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.
Just when you thought Goldsmith’s College couldn’t get any weirder, here’s an academic paper claiming carbon fibre is misogynist. The link surfaced on Twitter after its author got into an online fight with Richard Dawkins, which sounds like the sort of fight you want both sides to lose.
It’s been suggested the whole thing is a Sokal-style hoax, but I’m not sure. Poes Law and all that.
In this paper I am concerned with instances in which carbon fiber extends performances of masculinity that are attached to particular kinds of hegemonic male bodies. In examining carbon fiber as a prosthetic form of masculinity, I advance three main arguments. Firstly, carbon fiber can be a site of the supersession of disability that is affected through masculinized technology. Disability can be ‘overcome’ through carbon fiber. Disability is often culturally coded as feminine (Pedersen, 2001; Meeuf, 2009; Garland-Thompson 1997). Building on this cultural construction of disability as feminine, in and as a technology of masculine homosociality (Sedgwick, 1985), carbon fiber reproduced disability as feminine when carbon fiber prosthetic lower legs allowed Oscar Pistorius to compete in the non-disabled Olympic games. Secondly, I argue that carbon fiber can be a homosocial surface; that is, carbon fiber becomes both a surface extension of the self and a third party mediator in homosocial relationships, a surface that facilitates intimacy between men in ways that devalue femininity in both male and female bodies. I examine surfaces as material extensions of subjectivity, and carbon fiber surfaces as vectors of the cultural economies of masculine competition to which I refer. Thirdly, the case of Oscar Pistorius is exemplary of the masculinization of carbon fire, and the associated binding of a psychic attitude of misogyny and power to a form of violent and competitive masculine subjectivity. In this article I explore the affects, economies and surfaces of what I call ‘carbon fiber masculinity’ and discusses Pistorius’ use of carbon fiber, homosociality and misogyny as forms of protest masculinity through which he unconsciously attempted to recuperate his gendered identity from emasculating discourses of disability. Ph’nglui Mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn
Ok, so I added the last line
But surely if H.P.Lovecraft was writing today, his equivalent of The Esoteric Order of Dagon wouldn’t be a Presbyterian sect that had gone off the rails, but would be located deep within the humanities department of a second-rate university.
Has the author wandered so far down the postmodernist rabbit-hole that many, many, SAN rolls have been lost?
The branch to Innsmouth had closed by the time of the events in “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, but the Innsmouth Local still runs on the HO Scale Miskatonic Railroad, set in the 19th Century, with locations inspired by H.P.Lovecraft’s stories set in New England.
The centrepiecepiece is the splendid Victorian Gothic station of Arkham, modelled on the real-live station of Salem, MA (of witch-trial fame). Much like too much of the best Victorian architecture of Britain, it was demolished in the 1950s to make way for a car park.
Hat-tip to Kenneth Hite (who else?) for the link.
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?