by Andrew M. Reichart
The Outer Dark podcast recorded an episode At NecronomiCon 2017 in front of a live audience. They had a brief Q&A, and I got to ask a question.
When speaking in public, I tend to cut myself off too quickly. I really don’t want to be That Guy who rambles on and on. But I sometimes rein it in to the point of selling myself short.
So, not wanting to do that here, I made a conscious effort to err in the opposite direction, and just let myself say my piece. Which I did. Err, that is. In my defense, this is partly because I was trying to get at the heart of a somewhat nuanced question, and even so I barely scratched the surface. But yeah, here I am being pretty much That Guy for a few minutes.
Still, in those minutes (yes, unfortunately, ‘minutes’ plural), I am getting at some stuff worth exploring. So, here’s the question more or less as I asked it, edited a bit for brevity but not so much for clarity. In one or more future posts, I’ll elaborate on certain points I introduce here.
I’m interested in how political ideas are expressed in fiction in ways that are not didactic or obvious. I think that Lovecraft’s kind of an interesting example of this, because sometimes he’s really obvious, where he’s saying explicitly racist stuff. But there are other times where the cosmic vision that he’s presenting – if you’re not reading critically, you can miss the fact that these incursions from beyond are a metaphor for immigration of people that he regards as subhuman, and that sort of thing. So I found myself very interested in subverting that, and in my own early writing, there’s a very direct, “Ok, well, if that’s the case, and I believe the opposite, therefore his monsters are the good guys? What does that look like, and how can we sort of like explore that kind of idea?”
But if we still use certain tropes – tentacles coming from beyond – don’t we just recapitulate hatred of the Other? Or does it? And how can we cultivate a sort of embrace of the Other?
Y’all mentioned “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” I think that’s a really interesting example, because obviously he’s got this fascination as well as revulsion. And I get to the end of that story and I’m like, “Yeah, fuck yeah, I wanna live forever under the sea too, that’s awesome.” And given the basically unreliable narrator, unreliable author here, like, what is Innsmouth really like? He makes it seem creepy, but I don’t trust his judgment about anything, it coulda been some sorta anarchist utopia, I dunno.
So anyway, I’m interested in how folks have put political sentiment in ways that aren’t obvious or didactic, and aren’t unwittingly repeating awful stuff that we actually don’t wanna be reproducing.
Here’s the episode, which is worth listening to. If you must listen to the unedited rambling version of my question, it starts at 1:15:14.