It certainly isn’t particularly fashionable in this day and age of removing statues and flags to defend reprehensible iconography, related peoples and individuals of a dubious moral compass (and perhaps for good reason), but H.P. Lovecraft is an exception.

Since the Lovecraft bust was redacted as a Hugo award in 2016, since his collection of protégés and contemporaries scored a retrospective Hugo in late July of this year, and since Lovecraft Country came out and juxtaposed the Jim Crow era of racism with tentacle monsters, Lovecraft has caused a furore among literary circles.

Now, I want to make clear that I do not care one iota about the Confederate flag. If you want to split hairs, they’re using the wrong one anyway, I have no vested interest in statues of slavers and slave owners. I sulk more for the wasted materials that inevitably go missing when they should be meticulously saved and given to a young architect or city planner with a spark in his or her eye and a different vision of the future. Plus, I value job creation for sculptors.

Lovecraft was a man of a time, but at the same time, he absolutely wasn’t. When it comes to criticising his values and beliefs, we’re left somewhat rudderless, despite over one hundred thousand letters. Throughout his life (briefest summation: horror writer, didn’t go out during the day, possible head trauma, college dropout, both his parents were institutionalised and died, he himself died destitute), Lovecraft has left hundreds of smoking guns, his cat being the most famous/infamous one, but even the most cursory look at these showcases quite a few blank cartridges.

For example, his antisemitism. Did you know that Lovecraft once wrote a sentence praising Hitler? So obviously, Lovecraft hates Jews. The only problem with this is that his wife was Jewish and so was one of his closest correspondents, Harry Houdini, and he had no clue of what would happen when Hitler rose to power just twelve years later. You could argue that he was an antisemite due to calling Hugo Gernsback “Hugo the Rat.” Problem with that is that was more to do with Hugo’s notoriously sharp and shady dealings, as other writers such as Clark Ashton Smith would use the moniker. I mean, Gernsback paid himself 100k a year for his publications—adjusted for inflation, that’s 3.3 million dollars every year—and yet paid his writers a pittance or otherwise just didn’t pay them. There’s Lovecraft’s crass xenophobia, where he claims the use of certain English words that most considered, even at the time, anachronistic made for a superior language and lambasted what he dubbed “Americanisms” and “slang.”

But of course, Lovecraft WAS American, not British, and spent his entire life in Providence save for a few years in New York City.

Then there’s the racism, which is the most egregious the charge with insurmountable evidence. To say “Lovecraft didn’t have a racist bone in his body” is to push this conversation over the waterfall. We have the poems, there’s three of them, he wrote them at 22 alongside many other writings expressing suicidal ideation. (Not that wishing to end your life is an excuse to believe in racial superiority. Very much apples and oranges.) “Providence in 2000AD” is clearly a work of fictionalised satire on immigrants. If it seems targeted, do let me know why the Swedish would invade Providence, or the Canadian Mounties. “Providence in 2000AD” was the only published work. The other two were never published. Some historians say there’s evidence he didn’t write them, that they were copies he’d made with his copier trick using his personal hectograph, which is like a Xerox machine that runs on gelatine. A proto-printer, if you will. The modern-day equivalent would be e-mailing someone a Ben Garrison web comic. But let’s say he did write them; he didn’t get them out there and into the world. (Did he submit and get rejected? I’ve been scouring the web, but can’t find anything. If you do find anything, do get in touch.)

And I feel there’s a certain distinction, specifically in the case of Lovecraft, of prejudice and racism. My argument isn’t that Lovecraft was morally wonderful, I’m arguing that there’s more grey in the black that people don’t notice and nuance within the man himself. It’s not the same as an EDL member, or a member of the KKK. And, if we’re on the topic, is the pathological racism between a CEO multimillionaire who’s secretly a KKK member the same as the racism of an unemployed yob with no teeth, no qualifications, and no prospects who’s spent his life online quaking in his shoes over pictures of people escaping war-torn countries and being taught that they’re the enemy by publications ran by the CEO multimillionaire who’s secretly a KKK member?

This is a man who became a recluse in a town as white as fresh snow on a cornfield, writing stories and poems for an audience that never existed during his lifetime, only really investigated by a handful of people on Twitter who are trying to get him cancelled despite the fact that he died 70 years before he was able to make an account.

And before he became a hermit, he was known for his love of astrology and science, and would let anyone and everyone use his prized telescope if they wished to. Quiet, shy, and introverted, but quite possibly a kind man before his life became an ongoing downward spiral.

My hometown is not one I would describe as racist, although it is far more right-wing than the city I now live in despite the city having a much larger immigrant community. Indeed, countryside towns live off of Daily Mail and Daily Express articles. Truth is that nobody ever publishes the times people just got along with each other and built communities, slowly and steadily, day by day. Everyone doing their best to live and let live. Integration doesn’t sell papers. Never forget that.

Lovecraft never integrated with anyone. So I honestly think that it’s blind prejudice, not racism, that defines Lovecraft. And I think it’s highly befitting that the removal of the Lovecraft bust statue as a Hugo award in 2016 was applauded by the generally white neoliberal elite and decried by the head Lovecraft authority, S.T. Joshi, a man born in India who moved to the USA when he was four. If the inference and implications of Lovecraft’s work are something he can get past in that particular case, then I feel almost as if I’ve got permission to write this essay explaining that he wasn’t so much a demonic supervillain but more of a confused loner figure.

But outside of the writer, and the bust, this essay is mostly to defend the posthumous award as of July 29th, 2020. I could mention how runners-up such as “Pellucidar” are arguably sexist, xenophobic, and strange, gazing upon my gallery print of Amazing Stories, where a large-breasted and scantily clad woman is being tractor-beamed and how Twitter would have been equally incensed if Edgar Rice Burroughs won. I could mention the winner was technically all six writers in Lovecraft’s circle, who were destitute and poor, scraping by on stories that would cover the lights, food, and gas, but ultimately you run out of Twitter characters too fast.

I just scroll down and see the same responses of “Y’all really did this? Right now?” and see the pseudo-outrage for Internet brownie points that makes Twitter an absolute hellsite.

At some point, you can’t even engage in a reasoned debate. I’ve lost count of the number of people using the term “conversation” to mean “talk with me until you agree with my point precisely or I will otherwise block you” and “educate yourself” to mean “read one-sided arguments and be swayed by either appeal to emotion, popularity of opinion or the shutting out of informed dissent.” So I don’t reply or engage. I write essays. Maybe they’ll come a time where even that will be considered foolhardy.

Jim Carrey wrote Tupac letters whilst he was incarcerated to make him smile. He painted a tribute to Aretha Franklin a week after her death and caught flak because she looked white-ish. It doesn’t matter if you’ve a nice guy like Jim Carrey, a dickhead looking for a pot to stir, or if you have absolutely no horse in the race: to even get involved in a dialogue is to put your arm inside a nest of hornets who will not only take pleasure in stinging you, they will compete to be the most violent and even pin bits of your flayed arm to the top of their profile, reminiscent of mounting the Onyxia and Nefarian dragon heads outside of Stormwind in World of Warcraft back in the day.

I’m getting off topic.

But, you know, sometimes you have to talk about it and the reason is to ask why. Following the news, climate change is race-related and COVID-19 is a racist disease. And I’m wondering that if overnight, the entire population of Planet Earth turned into aardvarks, VICE and the Guardian would run op-ed pieces on why this is specifically affecting Hispanic communities more than any other.

And maybe it does and maybe it will, but it’s missing the point.

Existential terror. Space dread. In the galaxy-spanning face of Azathoth, No Lives Matter. That’s the whole deal. These were stories of supremacy, but not black or white or even human. These were stories about a dismal and uncaring universe full of petulant squabbles that took place on a blade of grass sputtering out of a cosmic lawnmower and already yellowing.

The terms “Black Magic” or “Dark Magic” could very well be seen as a “problematic Eurocentric phrase showcasing Western imperialism” by the types of people who I’m sure will one day go out and make something for themselves, try to achieve something, be less critical of others, or at the very least attempt to be more fucking entertaining at parties, but I see the phrase differently.

Space is black. The night sky is dark. And up there is the unknown. In Nairobi, a five-year-old sees something outside of his hut. In the shade of the tree, lurking. In the American Midwest, a ten-year-old girl closes the bedroom cupboard because she hates to leave it open. A black doorway for the creatures that only come out at night. In the U.K., I walk up the stairs a little faster after I turn the light off. Either consciously or unconsciously. Hard to know.

But it’s that darkness Lovecraft appealed to, wrote about, and understood.

And I think to brand him a segregator belies the man, the work and most importantly, the unification present in the genre of horror. As Blue Öyster Cult once sang, 40,000 men and women every day. (Although that figure is closer to 150,000 every day.)

No matter who you are, black or white, rich or poor, the equaliser will set you free and you will not escape the horror to come.

Have a great day and please don’t cancel me on Twitter.