How Should We Deal with Lovecraft’s Influence in Games?


#46

BlockquoteAlso, did you notice all the acts of violence in the past two weeks carried out against minorities or the fear mongering and hysteria about a caravan of migrants breaking into the country? To say nothing of constant police brutality and the murderr of black and brown people? Heck, I am cherrypicking very easy obvious examples. We live in a deeply racist society.

Yes I have and yes we do. We live in a deeply racist society now and we lived in a deeply racist society in 1918. I’m wondering if there will be a collective forgetfulness about how racist it actually was in 2018.


#47

I definitely agree that the “He was a product of his time” arguments are used to shrug away criticism and make his views acceptable by majority rule, but my pushback of “he was extreme for his time” is making sure that we aren’t whitewashing history in the late-1800s and early-1900s. I think we can read Lovecraft and acknowledge, “shit, this is fucking racist and deplorable” and go back through the records and say “shit, this entire time was racist and deplorable. Indigenous people were given forced sterilizations well into the 1970s, lynchings increased, eugenics was a prestigious study at university and shaped immigration reform.” You can read Lovecraft and be horrified by his rhetoric and then read history and be horrified by what was occurring. Don’t accept either and don’t forget either.


#48

Ah my apologies, I think I misread or misunderstood the point you were making in that final paragraph. I am going to blame that on daylight savings time and being online before I had breakfast, rather than my poor reading comprehension skills.


#49

I hear the cast struggling with the idea of criticizing media but still consuming it for the parts they like. Then you question why you like it, as Rob said, what horrible things does that mean about your own beliefs (paraphrasing of course).

No easy answers to this, grapple with it myself. Especially stings when you realize something you’ve enjoyed for years is super obviously problematic and you just didn’t see it. The instinct is strong to double down and go in defense mode, embrace moral relativism — but I strongly advise resisting that instinct…maybe preaching to the choir in this forum…

Changing tracks, while the fear of the “other” is a very prevalent theme in Cosmic Horror (or whatever name you choose for this sub genre, lately I kind of lean on “Weird Fiction” but whatev) , also just as strong is the theme of the unknown depths of the “self”, not corrupted by outside influences, being the true source of horror. Also this genre does not begin and end with Lovecraft’s work (though his influence is very strong, especially that pervasive mythology)


#50

One thing I’m curious about when it comes to Lovecraft is the idea of him being a conservative vs. a progressive. While his ideas on race are very much an outlier at the time, for being so virulent and focusing on it with a disturbing passion, Eugenics was considered popular science in the day. In fact, it has been pointed out that Lovecraft was in many ways a progressive when it came to technology and sciences. For that time, at least.

I have only read a few of his short stories, one called, ‘The Statement of Randolph Carter.’ It is the most Lovecraft-ass story he has ever written. I couldn’t help but chuckle as Randolph was having another character describe what he was seeing underneath a graveyard via a telephone wire, and it was the typical, “It is so horrible Randolph! I can’t possibly describe the horrors I am seeing before me or else you too may lose your mind!”

The big part being that he was using a telephone wire to relay information back and forth to his friend. Now, in most horror, you’d think the focus would be the MC traveling with his friend and seeing the monsters below himself. But no, he is conveyed all the information over a staticy telephone line, and what we don’t see makes it all more the terrifying.

I have a few RPG books called Delta Green. It’s a series that modernizes the Lovecraftian mythos, setting them from World War 2 to post-9/11. The game has it’s own problems with using the Holocaust in its lore (Yeah, I know,) having mechanics for projecting your mental illness on loved ones, and even unflinching mechanics for what to do when your character contracts HIV. It’s a weird fucking game. But the writer wrote this about Lovecraft in a AMA:

I am a modern guy. Lovecraft, strangely enough, was a modern guy. His protagonists flew triplanes and used electric torches and radios. That’s the truth of the Cthulhu mythos—none of the technology we’ve developed matters one iota to the Great Old Ones.

So, what I think makes Lovecraft more disturbing as a racist figure of his time is that he normalized the racism with having progressive modern technology and science (for the time) to bash against these ideas of the ‘old world,’ which are classist and racist. He appealed to an audience of his time because he was speaking their language, and was able to rope them in a way like a figure like Richard Spencer does with white supremacy: wearing a suit instead of a hood, having a strong internet presence, and using dog whistles to convey his racist messages. It’s conservatism hidden within a modern progressive world.


#51

For me those two aren’t mutually exclusive. I mean just look at how the alt-right and the goobergaters are united by their interest in tech, while still being deeply racist, sexist, ableist, queer- and transphobic.

To the discussion in general: I hate, hate, hate the racist for their time argument, since it sidelines the marginalized people who were fighting for their rights at the time and had to exist along side that bigotry.


#52

That’s what kind of what I’m saying at least. Conservatism has a history of co-opting progressive ideals of technology and pop science and using it for their own goals. It’s similar to how they will dismiss transgender folk with dismissive phrases like, “It’s just science.”

I see a lot of Lovecraft in modern conservatism.


#53

This is fairly common among certain strands of conservative thought and that it might seem like a surprise to some is good reason for folks to go look to history. There’s a few examples I could use that might seem antiquated or a poor fit for the audience, so I’ll focus on the clear-cut ones.

I’d recommend Richard J. Evans The Coming of the Third Reich, but its subsequent books in his ‘Third Reich’ trilogy are also well worth reading. Evans spends a lot of time situating Nazism’s politics in a contemporary context, which helps to underline how ‘modern’ it was for its time. There are obvious things one can remark on, such as the ways in which fascism was, by design, a ‘mass’ ideology designed to incorporate the entire people into the state, which was a modern idea for the 1920s.

The most illustrative example that Evans provides to indicate this ‘modernity’ is in a choice of words for a policy. The term is Gleichschaltung, which has no easy English equivalent but is variously translated as ‘co-ordination’, ‘synchronisation’, ‘bringing into line’, and ‘Nazification of the state’. While the translations tend to imply planning, perhaps in a political or military context, Gleischaltung has a different linguistic context. Here is Evans’ explanation:

[…] Gleichschaltung, a metaphor drawn from the world of electricity, meaning that all the switches were being put into the same circuit, as it were, so that they could all be activated by throwing a single master switch at the centre. Almost every aspect of political, social and associational life was affected, at every level from the nation to the village.

The use of this word is no accident – its connotations were modern, technological, and evocative.

It is, simultaneously, of a piece with Nazi ideology in other respects, which saw the incorporation of ‘racial science’ into medical fields. The most commong graduate degree under the Nazi regime was medicine, often with mandatory courses on ‘racial hygiene’ as prerequisite classes (this is from Evans’ The Third Reich in Power).

This is to confirm what you’re saying – but this overlap shouldn’t surprise anyone.


#54

This is 100% true and, on a more practical recruitment level, Nazis regularly attach to things like that are popular with dedicated segments young people. Brooklyn residents will be “thrilled” to know that the Barcade in Williamsburg has been a weekly Nazi hangout ground zero for like over a year now as an example in case you needed another reason to completely avoid that part of Brooklyn forever. I was one of the people running a sort of general-nerd-shit club in college like twenty years ago and we’d always have dudes that would roll up out of nowhere to try to collaborate on running a get-together or event or whatever related to, vague ghost conspiracies/UFOs/whatever that would always end up being folks trying to recruit. That’s always been a constant through the decades that wherever young people gather around a thing regularly you’ll have bigots worming their way in.


#55

Right. With the new ways of ccoperation technology offers, there’s always the possibility of reinstating or reasserting old power structures and cement them through gaining control and gate keeping.


#56

Went into this with a frowned eyebrow. Glad i finished this pretty interesting, i was kinda like Patrick, heard of Lovecraft through osmosis. His obsert classicism of the Anglo Saxon “culture” was probably fed to him enmass, with the fall of British Colonialism and the “Britannia Rules the Waves” Doctrine. The cesspool of political ideas in Europe at the time, i could totally see some dude like H.P Lovecraft grow up as a racist.


#57

Something that really strikes me with Lovecraft’s stories are how bleak the endings are in general. Paul Tremblay had a short essay at the end of Head Full of Ghosts, also published elsewhere, where he talks about “conservative” vs “progressive” horror stories. Conservative stories being ones in which there is a return to the status quo. The evil is defeated and we go on living our lives and not much has changed. The “progressive” story is one in which the world or its characters are changed permanently by the events that have just unfolded. I’m sure he isn’t the first person to write about this, but it was where i first read it in those terms.

It was a relatively short essay, but there’s a throwaway reference to Lovecraft where he says that Lovecraft’s bleak endings might be an indirect result of his “conservative fears”. I’ve read most, if not all, of Lovecraft’s stuff. During the podcast, everybody brought up Lovecraft’s demonization of the “other”, but in the end of all those stories he wrote, the “other” generally outlasts the protagonists. At some level, this seems to indicates that he acknowledges that his views are losing. I don’t know how true that actually is. This isn’t to downplay or absolve him of any of his hatred/racism, but part of what makes his stories so effective stems from his fear that people like him are disappearing and there’s nothing that he could do about it. In some ways, it reminds me of the endless think-pieces from people like Jonathan Chait, who can’t stop writing about the incivility and the dangers of PC culture.

I can’t give Lovecraft any credit for that because he wasn’t writing with that stuff in mind, but it’s part of the reason that I can still go back and read his stuff, at least most of it. There are still stories that are just straight up hateful that are rough to read.

I will also second reading Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, which is relatively short and excellent. LaValle’s The Devil in Silver is also worth checking out. Also, I’m surprised that nobody brought up that Lovecraft Country is based off a book by Matt Ruff. The only thing that worries me about the Peele adaptation is how didactic that novel gets at times. It is still worth reading, but there are plenty of moments where it feels like the story takes a break to talk directly to the reader about racism during the Jim Crow era in a way that didn’t flow well. I hope the TV adaptation attempts to break from that just a little.


#58

Not gonna lie, I wish Austin was on this one.


#59

Hello, new here, but came as a fan of Patrick and Austin from their days at Giant Bomb. Anyway.

I’m glad that more awareness is being given about the man behind the mythos, this discussion really sounded to me like no one in the room is able to separate this fact about him from the much broader themes in his works that many people are able to enjoy on their own. It’s as if you won’t allow yourselves to take any value from the work of someone you ultimately disagree with. Fear of the unknown and of our own minds is something I think he expressed wonderfully, and I was disheartened to hear that be dismissed in favor of seemingly demonizing any work inspired by that solely because of the man’s xenophobia.


#60

I imagine that many who enjoy his work don’t know much about his views. It’s unlikely that unless someone wants to find out more about say Dunwich Borers in fallout 4, would know that Lovecraft harboured incredibly racist views. Babar the Elephant is an example, where it is argued that the author originally wrote it as a swan song to neocolonialism specifically pre 1914 in the earlier books. However this is debated by some writers, though that is a beloved franchise which is multi generational in success.


#61

You’re right, I’m sure many who appreciate his work know less about him than they should, and I like that light is being shed on him, but I don’t think it takes away from his work the way this whole discussion seemed to be suggesting.


#62

I’ll just say go look at my last massive post for a solid breakdown of why this tone you entered with isn’t the best way to get people to your side or express your opinion.

You’ve already decided (or at least implied, probably by accident) in this post that everyone here hates the work or the work’s influence in media entirely when it’s really a bunch of people being critical of the genuinely monstrous things the artist believed in because it had a nasty habit of seeping into his work before he grew as a person.

It’s like looking back at Heart of Darkness. Amazing piece of literature, but the core of the book is based entirely around colonial stereotypes of African people. We can appreciate what the works accomplished, but you shouldn’t ignore the ugliness on display either.


#63

Somebody get Jidenna on the phone, because this ain’t it.

Nonwhite people have every right to dismiss a persons work, if said person is denying their very humanity.


#64

hey came to this episode late, but appreciated the Waypoint crew digging into this with their usual thoughtfulness, and also the discussion here. since I didn’t see it mentioned, just wanted to point folks to the Tor.com Lovecraft re-read which has been going on for ages but unpacks his work with a critical eye https://www.tor.com/series/the-lovecraft-reread/

the folks running it are a couple of “modern mythos authors” whose work tries to “use and subvert” the Lovecraft mythos, to borrow someone’s (maybe Natalie’s?) phrasing on the pod. they’ve also branched out a lot in the past couple of years, reading some adjacent stuff and other modern authors.


#65

I’m wondering how ya’ll feel about Darkest Dungeon. The game is literally dripping in Lovecraft in every way it possibly can. From enemy design, to tone, to sanity meters, etc. I’m wondering what people’s thoughts are on the game, knowing the end of the game as well. End game spoilers below.

After defeating the final boss, who is your family member who cursed you into fighting the horrors of the dungeon, you become cursed by your lust for power and continue the cycle. Your next run is your descendants fighting you, who was corrupted. This very much plays off the Bloodborne idea oft he pc being brazenly sure of themselves that they will be the one who is fine, and yet continue the cycle of violence.