How did H.P. Lovecraft conquer popular culture? In The Atlantic, writer Philip Eil examines the posthumous history of Lovecraft’s works and the current mania for all things Cthulhu. At the same time, he asks: How can fans reconcile their affection for Lovecraft’s fiction with the author’s virulent racism?

[via Boing Boing]



I read most of Lovecraft’s stories when I was in middle school, circa 1986 or so. I was aware of his racism and xenophobia but I was willing to overlook it because of the monsters. And also it was phrased in terms that seemed abstruse and verbose: the “Italo-Semitico-Mongoloid” hordes his narrators ranted about seemed to be products of the same word salad that produced “Nyarlathotep” and “Yog-Sothoth.” I grew up around Jewish and Asian kids at school and I never connected those epithets to anybody I knew.

Rereading the Mythos today, it’s impossible for me not to realize that the creatures embodied Lovecraft’s fears of miscegenation (all the half-human hybrids and mutants cronenberging around) and the decline of Western Civilization (as embodied by the various lost races like the Old Ones, the Yith, etc.). But maybe all the “cute” Cthulhu products represent the triumph of love over hatred and fear. We never read those stories for the neurasthenic middle-aged WASP bachelor narrators or their petty worldviews (which shatter so easily). We read them for the monsters, whom we cherish and identity with.