Lovecraft Country, Tarzan of the Apes, and What is and isn’t Racism?

lovecraft

Promotional image for the HBO series “Lovecraft Country”

Every once in a while, I visit Mike Glyer’s File 770 SciFi fanzine. I used to follow them and get email updates of new posts, but either due to an accidental technical glitch or me being deliberately booted off for being an “undesirable,” those notices stopped.

Anyway, I was scrolling through Pixel Scroll 8/15/20 To Clickfinity And Beyond! and came across a link to HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’ Brings Viewers To A World Of Monsters, Magic and Racism.

I didn’t learn about famed horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s racism until this last round of Hugos when he was denounced along with a lot of other dead white men.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Lovecraft’s monsters and his racism have both been twisted into a show set in the 1950s which features both:

In the new HBO series “Lovecraft Country,” a young Black Korean War veteran named Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors) explains why he loves the sci-fi novel “Princess of Mars” even though its protagonist is a Confederate soldier. “Stories are like people,” says Tic, who is on his way home to Chicago. “Loving them doesn’t mean they’re perfect. You just try to cherish them, overlook their flaws.”

This tension is at the heart of “Lovecraft Country,” which follows Tic, his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance), childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) and other family members as they encounter monstrous racists — as well as literal monsters — in the early civil rights era. The drama is primarily set in the North — a region that was technically integrated but where discriminatory housing policies, sundown laws and the specter of violent intimidation meant that de facto segregation was widespread — and like “Get Out,” uses horror to confront deeply rooted bias in all corners of American society.

What will they think of next? However, it wasn’t the HBO series that got my attention, but a specific piece of dialog. To quote from the NPR article (you’ve already read a bit of it above):

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Here’s the thing about being a Black nerd who loves science fiction, fantasy and superhero stories. Often, you wind up admiring work created to glorify people who are the exact opposite of you. That’s something the aptly-named bookworm Atticus Freeman tries to explain while telling a female friend about the latest novel he was reading on a long bus ride, the 1912 book “A Princess Of Mars” and its star, planet-jumping hero John Carter.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) You said the hero was a Confederate officer.

JONATHAN MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Ex-Confederate.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) He fought for slavery. You don’t get to put a ex in front of that.

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Stories are like people. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You just try to cherish them and overlook their flaws.

My very first thought when reading this quote on Glyer’s site was “Oh, here we go. Now the Hugo, WorldCon, Nebula, progressive, marginalized voices, woke crowd is going to pull a cancel culture on Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of, among other things, the John Carter of Mars and Tarzan book series. Will Disney now remove their 1999 Tarzan animated feature from their catalog? Actually, as far as Tarzan is concerned, there are more books, movies, televisions shows, comic strips and other artistic expressions featuring him than I can count, so “cancelling” him would be quite a chore.

But then again, Tarzan isn’t the problem (or is he? I’ll get to that), it’s John Carter, a former Confederate Officer turned gold prospector and adventurer who, through some fantastic means involving him actually dying, gets transported to the incredible planet of Barsoom, known to us here on Earth as Mars.

Of course, I can’t find any news on this whatsoever, so maybe, in spite of it being brought up in “Lovecraft Country,” the socially just pundits will bypass it. If they don’t, all of those Barsoom novels are safely stored on my Kindle Fire and in the cloud, so good luck getting them away from me.

Just yesterday, I wrote Retro Hugos, Dragons, and Why I Don’t Care (for the most part) About the Private Lives of Authors and with the power of the internet at my command, I decided to break with tradition and look up Burroughs at (yes, I know) Wikipedia.

ERB as he is sometimes called, was born on September 1, 1875 (so his 145th birthday is coming up) and was the fourth son of Major George Tyler Burroughs who was, among other things, a Civil War veteran. It doesn’t say which side the senior Burroughs fought on, but since Burroughs was born in Chicago, and his ancestors originally settled in Massachusetts, I’d have to guess it was on the Union side.

Oh, fun fact. In the late 19th century, Burroughs spent about six months working as a cowboy on his brother’s ranch in Idaho. Small world.

Also:

In 1903, Burroughs joined his brothers, Yale graduates George and Harry, who were, by then, prominent Pocatello area ranchers in southern Idaho, and partners in the Sweetser-Burroughs Mining Company, where he took on managing their ill-fated Snake River gold dredge, a classic bucket-line dredge.

tarzan

Promotional image for the 2016 film “Legend of Tarzan”

On the surface, ERB doesn’t seem to have had a reputation as a racist. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2003, and because his books on Barsoom inspired real-life exploration of Mars, he has an impact crater named after him on the Red Planet.

But I decided to dig a little, and lo and behold, Tarzan is the problem after all.
In the 2015 article Racism and Imperialism in the Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs — Here’s Our Study File:

With Legend of Tarzan generating buzz courtesy of its well-received teaser trailer, the long-debated issue of whether Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs was a racist has come alive on discussion boards and comment threads. While one can argue that it’s not fair to apply 21st century standards or racial awareness to a 1912 story and its author …. the fact that the 1912 story is now a $180M wannabe blockbuster movie destined for the global marketplace makes this issue fair game and relevant.

However:

But my deep impression is that Burroughs was a fledgling writer when he wrote the first book, and he had a much more limited universe (coastal jungle uninhabited by Europeans) in that book than he did in subsequent books — books in which he delved deeper into the continent and opened up to lost civilizations that got him away from black/white racial context. Also, in the second book and thereafter he had the Waziri, a highly admirable warrior tribe. The fact that Tarzan earns a leadership role with them can be seen as racist — but Tarzan, after all, is superior to not just the blacks in his world — he’s superior to the whites as well. Burroughs central thesis is not that Tarzan is superior because of his race; he’s superior to pretty much all humans regardless of race because of a unique nature/nurture combination…

This movie review states in part:

And then, of course, the bottom dropped out, for obvious reasons: Tarzan was such a racist product of such a racist time, that after the civil rights movement and the breakdown of the British empire, it became harder for mass audiences to enjoy the kind of deeply un-reflexive white supremacy that the character represented. To call the character “racist” is to state the painfully obvious: In the original books, the name “Tarzan” literally means “White Skin,” and the zest and righteousness with which he kills Africans is such an organic part of the character that, if you took the racism away, there wouldn’t be much left.

But then there’s the essay Edgar Rice Burroughs, Creator of Tarzan, Was Not The Racist Hack His Critics Claim. Here’s Proof.

As a result of the “main lesson” that I did get from the (Tarzan) books, I did what Ray Bradbury said so many of us did. I went out into the world with enthusiasm and confidence; I set out to do great and mighty things; I believed in myself and was unafraid; I wasn’t timid; I challenged myself and tried to create a bio worthy of a Burroughs character; I took on major challenges and genuine adventures; I searched for an extraordinary woman to love and when I found her, I cherished her. If there was something negative that I derived from the books, it wasn’t about race.

And…

While there can be no doubt the ERB was a man of his times and his racial views do not match up perfectly with 2016 sensitivities, any actual reading of the totality of his works must acknowledge that the dominant theme of his racial statements is one of tolerance and respect. To impute a deeply offensive white supremacist agenda, as his many sudden critics have done in the wake of the release of Legend of Tarzan, is inaccurate, unfair, unjust. While there are undoubtedly a few oft-repeated isolated passages with offensive racial characterizations, particularly in the works depicting the young Tarzan before he encountered any civilizing influences, the dominant theme of Burroughs’ racial commentary is one of tolerance, respect, and frequent admiration of non-white races.

By 21st century standards, I suppose a certain demographic would judge ERB as a racist if, for no other reason, the concept of systemic racism means that all white people are racist because “the system” raised us that way.

But it’s what I’ve been trying to say in my last few blog posts. Taking a man who was born in the latter half of the 19th century and who died in 1950 out of his context and thrusting him in to ours is grossly anachronistic and error-filled. A century from now, how will people judge we who are living and breathing in 2020?

Just like my temporarily popular article (thanks to a hotlink from a story published by the Vulture) Is SciFi Author/Editor Robert Silverberg Really Racist and Sexist (or has the internet once again lost its mind)?, ERB isn’t a racist within his context and neither is Robert Silverberg. Burroughs has been dead for seventy years, so we’ll never know how his sensibilities would have evolved if he could have somehow survived to today. Silverberg doesn’t see himself as a racist, but then again, he is a product of another context.

It’s time to stop judging authors of the past on attitudes popular in our present. Yes, men like Lovecraft should be condemned for his racist views, but he died in 1937. There are a few authors who I won’t read due to my personal convictions, but there are others who have held questionable views that I will. I can say that Lovecraft was a racist, but that he also established a very important position in writing horror. I’ve only read the first two Tarzan books and yes, there are some cringe worthy moments, but those books are over a hundred years old.

John Carter was a Confederate Officer, but ERB depicted him as a man of courage, honor, and integrity, and in twelve books, to the best of my recollection, he never treated anyone like a slave.

Burroughs wasn’t a social commentator. He just wrote a bunch of fun adventures. In an interview with the Paris Review, legendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury said:

Edgar Rice Burroughs never would have looked upon himself as a social mover and shaker with social obligations. But as it turns out – and I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly – Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.

Bradbury concluded:

“By giving romance and adventure to a whole generation of boys, Burroughs caused them to go out and decide to become special.”

erb

Undated photo of Edgar Rice Burroughs – Chicago History Museum

The men Burroughs created were cut from the same cloth, whether it was Tarzan of the Apes, John Carter of Mars, Carson of Venus, or any other. They were all bold men, courageous, adventurous, deeply loyal to their friends, and absolutely faithful to their wives (Tarzan married Jane in the second book and was fiercely devoted to her throughout the rest of the novels, which ERB wrote between 1912 and the late 1940s).

No, his writing and his attitudes probably wouldn’t fit in very well in 2020, but then again, that’s not when he lived. His experiences belong in a different time, and while Tarzan had a pretty good run in films and television, spanning nearly a century (the very first Tarzan movie Tarzan of the Apes, was a 1918 silent film starring Elmo Lincoln), yes, even he doesn’t really belong with us anymore.

Oh, everyday, among other’s I read the Tarzan comic strips. The weekly ones are from the early 1960s and currently the Sunday editions look to be from the 1980s or 90s. Especially the weekly strips are pretty dated…but they’re so much fun.

22 thoughts on “Lovecraft Country, Tarzan of the Apes, and What is and isn’t Racism?

  1. I’ve read all the Tarzan books, and wouldn’t change a thing. ERB was an awesome writer. I think you’re right that people need to stop taking authors out context. Historical perspective is everything, if you want reality. That being said, I’ll stick to loving the Tarzan books for what they are.. great stories.

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  2. I keep hoping and praying that one day soon we will stop judging 18th, 19th and even early-20th Century men and women by 21st Century standards. The times they lived in were so much different than we now live in. Rather, lets enjoy the characters they created – flaws and all – and the amazing adventures they left behind as their legacies.

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  3. The first thought here that struck me worthy of comment was the bit of dialog that denied the possibility of being an “ex” something that might have been bad — like a confederate soldier. That’s an utter denial of humanity in an entity whose nature is to live and grow and change over time. It’s a denial of the possibility of repentance and forgiveness. It was pointed out to me in the writings of a rabbi Arieh Kaplan that the very creation of time is a fundamental expectation of change and a gift of opportunity to repent — made available in the fabric of the universe before humans had even the first chance to go wrong and need the ability to be set right.

    Furthermore, even a “confederate soldier” may have been fighting to defend values other than slavery. One cannot presume what his actual values were, either during or after that war, merely because he had lived in the south and could only defend his home by means of participation in the army of the confederacy. He could have been a secret abolitionist, for all we know, unless we can find in his character’s represented thoughts or expressions some overt clues about his values as touching other races, including values that had changed from their previous condition because of ongoing life experiences. But to condemn in ignorance is bigotry.

    And on the subject of change: Modern films that depict characters of prior eras do not usually conform precisely to the materials that inspired them. Screenwriters are notorious for the license they take in recasting characters and scenes. Hence the Tarzan of the animated Disney films is not the Tarzan enacted by Johnny Weismuller, nor the original one of ERB. A modern character is merely a reflection of an idea inspired by another. His or her modern description and backstory and presentation could be entirely scrubbed of objectionable elements, for whatever reasons good or ill. That may sound a bit Orwellian, but “it’s the nature of the biz”. Hey, even StarTrek isn’t StarTrek any more.

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    • You’re absolutely spot on, PL. As I recall, there was nothing in John Carter’s character that even hinted that his values included slavery. In fact, I think he was disillusioned by the war and the destruction, which is part of why he headed west after the war was over. Of course Burroughs’ characters never really had a lot of depth, so we don’t get to explore his past or his considerations over social issues. He was writing romantic adventures.

      Movies and television have tried to update Tarzan over time. One of the people I quoted in my blog said that if you took the racism away from Tarzan, you wouldn’t have much left, but that’s not true. Even the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies weren’t overtly racist in that Tarzan didn’t go around killing black Africans. Ron Ely played Tarzan on television in the 1960s and Ely played him as a highly educated man who had grown tired of civilization and returned to the jungle. It was basic 1960s action adventure, which probably departed from ERB’s vision of Tarzan but maybe not as much as we think.

      Star Trek hasn’t been Star Trek in the past 15 years or so, which is why I’m glad there is so much material from the past to continually re-watch. While ERB wasn’t much of a social visionary, Roddenberry was, and more than anything else, that’s what makes Star Trek a lasting classic. What they have now is branded “Star Trek” and has all of the historical and technical references, but the “feel” and “values” of Star Trek have been lost.

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      • Indeed — As I think about the Tarzan backstory of a boy lost in the jungle and raised by apes, illiterate but intensely moral, it would seem that the human notion of racism is an impossible concept for him. His interactions with humans would have been primarily with blacks, and rarely with Europeans or Americans, all of whom he treated solely with respect to their behavior though none of them were really very appealing in these stories. Really it is the apes who are deemed the noble savages and moral exemplars of the story, but even the survivalist “law of the jungle” is not disrespected but accepted as the norm except where Tarzan’s native sense of a higher morality would override it. As for the civilized Tarzan of the 60s who returned to the simpler primitive conditions of the jungle of his boyhood, presuming he had been found at some point and taken to be educated and subsequently disillusioned, there we have a more complicated and mixed background to contemplate. But the supposed racism of ERB would be presumed in his negative or condescending depiction of primitive African tribesmen, though that really could be attributed to a different rubric of the era, that modern western civilization was to be contrasted against a straw-man of earlier civilizations that were deemed more primitive and less enlightened, including those of Romans and Greeks, but certainly far superior to “primitives” in Africa, Australia, or even America. That’s really a cultural disdain and snobbery rather than a racial one.

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  4. Long take ahead. Very direct, but really, I say it with love:

    From observing the citations you choose to emphasize and noticing your bio line/quasi-mission statement I am not at all surprised of your reading of these matters. In that, it isn’t altogether glib exactly, but it is most certainly misguided. Maybe even conveniently so. It’s obviously way too big of a topic to hash out in one blog post or here in the comments. But a few thoughts, perhaps a little different from most of the comments offered so far. You might appreciate a “diverse” token in your comments for that “SJW” crowd you sneer at.

    There is a real issue with how we all take in the value and currency of ideas, whether they are modern or ancient. That’s true across political divides. Hard to settle on which side is doing it worse. It’s all such a mess on every side at every level. But granting that doesn’t explain away the effects of stories, ideas, or the currency of how we cherish aspects of them in our cultural mythos. It’s not a simple matter of safe spaces in fiction or politics, despite your tone.

    The fact is we are where we are, unable to agree on flagrant fascist or racist acts as a society partly due to how we engage with silly stories and serious ones. They can compliment each other. Moreover, who gets to decide what is and isn’t valid criticism have generally been of a certain gender and complexion, most certainly in the UK and the States. So that in recent times more than before, not least of all due to outlets where anyone can voice their discontent (unlike every century before) other people get to highlight their grief and abuse at being force fed narratives and cultural stories, among other things. That this specific cultural conversation and loud argument is happening while we as a society are still so dim on how to read culture, myths, and the power of language and stories is unfortunate, but also part of the process. Not to mention it does not invalidate those who after all of history without being properly able to make their voices heard on the same plain finally doing so.

    Because of where we are in these matters I grant the same space for messy loudness to white communities who, not unlike you, so erroneously minimize these matters to simple: “it is or isn’t X” arguments. I expect this level of dim readings from every angle and political spheres. Although there are tiers of misguided takes. I don’t attack your intentions, I should make clear. Those are irrelevant. But I can’t ignore the influence of your very bad, narrow write-up on this. Maybe you’re better on other matters, I’ll read you further and see.

    First, your “it was a long time ago” bit is one of your less convincing and cheaper highlights here. Little to do with you though, seeing as that same argument is mostly always convenient whenever anyone uses it for very specific things but conveniently not for others. Like, you wouldn’t say the American constitution “was a long time ago” and therefore we should discard it all and not get all riled up about how powerful the ideas baked into the text, and our reading of them affects our every day lives.

    Of course it is not al the same. But the distinction between one being more of a legal document and the other “a story” would ignore that they are both at their core stories we tell ourselves which grossly imbued with meaning, and which affect us so greatly precisely for how we read them. Language has its ways with us regardless of distinctions. We ignore or downplay them at our peril.

    At the end of the day, the fact that the different tiers of society are not in equivalent control or command of stories or how we read them is an important detail to keep in mind when settling on opinions regarding “what are the legitimate arguments for or against.” And along with that, maybe remember that how we engage with myths isn’t entirely an artistic matter in the purest sense. But is also a matter of markets which prefer some myths over others for not altogether innocent reasons all too often. And obviously that communicates certain values which propagate their echos. All of this, in my opinion, and from a light reading of some of your other posts, should put your personal sense of exclusion in context. If you belief in context outside of convenient takes.

    Lastly, I am sorry to say after going over some of your other posts, like your piece on the 2020 Hugo awards, I find the flawed prism of this post is not unlike your other pieces. Retaining the same sense of grief you bring to the fore. Poor old white man who those SJW meanies won’t accept, won’t let in, won’t bring in to “their” slanted “exclusive” club of absurd representation.. The discrimination! It’s really very Rich Pyles.

    Now, as we on the other side (not always on what you’d call a liberal side though) always have to highlight… imagine that same sense of grief, that same sense of absolute marginalization but intensified a million times over. And not just in matters of artistic expression. But in matters of life and death. Specifically to do with reading and writing even. Now, it’s not that your feelings are wrong in the traditional sense. It’s complicated. But that they are myopic. And solipsistic.

    You are not wrong that there is (I would say an uneven) movement to highlight non-white male voices in varying crowds. Although I would say it is more often than not symbolic, not genuine, nor as serious as it should be. And you are correct to notice that yes, that means currently some, (though I would say not very many, certainly not as many as you might imagine or seem to feel) white voices have to be toned down. And even there, not very much Pyles. Because that is the definition of addressing such violently unhinged imbalances as these, at least where it is still so lopsided. By the nature of the initial imbalance (which is not innocent and could only have come about and remained so in place through grand machinations not excluding cultural exclusives) for a period at least of an honest addressing, some need to make an imperfect space to highlight other voices never granted the same stage.

    But on this I have to say your view is clearly very constricted as far as I can tell from your other writings.

    These excerpts from the aforementioned piece are interesting:

    ––
    “for years, I’ve said that I thought there was room enough at the table for ALL people, for authors from everywhere, representing the widest possible number of perspectives. However, it’s not, nor will it ever be truly inclusive, if you include “marginalized writers” whilst throwing out the old guys. Not all of us are Hitler.”

    And shortly after:
    ––
    “I’m sure I’ll never be a good enough writer to win an award, Hugo or any other kind. Today, I found out, I wouldn’t want a Hugo award even if I were offered one. Just me showing up (assuming the world governments will ever open up the planet again) at a WorldCon as a white, American, cisgender, male who is actually married with children and grandchildren would likely get me hung up by my proverbial thumbs, all in the name of “social justice” and “pale, stale white, males are not wanted” and “we don’t serve your kind here.”

    To put it another way, “why give money to people who hate me?””
    ––

    First, I have a whole other set of opinions about pompous “prestigious places” of recognition that you might want to entertain but, not today’s conversation.

    I wanted to say your expression here laying out your personal sense of exclusion, your very serious sense that not only would that crowd not appreciate you, but in fact “hang you.” I guess I have to say, not for you exactly but anyone reading, you use this colorful figure of speech even as the brute reality for the same communities you seem to ridicule was actually just that. Being hung from trees in the flesh, not merely in manners of speech. Can you imagine this? I wonder. I ask because it is this kind of dim sense of things that gets you and I, and those SJWs further apart than we should be. This feeling you have of being ignored, it’s the same for many of the people you mock. And in contrast, more historically grounded than your current sense. It’s been that way for centuries, and is still very much in play today Pyles.

    Not to mention your ending sentiment: “Why give money to people who hate me?” is obscenely melodramatic only because it isn’t true. And that you feel this way is, again, so misguided and misunderstands so much. Like misunderstanding feminist women as hating men when in fact, the very thing they are fighting also aims to liberate men from ignoble and pitiful ideas of “manhood.” And even more, why give money to people who hate you… is a very focused sense of “hate.” I mean, in that if you multiply that by however many times would be needed to compare to hateful acts against you and yours for centuries of governments into today, my goodness, it should give some grounding to your emotions. But, evidently you haven’t felt that.

    For the record, dear white friend… you are not cancelled. And not because I think it is a pitiful show of contempt against power which is not seriously effective, but because my personal hope and that of many others is for us, for you and me and those like us to identify the core of our communal ills. To recognize these don’t lie in each other as individuals or in niche pockets of culture but is endemic to the fabric of our society that informs all of it.

    Moreover, many of us on the other side also criticize that sense of final excommunication. Which, it should be noted, is not a one sided thing, but is rampant on all sides of political conversations. I would say it’s such a popular tool because it is politically useful. But is also, ultimately, say it with me, MISGUIDED.

    But your deeper sense of this is inaccurate even in its narrowest form. Cancelling in culture, in the sense you attack merely stands in for actual power. It isn’t actually, real power. It can feel like real power, but it is symptomatic of a people who can do little else but call you out and agree with likeminded agents on your exclusion from their party. Though I know, it can have real effects. They are just not as widespread as you feel. Every reality we are currently living in, aside from the few white men who get yelled at online, showcases that.

    I would suggest to never mind spaces of prestige or acknowledgment and just do what you love because you love it. Those of us who are actually factually traditionally ignored by every space have had to get very used to dealing without them.

    Suerte amigo.

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    • First of all, Thanks for taking the time to read one or more of my blog posts and to craft your lengthy missive. Sorry about the delay in responding, but I wanted to give myself the time to go over what you wrote thoroughly.

      While your criticism of me was certainly at the forefront of your message, I didn’t really hear what you thought I should think/feel/do instead. I’m also still unsure of how you received my “room enough at the table for everyone” thought.

      I suppose that part of the issue for me isn’t particularly flattering. Yes, more or less (there are always exceptions) white men have been in control of the SF/F narrative and thus writing the 20th century mythos of the western world for a while. I’m pretty much blind to most of the problems you cite with that mythos since, after all, it was written for people like me.

      That means it’s difficult, my lacking your lived experience, to really “feel” what you feel in reading those stories. That said, I am at least intellectually aware that there is a difference.

      I’ve been a published author for about 20 years, but that’s mainly of textbooks and self-study guides in various areas of information technology. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I seriously took up writing fiction. Then I discovered that, as fantasy author Jeannette Ng puts it, the “stale, pale, male” crowd is no longer wanted in the SF/F industry.

      I’m well over 60 years old and have discovered that I had hardly gotten started with I was “replaced.” So much for my boyhood dreams ever reaching fruition.

      And that’s my concern as a writer, because if I am replaced because of who I am, then not only are there not an infinite number of seats at the table, but publishers will more than likely avoid my works (assuming the quality is actually good enough to be published), not because of said-quality, but because of what some people have referred to as “identity politics.”

      I suppose, in a way, it’s the same sort of perspective that created both the “Sad Puppies” and “Comicsgate;” the idea that a single, particular social and political point of view has taken over the science fiction, fantasy, comic book, gaming industry to the absolute exclusion of all other viewpoints.

      The Sad Puppies attempted to “game” the Hugos and it got them nowhere, primarily because the Hugos were never designed to be an objective measure of story quality (although I have to believe they aren’t what they once were if someone can win a Hugo this year for denouncing an old, white, dead man while receiving an award named after him last year). Comicsgate proponents were promptly labeled “Nazis” (defined quite differently then when I was a child and World War Two was gone not quite twenty years) because they believed that there should be more than one social/politicial viewpoint represented in comic books, and then began to produce those comics (I haven’t read comic books, excepting on a few occasions, in over 20 years, but I do cling to many from the 1960s and 70s).

      My “solution” to all of this is to open the doors wide and say, why can’t we all just try to write good stories and level the playing field, I mean really making it equal? I don’t know what’s wrong with that idea, but apparently something is. Maybe it’s because I said it, or that somehow, the presence of someone like me is to “stale” anymore. Or maybe a relationship with marginalized voices and folks like me would be too much like “sleeping with the enemy.”

      You said:

      I would suggest to never mind spaces of prestige or acknowledgment and just do what you love because you love it. Those of us who are actually factually traditionally ignored by every space have had to get very used to dealing without them.

      Yes, I’ll do my best to write what I love and to attempt to improve my craft, such as it is. While I won’t deny that historically, other voices have been under or simply unrepresented, relative to my observations of the Hugos, WorldCon, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and so on, there’s never been a better time to be an author of SF/F who is a POC. Those organizations and the environments they are creating, at least as far as I can tell, are exceptionally accepting to people of color, LGBTQ+, women, and all of the people who have been “factually, traditionally ignored.”

      At the end of the day, blogs exist, for most of us, as one way to express our personal opinions, and to sometimes market ourselves. The last time I looked, there were something over 215 million blogs worldwide, which makes any one blog (unless they are one of these) not really significant.

      So, I’m going to continue to write fiction and see what will be accepted for publication, and I’ll continue to blog and express my personal opinions, which frankly don’t always line up with all of my regular readers, either (I’m rarely “flamed” here and more often ignored – this is unlike twitter which is more than happy to yell, scream, and carry on every time an “unpopular” opinion is expressed).

      If you have any suggestions for somehow bridging the gap between you and me (or someone like you and someone like me), I’d appreciate you letting me know. I only have my own perspective, but believe it or not, I do court other perspectives. Even if you don’t want to engage me in dialogue again (which is fine), at least write about it on your blog (oh, by the way, it looks like a number of your tabs are still awaiting content, so I assume it was recently created – keep on writing).

      Good luck to you, too.

      Oh, if the cancel culture doesn’t exist, you might want to ask J.K Rowling what happened to her on social media. Maybe she wasn’t “cancelled,” but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

      One final thing. You might want to read a few pieces of my short fiction to see if my “attitudes” spill over into them. Obviously, I’m going to be unconscious to my own process. I don’t think they were overtly hateful to anyone, but you be the judge:

      https://poweredbyrobots.com/2020/08/18/the-thirteenth-sign/

      https://poweredbyrobots.com/2020/08/17/warriors-prize/

      https://poweredbyrobots.com/2020/08/06/olivia-comes-home/

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think I’ll try to respond mostly in the order of your comment.

        First, you did not take long to respond at all. You actually got back to me quick. I did write essentially a whole post as a comment. There was just so much in this piece I needed to highlight. And I don’t really like to comment on everything I see, believe me.
        Thank you for your respectful tone, even warm. I hoped my own respect and warmth would come across despite my unequivocal disagreement.

        I didn’t prescribe a “solution” because I don’t think I should be prescribing. Obviously one hopes articulating opinions in critique would encourage self scrutiny. But as to what I think about the “table” piece, I would have hoped it was evident, I think the sense of exclusion you describe is misreading everything relevant to the topic. Like I said, reality is uneven, like history. And to address imbalances one can’t pretend to do so mathematically in the strictest sense.

        The reality is that to end slavery white slave owners had to be inconvenienced, financially, existentially, and essentially. The same with women getting the vote and becoming part of the labor force. By the very nature of those initial imbalances and the great restructuring necessary to address them, it should be clear, can’t exactly be undertaken while maintaining the station, position, and convenience of ex slave owners and men who never needed to take much account of women in legal and political terms. Your somber mood regarding your sense of being looked over in favor of other, browner people is certainly genuine, in that you really feel it and are moved by it. But man, the imbalance cannot be corrected while also maintaining your status. A simple matter of logistics and cultural realities. So, maybe I’d prescribe you notice that. I think I’ll mention this again in a bit below.

        Still taking your response in order, you yourself gracefully concede you’re blind to many of the problems of these convenient myths I cite. As you said, they were written for people like you.

        You say you can’t feel what I feel since you lack my lived experience. Well, yes, this is true. But just as I lack yours and can still conceive of what cultural artifacts make up much of the logic in your views without having to know you personally or walk in your shoes, with all the flaws that includes, so can you attempt to be generous and connect the cultural and historical dots. I am sure you are trying. Not unlike you did with your piece on Jussie Smollett. In which you, writing against expectations given some of your stated politics, take a reconciliatory tone with his suspected deceit. You didn’t have to know him to offer, instead of more vitriol like so many others, some sober words for us to ponder.

        Unfortunately then, further in your comment you go on to circle around to the same weeping sentiment of being excluded, your boyhood dream of ..I guess being recognized at these spaces you value. And, as you state it, because of who you are. Not the quality of your work. And you even use the word “replace.”

        Again, you give so much to contend with. I can’t repeat as long a comment as the other. But this word: “replaced.” Do you realize, despite your perhaps innocent intentions, the words “The Great Replacement” and therefore the word “replaced” has been associated with white nationalist rhetoric? I’m not at all saying you knew that or that you meant it that way. But it is so prevalent and used uniquely as a bludgeon by white males speaking against every black and brown person that your use of it here is unfortunate. And another would find it very offensive. Like calling a young woman “sweetie.” Some words have a certain history and baggage.

        Furthermore, I would remind that again, despite your sense of exclusion the numbers are woefully, still VERY VERY WHITE Pyles. Like it isn’t even close. In every field we can mention. Sure, it’s gotten better. But really, it isn’t saying as much as you think and feel. So that the few whites who can actually trace their loss of status to a more inclusive movement is marginal. Despite some of these exemptions making the news and being celebrated. The fanfare misrepresents the numbers. That is a liberal and sometimes conservative ploy for different purposes.

        Moreover, your statement about being overlooked for “who you are instead of the quality of the work” assumes that it was ever just about that and that now it’s all tainted with politics somehow. I am sorry to keep bringing this up but the very ancient (and still with us as an inherited legacy) imbalance meant that it was never just about quality since, I hope you’re getting ahead of me, the vast population that couldn’t take part would have also meant disturbing the definition of quality. And for who, and who gets to decide. That quality seems to have been decided by the usual suspects only while specifically shutting out everyone else seems a bit convenient, doesn’t it? And therefore it couldn’t have been just about pure quality. Know what I mean? That glossy pure past did not exist. It is always more complicated than that.

        About your nazis reference, without knowing your exact example, I think we know political fervor makes one be hyperbolic. About comics, or other works needing to be about more than stating politics. Well, yes, sure. But again, these works were never devoid of them. Only that the given of the straight, white, traditional values as seen in text and images was the wallpaper. Who notices it? It’s only when we divert from even the simple givens that anyone says..oh don’t make it political. Not unlike the mess with the NFL and the kneeling. Don’t bring politics into my game, many say. But then, there is that anthem being sung. And the make up of the players vs the owners and every political reality that exposes. It’s a bit rose colored to see it “the old traditional way was better” way, don’t you think?

        Now, this:
        My “solution” to all of this is to open the doors wide and say, why can’t we all just try to write good stories and level the playing field, I mean really making it equal? I don’t know what’s wrong with that idea, but apparently something is. Maybe it’s because I said it, or that somehow, the presence of someone like me is to “stale” anymore. Or maybe a relationship with marginalized voices and folks like me would be too much like “sleeping with the enemy.”

        Ok, come on. Sleeping with the enemy? That’s a little much. I keep saying, these matters are not about making individuals the enemy, or any other bloated term. It’s about the inherent uneven nature of initial moves to address these things. And the necessary loss of status the old guard need to concede ( at least for a while) to be serious about inclusion. The same with your asking “what’s wrong” with just saying, hey let’s all put up our work and open doors.” Nice sentiment, and of course that is the goal. But as the uneven convenience is still in place, and the numbers and politics of the nation show that they are, it’s not possible to take that relaxed approach if we want to seriously address this. At least not yet. In some later stage of this perhaps. Not yet.

        Lightly skipping over your statements on blogs and twitter, I agree entirely. Glad you’ll keep up serving the life of letters we both adore.

        Yes, I just recently began the blog. A few weeks ago. Thank you for the encouragement. About advice on how to bridge the gap, probably doing exactly this friend. Speaking honestly with your opposition, that isn’t your enemy. But who is in fact, your very frustrated (with some of your political opinions) *friend. Christians would say brother, no?

        And I never said Cancel culture didn’t exist. I said the power you seem to think it has is not actual power but petty influence in a very tactical and small plain. It’s not the power that trump has for example, to demonize my community and threaten it with bile and death while never touching you and yours in any similar way. There’s an important difference, is all. And cancelling, though currently associated with leftists is not a one sided affair. It happens with all of us. With conservatives it sounds like….ungodly, communist, “liberal.” These words and others are meant to achieve the same among the tribe. We all need to stop it with these already.

        Also…JK Rowling is just fine. She has so much money and Harry Potter has been absorbed in the fabric of children’t literature her might cannot be undone. Not unlike HP Lovecraft’s influence. The racism baked in is atrocious, but the effect of art is so powerful it is immovable. Aside from being critiqued for the mad logic in the text just between the monsters and our realm.

        Finally…. I will absolutely rush to read your fiction. It’s my preferred mode of reading and writing, actually. Thank you for offering them. I will read as no more than a writer myself admiring another parent’s children. 🙂 But if they make too much noise, yes I will tell you.

        Luck to you and to us both brother.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Recently a person commented about marginalized voices and my response is that there are a large and growing number of venues that exists exclusively for those voices (plus that mainstream publishers are increasingly turning to POC authors and progressive stories). Here’s one (and I believe George RR Martin mispronounced the name, which I understand is said like “fire”). Exclusively for African-American authors: https://www.tor.com/2020/08/26/breathe-fiyah-submissions/ Oh, and if your submission is accepted, you receive $250.00.

    Like

  6. In my life, I have never liked horror. There is almost always, if not always, a lot of stupid stuff in it… or stupid stuff that ends up being included in the repertoire of its creators. That’s kinda the point of it. That’s a fact. (To whit [intentional misspelling meaning small bit]: the inscrutability of you entertaining the writing of child porn for even a second.) But I have started watching^ horror in recent years (none of it child-porn-related*). There are at least a couple reasons for my making time for this odd aspect of our world, but I won’t try to get into that right now.

    I have been watching this show — Lovecraft Country.

    The first episode was pretty old school with scary monsters appearing from the dark after sundown. The second episode, as I recall, brought in (if there wasn’t already allusion to it) the concept of secret societies (or a secret society). For instance, I thought of “the Masons.”+ This was carried into the third and fourth episodes. The fourth episode also built on the idea of people who should or who, one hopes, would care about the travails of injustice as well as the long-term prejudice against fellows (not only personal grievance or ambition).

    For example, a sister in a pair has been shown to have a sense of superiority over and resentment of the other sister. They are black. They have different fathers, and this is probably part of the hard feelings. Now, I could get worked up and angry over something perhaps stereotypical being included in the story (about more than one man being in a woman’s sexual life). But I think there is meaning — and are more episodes to address it. This sister who thinks she’s better has ended up, so far now, in an illicit relationship with a rich, white man (in the cult/secret society) because she sees such as a way to improve her lot in life (if not also because his social power or “skin” makes her ah-hem aroused). The other sister is interested in someone who is more her own peer, as far as that goes. Still, she has accepted a supposed inheritance from their mother facilitated through another corrupt person (this one a female associated with banking but excluded from being per se in the society~ despite being part of the family of the featured man in the cult… you know, true to the timeframe, because she’s a woman).

    ^ I currently read very little fiction of any sort.
    * One (unintentional) brief exception was in a British sci-fi series.
    + I would think of this because a grandfather of mine was in the Masons, and the Masons are pretty famous. I never saw anything he did at the lodge, and I wouldn’t think any of this weirdness happened. But I have subsequently learned of accounts (whether at all real or, rather, fantastical) about what said secret societies do or are/were for. Also, I’ve read that someone has found the show anti-Semitic. But it is not my perception that the Masons (or secret societies like it) are considered Jewish or Semitic. I am aware that the Masons included both non-Jews and Jews.
    ~ There are spells in this scenario, something I’ve chosen not to value or enjoy as an adult even though they are often included in children’s literature and movies despite being “cautioned” against (outlawed) by the Bible.

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    • + https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/freemasons

      This is approximately the last sixth of the opening section for this topic at this site (the first five sixths, and the additional section [or a seventh section out of seven] which follows, also being important or informative):

      … those who adhered to the original English constitution […] called themselves humanistic Freemasons. The struggle between the two trends continued during the 19th century. In Germany in the 1860s Jews and Freemasons began to be identified as twin agencies responsible for undermining traditional society. This combined criticism of the two groups was transplanted to France, where a succession of books stressed “le peril judéo-maçonnique.” The notion of a sinister alliance between the two played a conspicuous part in the *Dreyfus Affair and it became an antisemitic commonplace. The Protocols of the *Elders of Zion (first published in Russia in 1904) included the idea of a Jewish-Masonic plot to control the world. In Germany up to this time, Freemasonry was still thought of as a conservative and partly antisemitic association. When the Protocols were translated into German and English in the 1920s, Jews and Freemasons were identified as the sinister agents of the outbreak of World War I and of the German defeat. The slogan Juden und Freimaurer became a battle cry of the German right wing, and was utilized by Hitler in his rise to power. During World War II, Freemasons together with “Bolsheviks and Jews” were persecuted by the Nazis.

      With JJ Abrams and Jordan H Peele producing, I seriously doubt the story is going to go right wing or German WWII sympathetic. I say that tongue-in-cheek in that I, instead of a real worry there, see a need for hope that those who have said the acknowledgment of the role of Masonic history (Freemasonry, if that is a template, as the weird organization) set in the U.S. is (in the very acknowledgment) anti-Semitic will realize that effectively agreeing with Hitler, or the tides that led to him, is not a proper way to prove one is not anti-Semitic (and I communicate my hope that they will stop insisting that denialism of facts is the correct thing to do).

      Note… I just remembered one of the main characters’ (along with his dad’s) last name is Freeman (I think that’s the correct spelling), and he has stated that none of the people in his family were ever slaves. He is accepted as a standing member of the organization by birth (even though the majority white attendants look down on him or are begrudging but follow the rules). I wonder if the inclusion of “free” is supposed to be an allusion to the Freemasons.

      ~ I am curious to see where they go with all the magic; seems to be a staple of much horror.

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    • To correct for a possible misleading: if one watches the show, one does not get any idea that there is something Jewish going on. There, in fact, isn’t; at least not so far in the series. I’ve brought up, in this topic, a relation to Jewishness because James shared an article elsewhere. Called an episode anti-Semitic.

      Like I said, I never suspected anything weird about my grandpa for being involved in freemasonry. I would say I didn’t see a point in it, though. Perhaps a waist of time? I am glad I did some searching. I now think it’s likely that the bad mouthing about the organization had a lot to do with the organization being inclusive.

      But, I could be wrong. Maybe it’s more like a cult than like a nice cultural club (or whatever the category or terminology would best be). Still, it’s just the +Masons. Although inclusive, it was not a Jewish or Semitic organization. And their philosophy seems to be along the lines of some “founding fathers” in history itself.

      I’ll be watching and evaluating to see if the makers of the series handle it responsibly and what they try to convey, if anything other that the obligatory magic and spectacle — obligatory to the genre rather than any specific ideology. I am someone who views entertainment critically rather than absent-mindedly.

      + Again, they don’t call it the Masons or Freemasons. They call it the Dawn something or other. And terminology persists about the Sons of Adam. This could pertain to hundreds or thousands of groups [or churches] in our entire culture or even “the” Illuminati. So, more details could take it in another direction.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illuminati

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      • I don’t believe James suggested in any degree that there was anything Jewish going on in the Lovecraft series. He cited a report about some embedded antisemitic tropes expressed within one or more episodes. I have never seen this series, nor would I likely ever do so, but in passing I have read similar complaints in an article or two recently. One may ponder what weight, if any, ought to be attached to such expressions within popular culture. When they are rare and exceptional, one may argue that it is better to dismiss and ignore them. If, on the other hand, they seem to indicate an increasing trend within a society, they may be taken as a warning that demands a vehement response. Antisemitism, and perhaps any kind of systematic bigotry, represents a psychological analogue to a physical virus. If not detected and treated early and definitively, it has shown that it can spread virulently and with devastating consequences.

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      • He cited a report about some embedded antisemitic tropes expressed within one or more episodes.

        He linked to an article that claimed there was anti-Semitism (in one episode that has already aired) in that there was supposedly a trope — link accompanied by his own comment as if confirming his ongoing premise. I wouldn’t call the article a “report” that accurately characterized the episode; the article was more a primer on fears from history.

        {I’m not addressing the article’s treatment of a different — unconnected — show in that I am writing under this topic.}

        I have to give the article author(s) credit that James didn’t, though, for saying that the makers of the horror episodes may not have intended or known of any trope(s) or anti-Semitism therin.

        There are tropes in the article itself; I had to wonder at that — along the lines that it may be better to leave a perceived slight alone rather than proclaim tropes as the article did.

        There is junk in the series, in that it’s of the horror genre. As I said, I will watch and see if they go into laying bad character at the feet of Jews (in future episodes and the full storyline as yet undeveloped). I’m guessing they won’t.

        One may ponder what weight, if any, ought to be attached to such expressions within popular culture. When they are rare and exceptional, one may argue that it is better to dismiss and ignore them.

        One might wonder at the wisdom of making a big complaint of having used the name Epstein (this is the actual specific complaint). Most viewers will have missed the name (mentioned once); those who noticed will more likely [if they connect it to anything at all rather than take it as simply a name] think of the infamous Mr. Epstein in major national and international news rather than think of Jews.

        If, on the other hand, [tropes] seem to indicate an increasing trend within a society, they may be taken as a warning that demands a vehement response.

        There was a foundation of sand in that the complaint followed upon a false accusation (misreported news in an environment of multiple false assumptions) and with no acknowledgement of that previously shared news link being wrong.

        Antisemitism, and perhaps any kind of systematic bigotry, represents a psychological analogue to a physical virus. If not detected and treated early and definitively, it has shown that it can spread virulently and with devastating consequences.

        I largely agree.

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      • I have to give the article author(s) credit that James didn’t, though, for saying that the makers of the horror episodes may not have intended or known of any trope(s) or anti-Semitism therin.

        If it had been a trope about any other marginalized group, I think everyone would have known. Antisemitism has been in existence as long as the Jewish people had, which is to say, thousands of years. It’s pretty hard not to know, especially if you’re producing a television series and know professionally what images and language to use to create a message.

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      • I am in good company, with my Jewish rabbi (not some evangelical flake calling himself a rabbi and mishandling Torah scrolls), having been rejected from your religious site for having a point of view that embraces information about the Arab League in 1948. And the configuration you have just now (above) articulated (held so tightly it is as religion) doesn’t make everyone guilty as soon as you don’t understand what they are saying [or even before that because someone might be progressive] or as soon as you won’t see the difference between claims and facts.

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      • I banned you for a grand total of 24 hours. You should be able to post again. I just sometimes get tired of Jews being the world’s most expendable people, and it’s been that way for thousands of years.

        Like

  7. One of the main characters in Lovecraft Country is, himself, a veteran (that, though, having been in service of the official aims[1] of the United States) and not as a veteran of rebellion decidedly against our country; he has troubled as well as honorable memories about the experience. It happens to be the person who responded, in the illustration of dialogue you shared, that people need to love the people they love even if they have flaws. I think that’s why he nudges the woman who said you can’t be an ”ex” soldier for the Confederacy away from total rejection; he wants, both, to still love the character in the books and to be loved himself (and to love himself I would suppose). If you like the idea of a person who was a confederate soldier and ends up regretting it or second-thinking it and is a decent person (or the main protagonist), you might like the AMC series, Hell on Wheels — but it’s historical fiction, not horror.

    [1] This is something I am sharing because I thought about it (which is what I normally do). It’s not pointed out or dwelled upon in the show or brought to the fore as a differentiation or defense or statement of superiority.

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