Interview with the Sexy Grammarian

For those who didn’t catch it on social media, I was the author interview on in November. This was a great opportunity to talk about what I do and how I work for a general audience, the majority of whom have never played a table-top role-playing game. Each month, the wonderful writer and teacher Kristy Lin Billuni features an interview on her website. I chatted with the Sexy Grammarian about my process, why I’ve chosen role-playing games as my primary form of expression, and what I’m looking at doing next. I’ve been laying the groundwork for that personal project and hope to be able to devote more attention to it soon.

Here is the link to that interview: Creator, Performer, and Audience: Interview with Christopher Smith Adair


What Should We Do with Our Darlings?

There’s an old saying in writing: Kill your darlings. William Faulkner gave writers this piece of advice, to essentially purge the things that you adore from your manuscript. Don’t hold on to things that are weighing your work down. They’re often the little things, ones you feel precious about but are not essential to the story. You may be enamored over your own cleverness or attached to something that has some deep meaning to you. But the reader may not care, and the darlings may ultimately detract from the overall work.

Identifying these darlings can be tricky. In practice, at least for me, the time to fret about them is when I’m looking at the divide between the word count I’ve been given and the amount of words I’ve written. Something has to give, certainly, so identifying things that simply aren’t necessary is key. Writing, in many ways, is the act of carving down and honing the words.

The metaphor, however, has always struck me as a little creepy, and it also puts me in mind of Lou Reed’s “Kill Your Sons”:

There are, of course, lots of ways to kill those we love, literally or figuratively. We can also reject and abandon them because we believe it’s for the best.

I’ve found that when I consider my darlings that simply eradicating them isn’t always the best solution. Better is to try to come to an understanding with them–to learn what they actually want to be. Rather than either making them fit into my story the way I initially expected them to or discarding them, I try to meet them on their terms. I am often surprised, discovering that they are more beautiful and complex than I had assumed.

Often, my darlings are tied into some piece of history I’ve uncovered during research for a Call of Cthulhu scenario. There are sometimes too many interesting details to adequately put into a scenario. Recently, I was working on a scenario and ran into this problem. There was a historical detail that wasn’t integral to the plot but would have been significant background color. To adequately include it seemed to require an additional NPC and a sidebar explaining the subject. Having an extra NPC in and of itself wasn’t an issue, since the scenario takes place in an isolated town and the investigators will likely interact with numerous townsfolk. But I needed to trim things down, so I turned my Saturn eye toward this NPC and the historical details he embodied. While I considered it, it struck me that this NPC could be combined with another one. Both NPCs would be stronger and more interesting for it. That interesting historical detail was incorporated fully and briefly into the character’s background instead of needing a lengthy digression in a sidebar.

If I foster and support my darlings, maybe they fit just fine. It was only my view of them and what I wanted them to be that was wrong. And, yeah, I think this is something to be mindful of for parenting and other relationships.

An Update on Recent and Upcoming Releases

Here I am, hard at work on fresh horrors, courtesy of Nick Gucker

Two New Releases

In the last few months, two previously announced Call of Cthulhu books through Kickstarter have made their way into wide release.

Fear’s Sharp Little Needles from Stygian Fox is a collection of short scenarios (around 2,500 words each) set in the modern day. There are over twenty writers in it with me, so there are bound to be some favorites in there. Some of the scenarios, including my own “Waiting To Be Born,” can easily be run for one player. As a solo experience, mine becomes survival horror as the investigator wakes up in dire straits (if you survive–my partner didn’t when I ran her through it). There’s a more conventional hook for a group of investigators available, as well.

Devil’s Swamp from New Comet Games is a source book and scenario collection based in the Bridgewater Triangle, an area of reputed paranormal activity in Massachusetts. My scenario, “Deeper Than Skin,” was a stretch goal for its Kickstarter campaign.

What’s Coming Next?

That’s a good question, and I don’t have an answer myself. I have five scenarios, two articles, and a book-length campaign (and probably some things I’ve forgotten), waiting for publication from a few different publishers. I also have a couple of orphaned scenarios that I’d like to have come out at some point. The majority of these haven’t been announced publicly yet, so there’s not much more I can say yet, other than that I eagerly await their release into the world.

I’m play-testing the scenario I’ve written most recently, and it’s been a great experience. This one is quite dreamlike in many ways, and I got to exercise my imagination with it. Like a lot of what I’ve written over the last couple of years, I took the opportunity to expand beyond my previous horizons, trying new things, which I hope are successful. I sometimes wonder if what I’ve written is horrific enough, but I think I was successful this time. I asked a player what she wanted to do after being attacked by the villain. In response, she said, “I projectile vomit in her face.” I suppose that means it’s effective. It’s not all disgusting, though; the players had to make a number of hard decisions in an extremely difficult situations.

Me, as Envisioned by Nick Gucker

I attended the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon in Portland, Oregon, again this year with my partner. Nick Gucker, whose art you may have seen in the numerous books he’s illustrated, was drawing custom illustrations. I’ve picked up some of his art (prints, stickers, T-shirts, and illustrations) at previous conventions, so I was interested in having him do something unique for me. I didn’t have any particular desires in subject matter, so I finally decided to see what he could do with me as that subject. Later that day, he revealed the result, and I was delighted.

Podcasts, Various Writing Projects, Music Albums, Etc., Etc.

Miskatonic University Podcast

Miskatonic University Podcast Episode 133

Episode 133

I joined the hosts of the Miskatonic University Podcast for episode 133 and their main topic of Pulp Cthulhu‘s sixth chapter. That chapter explores how magic works in the setting, as well as the game’s primary optional rules: psychic powers and weird science. My upcom

H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival Logo

ing campaign, A Cold Fire Within, prominently features psychic phenomena, so I lent my experience to the discussion. I also talked briefly about my recent trip to Portland, Oregon, for the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon. On the forum thread for the episode, I list my viewing highlights from the festival, all of which will hopefully be available to view at some point.

A Cold Fire Within and Other Writings



I returned the revised manuscript for the aforementioned Pulp Cthulhu campaign A Cold Fire Within in August, a couple of weeks after returning from NecronomiCon. It is scheduled to move into production in 2018, and I hope for us all to have it in our hands toward the end of that year. Chaosium and I will have more to say later, but some hints appear in that podcast regarding its stylistic aims. Pulp Cthulhu allows me to take the player characters deeper into corners of Lovecraft’s universe than usual.

I’m currently working on my scenario “Deeper than Skin” for New Comet Games‘ Devil’s Swamp after its successful Kickstarter for a source book on Massachusetts’s Hockomock Swamp.

I’ve also turned in another article to Sentinel Hill Press for its Kingsport issue of The Arkham Gazette, this time for an NPC inspired by an artistic figure from Marblehead, the real-world basis for Lovecraft’s fictional town.

Sadsadsex Album Release on Bandcamp

The first album as such from kittycat lollipop, sadsadsex, is out now. These songs, along with the first two tracks on last month’s re-release of False Starts and Second Chances, were the first we wrote, recorded, and performed. They were sent via CD-R and electronic file to various reviewers, Internet radio stations, and mp3 sites, often to the confusion (sometimes dismaying, sometimes delightful) of the recipient. Kittycat lollipop was the first act mentioned in the inaugural Great Demo Review in San Diego CityBeat, serving as a cautionary tale. During the description of how all the paper’s columnists took part in reviewing everything that was sent in, our reviewer was described excitedly snatching up the CD upon seeing our name and subsequently regretting that decision. I still treasure this memory.

Kittycat lollipop, you scare me. You remind me of Soft Cell’s “Sex Dwarf”–you know, the one about “luring disco doggies [sic] to a life of vice”? That kind of thing leaves a mark on little Catholic schoolgirls, ya know? I like the first song here [“A Reunion (of sorts)”], though–kind of Figurine-meets-Fischerspooner. Go with more of that. — Kelly Davis, San Diego CityBeat

“There Is a New Star in the Skies Tonight” was written at the end of this first group of songs, joining the live-set rotation with the second show. It strikes me as a bridge between the early songs and what came later, easily fitting with either. My deadpan vocals were giving way to something more frenetic, even unhinged at times. I often looked at my lyrics as not just observations of the flawed world around me but as warnings, including to myself. Perhaps I was becoming more and more frustrated and desperate.

A Tear in the VeilFilm projection was a key component of our performances, one we used whenever feasible. Patrick Loveland shot a series of films tied to the initial songs. Since serving as our beloved filmographer, Patrick has become an accomplished author. His debut novel, A Tear in the Veil, a delirious admixture of genres and life experiences, was recently released.

One of those films was edited into a proper video and posted on YouTube, featuring stop-motion animation created by Patrick, as well as treated shots of one of Golden Gate Park’s windmills.

As mentioned previously, he created videos for both the songs in our CD-R single. Here they are. The video for “What Then?” remains a highlight of kittycat lollipop’s existence for me.

Lastly, in celebration of Halloween, here are photos taken during a 2006 house party.

Kickstarter, Campaign Announcement, and Bandcamp Release

Kickstarter for Devil’s Swamp

Devil's SwampI am part of the Kickstarter campaign for Devil’s Swamp, a Call of Cthulhu supplement based on the Hockomock Swamp from New Comet Games. The $20,000 stretch goal adds a scenario written by me to the book. At this moment, the campaign has just passed $17,000, with 18 days remaining. I expect the campaign will surpass the amount required for my inclusion in the finished book, but you never know. And there are far more stretch goals after mine, including unannounced writers. The stretch goal to include a scenario by Brian Courtemanche has already been reached. Take a look, and, if you are so moved, join in on making this a reality.

Announcement of My Upcoming Campaign

The big news during the Campaigns for Call of Cthulhu panel at NecronomiCon this year was that Masks of Nyarlathotep, one of roleplaying’s most famous campaigns, will get a significantly updated and expanded edition, shepherded by Mike Mason with the help of a stellar group of writers, Lynne Hardy, Paul Fricker, and Scott Dorward.

Of much more minor note was the announcement of my own campaign for Pulp Cthulhu, A Cold Fire Within. The campaign should be out at some point in 2018, and there will be more to say about it in due course.

Release of the First Kittycat Lollipop Single on Bandcamp

From 2005 to 2009, I created and performed music as part of kittycat lollipop, a strange mix of often upbeat electronic music and darkly surreal lyrics. These were in the days when MySpace dominated the music scene, and, while kittycat lollipop never garnered much attention, we connected with fans and like-minded bands around the world, as well as confusing local audiences with our live performances. I was busy enough with it that I left RPG writing for a few years. After having a number of RPG projects fall through, I chose to concentrate on the creative pursuit that was actually going somewhere. Eventually, kittycat lollipop came to an end, and I returned to RPGs fully when I jumped at the chance to work with Keith Herber, a writer and editor I greatly admire, on New Tales of the Miskatonic Valley. In 2010, Strange Aeons II finally saw publication, eight years after I wrote my scenario for it.

I performed for the first time in six years a few months ago. My partner in kittycat lollipop was in town, and we both played solo noise sets. Certainly, having something of a reunion put me in mind of those days, so I’ve decided to start putting our songs up on Bandcamp for those who fondly remember them or those who might want to come to them with fresh ears. The first single is up now, and it can be downloaded for free. The band page also has links to YouTube videos based on the films that were sometimes projected at our performances.

Photograph by Titanium Exposure

Photograph by Titanium Exposure

Duct tape mask. Photograph by Sam Lopez of Stay Strange

A Scattering of Updates

I’ve had a busy couple of freelancing years and rarely seem to take the time to talk about what’s keeping me busy outside of some scattershot mentions on social media. Let’s rectify that a bit.

Kickstarter for Fear’s Sharp Little Needles

Fear's Sharp Little NeedlesAs I write, Stygian Fox Publishing’s Kickstarter for Fear’s Sharp Little Needles is underway, ending on March 1st. Recommended for mature audiences, the book is a collection of more than twenty modern-day micro-scenarios for Call of Cthulhu. They’re intended for Keepers to easily pick up and run in one session. The publisher’s previous CoC book, The Things We Leave Behind, has been very well received, and this Kickstarter is far past its initial goal, with more stretch goals waiting to be unlocked (including a PDF fiction anthology for backers). As an author involved in this, I’m in great and varied company. “Waiting To Be Born” is by far the shortest scenario I’ve written (by about a third), which was an interesting challenge.


Other Writing

On the opposite end of the length spectrum, I recently turned in a fifty-thousand-word first draft to a publisher. This, then, is by far the longest thing I’ve written (albeit a campaign of six linked scenarios rather than a single one). The word count provided its own interesting challenge, and I suppose, no matter the length allowed, it never seems quite enough. My outlined research notes alone came to about twenty thousand words. Of course, few of those words directly made it into the draft. Nonetheless, being able to refer to that (thankfully searchable) outline was a great benefit. Even if something I gleaned from a fictional or nonfictional source didn’t make it directly into the campaign, it all provided a foundation, even in its absence or allusion.

I fell in love again with outlining my research notes while working on an article for the upcoming Kingsport issue of The Arkham Gazette earlier this year, using nested bullet points to organize the information. While that article is only eleven thousand words currently, I dived deep into the source material, W. H. Pugmire’s tale “The Fungal Stain” and the many HPL and REH stories that inspired it. Following are a couple of examples pulled from that outline.

  • The fungal avatar
    • First appears to narrator when he reads The People of the Monolith in bookshop
      • Possibly his first time doing so in Kingsport, since he is visiting
      • Later can’t recall if he read it aloud
        • He sometimes does read poetry aloud
        • Likes to feel the words on his lips
      • Her presence
        • Face “seems all wrong, more bestial than human”
        • The way she lifts her curious mouth to “drink in the evening air” seems unnatural
        • Tall? Must bend to kiss accordionist and narrator
        • Unsettling
        • Beguiling
        • Narrator fancies he can sense her bestial appetite
        • The narrator is able to run when she kisses the accordionist a second time
      • Touches narrator’s hand when taking The People of the Monolith
      • Hums an odd song
        • Issues as mist from her unmoving mouth
        • The thickening fog meets and mingles with her exhalation
        • Beguiling
          • Draws listener to her with “almost unconscious motion”
          • Listener creeps toward her slowly
          • May not be sexual (narrator considers women an “alien race”)
  • Black Stone
    • The Black Stone is composed of a dully gleaming black stone, whose unmarred surface creates an illusion of semi-transparency
    • Characters inscribed on Black Stone
      • Completely blotted out up to ten feet from the base
      • Narrator climbs up and discovers the rest are more or less defaced
    • Natural stone seat near Black Stone
      • Narrator leans back in it
      • Narrator believes Geoffrey must have sat in when he composed poem
    • Visions
      • Gazing at the Black Stone for any length of time causes insanity (The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia)
      • Those who sleep nearby are haunted in their dreams the rest of their lives
    • Visions usually at night, particularly witch holidays like Midsummer’s Night
    • What is it?
      • A tower of an obscured castle?
      • “New made I rise, a pillar of dark stone, a nascent thing on Yuggoth’s hoary sod”?
    • The witch in the vision
      • Appearance
        • Naked young woman
        • Long black hair

Riveting, eh? There were a couple of other writing projects I was involved with over the course of 2016, as well as some others pending, including some more possibilities with publishers I’ve never written for.

My Appearance on the Miskatonic University Podcast

After writing my three-part series on Lovecraft’s racism, I was invited to participate in a long-awaited special episode of theMiskatonic University Podcast Special Report Miskatonic University Podcast., which aired on January 12, 2017. The discussion between me and Keepers Chad and Jon centered around Robert M. Price’s controversial opening remarks at NecronomiCon 2015, wherein he presented his perspective on jihadism and political correctness by drawing on Lovecraft. We attempted to provide context and analysis of the meaning of Price’s words, as well as some of their repercussions at the convention. I appreciated being asked to join in on what I hope was a valuable and interesting discussion.


This has been my focus for the last few years, and I’ve written an occasional scenario or article during that time. Last year, I copyedited the first three releases for TimeWatch, Pelgrane Press’s GUMSHOE game of time-traveling agents protecting the universe from chronal disruption. I also provided assistance with part of Cthulhu Confidential, the first GUMSHOE One-2-One game. Unfortunately, I was unable to fit the entirety of that book into my schedule. As you might surmise, my focus flipped over to writing at the beginning of 2016. There are many reasons for this change, but a crucial one is simply time. As with many freelancers, that work is not my only source of income. I currently work full time for the county library, which provides both stability and a career I love. I realized that maintaining steady copyediting work under those circumstances wasn’t working–not if I wanted time for anything other than work, no matter how enjoyable. So, I made the difficult decision to take an extended hiatus and focus on writing. Anyway, on to the future–it keeps coming, no matter what we do.



Digging Up Lovecraft and Sifting Through His Remains

Previously, I wrote about Lovecraft’s views on racism and how they may have changed. This post focuses on the legacy of that racism, both for those who knew him and later readers. I also look a little closer at the idea that Lovecraft was a product of his time.


Clark Ashton Smith

Lovecraft’s era was a dire time for race relations. People from across all political and social stripes held and expressed views most of us now find repugnant and startling. And many of them looked to science to prove their already deeply held beliefs. If we look at the correspondence of the other two authors in “the big three” of Weird Tales in the 1930s, Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard, we see similar sentiments and comforting scientific rationales to HPL’s.

But whether it was the norm or understandable given Lovecraft’s upbringing, it cannot be said that beliefs such as his were universal. Take for example James F. Morton, one of Lovecraft’s closest friends and an activist committed to equality with African Americans. Nevertheless, a lot of Americans thought as Lovecraft did; they just didn’t commit so much of those thoughts to paper. (For more on Lovecraft and Morton’s discussions on race, as well as a response to some questions about HPL’s changing scientific perspective, see my post “A Brief Addendum.”)

I’ve seen a number of defenses of Lovecraft that amount to his actions being more important than his beliefs. That’s true to an extent, but considering how much he expressed these beliefs to others, some receptive, some not, I think that lets him off far too easy. He didn’t exactly keep this to himself.


H. P. Lovecraft and Frank Belknap Long on the Streets of New York

Sonia Greene later related that Lovecraft would become livid with rage when encountering crowds full of minorities in New York. She didn’t mention if this anger was noticeable to anyone else. And, indeed, Lovecraft prided himself on his public composure, reassuring his aunt Lillian in a letter subsequent to the one I quoted previously: “Incidentally–don’t fancy that my nervous reaction against alien N.Y. types takes the form of conversation likely to offend any individual. One knows when & where to discuss questions with a social or ethnic cast, & our group is not noted for faux pas‘s or inconsiderate repetitions of opinion.” Good friend and fellow writer Frank Belknap Long corroborated this; well aware of Lovecraft’s racism (which he didn’t share), he mentioned that he never witnessed Lovecraft be anything but polite to any minority he encountered on their frequent walks, even out of earshot of them.

So, he was polite in his later years, at least. In 1916 (age 26), he bragged about how he was a well-known anti-Semite while in high school. This was when he first knowingly encountered Jews, who were among his classmates. We don’t know how aware the targets of his anti-Semitism were of his loathing for them or whether all the rest of the students approved of it (they were largely less well known for hating Jews, apparently, since Lovecraft makes a point of his own fame/infamy).

And if Lovecraft’s public persona was the important one, and he would never be cruel to someone’s face, what should we make of Samuel Loveman? Loveman was a poet who became good friends with Lovecraft. He appeared in two dreams of Lovecraft’s that were turned into the stories The Statement of Randolph Carter and Nyarlathotep,” and Lovecraft dedicated “Hypnos” to him. He was also a Jew.

Samuel Loveman

Samuel Loveman

The relationship of Loveman and Lovecraft is a testament to how well the latter maintained not only cordiality with people he considered inferior but could look past it. Lovecraft greatly admired Loveman and considered him one of his dearest friends. In 1947, a decade after Lovecraft died, Sonia Greene informed Loveman of her ex-husband’s anti-Semitism. Loveman was shocked, later burning the letters he’d saved from Lovecraft and writing an essay, “Of Gold and Sawdust,” wherein he repudiates Lovecraft as a racist and hypocrite.

If Howard Phillips Lovecraft was simply an exemplar of the racist era he lived in, why should Loveman have been surprised and hurt by Lovecraft’s attitude toward Jews? It’s possible that Loveman’s attitudes are the ones that changed over time, in the wake of the Holocaust and with the expansion of civil rights; he no longer accepted the casual racism of society at large. As with much of this, we can only speculate. Nonetheless, I doubt it’s simply that Loveman became less tolerant over such treatment or that he was blithely unaware that a lot of people distrusted and reviled Jews.

So, this is what Lovecraft’s supposedly ordinary and polite racism brings. It’s up to us how much we think Loveman was justified in his response to the revelation of his dear friend’s beliefs. But should he have been grateful when people of the dominant culture treated him with pleasant disdain, because at least they weren’t spitting directly in his face?

Likewise, Greene once told her husband while trying to calm him down while they were on the streets of New York (Lovecraft’s “Pest Zone” full of uncouth foreigners) that he didn’t have to love people different than him, but he didn’t need to froth with hatred, either. “It is more important to know what to hate than it is to know what to love,” was his response. When she pointed out to him that she was one of the aliens, he told her that she no longer belonged to the mongrels. Should she have been content with his acceptance of her as a higher class of assimilable Jew–a credit to her race?

It isn’t, by the way, only Lovecraft’s racial “lessers” who were hurt by later finding out what Lovecraft really thought of them. Donald Wandrei, who, with August Derleth, saved Lovecraft’s work from dying with him by founding Arkham House, worked on those early volumes of selected letters. While doing so, he discovered some of the things his friend and colleague had said about his later work to other correspondents. Wandrei was “both depressed and annoyed” by the low opinion that Lovecraft had of what he saw as his protégé’s increasingly commercial writing, an opinion that he had kept secret from Wandrei. Lovecraft is hardly alone in any era of sharing negative opinions behind the subject’s back. But the notion that being polite to a person’s face and that deeds, not thoughts or words, are all that matters, seems decidedly wanting to me.

Again, Lovecraft hardly kept his opinions to himself, though he never expected that his private words would be made so incredibly public. So, here we are in an era that some would claim to be “post-racial,” with Lovecraft the racist. We’ve gone beyond simply letting the work speak for itself; the fascinating figure of Lovecraft is combed over do tease out the least detail.

Well, what do we do? That’s up to each of us. While I have and will continue to enjoy and work with the worlds he created, I can’t fault anyone who wants nothing to do with him. In recent years, as knowledge of his racist views increases, there have been a number of controversies and heated opinions on all sides.

wfawardPerhaps most famously, there’s been the fight over whether a bust of Lovecraft should continue to be the World Fantasy Award. That fight didn’t end how many of Lovecraft’s devotees wanted. Personally, I don’t see why the award for an entire field should look like anyone, no matter how important they are to it. It certainly doesn’t help when a number of people in the running for it are neither admirers nor racially pure in Lovecraft’s eyes. Appeals to tradition and pointing out that the first convention celebrated Lovecraft don’t hold up for me. Tradition is important. As important is knowing when tradition should change.

Last year, another controversy arose during the opening ceremonies at NecronomiCon Providence when Robert M. Price gave his speech. Many people were taken aback by his words, which praised Lovecraft’s foresight of the clash between a decadent, sleepily tolerant West and an anti-rational, superstitious East. Price asserts that his warnings about jihadists threatening Western Civilization are not racist. But using loaded terms like “affirmative-action epistemology” and “the real life “Horror at Red Hook“” in a muggy wooden church whirring with electric fans caused, at best, confusion as people tried to figure out what they just heard. Price is a powerful and interesting speaker, and his complex words here definitely need untangling. And even if they hold interest, the opening to a festival celebrating weird fiction and its practical founder doesn’t seem like the best venue for a call to arms against another culture–or even a dangerous portion of it.


Robert E. Howard

One thing that strikes me is how reminiscent the speech is of the debates by H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard over the respective qualities of civilization and barbarism. Briefly, Lovecraft was a proponent of the benefits of civilization, while Howard favored the purity and naturalness of barbarism and the frontier. Price certainly speaks out against “barbarians” here, but he is also critical of civilization, at least ours in its current state. We are “effete,” “Eurocentric,” and “senescent.” We have lost our way, apparently, practically welcoming the hordes. Of course, Lovecraft as a reader of Spengler knew all about cultural decline, and examples of once-mighty civilizations sliding into decadence and oblivion appear throughout his fiction.

Speaking oheroes-of-red-hookf both “The Horror at Red Hook” and Price’s speech, one of a recent surge in weird fiction that addresses Lovecraft’s racism in some ways is Heroes of Red Hook, an anthology from Golden Goblin Press currently on Kickstarter. The short stories star protagonists from groups either underrepresented, absent, or negatively portrayed in Lovecraft and weird fiction of the era. Another recent anthology (which I copyedited) that addresses Lovecraft’s beliefs (of various kinds), this time through responses to his survey “Supernatural Horror inLetters_to_Lovecraft_cover_280 Literature,” is Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press. A few stories touch on racism, particularly the disturbing tale of the “normality” of racism, “The Horror at Castle of the Cumberland” by Chesya Burke. And the editor, Jesse Bullington, is the creator of the Lovecraft Apologist Bingo game, the perfect diversion next time you are part of or witness a debate on Lovecraft’s racism and its effects.

I’ve wondered how much of the vigorous defense of Lovecraft and dismissal of his racism is due to concern that if Lovecraft is believed to be racist than his fans must be by association. I have indeed seen a couple of people speak online about having just this worry. But I think it better to meet Lovecraft’s racism head-on. Acknowledging it is not the same as approving of or sharing it.

Related to this, some people say excuse Lovecraft’s racism as intrinsic to his work. Without his odious perspective, they say, we would be robbed of the power of his writing, since his anxieties suffused it. I’m not convinced. Yes, Lovecraft’s racism appears often in his work. But it could stand without it in almost all cases.

There is only one vital story I can think of where Lovecraft’s racism is a necessary component: “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” Without those aspects of his personality, Lovecraft may not have written this tale of a declining fishing town and the terrible pact its inhabitants made with a decidedly different culture-stream. Despite whatever inspiration HPL’s bigoted anxieties gave him, the story, for me, transcends them. As with a lot of Lovecraft’s work, what I personally get from the story is not necessarily what he put in there. I don’t need to share Lovecraft’s racism to share in the universality of fear and wonder he imparts.