OK, before I begin, let me state this up front: I have never read an H.P. Lovecraft story. Or perhaps I have, but have just forgotten. (And yet for some reason I know how to pronounce “Cthulhu”.)
Give me a few minutes to wipe off the tomato stains from my shirt.
Now that the understandable outrage is out of the way: while I have never read an H.P. Lovecraft story, the Mythos he has created is so pervasive that I had a good idea of what to expect from the fourth issue of Innsmouth Free Press (a webzine which acts as “a fictional newspaper publishing faux news pieces – lovingly called Monster Bytes – in a Lovecraftian/Cthulhu Mythos universe, as well as original short fiction stories”): monsters and old gods and weird horror… and, because of the particular focus of this issue, a multiethnic slant.
In the Editorial by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Publisher) and Paula R. Stiles (Editor-in-Chief), they describe the origin of this issue’s focus in this way: “When we first devised the special Multiethnic issue, we thought the approach would be simple: take the New England out of Lovecraft. Our reasoning? Lovecraft’s fiction focuses on the alien experience and we sought to define what was alien in an interesting way, by travelling to different locations and using different characters than he would have used to tell a story. Lovecraft’s troubles with race and gender have been made famous in his very writing. But by raising them, he also asked questions with a variety of possible answers far beyond what he himself might have tolerated. The mark of a great writer is the universal application of his/her work and we wanted to find writers who could ask Lovecraft’s questions in new cultural contexts.”
There’s also a good interview with Moreno-Garcia and Stiles up on Tor.com, where they talk about how they first discovered Lovecraft, and the different interpretations they’ve seen, and the means by which the Lovecraftian tradition is being expanded.
Now what did Moreno-Garcia and Stiles mean by “Lovecraft’s troubles with race and gender”? Let’s turn to Professor Wikipedia: Lovecraft lived at a time when the eugenics movement, anti-Catholicism, Antisemitism, nativism, and strict racial segregation and miscegenation laws were all widespread in the United States, and his writings reflect that social and intellectual environment. A common dramatic device in Lovecraft’s work is to associate virtue, intellect, civilization, and rationality with upper class White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. These are often posed in contrast to the corrupt, intellectually inferior, uncivilized and irrational attributes which he associated with both the lower classes in general and those of non-Anglo Saxon ethnicity, especially those who have dark skin. He held English culture to be the comparative pinnacle of civilization, with the descendants of the English in America as something of a second-class offshoot, and everyone else below. Or, of course, you can simply read this short, simple, and completely racist poem by Lovecraft (with some context provided here.)
In short, if by some time twisting contrivance, Lovecraft and I would ever meet, we would likely completely and utterly hate each other.