It's been an interesting couple of years to be a fan of SFF, that's for sure. The latest kerfuffle is over the subject of an award, given by the World Fantasy Con every year, which currently is in the shape of what I can only describe as a caricature of the fizzog of said HP Lovecraft. I'm not going to post a pic here, because it's pretty awful, but if anyone's desperately curious to see it, you can find a pic of it and the man himself here.

 

Basically, for the past few years there's been something of a campaign to get this award statue replaced by something a) less awful and b) not representing someone who was a massive racist, even by the standards of his own avowedly-awful period. Naturally, this has seen some pushback - mostly by white men, it has to be said, which will come as no surprise to anyone, I'm sure - because of Lovecraft's influence on the genre. Except that, racist arseholery aside, I'd argue that if there was a competition to say which dead white guy has had the most influence on the Fantasy genre, Tolkien would be a shoo-in.

 

Anyway, good news, the award is going to change from this year so we're waiting to see just what replaces it. In the meanwhile, we get to retread the argument about whether you should separate the behaviour and atittudes of the creator of something (whether we're talking books, movies or whatever) from the thing they've created. This becomes more complex, naturally, when you're thinking about past times as the 'but everyone was [insert prejudice of choice here] back then!'.

 

I think, as I've got older and thought more about people other than myself (I hope!) then I can empathise with a zero tolerance approach even though I might not maintain it myself. There are certainly creators of modern media who I think are unmitigated arseholes and I choose not to engage with anything they are involved with - if anyone's interested, my list includes but is not limited to Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Steven Moffat, Orson Scott Card and various less well-known folks within the SFF genre who I have seen be arseholes online. I have zero tolerance for people who are either plagiarists or who have been caught being arseholes to anyone who criticises their work (Anne Rice is the first person who leaps to mind, but there are others).

 

As for historical stuff, that's a little more difficult - apparently, even for his time Lovecraft was considered massively racist, which is saying something. It's an easy out to say 'oh, everyone thought like that' because that's never been true of any time period, since if it was true nothing would ever change because nobody would ever think it needed to. There have and will always be outliers, good and bad, with most folks being somewhere lumped in the middle of whatever opinion is current. Still, we choose what we value and what we give head-space, and I choose to be more selective than that, since there's plenty more out there that isn't produced by arseholes.