Lovecraft and the Fear of Ick

Thought-provoking post by Zak Smith on Lovecraft, Nerds And The Uses of Ick. H. P. Lovecraft is one of the most controversial figures in SF and gaming cultures. His massive misogyny and racism cannot be denied, yet the visceral power of his horrors mean he’s still one of the most influential writers of the genre. But both his bigotry and the power of his writing stem from the same fear of the Other.

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.

He then turns to the RPG world’s rather messy culture wars,  drawing parallels between Lovecraft’s fears and hangups with those of the faction who wish to sanitise and bowdlerise the RPG hobby.

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.

I’m not enirely convinced that calling out some game designers by name is productive, but the points he makes are still valid.

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One Response to Lovecraft and the Fear of Ick

  1. Michael says:

    RPGs come in all sorts of flavours and trying to “clean up RPGs” is as reasonable as saying all fiction sections in libraries and bookshops may only contain books by Mills & Boon.

    I like RQ, Pacesetter’s Star Ace and Time Master, and TORG. The pleasure I get from D&D is a function of the DM, and I tend not to opt for “horror” RPGs the same way I don’t read books by Steven King.

    But I’m not going to try and stop other people playing “horror” genre RPGs just as I would never consider trying to stop people reading horror stories or watching horror films. That sort of censorship is plain wrong!