Sunday, September 14, 2014

On H.P. Lovecraft: The Salon Article or "This Might Offend Someone, Part 3"

Hey all,

As I was browsing my Facebook feed, one of the pages I follow had the article from Salon written by Laura Miller, titled, "It's OK to Admit that H.P. Lovecraft was Racist."

The article is actually well-done, pretty fair, and makes some good points. If you want to check it out, here is the Salon article.

Now, I am a fan of Lovecraft and his stories, but on the same note, I am also not among those who get angry at his flaws being pointed out. Yes, he had some great personal qualities but some not so great as well.

With that said, I was reading some of the comments on Facebook and elsewhere, and of course the "explanation" for his views that are quite prevalent (Milller also addresses such comments in her article) is "well, everyone was racist and sexist and a bigot in his time so it's to be expected."

Okay. *deep cleansing breath* Can we PLEASE stop , using that sweeping generalization? Or any? When you say "everyone" well, it pretty much reads (or tells) as EVERYONE. Meaning that every last person of that time - regardless of their race, gender, class background, sexual orientation, religion, upbringing, etc - were just all terrible, bigoted people who hated everyone. And whether you're intending to or not, by making such a generalization, you are taking away from the many amazing individuals of all backgrounds who fought against the injustices and won. Whether you mean to or not, you are burying their history and treating them as if they never existed.

Now, if you want to point out the discriminating laws that did do a lot of harm, than YES. We can agree on that and discuss it til the cows come home. After all,  a good portion of the injustices that occurred/are occurring within the US as well as the rest of the world did start "at the top" so to speak.
I also think that - to an extent - much of that also depended on what part of the country you were from (though this was/is not always the case, either...there were/are openminded individuals and bigots in both the northern and southern states). And while there sadly were those who became a 'product of the powers that be and their environment', as I have stated many many times, there were also many amazing people of all ethnicities and genders who fought against the injustices. Many from all backgrounds fought for civil rights, there were female aviators, writers, mechanics, and athletes who had the respect of their male peers (an example would be Neta Snook and don't forget the stories of Sylvia Drake and Charity Bryant), and a good portion of the US states had lifted the ban on anti-miscegenation laws well before the final 1967 Supreme Court ruling (and those who did try to ban it nationwide since the founding of the country failed to enforce it every time they there had to be someone fighting that somewhere). In fact, by the time the U.S. Supreme Court got to it, there were only 16 states left with some kind of anti-miscegenation law (and I say "some kind" because they did vary from state to state as far as their severity went...which is why my forthcoming book Descent was able to have an Irish and Native American union in 19th century Illinois).
I also think we can look at any writer/musician/playwright/filmmaker/artist - both old and modern - and find something about them we don't find favorable or come across some material by them that we may deem 'questionable' or problematic. Hell, I've even seen modern authors and other artists having their works picked apart by those who feel they are racist, misogynist, etc.  Some can move passed the shortcomings and still appreciate the works. Others on the other hand cannot. Either way, it's the consumer's choice.
I think with any era, you have good and you have bad. Every walk of life has those who are racists, misogynists, etc. and those who are not. Every time period and era (including 2014) had those who were bigots along with those who were not and fought against those who were. But a lot of people seem to either want to completely demonize or completely romanticize instead of acknowledging, discussing and learning from both sides of the history (or the person in question). Doing so can lead to more awareness of self and those around you.

And why are sweeping generalizations so dangerous? Well, here is an article on a group of people who have been horribly affected by just that. When I set out to write Rom or "gypsy" characters (and all my characters, for that matter) for my book series, I wanted to do it right and therefore did a lot of research on them and their culture. And...surprise! For the most part, it's not even close to how the mainstream 'represents' them. Nope, "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" is not even close to the truth.

Here is an interesting article on misrepresentation and stereotyping of Romani women that was included in part of my research for The Birthrite Series.

I have also decided to - at the end of each of the books in the series - give a small bibliography of my research sources, which also includes knowledge my own family history and heritage (Native American, Irish, and Eastern European) along with books (both fiction and nonfiction), films, documentaries, and conversations I had with those who lived through about the 1920s (great grandparents) to the present.

So case in point, it is not only still possible to enjoy the quality of a person's work while not agreeing with some of their life views and choices, you are also doing a lot more damage than good by making the broad generalizations.

And I chose the Wayne's World gif because it's damn funny and Mike Myers is awesome.

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My stories, "The Cemetery by the Lake" and "Dusk to Dawn" are available at Smashwords and Barnes & Noble NOOK. More retailers will follow, but Smashwords is pretty compatible with most e-reader and PC formats.
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