Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lit links

While the author of this article does a decent job interviewing his main subject, Ursula K. Le Guin, I'm a little embarrassed for him. There's a little sidenote, see, about her attending the same high school as Philip K. Dick. Of whom Freeman says, "whose novels "Blade Runner", "Total Recall", and "Minority Report" have become enormous successes as films."

Oh man, zero for three! None of those novels exist. Blade Runner, as you know, was based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Total Recall was based on the short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale". The source for Minority Report is indeed called "Minority Report", but again, it's a short story. Maybe this doesn't have much impact on the central subject of the article, but so much could have been avoided with just a little basic research.

And here's something about H. P. Lovecraft that's kind of interesting.It deals with Lovecraft's racism, which some secondary fans - those who mainly know his work through movie adaptations and themed board games - might be unaware of, but that's hard to ignore when you read him.

He wasn't a lower class bigot, and it wasn't a prolish kind of bigotry. Reading reference books from the early twentieth century you can see how the ruling class, to which the Lovecrafts belonged until they didn't, was trained to believe in their own innate superiority and wield it over lower orders. At some level Lovecraft came to realize that he didn't have the skill set to be one of the masters of the universe, and that even his chosen field would only yield a meager living. This might be part of the reason he clung so jealously to ideologies that were already being discredited.

Of course Anglo-Saxons aren't innately superior to anybody. And Lovecraft wasn't the failure he probably thought himself to be in darker moments. To believe either of these things, much less both, is tragically misguided. But the effects on his work were interesting.


susan said...

You're exactly right that the guy who (thankfully) sat and transcribed Ursula LeGuin's thoughts made a serious error in describing the names of films as the titles of PKD's works. He came off sounding like an eager high school reporter rather than a journalist. I think the lack of rigor in conducting even simple research is fairly common these days - his editor can take equal blame.

Of course, it was neat to hear Ursula herself talk about her life and work. (Considering there are a number of them in old Portland neighborhoods I'm assuming her house is one of the Sears Craftsman places - and they did ship entire houses up until 1940.) I always enjoyed reading her books because she was the first to approach science fiction from a humanistic view rather than the heavy duty tech and engineering end - never mind the whole star ship trooper genre.

Your understanding of Lovecraft's racism expresses pretty much the same conclusion we have come to in reading Kipling - another author reviled in retrospect for racism. These were generally held opinions of a class of people who treated all non-whites as sub-human. One can't help but wonder if some guilt was already surfacing in Lovecraft. He certainly left a remarkable body of work.

Ben said...

Cool that you know about the Sears Craftsman Houses. It's likely she did grow up in something like that, which makes it easier to visualize. And from what I've read of her you're absolutely right about her humanistic philosophy. It was different from what anyone else had done. Her father's befriending of the old, isolated Indian seems like a formative influence.

Lovecraft and Kipling both belong to that "often imitaed never duplicated" class of writers. Both of them made fiction rooted in a particular worldview. Now that worldview may have upsetting elements to it, but the fictive worlds are impossible to ignore.