On the Racism of HP Lovecraft : 2nd Verse same as the First! :)

One of my more popular posts is my article covering the racism of HP Lovecraft. And by popular demand of someone who describes themselves as a self-professed Romney and Gay marriage supporter out of Olympia, Washington (hey I’m just reading what’s on the card :)) … he urges me (maybe she) to repost the article.

This Ricky makes an interesting point about HP Lovecraft’s popularity perhaps being buoyed by the rising tide of an America under attack by selfish liberal interests, bolstered by an ignorant populace that keeps resisting paying welfare to big business.

He/she further goes on to say that “the middle and lower classes are just not understanding that big business is right to bankrupt the country, and enslave many to debt for the needs of the coming over-lords and all this was foretold in the fiction of the messiah… LOVECRAFT!!!! You Liberal scum!! Don’t you see?!! Lovecraft loves you!!!!! HE DIED FOR YOUR SINS!!!!”

Again, I’m just reading what’s on the card people. 🙂

He/She goes on to say “CTHULHU! CTHULHU! CTHULHU!” To which I say Gezuntheit!

Ahh you’ve got to love the intelligence and stability and eloquence of Lovecraft supporters. 🙂

And I think that deserves our renewed attention to the article that started it all! For those who missed it the first time, read it at the link below, with love from he/she/it in Olympia, Washington! 🙂

This one’s for you! 🙂

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Writers Face Off: Robert E. Howard vs. H.P. Lovecraft! May the Least Racist Writer stand up! :)

I recently purchased THE SAVAGE TALES OF SOLOMON KANE from Del Rey Books and with spot illustrations by Gary Gianni.

So I’m going through the book, and I’m moving pretty capably along.

There are the random slurs and stereotypes, but pretty much they are few and far between and they don’t get in the way of the story…

Until I hit THE MOON OF SKULLS.

Game over man. Game effing over.

To call it insulting is perhaps an understatement. I had to check to make sure I wasn’t reading something by Lovecraft. 🙂

Oh stop crying! You know I’m right!

Have you read Howard’s THE MOON OF SKULLS?! A xenophobic, denigrating, and intolerant bit of writing, that goes on forever. I think the actual term that popped into my head before pulling the plug on the story was “racist piece of crap”.

Now I do make allowances for the time these books were written, and the fact that the Texan Howard when compared to his contemporaries of the time such as H.P. Lovecraft (a staggering racist) was quite moderate by the definitions of the age.

Part of this is the difference in the type of men they were.

Howard was a rough and tumble, ‘man-of-action’ sort, who understood the world beyond his head, and by that definition understood people outside of his head.

Lovecraft was a secluded New England ‘Intellectual’ who sought a mythology, a hierarchy of master and slave, with the almost ingrained need of the region to preserve an upper class (that in all truth, Lovecraft was very far from, due to the family’s loss of fortune early in his life) by the belief and need for a lower class.

I think racism, gave a lacking man like Lovecraft something. Something to drag himself up on, to restore him to that glory he never had, but thought he deserved… by tearing others down.

Whereas Howard was a self sufficient man (which makes his end all the more bewildering), he went along with the expected prejudice and tropes of the day, but you get the sense in some of his writing, he was content to see men as men. That Howard was a man who stumbled into the tropes of racism, rather than active in the creation and embracing of racism… ala Lovecraft.

I can deal with Lovecraft’s writing in small doses, but I find this recent deification of Lovecraft, of a writer who was barely a footnote in his own time… as odd, though not inexplicable; especially in a country that so desperately, like Lovecraft, wants to turn back the clock to a glorious age of Master and Slave, that never was glorious, and never will be.

But I do think people are over-stating both Lovecraft’s influence and importance, as his work followed in the footsteps of writers like Lord Dunsany, and took inspiration from contemporaries such as Clark Ashton Smith. Much of what people are quick to define as Lovecraftian isn’t, it belongs to a writing movement of the time, dark fantastic offshoots of the age of spiritualism, Houdini, and Arthur Machen.

“In 1914, when the kindly hand of amateurdom was first extended to me, I was as close to the state of vegetation as any animal well can be…With the advent of the United I obtained a renewal to live; a renewed sense of existence as other than a superfluous weight; and found a sphere in which I could feel that my efforts were not wholly futile. For the first time I could imagine that my clumsy gropings after art were a little more than faint cries lost in the unlistening world.” —H.P. Lovecraft

So I do take the biases of Lovecraft into account when reading Robert E. Howard. And rank him as better than the contemporaries of his age.

And I realize I just have to avoid Howard stories that are written toward a certain audience, and toward a prevalent prejudice of the day. Generally this means avoiding most of his Conan stories, as I would end up ripping them in half.

I can stomach his writing in small doses, and that’s generally when he isn’t on bigoted diatribes disguised as a story. In short bursts, and when not using an entire Continent of Africa to advance 1920s fantasies of race and heroism, I can appreciate his writing. His SKULLS IN THE STARS is probably his best short story, it is a well done story and mainly because it is free of Howard’s capitulations to the prejudices and tropes of the day.

So the winner of my Writer’s Face-Off? Well let’s put it this way. I own a Robert E. Howard book, I don’t own any HP Lovecraft books.

I guess that says it all.

BOOKS OF THE DAY: THE BEST OF FANTASY! From Charles Saunders to Robert E. Howard

Fantasy can be, for whatever reason, a difficult sell for me. I’m not really an elf and faires fan, which is seemingly 99% of fantasy fiction.

This article then is about the other eloquent, less trope filled, yet still imaginative, 1% of Fantasy that I am a fan of:

ROBERT E. HOWARD- I Find his Solomon Kane to be the far more interesting of Howard’s creations. If you’re going to pick up one Robert E. Howard book, you would be hard pressed to choose a better one than the Gary Gianni spot-illustrated THE SAVAGE TALES OF SOLOMON KANE.The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane

CHARLES SAUNDERS- At the risk of sacrilege someone who did and does the noble warrior and tribal civilizations and fantastic action, better than just about everybody else, past or present, is Charles Saunders. Much in the way Howard was pretty much overlooked while he was writing, I really think Charles Saunders is similarly an incredibly overlooked talent. His IMARO series, is required reading and I think would make both Burroughs and Howard go… “Damn! This guy’s good!” Four books have come out in the series and by all reports the fifth book is on the way.

The original out of print DAW paperbacks are striking, with gorgeous cover art (at least one if not more by artist James Gurney), and are worth having just for the art alone, add the great stories and it’s win-win, but the new revised/improved editions are must buys.

Particularly because Saunders is another Fantasy writer who unfortunately goes out of print way too quickly, pick up the whole series while prices are reasonable.
Imaro: Price your Copy Here

Purchase Link to all In-Print Imaro Books

The only negative I’d lay against this series is the cover art for book #4 (and to a lesser extent book #3)is not good. See for yourself here:

While we all bandy about the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, I really am (like most of us) inclined to great looking covers. So a great book with a lousy cover is like shooting yourself in the foot. Pay the money, get a decent artist to do your cover. Make it easy for people to recommend your books, get that great cover art.


“Charles Saunders is one of the most innovative writers in the so-called Sword and Sorcery field. He was in the second wave of pioneers. Those who actually made what Robert E. Howard invented move into a new and equally exciting arena. I always loved his ground-breaking novels and stories. And it’s good to see him back.”
-Joe R. Lansdale, author of Sunset and Sawdust and The Bottoms

“Lord knows, the field needs the fresh and discerning insights that only Charles R. Saunders can bring to it.”
-Charles de Lint, author of The Blue Girl and Someplace to Be Flying


KARL EDWARD WAGNER- The Midnight Sun: The Complete Stories of Kane- Let me get on the bandwagon with saying the short fiction of Karl Edward Wagner and his tales of the immortal and amoral Kane/Cain is the way to go. Unfortunately getting this sadly out of print edition is going to set you back, quite a bit.

The Midnight Sun: The Complete Stories of Kane

GEORGE R.R. MARTIN- Martin is seemingly everywhere these days, particularly with the critical and commercial success of the television adaptation of his GAME OF THRONES. He’s now on his fifth book in the series.

NNEDI OKORAFOR-MBACHU- Her novels set in the Sahara of the coming dawn, are among some of the most imaginative and innovative and fresh fantasy of the last couple of decades and her The Shadow Speaker is an essential read.
The Shadow Speaker:Price Your Copy Here

STEPHEN R. DONALDSON- His series of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever is required reading.
Lord Foul’s Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 1):Price your copy here

“Since its first publication in 1977, Stephen Donaldson’s best-selling Thomas Covenant trilogy has become an indisputable classic – acclaimed around the world as the most compelling work of epic fantasy since Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’.”— Voyager

STEVEN BARNES- Steve Barnes masterfully jumps genres from science fiction to fantasy to historical fiction, and while you can make a strong argument for keeping him in the former rather than the latter I just think his work is too rich in all camps to exclude from any camp. An amazingly prolific writer, he’s a writers writer. There’s a ton of places you can jump in and enjoy his work. Check the upcoming links!

STEPHEN KING- Speaking of writers writer, I personally ran out of interest before finishing King’s multi-book Dark Tower series. And by all reports I’m not the only one. That said, on rare occasions adaptations can improve on the source, can perhaps focus and streamline it. Zack Snyder’s 300 film being an improvement of Frank Miller’s 300 Graphic Novel. With the DARK TOWER that seemingly works in reverse, the collected graphic novel omnibus seems to be hitting all the right notes, garnering a level of satisfaction even from those less than satisfied with the original prose wrap-up. Wherever you fall on this you cannot deny the huge mythology that King has created.

Dark Tower Omnibus

MINISTER FAUST- A great moniker for an elegant and irreverent writer. His work tinged a bit with that gonzo element of social satire that marks the work of one of my favorite writers, Ishmael Reed . But Minister Faust jettisons most of the baggage of our every day world, skewing toward fun and fantastic fantasy.

The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad

“If Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, William S. Burroughs and H.P.Lovecraft were to collaborate on a novel, the result might be The Coyote Kings. Pick up a copy. You’ll be glad you did.”– Sci-fi Dimensions

J.K. ROWLING- There is nothing you can say to add or detract from Rowling’s HARRY POTTER series, love it or hate it, it is an undeniable success. However, I tend to be a contrarian and have a knee jerk reaction against the uni-mind of culture, when everybody’s reading the same thing, I worry about the books that aren’t getting attention and aren’t getting read, because the media has eyes only for its chosen flavor. That said you cannot deny the books place or their popularity, and they should be sampled for familiarity’s sake if no other reason.

NALO HOPKINSON- SKIN FOLK is one of the best debuts, and best anthologies in years, and in a genre of stale Dragons and insipid elves and tired tropes it is that rarest of things… something new and good.

Skin Folk

MERVYN PEAKE- The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy. Do I really need to say anything else? Not only is this volume a work of literature, it’s also a work of art.
The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy


Well that’s it kids, some of the greatest Fantasy writers!

Support the writers (or their memories) and buy the books. Support this blog, and purchase through the handy dandy links. Your Karma will thank you. 🙂