It’s no secret that I love the fiction of HP Lovecraft. Ever since I was a little kid, I have had a preoccupation with the strange, gross, and unexplained. So, it was natural for me to be drawn to the works of Lovecraft as a young adult. However, it was only several years after my love affair with the works of the master of cosmic horror began that I was informed that HP Lovecraft was “problematic” and “you can’t be a Christian and be into stuff like that.” So, with the status of my soul “in mortal peril,” I decided to research out the veracity of the accusation against Mr. Lovecraft, as I always do when I am told that any of my fandoms jeopardize my salvation.
First of all, let’s address the elephant in the room. Lovecraft had incorrect ideas when it came to matters of race. Some people call him a racist, and that could be an accurate description in that he felt that whites were superior (and I would like to say before I go any further that I do NOT support this manner of thinking); however, I feel that it misleads many people to think that he was actively pronouncing hatred against other races in his writings, which really was never the case. If we want to really get into what he thought in the way of race, he was taken up in a philosophy of the time called “eugenics.”
The Oxford Languages internet resource defines eugenics as: “the study of how to arrange reproduction within a human population to increase the occurrence of heritable characteristics regarded as desirable. Developed largely by Sir Francis Galton as a method of improving the human race, eugenics was increasingly discredited as unscientific and racially biased during the 20th century. ”
Eugenics was a bad ideology, to be sure, but we need to add context to this when discussing Lovecraft. The time in which he was alive and writing was in pre-world war 2 America. During this time frame, eugenics wasn’t a fringe idea but something that was widely believed by a large portion of the population. This does NOT excuse it being a terrible philosophy. Still, if we condemn everybody who thought something wrong historically, we would need to write off a lot of people who are currently championed in both church and secular history. The context of the time frame needs to be brought into the scope of our judgment. In the end, yes, He was a racist, but in the context that he was deceived by a popular social philosophy of his time period.
Now, let’s look at his content. Elder Gods, Old Ones, unspeakable horrors, magik, astral projection, animation of the dead….. yep, it’s all in there. Skeptical perspectives with bleak outcomes? That could probably describe 90% of his work. Am I baiting you? Absolutely.
For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?1 Corinthians 5:12
Getting to the brass tax on this topic, HP Lovecraft wasn’t a Christian, much less a Christian author. It would be unfair for us to judge him with the same lens that we do his Christian contemporaries of the time (such as C.S. Lewis). He was an Atheist, and I would actually praise him at the very least for his philosophical honesty regarding the bleak conclusions that atheism will lead to when followed to their logical end. Essentially, Lovecraft reads as: “If there is no God, then the world boils down to this.” For me, it is a fascinating exploration of what it looks like to be hopeless. I will grant you; it isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. I can accept that. However, where does that end if we just disregard all secular fiction because of the tone of imagination used? Should we throw out Poe? How about Robert E Howard or Gene Roddenberry? I think in the end, it comes down, like I have said in previous articles, to the individual’s conscience.
Now, if you still feel convicted about the man himself but wish there was something in that style not written by him, then I have FANTASTIC news!! There have been many authors who contribute to his fictional universe who do not ascribe to his particular ideals. He specifically did not trademark his creations like Cthulhu, Yog Sothoth, and the like because he wanted other authors to come play in his sandbox, and I think that is probably his greatest gift to literature. Do you enjoy Sherlock Holmes? Read the Cthulhu Casebooks trilogy by James Lovegrove.
Want something to uplift black voices? Both Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff and The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavelle are FANTASTIC reads that demand discussion (and I am hoping to discuss the prior of the two this month, so stay tuned). There is a plethora of Lovecraftian fiction out there to be discovered, even some Christian novels like Vanish by Tom Pawlik (but admittedly, those are harder to come by).
I would encourage you to find a branch of the literary tree where you feel comfortable and dig in; there are some great stories out there waiting for you.