Tag Archives: Call of Cthulhu

Is Lovecraft’s racism central to the horror?

I had an interesting if brief discussion on Twitter with feminist writer and activist Laurie Penny about H. P. Lovecraft. Despite his reactionary and misanthropic world-view, she’s a big fan and stated that his massive racism and sexism are an intrinsic part of the horror.

You don’t have to read much Lovecraft to recognise that his work is shot through with racism. It’s not just having a cat called “Nigger Boy”; stories like the iconic “Call of Cthulhu” are filled with awful racial stereotypes, and a primal fear of miscegenation lies at the heart of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth“.

Yet almost all Lovecraft fans I know are left-leaning in their politics and strongly anti-racist. This may just be a reflection of the sorts of people I hang out with online, but I can’t think of many HPL fans with robustly right-wing views. Certainly I’ve seen no evidence of hordes of Lovecraft fans who embrace his racism and sexism in the manner of a noisy faction of Robert Heinlein fanboys.

What are your feelings about Lovecraft? Do you or people you know find his racism too much to stomach? Are there hordes of ultra-reactionary Deep Ones that embrace his values who I’m blissfully unaware of?

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Summer Stabcon 2011

I’ve been going to Stabcon for the best part of the decade now. Advertised by little more than word-of-mouth (it doesn’t even have a website), it’s a friendly board, card and roleplaying game convention, currently held twice a year at the Britannia Hotel in Stockport. With many of the same faces year after year, it had effectively become the nearest thing to my local gaming group. Except now I’ve moved down south, it’s a three-and-a-half hour train journey away.

Still, it’s great to meet up with old friends, play some great games, and of course drink beer. Beer has always been an important part of Stabcon – back in the days when it was held at Woolton Hall we always used to drink the bar dry by the end of the con. Nowadays the hotel stocks up on real ales for the occasion. I usually prefer to spend the Friday night playing boardgames, this year it was a Eurogame whose name I forget, and for which I never really got my head round the rules, and Runebound, which I cruelly and probably unfairly described as “Munchkin without the jokes”.

I really go to Stabcon for the roleplaying games, but some years I’ve spent a good part of Saturday playing board games because there weren’t enough RPGs I fancied playing that both had free slots and didn’t clash with other games. This time it worked well, with all the good the GMs sensibly choosing non-clashing slots, so I managed to get signed up for three games over the course of the day.

We started with a Battlestar Galactica run by Dr. Bob. The player characters were captains of a fleet of abandoned ships without functioning faster-than-light drives, but with a large number of refugees. We started to cobble together some working drives by cannibalising others, so at least some ships would be spaceworthy. After lengthy discussions about which ships to take, we jumped to the next system and found ourselves answering a distress call, where we found the last survivor of a research station where everyone else had been horribly murdered…

The afternoon session was the latest of Phil Masters’ GURPS Diskworld adventures. The PCs were special agents of Sto Lat, sent on a mission “To prevent a Story happening”. To say too much about the nature of the story would be a spoiler for anyone playing the same scenario at another convention, but let’s say that, in the true style of this sort of Diskworld scenario, no cliché was left unturned, and we dispatched the bad guy in the correct manner for the story in question.

The evening session was Kev Dearn’s Call of Cthulhu game, set during World War 2 at an archaeological dig in Alsace-Lorraine. It was the sequel to a game set in Roman times, with the dig being the site of the original game. As was to be expected, we encountered sanity-blasting Things Man Was Not Meant To Know so horrifying that they made the SS (the player characters!) look like the good guys.

Unusually for a Stabcon, there were two games on the Sunday. The first was a Terminator game using the Twilight 2000 2013 system, again run by Dr. Bob. The scenario was not dissimilar to the original Terminator film, except it was an entire team sent back into the past, and our mission was to save the physics professor who had discovered the secret of time travel. Once we heard news reports of “a naked gunman on the rampage” it was clear what the opposition was. We did survive a run-in with Arnie and lived to tell the tale.

The final game of the weekend, run by John Parr just after lunch, was very silly indeed, but extremely entertaining. Trumpton, the RPG is a (presumably) unauthorised fan-written system. What actually happened in the game is best summed-up by this quote: “All the scythe-bots are dealt with. We blew up two of the things in Trumpton town square, Captain Snort’s men dealt with one, one fell in the Chigley canal, and Windy Miller’s smoking a joint with the last one”. The game ended with us discovering which character from a completely different programme was responsible for mining the canal, and my character shooting down his Royal Mail helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade.

And so ended another Stabcon, and hats off to organisers Michelle and Hammy for another great weekend. This time, instead of being home by tea-time, it would be three and a half hours on board an Arriva Cross-Country Voyager before I’d arrive home. At least I had time to read the whole of “Cthulhu Invictus” that I’d bought from Fan Boy Three.

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