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Because I was told to sod off of the Gateways to Terror art discussion I didn’t comment further when one of my fellow gamers trashed H.P. Lovecraft in the Critical Role thread.  Fortunately, someone else objected.  Because it wasn’t the objector who was injecting politics into the discussion.  The anti-Lovecraft comments are Exhibit A in my previous contention that political correctness ruins good gaming.

Let’s think out this objectively for a moment.  Howard Phillips Lovecraft was an imaginative writer who channeled his personal hurts and fears into gripping tales of horror and suspense.  Flawed human being?  Sure, but no worse than, say, President Woodrow Wilson.  Both men were products of their time, and Wilson still has (at least at the moment) buildings and schools named after him.  Lovecraft’s writings have inspired decades of horror and science fiction fans and more recently a couple generations of role-players.  Lovecraft is not only the source material for the world’s first horror role-playing game (currently eclipsing D&D overseas!), but without him Chaosium would be a footnote in gaming history.  RuneQuest had gone out of print, all its other licenses had expired, and Chaosium survived the Nineties and early Two-thousands solely as “The Cthulhu Company.” 

So here we are in 2019.  Chaosium has revived, shiny new editions of Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest are selling like (digital) hotcakes and gaining new fans.  And someone feels the need to condemn the guy who made it all possible because he lived nearly a century ago and didn’t conform to trendy current notions of propriety?  That’s just not right.

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Read a thing a while ago, can’t remember it verbatim, but it said something to the effect of: whenever we read old books (or personal conversation for that matter), we are invited to visit past times with the author; we get a glimpse through the eyes of a writer at the world as it has looked for him and his contemporaries (no-one writes in a vacuum), and we should respect this. We may marvel at or be thankful for how the world has changed since then, but we shouldn’t take neither author nor his work out of their temporal context and judge either by our “modern” standards. 

But that’s just what people do these days. Omit context, ignore historical facts, and slander past world views, because seemingly modern sensitivities are surly the only ones that are right, are they not? Thing is, they really didn’t know better back then. In centuries to come (if they come at all) they will say the same about us.

 

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I'm not a fan of Lovecraft because of his personal politics/beliefs, as I don't care whether he was a bigot or whatever, I'm not a fan because I find his stories are dull, predictable and just not scary. Now, I know that a lot of people will disagree, which is fair enough.

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14 hours ago, seneschal said:

...So here we are in 2019.  Chaosium has revived, shiny new editions of Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest are selling like (digital) hotcakes and gaining new fans.  And someone feels the need to condemn the guy who made it all possible because he lived nearly a century ago and didn’t conform to trendy current notions of propriety?  That’s just not right.

That HPL’s racist and misogynistic views were far more common, even prevalent, during his lifetime is certainly true. Does that make them acceptable, then or now? Even during his life time, Lovecraft's views were not universally accepted - Mahatma Gandhi to pick one famous (and equally if not more complex) contemporary had different views.

Lovecraft is rightly regarded as a seminal figure in the development of weird fiction and horror: part of any honest assessment of his contribution has to address his misogyny and racism, both in the context of his life and times (and correspondence with fellow writers such as Robert E Howard) and in what it says about subsequent generations appreciation of his work; especially that apparently it is acceptable to ignore or gloss over this part of his world view.

Regards,

NDM

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But see, soltakss, that is a valid reason for disliking Lovecraft.  His stories didn’t do the job for you.  I have similar feelings about F. Scott Fitzgerald; two chapters into “The Great Gatsby” I realized all the characters were unsympathetic jerks.  Why should I care what happens to them?  But I don’t go on websites devoted to Fitzgerald's work and complain about his moral failings, real or supposed.  The guy’s dead, after all, and it would upset his admirers.  Why spoil their fun?

Nick, your concerns would be appropriate for a literary discussion but BRP Central is supposed to be a fun website about role-playing.  Part of the reason I play is to escape politics and other real-world issues.  I want to solve mysteries, slay monsters, save the kingdom and get the girl.  I’m not interested in using my gaming table to critique the past and its supposed faults or to make comments about current events.  If I wanted to do that I’d go elsewhere.  Yet if I object to folks to must inject their wokeness into discussions of talking warrior ducks and tentacle monsters suddenly I’m the one whose being political and must take my thoughts to another thread.  I mean, come on,  we should be at each other’s throats about side saddle use in Glorantha instead.  😉

Would Stormbringer fans be edified if I used their threads to attack Michael Moorcock’s character or to complain that the Young Kingdoms failed to live up to my notions of how a society should be managed?  No, they’re interested in the best way to construct demon objects for all sorts of politically incorrect purposes in a fantasy setting.  And that’s as it should be.

 

Edited by seneschal
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2 hours ago, NickMiddleton said:

That HPL’s racist and misogynistic views were far more common, even prevalent, during his lifetime is certainly true.

But also HPL - who lived two doors down from my grandmother - was also a rampaging racist for his time. Like, people were like, "damn, HP, you're really racist."

It's fine to say you don't like it. He's inspired a lot of good writers. A healthy crop of them are people of color or literally subvert his work.

Just this last year or so there was:

Victor Lavalle's The Ballad Of Black Tom is a fantastic novella about the life of a hustler in Jazz Age New York - and the terrors of sorcery. Dreams from the Witch House is a collection of storied edited by Lynne Jamneck. Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country is incredible and its protagonists are the black researcher-authors of the Negro Motorist Green Book in Jim Crow America. It's terrifying. Ruthanna Emrys' series' protagonist and her brother are the last survivors of the ethnically-cleansed Innsmouth, and they were interned in a Japanese internment camp during WWII.  Kij Johnson's The Dream-Quest of Velitt Bo is... well, what's on the tin.

I'm missing a lot, I'm sure.

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I get the criticism that lit-crit and political-correctness "don't belong" at the RPG table, and by extension at the RPG forum.  I hate having other people yuck my yum, too!

Here's the thing, though:  when the themes of the game explicitly and overtly draw sharp parallels between the game at the table (or being discussed online) and the personal experiences of being discriminated-against, as lived in RL by the folks playing/chatting... then you are already having a political discussion.  It's right there, an elephant in the room.

And insisting that it's perfectly fine to rehash and enforce all the HPLesque racism and misogyny at the gaming table or en-forum (and THAT isn't political), but that it's inappropriate "wokeness" when people push back and try to figure out how to do Mythos fiction or gaming without some of HPL's baggage...  Well, that isn't a persuasive position.  YMMV.

Personally, I am an aging, bearded white guy.  I've never dealt with being a woman, or POC.  I don't have that personal experience, and though I have seen discrimination, I bet I have missed some subtler stuff that happened right under my nose, that I just don't have the background to spot (the same way an experienced tracker or field-biologist has a VERY different walk in the woods than a once-a-year vacationer has).

So when a woman or a POC speaks up and says "this is how it is for me," I pay attention.  And if it isn't that way for me, I still believe them, and don't blame them for being "fragile" or "over-sensitive" or "too woke".

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21 hours ago, seneschal said:

So here we are in 2019.  Chaosium has revived, shiny new editions of Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest are selling like (digital) hotcakes and gaining new fans.  And someone feels the need to condemn the guy who made it all possible because he lived nearly a century ago and didn’t conform to trendy current notions of propriety?  That’s just not right.

Nobody is beyond reproach.

Sure, Lovecraft's books were the basis of the call of Cthulhu game and it has pleased a lot of people. Chaosium has done well out of it over the years, and with good reason.

I know that Lovecraft is no longer with us and can't defend himself, but that shouldn't stifle any debate about how good his books were or what kind of person he was in real life and how that crept into his books, or didn't.

If Call of Cthulhu can survive the criticism of Lovecraft as a person, as an author and of his books themselves, then that makes it stronger.

By the way, I have seen such discussions about Lovecraft for many years and it doesn't seem to have affected the popularity of Call of Cthulhu one little bit.

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1 hour ago, g33k said:

lit-crit and political-correctness "don't belong" at the RPG table

ok but to be fair we're often talking about gaming in the 1930s with Lovecraft, how do you not discuss issues about sex and race in a game about 1930? You have to at least decide to say "we're going to ignore issues of sex and gender". Like, for real. In many countries, including the US, a single woman couldn't even rent a hotel room or open a bank account. Public bathrooms for women had been forced just like 20 years earlier in certain states as a blow against public discrimination (places refused to have women's restrooms, thus women couldn't easily leave the house or visit establishments).

And that's 100% not even talking about race, which... let's not start discussing that here.

So like... yeah, you're deciding already when you play a game that's set before now....

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Hmmm, women got the right to vote in the USA in August 1920.  They were hardly oppressed in the Thirties and in the Forties pretty much ran the country while all the able-bodied men were off fighting World War 2.  In addition to their considerable social influence they did most of the shopping.  Can’t imagine a business staying afloat long that disrespected them.

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1 hour ago, seneschal said:

Hmmm, women got the right to vote in the USA in August 1920.  They were hardly oppressed in the Thirties and in the Forties pretty much ran the country while all the able-bodied men were off fighting World War 2.  In addition to their considerable social influence they did most of the shopping.  Can’t imagine a business staying afloat long that disrespected them.

w o w this is an atomic hot take

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20 hours ago, seneschal said:

 Part of the reason I play is to escape politics and other real-world issues.  I want to solve mysteries, slay monsters, save the kingdom and get the girl.  I’m not interested in using my gaming table to critique the past and its supposed faults or to make comments about current events.  If I wanted to do that I’d go elsewhere.  Yet if I object to folks to must inject their wokeness into discussions of talking warrior ducks and tentacle monsters suddenly I’m the one whose being political and must take my thoughts to another thread.  I mean, come on,  we should be at each other’s throats about side saddle use in Glorantha instead.  😉

 

That might be what you want from your game, but it isn't all I want from mine, anymore than I want that from any other art form. Films, books TV that are pure escapist entertainment have no appeal for me. So when gaming I am aware that 1930s America is a place where society works in ways that I find problematic. I am aware that the existential dread that HPL invokes was inspired for him in part by fear of what he perceived to be aliens that would destroy his world. The fact that existential dread is a common experience gives us something interesting to game around, even if our individual sources of that dread vary. I think it is part of discussing a game based in a racist misogynist time and place inspired by the writings of a racist and misogynist that we discuss how that may or may not impact on any particular game. 

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12 hours ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

w o w this is an atomic hot take

I think that little paragraph of his was an example of what's called "trolling the libs" (please don't, seneschal; it's very chan, but not very BRPC).

 

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17 hours ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

w o w this is an atomic hot take

Think about who the women of the Twenties and Thirties were.  They were the daughters and granddaughters of the pioneer women who participated in land runs, created and ran farms in an age before mechanization, who persuaded those toxic males to give them the vote, who smashed up saloons with axes and pushed through Prohibition.  They weren’t wilting violets wallowing in victimhood.  They were tough as nails.  They ran businesses and charitable organizations, launched social and religious movements that changed history, held society together during the Great Depression, and raised the men (and women) who prevented the Germans and Japanese from dividing the globe between them.

Recognizing their accomplishments is misogynistic?  These women weren’t marginalized.  They were active and influential participants in society.  They made stuff happen.

Edited by seneschal
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4 hours ago, g33k said:

I think that little paragraph of his was an example of what's called "trolling the libs" (please don't, seneschal; it's very chan, but not very BRPC).

 

Not sure what you are talking about, g33k.  I meant what I said.  The only “chan” I’m familiar with is Jackie (kick-butt actor) and Francis (kick-butt preacher), both of whom you can catch on Youtube.

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2 hours ago, seneschal said:

Think about who the women of the Twenties and Thirties were.  They were the daughters and granddaughters of the pioneer women who participated in land runs, created and ran farms in an age before mechanization, who persuaded those toxic males to give them the vote, who smashed up saloons with axes and pushed through Prohibition.  They weren’t wilting violets wallowing in victimhood.  They were tough as nails.  They ran businesses and charitable organizations, launched social and religious movements that changed history, held society together during the Clutch Plague, and raised the men (and women) who prevented the Germans and Japanese from dividing the globe between them.

Recognizing their accomplishments is misogynistic?  These women weren’t marginalized.  They were active and influential participants in society.  They made stuff happen.

superluminal meteor strikes on the Earth, @g33k

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On 8/10/2019 at 3:22 PM, seneschal said:

Because I was told to sod off of the Gateways to Terror art discussion I didn’t comment further when one of my fellow gamers trashed H.P. Lovecraft in the Critical Role thread.

Are you referring to me? 

On 8/7/2019 at 12:53 PM, Ian Absentia said:

Because of [Lovecraft's] self-documented record of being a bigot, racist, and xenophobe?  And those issues lying at the heart of much of his body of work?  Yeah, that was bound to become a hard sell one day. 

Damn, son, if you're going to throw a party on my account, be sure to send me an invitation.

Yeah, I have beef with Lovecraft, and with deriving entertainment from his works uncritically.  Note that last word - uncritically.  It's a bit like the time I took my son to an exhibit of Picasso's art and he pointed uncomfortably at a drawing of a bowl of fruit; I asked him what was bothering him, tilted my head sideways, then nodded and said, "You're right, it's an anus."  Lovecraft included more than a few anuses in his stories.  Some of his stories were all about anuses, and how they lie at the heart of most of today's problems.  And that's fine (sort of), particularly in the context of his time, his up-bringing, and just who he was.  It's been cool playing games in a world based on his imagination for a couple of decades, but my awareness of who he was and what he was really writing about (Note: Not anuses, but other topics one might not appreciate, much less enjoy) started to weigh heavily on my enjoyment of his stories and, by association, the game.  That's on me, though, and I'm working my way through that.  Cheers to Taliesin Jaffe for reminding me to keep on keeping on. 

But really, that's all it takes to "trash" Lovecraft?  For all the talk of the sensitivity of "political correctness" and "SJWs", that's some mighty tender skin, and doesn't speak robustly to the author's literary legacy.

As I suggested in my comment quoted above, Chaosium inherited a hot-potato with a game rooted in Lovecraft's works, and sooner or later they'd have to handle it.  And I'm behind how they are.

!i!

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1 hour ago, Ian Absentia said:

But really, that's all it takes to "trash" Lovecraft?

Like, literally it's just "this is who Lovecraft was". He was a racist shitbag. I love his work, even though he often needed a really good editor (and more often some serious mental health counseling). People at the time were like, "this dude is racist as hell, but he has some good stories". And it's not really a secret to anyone anywhere that about 50% of Lovecraft's entire shtick was "the immigrants are going to get us".

Problematic faves are like, a thing. I can enjoy the Dreamlands just fine without erasing his racism.

We shouldn't be approaching any author as a "golden goose" in the first place, because they're just people.

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People have been enjoying Lovecraft’s stories for nearly a century and a role-playing game based on those stories for 38 years.  His personal opinions only become a problem if you go out of your way to make them so.  I’m sure I could find things Arthur Conan Doyle said and believed that I’d disagree with.  That doesn’t prevent me from enjoying his Sherlock Holmes stories and movies and games based on them.  We live in a world in which things that were fine until five minutes ago are suddenly “problematic” and “racist” — everything from the Cat in the Hat to vanilla ice cream to movie robots encased in white plastic.  This type of thinking ruins everything it touches — film franchises, sporting events, children's’ books.  If Chaosium subscribes to it, they will destroy the game that has brought them so much success.  And ruin their customers’ fun in the process.

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6 hours ago, seneschal said:

We live in a world in which things that were fine until five minutes ago are suddenly “problematic” and “racist”...

I suspect you mean a world in which it became a problem for you five minutes ago.  The "trendy current notions of propriety" you dismissed in your original post have been hound-dogging half of my family for the century or more they've been in the US, and ol' H.P. wouldn't have had an approving word for what I've been up to.  Eat my butt, Howard.

Look, his whole Innsmouth cycle was him looking down his nose at "miscegenation" amongst white people (code for European immigrants).  The story Call of Cthulhu just plain calls out the Creole culture of Louisiana outright -- no code needed.  At least in the Dunwich cycle he's looking down on backwoods incest, which no one seems to have a problem with, until you realise he's being a classist asshole.  Then there's his whole MO with demonising the cultural and religious practices of anyone two degrees outside of late-19th century Protestantism -- something I call the "Ooga-Booga Syndrome."   But this critique isn't recent.  Within a year or two of discovering this game in 1981, my gaming group was openly mocking his opinions while enjoying the game.  And I doubt we were the first to out him, precocious brain trust that we were.

6 hours ago, seneschal said:

This type of thinking ruins everything it touches — film franchises, sporting events, children's’ books.

It doesn't.  It really doesn't.  You just have to trust that the institutions you enjoy aren't so feeble that they can't weather the scrutiny of changing values.  And that includes getting a pass on shit that don't fly anymore.

6 hours ago, seneschal said:

If Chaosium subscribes to it, they will destroy the game that has brought them so much success.  And ruin their customers’ fun in the process.

See above.  The game will survive.  Chaosium will survive.  Yeah, let's not engage in revisionism and pretend he had nothing to do with the game, but let's not coddle his memory with pap like describing him as someone who "channeled his personal hurts and fears into gripping tales of horror and suspense."  As I wrote in the other thread, Lovecraft and his fans are not victims.

!i!

Edited by Ian Absentia
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um https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/On_the_Creation_of_Niggers as a native Rhode Islander I'll just leave this here in case anyone thinks H.P. somehow "suddenly" became problematic in 2019

He was problematic when I was growing up in the 80s, he was problematic in the 70s, he was problematic before that.

We're not Suddenly Being Offended Because Political Correctness. It's not subtle. It's right out in the open in his stories - not in every one, but for sure in a hell of a lot of them, and it's subtle as a wrench to the head.

I can't help it if you never saw it. That's a pretty dictionary definition of privilege: not seeing the ugliness, not understanding it.

Edited by Qizilbashwoman
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Privilege, eh?  What sort of privilege would that be?  Because we are usernames on an online discussion board you don’t know, really, whether I am male or female, what racial or ethnic background I come from, or what my socioeconomic status is, or what language I speak at home.  Here’s what you do know:  I enjoy role-playing games as you do.  I’ve read and enjoyed Lovecraft’s short stories.  I care about Chaosium’s continued success.  I made a statement you happened to disagree with.  I’ve never attacked the persons or characters of people who have disagreed with me either here or elsewhere on Triff’s forums.

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12 hours ago, seneschal said:

Privilege, eh?  What sort of privilege would that be?

the privilege you demonstrated in this thread. which, incidentally, isn't a personal attack. having privilege isn't declaring you a sinner. "That's a pretty dictionary definition of privilege: not seeing the ugliness, not understanding it." Privilege isn't something you do, it's something you have.

12 hours ago, seneschal said:

 I’ve never attacked the persons or characters of people who have disagreed with me either here or elsewhere on Triff’s forums.

I mean, okay, I don't feel like I have either at this point, but I'm about to: you made a thread to complain about "political correctness" and now you're reaping the side effect of your free speech thread, which is that  [.... REMOVED BY ADMIN...]

Tough. You made the bed, lie in it.

Side note: I bit my tongue right off not replying to your horrific replies about women in the 20s and 30s. I'm gonna say one thing right now, though, because it's been eating me up:

On 8/12/2019 at 7:00 PM, seneschal said:

They weren’t wilting violets wallowing in victimhood.  They were tough as nails.

Aside from every other [... REMOVED BY ADMIN...], you are suggesting that women got tuff and that's what changed the world and women before were weak and that's why patriarchy while simultaneously suggesting that women under patriarchy were wallowing in victimhood?

I don't know but I had to say: that's just incredible.

Edited by Trifletraxor
Edited by admin due to personal attacks
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Alastor's Skull Inn is the forum for "everything else", so I don't mind the thread, but PLEASE mind the language. It should be possible to get ones point across without the use of bad language and personal attacks. And if it's not, then use the "Ignore user" feature. Members here ARE expected to self-moderate themselves. 

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Isn't it amazing that the ones who cry foul the loudest about how "sensitive" people are, turn out to be the most sensitive ones in the room?

I won't reiterate any of the points made above by Qizilbashwoman, Ian Absentia, and others, because they basically said what needs to be said. But I do want to come full circle to point out that this whole pseudo-schism started by people 1) stating facts that some people just don't want to talk about, 2) people apparently NOT talking about HPL "enough" in the CR video, or 3) conflating silence or stating of facts with "trashing" of HPL. It just seems like a Kobayashi Maru situation for some people. You talk about HPL with reverance, and you're "safe." You talk about him, rather than NOT talking about him, and you're "safe." You give the "right" balance of the facts that allow us to not have to confront anything that makes someone uncomfortable, and you're "safe." I mean, it's just a constant moving of the goalposts. All with the lovely gaslighting that it is really OTHER people who should be admonished for desiring safe spaces. What makes the person who admonishes safe spaces and decries political correctness feel safe is just "common sense." And what makes other (different *gasp*) people, who like safe spaces and respectful language feel safe is a breach of freedom? Come on. Give me a break.

Who's really being the "sensitive" ones here? Honestly. *rolleyes*

I'm actually glad this happened because this situation has taught me who I should even bother with and who I shouldn't. Some people just aren't worth your time.

Edited by klecser

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