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The Call of Cthulhu by H. P. Lovecraft -- a new old time radio production
November 17, 2009 3:11 PM   Subscribe

The Call of Cthulhu by H. P. Lovecraft -- a new old time radio production [part one, part two]
posted by feelinglistless (37 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Call of Cthulhu and other ebooks (zipped in PDF form), for your reading pleasure. And The Call of Cthulhu on Wikipedia, an article that is half as long as the story itself.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:29 PM on November 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


The trailer for the H.P Lovecraft Historical Society's Call of Cthulhu silent film.
posted by Caduceus at 3:31 PM on November 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


The Adventures of Lil Cthulhu.
posted by cavalier at 3:56 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man. Metafilter really loves Lovecraft, doesn't it? Do a search and see often he comes up in FPPs.

I'm not complaining, mind you!
posted by brundlefly at 3:59 PM on November 17, 2009


I don't miss being a Lovecraft fan.

And no, that is not an example of "typical racial attitudes of his era".

And no, it is not wholly separate from his fiction, his fiction is rooted in the same xenophobia. His "elder gods" and "mad arabs" ad-nauseum are not just prop for horror stories, they are also ignorant caricatures of non-Christian religion. Dagon was a god of grain and agriculture worshiped by the ancient Sumerians, for example, traditionally depicted as being half fish.

Being a Lovecraft fan doesn't make you a racist, of course, but xenophobia runs pretty deep through his work.
posted by idiopath at 4:12 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


idiopath - yeah, that comes up a lot as well. Here's my selflinky take on it.
posted by Artw at 4:32 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man. Metafilter really loves Lovecraft, doesn't it?

I, um, am half planning another one. After that I'll give him a rest. Honest.
posted by Artw at 4:33 PM on November 17, 2009


Those accents were terrible. Talk about your star-spawned obscenites.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:04 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Lovecraft's xenophobia is also rooted in the period. One interesting thing I've turned up from my research has been a letter from HPL to Frank Long that details HPL's second ever trip to Salem. After going to the Peabody Essex Museum last week, I was able to track down a copy of the pamphlet HPL bought from them to guide his tour. In the letter, HPL complains about the number of Polish people on Derby Street. In the pamphlet, the author points out how great Derby Street used to be, but how it's now the home to foreigners. I suspect the latter encouraged the former.

This letter was from before HPL's failed move to NYC when his xenophobia was really cemented. I don't think there was the social pressure on people to be politically correct and considering HPL's isolated upbringing, he never had a more inclusive influence in his past. Like Artw mentions, HPL did marry a Ukrainian-Jewish woman.

Reading his letters, I think HPL's xenophobia started as a longing for the past, a desire to return to some imagined golden age (the amount he God Saves The King! in his letters nears drinking game levels). It would have been easy for him to point at foreigners as the source of decline, an impulse that was only inflamed by his stay in NYC. I'm not sure how excusable his attitudes are to the modern eye, but looking back over his letters, biography, and time period, one can certainly see from whence they came.

But on the plus side, HPL's xenophobia did allow me to track down and locate where the (Dreams in the) Witch House should be, were Salem and Arkham merged. I have maps he drew of both Salem and Arkham. They both mark a Polish quarter to the towns, and in the Arkham map, the Witch House is clearly in the middle of it. So in Salem, the Witch House would not be the black-painted home of the Salem Witch Trial judge that we see today (as that place was a drug store back when HPL visited), but instead farther down Derby Street, past the House of the Seven Gables. A few weeks ago, I ventured forth, Schliemann-like, down Derby Street and found an overgrown plot of land moldering between two condemned houses. A few blocks away, there is an orthodox church. And in the shadows there is, no doubt, a scurrying little rat with the face of a man.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:10 PM on November 17, 2009 [12 favorites]


Caduceus, I saw that at doctorschlock's Washington Psychotronic Film Society.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:21 PM on November 17, 2009


Those accents were terrible.
Keeping the narrative frame of the letter-writing pretty much robbed it of drama...even the unfamiliar listener knows the narrator is going to make a safe getaway. Also, the sound effects were unfortunately reminiscent of the Count on the Muppet Show.

Wait...Muppet Cthulhu!
posted by anigbrowl at 5:32 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think other aspects of Lovecraft's psyche are at least as important as his racism/xenophobia. Both his parents were institutionalized (due to syphilis, if I remember correctly) -- this seems to have left Lovecraft with a deep fear of "inner taint" and the whole "sins of the fathers" kind of thing that can play out really badly ("The Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family," anyone? Anyone? WtF, HPL?!) or rather touchingly ("The Shadow Over Innsmouth"). His family's fall from gentility with the deaths of his father and grandfather left their stains, which combined fairly unattractively with his resentment of immigrants, but that longing for a glorious Colonial past drives "The Strange Case of Charles Dexter War." Lovecraft was a bundle of fears and neuroses, but he mixed that with a fair dollop of self-taught erudition and created some stories that are genuinely scary even today. The best of his fiction has aged better than virtually all his contemporaries and imitators, despite its weird pseudo-18th Centuryisms.

I think it is as silly to look only at his best stories (you can learn stuff from "The Street," over even Lovecraft's poetry, but I recommend neither to those who value their sanity (and not in a good way)). Ignoring Lovecraft's racism is stupid, but seeing nothing but his racial ideas is equally short-sighted.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:04 PM on November 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


For some reason HPL's racism is so ridiculously over the top and effete that it comes across as utterly harmless.
posted by empath at 12:48 AM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I venture that the "genuine scariness" of Lovecraft's work felt by readers even today is due to his very rampant racism and xenophobia. The horror of Lovecraft's stories is rooted in unfathomable vastness, inscrutability, lack of understanding, powerlessness -- all feelings that mirror his own sentiments about immigration, the "darker races," etc. The author's own very real fears are what give his tales a sense of palpable terror.

In no way does his artistic legacy excuse or justify his beliefs, of course... but I don't think you'll find Cthulhu and his ilk springing from the imagination of an empathetic, well-balanced individual.
posted by DLWM at 2:22 AM on November 18, 2009


I'd feel the important point is that Lovecraft's work is not used to promote racism. In the west today, political racism is most allied with right wing extremists having christian and/or capitalist ideology. In fact, Lovecraft's embedded racism has effectively been redeemed by his offending the worst elements in Christianity. How much correlation would you expect between being bosses who'll pass employees over for promotion due to race, religion, or sexual orientation?

We should also remember that the central influences upon all role playing games are Lovecraft and Tolkien, who both produced very racist works; yet role playing games seem like an overall force against racism.

I consider however the Disney corporation is still responsible for their past racist profiteering, ala Song of the South, as the corporation is the same legal entity.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:16 AM on November 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


I consider however the Disney corporation is still responsible for their past racist profiteering, ala Song of the South, as the corporation is the same legal entity.

TBH I consider the racial depictions in The Artistocats in 1970 far more shocking than anything in Lovecraft's body of published work.
posted by Artw at 9:46 AM on November 18, 2009


It's true, there's always an HP Lovecraft FPP out there. About this time of the years it's usually to the HPLHS Very Scary Solstice CD which I only play once a year, but spend the rest of the year looking forward to.

The Call of Cthulhu film is great, but I'm really looking forward to their version of the Whisper in the darkness. The trailer is awesome.
posted by ciderwoman at 1:38 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Racist? Nahhh... some of my best friends are black goats of the woods with a thousand young iä iä
posted by FatherDagon at 1:40 PM on November 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


I fail to understand the obsession lately with accusing various semi-historical figures of charges that had no substantial meaning at the time - Whether racism or sexism or alcoholism or homophobia or what-have-you.

The idea of "racism" before 1860 had no meaning, and up to perhaps as recently as 1960, short of actually participating in lynchings, we simple have to accept that our cultural past has quite a bit to shame us and hopefully inspire us to do better in the future.

Some have claimed that his racism doesn't accurately reflect "just" the mores of the time - I call BS. Even in liberal New England, racist old men born a decade after HPL's death come a dime a dozen - And in less "enlightened" parts of the country... Suffice it to say, last month on a trip through Georgia, I overheard a middle-aged fellow casually use the phrase "well at least he ain't a nigger" in a restaurant over lunch, in no ironic or hushed-conspiratorial manner.

That said, obviously no one can defend the racism itself, so prevalent in his stories. But to condemn the man, you need to condemn most of human history in the process.
posted by pla at 1:57 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


That said, obviously no one can defend the racism itself

those fishmen had it coming! Wipe 'em out, I say!
posted by Artw at 2:51 PM on November 18, 2009


HP Lovecraft? Never heard of him.
posted by Nyarlathotep at 3:14 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


pla: "to condemn the man, you need to condemn most of human history in the process"

There may have been other contemporaries making statements as vile as that made in Lovecraft's "On the creation of the nigger", but we don't talk about them on mefi very often. His racism was not par for the course in his time, it was an outlier even then.
posted by idiopath at 3:16 PM on November 18, 2009


That ones a bit of a shocker, isn't it? I'm not really sure there are any of his contemporaries whose papers we've pored over sufficiently that something like that would be turned up though.
posted by Artw at 3:18 PM on November 18, 2009


Also I should point out that it's from 1912, quite a while before Lovecraft penned his well know works.
posted by Artw at 3:34 PM on November 18, 2009


Sorry to stick my nose in here, I don't usually post. But I think you've all missed the point about HPL's racism. He clearly was a racist. But the reason he gets a pass from any thinking critic is that he was above and beyond all else a _misanthrope_ of a unique kind, in addition to creating, out of the psychological wreckage of his youth, a kind of art no one else ever had. His misanthropy puts his racism all in the shade--does not forgive it but basically eclipses it from the perspective of aesthetic accomplishment. It is the great hatred of the SELF that makes HPL great, from Rats in the Walls through CDWard to Innsmouth.
posted by supremefiction at 7:14 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


You should really check out that Treadwells lecture on the other thread.
posted by Artw at 7:40 PM on November 18, 2009


Man. Metafilter really loves Lovecraft, doesn't it? Do a search and see often he comes up in FPPs.

I actually took this suggestion, and found the blog Monster Brains from an old FPP, which happened to have this illustration of Cthulhu on the front page. I think it is possibly my favorite illustration of Cthulhu ever.
posted by Caduceus at 7:50 PM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Somehow posting this link here seems appropriate: Coraline author Neil Gaiman received 'hate mail' for liking Rudyard Kipling

("I started getting – not exactly hate mail – it was more disappointed mail.")
posted by Artw at 11:26 PM on November 18, 2009


Oh, the radioplay - did anyone else find that it was just a bit too cosy?
posted by Artw at 11:28 PM on November 18, 2009


But I think you've all missed the point about HPL's racism.

Really, I don't think I have. Yeah, HPL was a misanthrope, and a product of his time, and a product of his unique mixture of upbringing, personal tragedy, and early life, but that doesn't mean that we should wave our hands and push his racism under the rug. Lovecraft's attitude toward race was noted by at least some of his close connections -- I remember a bit from his wife about how the sight of immigrants would send him into a sort of rage, and the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast relates that Samuel Loveman, a close friend of Lovecraft's burned most of their correspondence after Lovecraft's death when he heard from Sonia Green (HPL's unsuspecting widow) the extent of Lovecraft's racism. So I think Lovecraft's racial views were, for at least much of his life, notably more extreme than many of his contemporaries.

So what do we, people from the current time who are a) appreciators of Lovecraft's fiction and b) not supporters of his racism do with this information? I suggest:

1) We don't ignore it. If anything, that diminishes HPL by not acknowledging that he was a human being with faults and makes much of his fiction impossible to analyze.

2) We don't excuse it. "Lovecraft was only a racist" is not a useful tool in my book, but "racist had no real meaning in the 1920s" or "he was a product of his time" or "he was only going with the flow" are not useful approaches, either, assuming we want to understand the man and his work.

3) We acknowledge it. We don't dwell on it more than it deserves, because it is only part of his history and only one of the threads that makes up his writing, but we say, "yeah, HPL had some views that many people nowadays (and many people in his day) found objectionable -- race is one, class is another, and women are astonishingly lacking in his stories -- but out of these unpleasant traits, he wove some quite remarkable stories, and he is an important literary figure, and he is worth reading."

Sometimes all of this is almost comical -- I recently reread "The Horror at Red Hook," and I was like "WTF HPL! You are taking shots at the Kurds? The teeming masses of Kurds are bringing this country down with their devil worship? Dude, relax! No, seriously, time out..." Other times, it's not so funny, and I warn people who are beginning to read his stuff that there are problems that need to be examined in his writing, because I don't want that to be a surprise. I want my friends to enjoy the great stories, and I don't want them to be startled and offended, because I want them to judge the stories on their merits. The shock and horror should be "God lord, the scope of bleak and undeniable horror really grabbed me!" not "Holy crap, I suddenly realized that this guy was a complete dick! What the hell did you recommend him for?"

Or that's my take on the thorny subject.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:37 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, they do worship the devil.

In Polaris he takes a swing at eskimos - "squat, yellow creatures, blighted by the cold".
posted by Artw at 7:12 AM on November 19, 2009


Yeesh, "Polaris" was another "huh?" moment to me -- it's a sort of dreamy fantasy played out in some ancient time and HPL felt it necessary to malign the Eskimo (or Inuit, if you happen to be more easterly)? Man, why not just blame it on the People of Ib?
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:31 AM on November 19, 2009


There may have been other contemporaries making statements as vile as that made in Lovecraft's "On the creation of the nigger", but we don't talk about them on mefi very often.

Maybe I should put together that Joseph Conrad post MeFi has been waiting for? Joseph Conrad: the Polish H.P. Lovecraft who was uninterested in cosmic horror.

Actually I don't think the guy was really that racist, he just named one of his stories a little unfortunately.
posted by JHarris at 6:08 PM on November 29, 2009


Oh, and Artw, I look forward to your next Lovecraft post! I can't seem to get enough of him right now.
posted by JHarris at 6:09 PM on November 29, 2009


Actually I don't think the guy was really that racist

Well, there's some disagreement on that....
posted by Artw at 9:37 PM on November 29, 2009


December Belongs to Cthulhu on Tor.com
posted by Artw at 3:08 PM on December 1, 2009


I would happily recommend Lovecraft Unbound, BTW.
posted by Artw at 3:11 PM on December 1, 2009


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