Your Heroes Were Monsters

I’ve been meaning to write about Lovecraft and his racism. I think that maybe there are interesting things to say about that subject. Fair warning, this essay will be rambling and meandering. I’m working through ideas. Take it or leave it.

But instead, what set this off was Isaac Asimov. I think if you’re an average lay person, you’ll probably go ‘Who?’

But if you’re a science fiction nerd, he’s practically god. Born in 1920, Asimov was a biochemist, eventually a professor of biochemistry. Selling his first story in 1939, he was an incredibly prolific science fiction writer, with a career that spanned literally hundreds of stories, dozens of novels, the Foundation Future History series, right up to his death in 1992. On top of that, he was a critical editor. His name was on a leading science fiction magazine. He wrote mysteries. He moved into non-fiction and became a science populariser and general writer. He’s credited as the author of over five hundred books. That’s stunning.

Within the sci fi community, he was incredibly active, friendly and popular, and accessible. He was a charming guy, not retiring like Clarke, not arrogant, not weird. Just fun to be around. Any narrow field is rife with backbiting, with feuds, with dirty deals, and people getting screwed over or doing the screwing. But not Asimov. Everyone seemed to like him, no enemies, which is remarkable

He cultivated this avuncular, charming public image – the fiendishly intelligent, but friendly and approachable guy, with muttonchop sideburns and black rimmed glasses. Not threatening, not intimidating, just… likeable.

Not the best writer in the world, but a hell of a guy, and as I said, practically a god in the Science Fiction community, and well liked.

Also, it turns out, he was a serial harasser, a regular groper, who constantly sexually propositioned women, whether his advances were wanted or not. He groped breasts, he groped ass, he put his arm around women, he didn’t ask permission, he just did it. For some it was welcome, for many it wasn’t, but he just didn’t care. He reveled in it, he wrote a book called the ‘sensuous dirty old man’ about his career and joy in sexual harassment.

None of this was a secret. He was a staple at conventions. Everyone knew he did it. Men, women, women who’d been groped and accepted it, women who’d been groped and didn’t like it. Everyone knew. The behavior was there, no question, and it was normally unacceptable even for the standards of its time.

So now, finally, twenty-eight years after his death, Asimov’s reputation is finally crashing.

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Dawn of Cthulhu and other stories….

Are you a Lovecraft fan? Can you pronounce Cthulhu? Do you recognize the guy with the tentacles? Azathoth? Yog Sothoth? Leng? Mountains of Madness? Shoggoths? Innsmouth?

If any of that meant anything to you, the answer is ‘yes.’

If it didn’t, stick around, you might find this interesting anyway.

Or you could go back and read my blog post, H.P.Lovecraft and Me. Seriously, it’s worth reading.

Anyway, I’m a writer, and something of a Lovecraft fan. I’m not blind to his shortcomings either as a human being or as a writer, I certainly don’t endorse them. Lovecraft’s strengths and weaknesses as a person and as a writer both deserve attention and consideration. There are things that can and should be condemned, but at the same time, I think that nuance is appropriate. In the end, all our ancestors were monsters, and all their works are tainted. Yet we live in the world they made, and we build our houses upon their rocks.  There’s a blog post I’ll get to.

But Lovecraft did do some things well, Lovecraft was influential, and deservedly so. I certainly have, in some ways, been influenced.

I’ve actually written two major Lovecraft stories.

I will caveat that – not major in the sense of setting the genre on its ear, winning awards or even getting much notice. But major in the sense of being very large works, the two stories together probably run better than 25,000 words, and which, I think have unique but effective and interesting twists on the mythos. Maybe someday they will get some notice.

One of these is called Life, Love and the Necronomicon, its psychological horror exploring the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred and his world. You can find it in Giant Monsters Sing Sad Songs.

The other is The Secret History of the Cthulhu Cult, one of three long stories found in Dawn of Cthulhu. I don’t think I need to explain what it’s about. The three stories are about Cthulhu, Lost Continents, and Muppets.

Yeah, you heard me. Muppets.

Read moreDawn of Cthulhu and other stories….