I Boycott World Fantasy

  1. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    I think reactionary might be your own reading, because I don't see it, or even a hint of it, there. But Joshi, by his own words, reveals himself to be an apologist.

    apologist noun : a person who defends or supports something that is being criticized or attacked by other people

    How does that not fit?

    Whether or not he is "part of the problem" would depend, I suppose, on what one believes the problem is. Lovecraft's brand of racism? An undeservedly high reputation as a writer that (some may feel) Lovecraft enjoys? The subject actually under discussion here: the use of Lovecraft's image on a statue given out by the WFC to honor excellence?

    Since much of Joshi's reputation and livelihood depends on Lovecraft's reputation as a writer, how to view what he has to say on the subject presents something of a problem. On the one hand, he is an acknowledged expert on Lovecraft and where better to seek clarity than by consulting an expert? On the other, he is hardly a disinterested party. Far from it.

    ____

    As for using Butler on the statue instead, I don't think her work is sufficiently well-known, nor Butler herself a sufficiently iconic figure.

    I'm with those who think the figure used for the award should be a thing rather than a person. Then no one's reputation has to come under discussion, to be attacked and defended. I am sure there would be debate about whatever design was chosen, but I think it might be less protracted and perhaps friendlier.
     
    Nov 13, 2015
    #81
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  2. dask

    dask dark and stormy knight

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    Do you by chance mean Octavia Butler?
     
    Nov 13, 2015
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  3. WaylanderToo

    WaylanderToo Well-Known Member

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    Here's a Q for you all... should we drop Shakespeare because of his antisemitism?
     
    Nov 13, 2015
    #83
  4. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    Well spotted. :)

    My excuse is that I'm not very familiar with her work at all. :oops:

    I don't think anyone's arguing that The Bard is the face of modern fantasy. ;) Neither, do I think, is Lovecraft's literary influence being called into question - but by using his personal image to represent contemporary fantasy, it invites discussion as to whether that's really the most appropriate. A discussion that perhaps should have happened a long time ago.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2015
    Nov 13, 2015
    #84
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  5. chopper

    chopper Steven Poore - Epic Fantasist & SFSF Socialist

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    straw man argument. the question is whether HPL represents the modern genre. ST Joshi & W Pugmire believe he does. aside from "because, dammit!" i haven't seen anything yet (though caveat: i've been busy enough that i haven't gone out of my way to look) to convince me that he does.
     
    Nov 13, 2015
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  6. dask

    dask dark and stormy knight

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    I think someone in this thread pointed out that there was no real horror genre before the late 60's - early 70's until Stephen King sort of kick started it. Shouldn't he be the answer to this question?
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2015
    Nov 13, 2015
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  7. Randy M.

    Randy M. Well-Known Member

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    In at least one sense you're right. His influence has out-grown genre and he has become an international writer; we in the U.S. are no longer the only fans who adore/revile him.

    As for his current relevance, I suppose he doesn't have any beyond a volume of his stories edited by Joyce Carol Oates, another edited by Peter Straub (Library of America), two annotated editions (one by Joshi another by Klinger), two editions of his complete fiction published by Barnes & Noble's publishing branch (one a "luxury" edition after the previous edition sold out), editions of his writings from Penguin and Gollancz among other publishers, and multiple anthologies playing in the Lovecraft mythos sandbox (3 volumes of the Black Wings -- a.k.a. Black Wings of Cthulhu; 2 volumes The New Cthulhu; 2 volumes The Book of Cthulhu; Lovecraft's Monsters; Lovecraft Unbound; 2 volumes The Madness of Cthulhu; World War Cthulhu; Cthulhu's Reign; The Children of Cthulhu; Shadows Over Baker Street; and on and on). Among writers represented in those anthologies and others are, Charles Stross, Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti, Caitlin Kiernan, Brian Stableford, Jonathan Thomas, Jorge Luis Borges, Laird Barron, Michael Shea, Angela Slatter, Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, Holly Philips, William Browning Spenser, Fred Chappell, Gregory Frost, and on and on, including in some older anthologies, Stephen King.

    From the WFC Awards winners and nominees over the past 20 years, these I am positive are influenced by Lovecraft's fiction,

    Ramsey Campbell: WFC Life Achievement Award
    Thomas Ligotti: The Nightmare Factory (WFA nominee), Grimscribe: His Lives and Works (WFA nominee)
    Fred Chappell: More Shapes than One (WFA nominee)
    Caitlin Kiernan: The Red Tree (WFA nominee), The Drowning Girl (WFA nominee), To Charles Fort, With Love (WFA nominee), The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories (WFA winner)
    Laird Barron: The Croning, The Imago Sequence and Other Stories (title story WFA nominee), Occultation, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All (WFA nominee)
    Neil Gaiman: “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar” (WFA nominee)
    Daryl Gregory: We Are All Completely Fine (WFA winner)
    Jeff & Ann Vandermeer: The Weird (WFA winner)
    S. T. Joshi: Black Wings: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror (WFA nominee)
    Marc Laidlaw: The 37th Mandala (WFA nominee)

    There may be others I'm not aware of.

    That Vandermeer volume is particularly important since it gathers together a good deal of work outside the epic/heroic/Tolkeinesque: Lovecraft is an active ingredient to a good deal of sf/f/h. But beyond that in his writing he adopted and expanded on aspects in the writings of Poe, Ambrose Bierce, Robert Chambers, William Hope Hodgson, Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen, and influenced the writings of a great many writers from Weird Tales so that when they chose Lovecraft it wasn't just because of his writing but because he stood for a thread of weird fantasy in line of literary descent from those earlier writers and as a mentor to many later writers (Bloch, Leiber, Henry Kuttner, etc.).

    He was a good choice at the time. The majority of his fiction is not especially racist or anti-Semitic because his aims in fiction were toward other goals. He is problematic because of his rants on race in his voluminous letters, but late in life seemed to be moderating his views drastically, seeing his earlier stances as immaturity combined with a sheltered, inhibited youth.

    Anyway, here I am sitting on the fence, thinking he's been greatly influential on a particularly strong but until relatively recently mostly underground thread of fantasy; but I understand the hesitation for people of color to accept him because he also wrote some especially vile things about them, and maybe more so after seeing see the frustration of a close friend who recently expressed his anger with a country that allows the shooting of Black males with little or no consequence so that he feels that unlike his Caucasian peers he has to constantly be on his guard to avoid drastic consequences to small actions.

    On another forum Ellen Datlow is saying this is a molehill problem, within five or six years the controversy will fade and another will take its place. I agree, but it is certainly emblematic of the state of race relations in the U.S. and the conversations surrounding them that I'm seeing elsewhere, and given some of the heat I've seen, not in a good way.


    Randy M.
     
    Nov 13, 2015
    #87
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  8. Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

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    As I stated quite clearly, HPL encouraged a huge number of writers of fantasy, including Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner, providing them with endless support and advice. Leiber -- one of the most respected writers of the fantastic of his generation, and the first to grab the three big life achievement awards of the fantastic AND get into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame -- considered HPL his biggest influence along with Shakespeare.
    "Some impact on horror"... Thanks for stooping to admitting that.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2015
    Nov 13, 2015
    #88
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  9. lynnfredricks

    lynnfredricks Well-Known Member

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    The adjective isn't optional as written. I got the reactionary from the overall tone of the writing. Do you think he's painting STJ favorably?

    How do you think STJ is being presented in the article?

    He's built his reputation and specialty around Lovecraft, sure. A genuine scholar has a keen academic understanding of their subject, outside of moralistic views. I'm not trying to dress him up as a machine, and certainly any academic is going to have some preconceptions and opinions. But you seem to be implying here that his expertise makes him more likely to blunt, soften or otherwise modify how he presents his academic findings based on self interest. Certainly, if there's some evidence of that, it should be known. Do you have any?

    That would be the easiest way, I agree.
     
    Nov 14, 2015
    #89
  10. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    I can't say that he is being "presented" any particular way in the article, since any impression someone is likely to come away with will be based on Joshi's own words quoted in the article, not on anything said about him in the article.



    I think it's true, to some extent, of any academic in that same position. It is something we should always take into account when forming our own opinions based on what experts say. To what extent it is true of Joshi I can't say, nor did I imply that I knew. He would, however, have to be super-human if self-interest did not make him tenacious in his views.

    A while ago in this discussion you brought up the word "narcissistic" without giving any examples. It seems to me that this is something most likely to come up in academic discussions when someone is too closely and publicly identified with their positions. Since you didn't provide any examples I am wondering what you meant.
     
    Nov 14, 2015
    #90
  11. lynnfredricks

    lynnfredricks Well-Known Member

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    Any persuasive piece of writing conveys tone. There's no truly objective way to parse it out or assign it a single metric, but its there.

    I don't have specific links to it, but I recall that he's experienced many encounters where people have attempted to derail academic discussions and panel discussions. That gets old really quickly, especially after acknowledgement, they won't let you move on.

    Sure. In this case, the inability to, at least to some degree, separate your feelings from observation, analysis and discussion to the point where your feelings determine your methodology of persuasion. Many of the logical fallacies that were probably not tolerated in a college level English writing class (as the sort taught in North American and Western European institutions) become part of the playbook for presenting an argument because those fallacies are persuasive among many audiences, especially audiences that want confirmation of their opinions.

    I acknowledge your point about narcissism in close association with positions as possible. I have seen that outside of academic settings too. That said, with ongoing presentation of reasonable arguments and a lack of substantial proof, is it necessary to make an expert prove their non-guilt, again and again?
     
    Nov 14, 2015
    #91
  12. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    I think it's worth reminding ourselves that there is no argument as to whether HP Lovecraft is a towering influence on fantastic fiction.

    The sad thing is that modern culture and its sensibilities are extremely new, sociologically speaking. I doubt there are many figures from before the 21st century who could easily be exonerated by any of our moral standards. However, those standards in themselves are embryonic - and I doubt that many of us would survive the moral thrashing we invite for our planet-destroying consumerist society that future generations may judge us by.
     
    Nov 14, 2015
    #92
  13. steelyglint

    steelyglint Ancient leather-bound bookseller, all edges gilt.

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    If the award is for 'contemporary fantasy' shouldn't the bauble they hand out reflect that? Simple enough to do by making it to represent the top selling fantasy novel or novellist published in the 12 months prior to the award ceremony.

    Then they could have a new award - for the author represented in the previous award the most times in a decade or whatever.

    Not sure what it was he won, but our local fantasy author, Adrian Cole, got a gong this year, but it may have been from the British Fantasy Society - he came into the shop to tell me. I, of course, congratulated him. Then I sold him an illustrated edition of Dracula and everybody lived happily ever after.

    The End.

    .
     
    Nov 14, 2015
    #93
  14. chopper

    chopper Steven Poore - Epic Fantasist & SFSF Socialist

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    it was indeed a BFS award - Best collection: Nick Nightmare Investigates, Adrian Cole (The Alchemy Press and Airgedlámh Publications) - i wished him good luck before the ceremony so i'd like to think i'm a good luck charm :)

    [​IMG]By the way, that's a BFS award. not mine, obviously. but a very good example of something that is a) not offensive and b) desirable.
     
    Nov 15, 2015
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  15. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Yes, but the article wasn't about Joshi. He was mentioned as an expert, he was quoted, and then the article moved on. As far as having anything to say about Joshi, as far as I could see the tone was about as neutral as humanly possible. Not so the rest of the article, of course, but it was meant to persuade readers of Lovecraft's racism. I didn't get the impression that the Joshi quote was there for any purpose except to make an attempt at being (or appearing) even-handed.

    It's not a matter of expecting people to prove their non-guilt as you put it. It is simply that the possibility of such bias ought to be taken into account when weighing the words of any expert. Just because someone is an expert, it doesn't mean we should accept everything they say without questioning it. Especially when the reputation of the expert is so dependent on the reputation of another, the subject of their expertise.

    But take someone who is an expert on some facet of Shakespeare's life or work. He or she does not have to defend Shakespeare's reputation. That may change during the course of the next century or two, but during the lifetime of Mr. or Ms. Shakespeare-Expert there will be no need to defend the relevance of his or her own work by staving off any serious attempts to undermine the position of importance that Shakespeare occupies in English drama and literature.

    And while Lovecraft's influence on other writers and the respect in which he is held by such numbers of readers make it highly, highly unlikely that he will be shunted off to the side (at least not in the foreseeable future) as nothing more than a racist hack, it seems to me that some of the defensive postures taken by those in the Lovecraft camp betray just the tiniest bit of fear that it could happen.
     
    Nov 15, 2015
    #95
  16. lynnfredricks

    lynnfredricks Well-Known Member

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    It isn't a neutral tone. When was the last time you actually saw some one "bristle"?

    A piece of persuasive writing has to acknowledge opposing views. You either out logic or out research those views to invalidate them. NB offers two points of invalidation, based on STJ's statements:

    1) STJ's claim that only five stories are actually racist
    2) STJ saying you can't judge someone who lived during era X because their moral character was different than now

    As you said - why is this relevant in an article about HPL's racism? It's not, except that NB is attempting to discredit the most well known living scholar of HPL as a reactionary apologist. STJ acknowledges that HPL wrote some very racist fiction or articles. But for NB, that is insufficient for whatever he wants to achieve.

    There is the question though - does the perception of HPL as a horrible racist invalidate the relevance of his work? Does the revelation of HPL as a horrible racist invalidate or lessen the value of the research into his works?

    You see, I don't think it does. There are experts who specialize in understanding things which are undesirable, yet are expert in historical facts that we should understand.

    I haven't considered, case by case, just how many stories or poems or essays by HPL are racist or not. If STJ thinks there are only five, then okay, I may or may not agree with the exact number, because I don't know what the exact metric is. But NB suggesting there is more than just a few - at least a few, and not just one or two, and not every one.

    As for the "people of era x" argument, that's a bit of a generalization but believable.

    What is it from STJ that we should be disbelieving?

    So STJ is insecure because Lovecraft's literary influence or importance isn't firmly established?

    That's one way to frame it, but I believe its contrary to (dare I use the word...) the philosophy of academic scholarship. If the works of an individual have sustaining / ongoing relevance, then their works are relevant, regardless of the individual's infamy. Now Ill split your adjective and noun.

    Who is saying that HPL wasn't a racist? Not STJ. STJ acknowledges it.

    Who is saying HPL is a hack (assuming here you mean a middling quality or un-influential writer)? Some believe some of his works were brilliant, but others less so. HPL has some stories that are just not great. But not every work a renowned author writes is going to be brilliant.
     
    Nov 15, 2015
    #96
  17. chopper

    chopper Steven Poore - Epic Fantasist & SFSF Socialist

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    but, relevantly, perception of HPL as a horrible racist does taint the value of the WFC award. and that's the point.
     
    Nov 15, 2015
    #97
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  18. lynnfredricks

    lynnfredricks Well-Known Member

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    I don't think HPL is the best representative of modern fantasy, and I agree that an objective symbol rather than selection of another human being based on socio-political objectives would likely be the least objectionable to everyone.

    How you go about identifying and fixing a problem is as important as the result you would like to accomplish.
     
    Nov 15, 2015
    #98
  19. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    The WFC should hesitate before they commit themselves to a trophy with imagery of a monster, because wee monster statuettes can look fanboy-ish.
     
    Nov 15, 2015
    #99
  20. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    I've not had the time to go through all the posts here, but I thought I might help with this one, Ray. You can find corrected texts of his work at the following links (the first for fiction, the second for verse, of which I would suggest at least a sampling when it comes to his fantastic verse, such as the Fungi from Yuggoth sequence, "The Messenger", etc.). I direct you here, because most of the texts, including the one you referenced, are corrupt, from mildly to quite seriously so. This makes a difference with Lovecraft as, whether one finds his work to taste or not, he was a painstaking craftsman, something a careful reading will show. (Again, whether or not one likes or approves of his choices, his meticulous use of the language for a particular effect becomes obvious with such a careful, rather than casual or surface, reading. The "Herbert West" stories -- I use the plural because they were originally separate tales which were part of a larger "umbrella" -- and "The Lurking Fear" are exceptions to some degree because he was working under particular constraints with those, such as delivering a recap of earlier sections with each segment.)

    As far as personal suggestions, if no one else has mentioned them, I would certainly recommend "The Colour Out of Space", "The Music of Erich Zann" (both of which are almost prose-poems in their use of the language), as well as, for a somewhat more fanciful type of tale, "The Cats of Ulthar" and the short novel The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (though one often has to be in a particular type of mood for the latter). In relation to the racism issue, I would suggest "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" as an example of how he turned that particular personal trait to advantage in dark fantasy, and "The Horror at Red Hook" or "The Street" as examples of his ethnophobia at its worst... in his fiction, at any rate. His letters are another thing.

    http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/fiction/

    http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/poetry/

    I fear that his views will continue to form a battleground for quite a long time to come, and perhaps justly so. However, for my part, I think it a great deal more sensible as well as just to see a writer within the context of their time as well as outside it, and to recognize that all have their flaws, sometimes quite egregious; but this does not lessen their importance or worth as creative artists, it is simply another factor to take into account in reaching a balanced view. (And, on the latter, for all my own devotion to Lovecraft, I think Theresa's post above -- #7 -- is probably the most just and objective.)
     
    Nov 17, 2015
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