The Genetics of Horror: Sex and Racism in H.P. Lovecraft’s Fiction by Bruce Lord

  • In Lovecraft’s vision of humanity in decline, sexual reproduction causes an effect exactly opposite to Darwinian evolution: negative biological traits propagate whilst positive ones become extinct. For Lovecraft, the ‘natural’ act of reproduction is not equated with life, but with degeneration, decay, and eventually death.

my take ____

If the PCs are surrounded by Lovecraftean men, they will have a chance to confront this attitutde.

  • The prudish young man posing as the old man:
    HPL on reading about sexual reproduction in a texbook as an 8 year-old: “The result was the very opposite of what parents generally fear – for instead of giving me an abnormal and & precocious interest in sex (as unsatisfied curiosity might have done), it virtually killed my interest in the subject. The whole matter was reduced to prosaic mechanism – a mechanism which I rather despised or at least thought non-glamourous because of its purely animal nature & separation from such things as intellect & beauty – & all the drama was taken out of it.”

my take ____

Many of the men in this story buy into just this prudery

  • [A]lthough sex is necessary for the propagation of life, life itself is just as distasteful as the means by which it is generated, and only the pure pursuit of intellectual matters can provide any solace to “the deepest and most sensitive soul.”

my take ____

Woah: not only is his take on sex entirely heteronormative, it is ascetic and nihilistic too!

  • Of further interest are the topics of miscegenation and degeneration that these stories touch upon, begging the question of the role played by Lovecraft’s other great fear: sex. As a corollary, women should be included alongside sex as Lovecraft’s other fear; female characters are a rare occurrence in Lovecraft’s fiction, and when they are discussed in any depth it is always with regard to their reproductive capacity

my take ____

So, women are treated as a vector through which physicality and degeneration swamp all that is good: misogyny in overdrive. What to the female players of this game want to DO about this. HPL does not just present horror: he is horrible. To be in the Mythos is to be in the middle of this horrible attitude. So what do we do? Smash it?

  • In “this frightening image of overflowing life,” (Lovett-Graff, 337) we can see illustrated the “hatred for life” Lovecraft sought to align himself and his writing with [and?] against anti-Puritanism; in this case, unrestrained, animalistic reproduction. Rationality, civilisation, proper sexual practice (which amounts to little or none, as far as Lovecraft was concerned) cannot withstand the reproductive frenzy of the subhuman.

my take ___

Do any of the players want to put on the mask of the restrained, life-hating puritan?

  • If there was ever an instance of Lovecraft’s depiction of sex as a ‘there but not’ phenomena that always occurs outside of the narrative scope of his tales, it is “The Dunwich Horror.” The crux of the tale is dependent upon the union between an alien daemonic entity and a human, yet essentially no information regarding this union is given. While many pulp authors would milk the violation of a woman by a monstrosity from outer space for as much horrific voyeuristic effect as possible,14 Lovecraft could never do such a thing. Some might say that this could either stem from an ironic feeling of disgust at dealing with such unseemly matters in his writing, or out of the hapless presumption that no one would find such details captivating.

__ my take ___
This is the problem. There is none of the prurient or semi-pornographic representation you get in the pulps. But the complete avoidance of any discussion of the subjection or humiliation suffered by the character in this story seems pathological. How about this: the NPC movers and shakers have a similar reluctance to acknolwedge female bodies or their suffering, just like HPL himself. The players, through their characters, must confront this.

  • in “The Thing On The Doorstep,” Lovecraft presents us with one of his most complex tales with regards to sex, gender, and attempts at circumventing the perils of reproduction via sexual means.

__ my take ___
How many of the horrible characters in are game a beset by this deranged utopianism, a gynophobic fantasy of a world without mamalian, affect-laden, fragile human birth. It is like a twisted version of Hesiod’s wish that a man could buy his children from a god’s shrine and never have to deal with women. Could this twisted fantasy lead NPCs into the kind of occult corruption that the PCs resist.

  • I hold that in addition to this, “The Thing On The Doorstep” deals primarily with the body and gender as uncertain and potentially dangerous constructs; themes that are almost postmodern in their concern, and not in keeping with the (legitimate) conception of Lovecraft as an author primarily concerned with humanity’s interaction with science and philosophy that the majority of critics have established over the years. In addition to this, the implications of the sexual acts in “The Thing On The Doorstep” are particularly disturbing. Namely, they involve violation at several levels.

__ my take ___
I have zero interest in invoking the threat of sexual assault in this game. I would rather deal with gore and madness but not stuff with too much real-life “triggering” potential. But the idea of “body and gender as uncertain and potentially dangerous constructs” is just what I aim am aiming at.


XX Horror ErikWeissengruber