of the guy he did open up in his later years. And even in his earlier years I think there was a definite love/hate relationship between Howard and everything which was not Howard. I think he secretly longed to be taken by alien gods and corrupted into something other than himself, which might explain the fascination which kept him writing his tales.

Why is there so much horror in the OSR? I don't know, but I suspect that horror in general is a modern replacement for the primative rite of passage ritual, that experience of terror which proves to a boy that he can be a man or a girl that she can be woman by choosing to fight rather than flight when the adrenalyn starts rushing. Maybe we are still trying to make that passage into adulthood. Or possibly we have already made it and are just re-using it in an attempt to feel young again. Or possibly it is not that at all and we just need something a bit more visceral that bopping kobolds on their noggins to keep ourselves interested.

Maybe it's a different mystery for each of us and that is why we like it. We love our mysteries mysterious.

Anyways, good post - I enjoyed it - keep 'em coming!

Casmarius said...
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Zak Sabbath said...

"I don't think finding something icky necessarily makes you a bad person. "

I didn't say that.

Please read posts all the way through before commenting on them, especially if you're disagreeing with me.

"My point is that sometimes disgust is warranted."

I never said it wasn't.


Please read posts all the way through before commenting on them, especially if you're disagreeing with me.

Your theory about D&D is also nuts:

People play this game the reason they play most others: to exercise.

Casmarius said...

After reading this article, I immediately thought of GWAR.

When you said:
"If you're playing zero-to-hero D&D, then you'll lose a lot of zeroes and when this happens the only consistent aesthetic this really fits is either Dungeonmirth/Python style life-is-cheap black humor or survival horror. "

It made me think that D&Dification of GWAR's aesthetic achieves something that bridges the gap between those two options.

Gwar is the metal embodiment of everything that makes Lovecraft blush: grotesque phalluses, blood & ichor, destructive space monsters... the works.
Then they put a little Monty Python spin on that ball.

josh said...

This is so cool. This is why i love that first hellraiser. Its an icky roller coaster. In dnd my dm has definitely included horror, ick and otherness. In the campaign im thinking of the players and our dm switched rolls bringing the icky and the funny.

Johann said...

"In Lovecraft, the "primitiveness" and "degeneracy" only come when the xenomorphs mix with-, or are worshipped by-, the humans--again, it is contact that is bad."

Excellent observation and well substantiated. My insight of the day. Thank you.

Dan said...

Excellent essay, and hard to dispute any of it. Possible gameables include 'things that won't kill you but you really don't want to touch', and 'monsters that want to kill you without getting close because of how disgusting you are'.

Slightly related, possibly a different facet of lovecraftian horror: as a small kid I liked to learn about science way before they started teaching it in class. When I first learned that the universe is infinite I got really scared. I would lie awake at night trying to imagine it, figure it out, to fit it into my head, and getting more and more terrified for reasons I can't even really explain now.

I got over it, but when many years later I discovered Lovecraft and cosmic horror, what drew me in was that exact same fear of the infinite. Fear of life? I'm not sure - maybe fear of the universe, of which life is part.

Snarls-at-Fleas said...
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Snarls-at-Fleas said...

Awesome! Great food for thought in gaming and in life.
Read it through at once. Will need to do it again slower. Maybe even translate and share if you don't mind.
This will be very handy in my City of Judas campaign.

brink. said...

great, thoughtful stuff (as usual). my son happens to be studying Lovecraft in his experimental lit class right now. i'll pass this along to him (and he, no doubt, will pass it along to his high school class).

Jeff said...

An interesting and perfectly valid look of Lovecraft. There's definitely in many Lovecraft stories an intersection of "ick" and disgust with the visceral in all its many forms, with a terror that existence is so insignificant as to be pointless.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

One of best things I have read here in a while. Wait...that sounds like a backhanded compliment. It's not, it is a genuine compliment.

As an complete aside I do find it interesting that the people who attack Lovecraft's person today are the ones that are the most like him. Which is what I feel you are getting at in your last three paragraphs.

Roger G-S said...

ick + believing in something = fascism
ick + believing in nothing = lovecraft
believing in nothing = ligotti

Nick Sunshine said...
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David K said...

hey zak, when are you gonna get back to rewriting the 5e monster manual?

Zak Sabbath said...

Not soon, or at least not int he same form--all those tape-ins were busting up the spine on my MM so I stopped.

Might fin another way though if I run out of other things to keep me busy

Bearded-Devil said...

I'm curious whether you have China MiƩville's distinction between the uncanny and abcanny (or hauntological/weird) in mind when you note the difference between Lovecraft and the Gothic.

I hadn't thought about Buffalo Bill as the weird antithesis of Lector's gothicism, which is very interesting! I'm not sure where Dolarhyde would fit - towards the Lovecraftian end, perhaps, though with his theological obsessions he's maybe more Machenesque than Lovecraftian.

Konsumterra said...

i have a friend who rabildly hates hpl for being very racist. To me very racist is someone who act on racism and wants to mistreat people and wants to help facilitate social change towards their fantasy of homogeneity.

HPL i thik xenophobic and discusted but i dont know if writing poetry and boasting to your writer buddy eho lives with his mom about beieng a friend of frost and snow, a mighty viking really qualifies as what i would call nasty end of racism.

Id be interested in what you think of star treks bodily horror - everything sterile like a space dental studio, clones are evil, human looking machines problem, scars and deformity = moral capacity, being looked after by a false god worse than being mortal and suffering with survival, people retro or future evolve even reproducing leaving amphibian babies on a planet but by end of episode all consequences restored to status quo

Trek culture i have noted has some funny race issues and many fans believe they are highly ethical and tolerant and progressive.

William Hope Hodgkinson certainly shares (or possibly inspired) HPL discusts in the night land and other books but not fandoms criticisms

Have you read Norman Spinrads Iron Dream - a satirical attack on fascist sf, trek fans and the night land?

Bosh said...

Don't think there's much question that Lovecraft was thoroughly racist:

Zak Sabbath said...

Do not talk past people in my comments, David.

K's comment (which I disagree with) was about how racism is connected to _action_ vs speech. In order to talk to K you must address that point (pro or con), not simply reassert that HP was guilty of racist speech, which is not a point at issue.

Anyway, as to K's other commentc:

I don't think it's possible to take Star Trek as a whole in that regard, it represents the interests of too many competing creators who don't make a consistent product.

I haven't read The Iron Dream.

JDJarvis said...

I DM'd a game for the sons of several dads and their friends I knew and I ended up giving one of the older kids bed wetting nightmares because of one encounter with a skeleton.

The horror has always been there, it really does depend on how it is recognized and applied in the game.

s7610ra said...

Utterly brilliant and insightful.

Josh Burnett said...

Good work, sir! Clever transitioning from an insightful discussion of Lovecraft's horror and psychology to an examination of taste prejudices in nerd/RPG culture. I enjoyed both parts.

The Numenera space-succubus debacle is exactly what caused me to stop reading the forums.

Zak Sabbath said...


-This comment is not relevant to the OP or to the text of any of the comments it is beneath.

-You have not addressed the responses to your comments on the last post you commented on, about Towers Two.

This isn't a place for random antidiscussion, make comments that address the people talking.

Efie said...

I didn't think your comments on towers two required response. And as far racism =beliefs +action.No that is institutional racism. The basic definition of racism is the belief that a race is either better or worse than another. I was responding to David Boshkpo by the way, who IS in this thread.

Zak Sabbath said...

On Towers Two you need to say whether you agree or disagree with what I said in my response and if disagree, address my argument and explain why.

As for here: Boshko's comment was not relevant (Lovecraft held racist beliefs, thats' what the OP says and all that is relevant to its argument) and your comment is also off-topic.

It is also totally irrelevant whether or not racists harm people or what kind of people you prefer.

Efie said...

Yes I still disagree about towers two. I raised objections when TOR was deleted from ONEBOOKSHELF(drivethrurpg). and did what I could to support Venger when Alpha was briefly removed. You didn't do either, and in your comments on Towers Two gave at least half an explanation. I just didn't feel like rehashing an old argument. And responding to an either thread is still being on topic. And I would still rather associate with racists like Lovecraft than dicks, like you are being right now.

Zak Sabbath said...

I didn't say

"Repeat yourself"

I said respond to the points made in response to your comments.


You need to, in your next comment, either:

- acknowledge that "who you want to talk to" is not the topic of this conversation and not relevant and apologize for bringing it up.


-give an explanation of why "who efie wants to talk to" is relevant to a discussion of how Lovecraft's racism related to his larger fears and fiction

Also, you must apologize for making a personal attack.

If you do not do all of those things in your next comment, you will be banned.

Efie said...

Komsuttera was talking about a friend who rabidly hates Lovecraft for being racist. If you read my post I was addressing that portion of their post. Racism is not enough of a reason to hate anybody. I get along with a number of racists, I look past the point that they consider me not equal. as for your towers two comment("You've made a tremendous mistake while all books are entitled to protection under the First Amendment and other ethics which are in line with free-speech not all books need to be sold by all vendors. there for books which lack quality or even anyone reasonable who would argue for their quality such as TOR or FATE do not need to be sold by all vendors or even any vendors. Crap has a right to exist but all good people should refuse to sell it or give money to the people who produce it") I respectfully disagree. I support the speech of those I disagree with in the hopes that the society that I live in stays free. I don't live in a bubble where only the people I like get to talk,. I hoped to try to help keep drivethrurpg a place where we had access to all of those viewpoints. That includes TOR, FATE and even those who hated you for the D&D 5th edition thing(consultantgate?). I don't agree with any of those things but believe in giving as much access to those viewpoints as possible. ANd I am sorry I called you a dick OK. It was inappropriate, and based upon feeling attacked.
In addition, clasic Star Trek, doesn't present a united front in that for being a Starfleet vessel, it only has one non-human on board, despite Starfleet being made up of dozens of races. Lovecraft isn't alone in his fear of the other, I guess. Am I banned now?

Zak Sabbath said...

Do you understand that konsunterra reporting his/her friend's idea is not important to the ideas inthe op ? Do you understand that your opinion Who you do and don't want to talk to is taking that slightly off-topic comment and driving it so it's even more off-topic and even more unrelated to the point of the post?

Efie said...

In your OP you mentioned several examples of Lovecraftian disgust. I think that disgust of racists can be very lovecraftian. For many of us the viewpoint that the color of skin being related to worth is alien. YOu said and I quote"These acts of Lovecraftian disgust are the result of years spent in sheltered internet pockets being told there are no personal or professional consequences to dehumanizing someone just because they like something you think is icky--and nothing good can come of talking to someone less than human." Yet in many ways we treat racists as something less than human, instead of people with very palpable and very human fears. Refusing to associate with them only fuels their fears. I try to at least implant the notion that all members of another race are to be feared in my personal actions. Topics are meant to go on tangents, that is called a conversation. Have faith that we will come back to your topic, and gently lead us back. Intice us with carrots instead of beating us with sticks and we will come trotting back to the discussion dutifully.

Efie said...

I meant implant the notion not to be feared.

Zak Sabbath said...

No carrots. people either want to make sense and have a discussion that makes sense or they don't. If they don't I don't want them here. My goal is not to invite in everyone who wants to talk, only intelligent people.

As for your remarks the salient point that I make in the post is that racists feel disgusted by people because of something beyond their target's control--that is: something that you Are.

Whereas we feel disgusted by racists for a much better reason: something that they chose and have control over and which can cause harm. That is: something they Did.

It is rational to dislike someone because of something they did or choose to irrationally believe. It is irrational to dislike someone because of what they are.

Efie said...

I'm saddened that you don't think I make intelligent points. And if you think that all racists choose to be afraid or distrustful of other races, then your experience isn't as vast as you think it is. Not every chooses to be a racist, some are raised that way, some might have a traumatic experience that shapes their thinking, some might be shut-ins with little experience with Lovecraft. If you didn't want us to talk about racism, why include it as a topic in the article at all?

Zak Sabbath said...

"Racism" is not a problem subject here "Whether Efie wants to talk to racists" is off-topic.

Do you grasp the difference?

As for choice: Lovecraft had access to enough information to not be racist if he did his research. He is what's relevant here.

Volja said...

Actually the description of HPL above fits me pretty well, except that I like to go to gigs and have a bounce around the mosh pit.

aaronparr said...

Great post. I had not thought about Lovecraft's fear of living much before, but its a far more common fear amongst people in our hobby, I think, than that of death. I suffer from it plainly enough. Life is so damn messy and out of control. Its a real challenge to live and not constantly fail. And so on. That Lovecraft was so extreme in this regard is remarkable.

Thanks for talking about this. Its been good thinking about it.

Anonymous said...

I strongly suspect that this Lovecraftian disgust is why every movie and videogame villain has to die, preferably in an explosion. But killing them and incinerating their remains, the heroes can minimize contact with the other. The evil does not have to be understood or overcome, it just needs to be made to disappear. It has to be erased from existance to give the heroes peace again.

Efie said...

Yes I get the difference, I'll try to stay on your subject when asked. I do happen to think it's OK to go off topic, sometimes. But I'll try to restrain myself I think racism is about fear. And we don't always get to pick what we fear.

ixazal said...

A friend recently posted about teaching her child "don't yuck on someone's yum."

How many people could benefit from learning that basic lesson!

It rather boggles my mind that so many folks in the gaming community feel a need to attack that which they don't connect with.

I wasn't aware of the personality and racism of Lovecraft - this post does such a great job of revealing the undercurrents in the author's writing. I appreciate the thought provoking and informative post.

Zak Sabbath said...

i didn't

but i should go check on it

Unknown said...

There is a manga called Wombs.

It is a military science fiction manga. It is about a war fought on a colonized planet. One country controls only a small set of territory. The other have almost the entire planet under control, as well as near complete air superiority.

But the first country also have "transfer technology". A teleportation technology that allows the military the capacity to move personnel, material, and conduct operations all over the planet.

It works by implanting women with an alien organ and letting it slowly grow inside their wombs for several months. The more it grows, the better they can teleport things. When it grows to big they extract it and implanting a new one.

In order to transfer, the women have to move trough a "coordinate space" a strange otherrealm where normal time and distance no longer work like they should.

That manga really struck me as Lovecraftian. Not the memetic Lovecraftian of popular culture, which is mostly about eldritch gods, strange monsters, and madness (which I do not mind and think is nice to), but rather the actual, original Lovecraft.

Perhaps a little because they know so little about this alien derived technology.
Also a little that details of the transfer technology, its origin and history, is revealed to us very slowly.

But more because...

It is about ordinary people doing something mundane but slightly uncommon, and in doing that they get in touch with something truly Other.

They are fighting a war. The manga portrays the military in a way that to me seems realistic. They portray the propaganda, and scientists, and culture within the military in a way that seems realistic.

That is what Lovecraft is to me. The main point isnt really the eldritch horrors or ancient alien gods or even the subhuman creatures so much as it is on the normal people doing something common, yet out of the ordinary and then getting in touch with all that weird stuff.

Like a farmer having a meteor fall down near his farm.
Or that weird cousin you almost never talk to suddenly coming on a visit.
Or someone doing an archeological excavation.
Or a journalist digging into a local subculture.
Or you yourself digging into your family history.

Well it is what Lovecraftian is to me.