"Shunned House"
by H.P. Lovecraft

 

 

 

Weird Tales October 1937

 

We are going to get a little controversial this week with this edition of Free Reading.  This week's author is Howard Phillips Lovecraft and his story "Shunned House".  Lovecraft is widely regarded as the most influential horror writer of all time.  The likes of Stephen King and Clive Barker, John Shirley, all attribute some of their interest in the genre to Lovecraft and are not shy about offering their praise of him in the dust jackets of their new books.  Certainly if such icons approve of Lovecraft why then is his legacy so controversial.  I wil l give you a clue: He and Robert E. Howard were pen pals.  If you remember a previous Free Reading post, Robert E. Howard was also known to be quite racist.  Is it any surprise then that Lovecraft was also racist? 

This is a controversial topic because like so many things in the scifi and fantasy world of late, has become somewhat of a row.  There is a petition to change the bust of the WFA awards to the likeness of Octavia Butler instead of its current Lovecraft one.  This petition has sparked some virulent debate about Lovecraft and has drawn many of his supporters out of the shadows with specious arguments most of which appear to be designed to support their own racist attitudes.  You can read more about that debate here .  You can also read an interesting blog post by Nnedi Okorafor on winning the WFA award and her discomfort with the Lovecraft likeness with some interesting comments by noted scifi author and Hugo Award winner China Mieville.

So what is all the controversy about?  H.P. Lovecraft was  racist.  There is no disputing that.  He was married to a Jew whom he frequently cast anti-semitic aspersions at, despite the fact that he spent a couple of years sponging off of her.  The racism is evident in his correpsondence.  The debate isn't about whether or not he was racist.  The debate ultimately appears to be with ourselves.  Is it ok to read something that was penned by a racist author?  More to the point, what if you happen to be a person of color, subjected to such attitudes?  How many people do I know who are rabid liberals who have read Mein Kampf?  How many of those have a copy on their bookshelves?

Another fact remains undisputed here.  Lovecraft did make massive contributions to the world of horror and weird fiction.  But does this excuse his attitudes?  Does the fact that those attitudes reflect the prevailing ones of the day somehow excuse him?  Personally I don't think either of those excuse his behavior or beliefs.  But does it mean we should stop reading his works?  Here is another question:  Is Lovecraft's crime being racist?  Or is it being racist while simultaneously being an exceptional writer? While certainly I agree Octavia Butler is a more appropriate choice for the bust of the WFA award, I agree for a variety of reasons.  Lovecraft's racism just made it easier. Those are considerations I leave to the individual.  I simply wanted to pose the questions before offering you a chance to read "Shunned House" which is now in the public domain and available here.   This is in NO WAY an approval of Lovecraft's ideas or beliefs, nor is it a defense.  Those of you who know us over here at Fresh Pulp, know better.  That being said, read if you choose and enjoy whatever it is you choose to read.

Since it is unlikely that we will revisit this topic again, and this author, we have decided to include a link to a larger repository of Lovecraftian links.  You will find on this page links to other places where scanned copies of early "Weird Tales" magazines can be found.  We hope you will enjoy it and spread the "Weird Tales" love to your friends and family.  You can get to the page by clicking here.
We've added a link to a narrated youtube video of "Call of C'thulu below.  It might be a great way to spend a Halloween with friends.  Or