She’s also writing a series of highly entertaining and thought provoking articles on sword and sorcery, the Cthulhu Mythos, feminism in fantasy and depictions of ‘the other’ among other topics on her blog. Her most recent post dovetails quite nicely with my own thoughts on the matter of how we, as readers, approach a lot of older speculative fiction.
There’s an instinctive posture of defensiveness that many spec-fic fans fall into when confronted with the blatantly unpleasant aspects of the material they enjoy. It’s a reductive sort of posture; an attempt to deflect or explain the social, cultural or literary failings of long-dead authors, not because the aforementioned dead authors require a defence, but because their admirers believe that they, and, by extension, their fans, do. Silvia says it best, I think:
Robert E. Howard and Lovecraft were racists. Yet often when I say this, people will start protesting. It is understandable. We don’t want to be told that people we admire as artists had displeasing traits.
Lovecraft and Howard could be witty, smart and engaging men. They also had major racial issues. Don’t try to justify it with talks of these were them days of racists and wine and roses. People are not divided as villains and heroes. Lovecraft and Howard were not villains or heroes. They were men. Just as they could be very fun to hang out with, they also had their unpleasant side. We must accept this, and accept them as human beings with their quirks and their failings.
That does not mean we have to espouse the same beliefs as Lovecraft and Howard. This certainly does not mean we must keep writing exactly the same way they did, about the same things they did…
I encourage you to read the rest of that post and the others besides. I also encourage you to donate to Swords and Mythos, if only because I’d like to submit something to it, or, at the very least, read it.