Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.
He is a slightly underwhelming villain in terms of personal presence, and is hard to take seriously as a consequence, but I think that's kind of meant to be the point - he's the evil that isn't taken seriously, even by the people who think they are using him for their own purposes, until it's too late and the damage is done. (He's like the alt-right to Snoke's Trump.)
I also have a sneaking suspicion that there isn't going to be a redemption narrative for him. It is not an ironclad rule of storytelling that there must be one, and the entire thrust of his stuff in The Last Jedi seems to have hinged around the idea that actually, sometimes, even if someone seems to have better qualities somewhere deep within them and are a bit conflicted about what they've been doing, you are not necessarily going to be able to reach them and constantly looking for ways to "redeem" them means you end up losing the opportunity to defeat their agenda.
I suppose I should've realized the direction the movie was going when it started off like the ending to Rogue One, with the successful bombing run on the dreadnought in which Paige and all the other bombers die, and then the attacks on the bridge and hanger bay of the command ship where Ackbar and the other leaders die, and most of Poe's squadron dies. (I totally thought that pilot who gave him a thumbs-up just before the explosion was Jessika Pava from the previous film, but apparently not, which makes me wonder about the fate of the other pilots with greater roles in the Disney Expanded Universe who were on the Resistance base at the end of The Force Awakens and don't appear in this movie.)
The movie also had a serious and malignant case of the Heavy Dramas. Kinda like that interminable pause before Kylo Ren stabs Han in Force Awakens, i.e., the single worst thing about that movie. (I got a good laugh at his claim to Snoke that he "didn't even hesitate" to kill his father ... yeah, right, not more than about six hours.) The Big Dramatic Pauses here in The Last Jedi aren't nearly so excruciating, but now they're flipping everywhere, and they only work maybe two, three times, tops.
Luke running and hiding on that island planet because he felt he'd failed Kylo Ren didn't ring true to me in the same way that, say, Han and Leia splitting up and Han returning to old smuggler habits made sense to me in Force Awakens. It didn't fit with where his character ended up at the end of Return of the Jedi, or how he's depicted post-Jedi in the other canon works (like The Legends of Luke Skywalker) and the early Expanded Universe books. It did set up his scene with Yoda, though, which I adored. I don't think we got enough of Wise Jedi Luke at the end to make up for Broody Hermit Luke, but his confrontation with Kylo Ren was seriously cool (I like both uses of the line "every word you just said there is wrong").
Then again, while I was looking askance at Broody Hermit Luke as opposed to Wise Jedi Luke, he was still billions of lightyears ahead of Wanton Murderer Luke or Proto-Fascist Jedi School Adminstrater Luke from Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice, and Crucible, respectively. Thank you, Legacy era, for constantly reminding me that no matter how inane and wrongheaded the new canon sometimes gets, the alternative was infinitely worse; and why I'm glad the old Expanded Universe has been erased from existence, despite wiping out many of my absolute favorite characters and stories in the process.
In theory, I wasn't opposed to killing off Luke (maybe the bleak tone of the rest of the movie finally got to me), and I'm glad that little snot of a Vader wannabe wasn't the one to kill him - Han I could believe, Luke never. But I don't understand why he died in-story. And if, as Rey claims, his death was supposed to be peaceful and not sad, then Johnson really should have made that clear to John Williams, and the cinematographer, and the editor, and everyone else responsible for the umpteenth epic Heavy Drama sequence just before he died. It also undermined the awesomeness of his final parting shot at Kylo Ren.
(Given this movie and Force Awakens, I'm now wondering if the original plan before Carrie Fisher's untimely death wasn't for her to have a confrontation with Kylo Ren at the end of Episode IX, possibly dying, and possibly that being the way he's finally redeemed. Rule of Three, and all that.)
I also liked Luke training Rey - both seriously and when he was trolling her - and I liked the exploration of the more mystical dimension to the Force, which was one thing I felt The Force Awakens lacked. (It was also one of my favorite parts of Rogue One with the character of Chirrut.) I feel the movie could've played up that part a bit more.
And it was really cool how we got to see the Force at work among the galaxy's unimportant nobodies and not just Super Special people like Rey and the Skywalker family. Though I was annoyed that their token everyperson Force user was still a white human boy.
I liked Rose Tico, and I was pleasantly surprised and relieved how she survived that final battle on Crait, where the movie had me convinced it was going to kill either her or Finn off - which would have been massively upsetting after all the Heavy Drama buildup. (Another nice thing about Rogue One was that in most cases, it didn't telegraph its character deaths way in advance and then drag them out interminably. For the most part it was quick, brutal, and to the point.) It also would've been massively annoying considering how overused the noble sacrifice trope is in speculative fiction. And I liked Rose's line about victory not being a matter of destroying what they hate but protecting who they love - which I feel would've been undermined if she'd died.
All that said, where do the filmmakers get off trying to pair up Finn with someone who 1) isn't Rey, and 2) isn't either Rey or Poe? That's just wrong.
My third biggest complaint about the movie was how yet again, they utterly failed to bring back Billy Dee Williams to play Lando. Seriously, of the members of the original trilogy cast whose characters survive the end of Jedi, he's the only one who wasn't even asked back for either Force Awakens or Last Jedi (and he's said that he would). Rian, JJ, I have to ask, what is your fucking problem?
It's especially galling and baffling since the movies take our heroes to a galactic watering hole and to Planet Monte Carlo respectively; i.e. Lando Calrissian's natural habitats. He's a great character, and the only black member of original trilogy cast, and they couldn't be bothered to fit him into either of their movies? Gah.
I liked the use of humor. Apart from continuing the gag from Force Awakens of Finn being cowardly and an atrocious liar - which was never remotely funny - the comedy all worked for me.
I also liked the action sequences for the most part, like the fight with the First Order at the beginning, or Rey and Kylo Ren versus Snoke's Imperial Guards, or the Resistance command ship blowing through the First Order ships and blowing out the soundtrack in the process, or Luke versus Kylo Ren towards the end. Those sequences were pretty fun.
Also Finn's rematch against Phasma - I remember reading some commentary from a black fan a while ago who was very critical of the fact that Finn got trounced in all his fights in The Force Awakens, so it was especially good to see him get a bit of his own back.
After our tragic loss of Carrie Fisher last year, I was especially concerned over how the movie would handle Leia's character arc, as it's now her final performance for the series. Overall, I was happy with what I got. I know she wasn't featured prominently in the last movie because they wanted to center Han, but I still felt she could've been given a bit more of a proactive role. Here, I thought they more or less did her character justice, which was a huge relief. I particularly liked how, even though she isn't a Jedi, she got a chance to use her Force powers and pull off an awesome escape - even if the special effects for that sequence weren't great.
ptolemaeus (who, like my other sisters, adored Force Awakens but disliked The Last Jedi) had a great idea for how to write Leia out of the series in the next movie. She said Episode IX should open a few months later, at Leia's funeral, where Billie Lourde's character is delivering the eulogy, talking about how great she was, how she was like a mother to her, how she's an inspiration to the Resistance, etc.. And then her memory can continue to be an inspiration to the heroes throughout the third film, and at the pivotal moment, Rey has some choice words for Kylo Ren about not having been there for his mother at the end, how she always believed in him, and that's what helps him finally shake loose. Then at the very end when they're having their post-victory celebration and Rey sees Force ghosts of Leia, and Luke, and Han looking on in approval. Granted, from what we've seen before, it seems like only Jedi can manifest Force ghosts, but with all the other weird stuff they've done to the previous canon, why not throw in Han? (Although, it would also be kind of interesting if it was revealed that Han is actually alive somehow, and he reconciles with Kylo Ren, and winds up being the last survivor among the original three.) Pretty neat.
And then there's Kylo Ren ... Oh, Kylo Ren. I get what the filmmakers were going for with the character, and on paper it's solid. Stuff like him hesitating to shoot the Resistance command ship bridge when he senses his mother aboard, or the interactions between him and Rey on the island planet*, that's good. It's just a shame about the casting. Poor Adam Driver, he's all wrong for the role, and it's impossible for me to take the character remotely seriously. He's just laughable whenever he's out of the mask, which in this movie is pretty much always. I get that he's supposed to be tragic and conflicted and all that jazz, and I think in script terms and how the other characters play off him it works really well. And Adam Driver tries his best to live up to the material - but he can't manage any better than Emo Doofus. All of his scenes are excellent Enjoyable Bad Movie material; massively entertaining, but because you're laughing at the movie rather than with it.
*Actually, even setting Finn aside, a romance between Rey and Kylo Ren would be massively screwed up given how much he was creeping on her in the last movie; but the rest of his arc works fine in theory.
I'm pretty sure I made a joke back when The Force Awakens came out about how Hayden Christensen should be grateful to Adam Driver for making his performance as Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy look downright dignified and masterful in comparison. Having seen The Last Jedi, I still stand behind that statement.
Also: "You come from nothing. You are nothing ... But not to me." Sitting in the theater, I nearly laughed myself out of my seat. He totally just negged her! No wonder he's such a crap Dark Lord (apart from being played by Adam Driver): he learned everything he knows about being evil from pick-up artists!
I've seen fans and commentators make a big deal about the "reveal" concerning Rey's parents, but I'm skeptical. Maybe it's just that I can't get over reading two years ago when Force Awakens came out that Colin Treverrow had promised a "satisfying" reveal for the third film in the trilogy. Granted a lot has changed since then, and Treverrow isn't even attached to IX anymore, but it makes me suspicious. I interpreted that scene as Kylo Ren reading and playing off Rey's own doubts and insecurities rather than having actual knowledge of what went down with her parents. That's another massive creeper alert, but completely in character.
I read an article by Film Critic Hulk, praising the unreveal for subverting the saga's fixation on dynastic bloodlines (highly reminiscent of David Brin's accusations of elitism against the series), so maybe it would be for the best if this is the truth of Rey's origin. But either way, I remain skeptical, and I'm perplexed at how many people are taking the story we get in this movie at face value, and treating the matter as settled.
Incidentally, ptolemaeus' suggestion for the ending to Kylo Ren's storyline in the third film is that he's redeemed by Rey, then goes to sacrifice himself to prevent the terrible threat at the end of the movie. Only then Rey steps in and solves the problem herself with no need for anyone dying, and tells him, "No, you're not getting out of this that easily. Your atonement is going to be spending the rest of your life helping the galaxy rebuild from all the damage you've caused." And then during the final montage we get a little vignette of him in, like, a really dirty field hospital somewhere doing good work. If the third film delivers anything less than this, I'll be sorely disappointed.
Something else I appreciated about The Last Jedi was that it was less obviously derivative of the original trilogy than The Force Awakens, with a few glaring exceptions. The Prime Climax in Snoke's throne room was the biggest of those exceptions, and it was laughably easy to predict exactly how it was going to play out.
That said, I think the throne room climax was one sequence which worked really well. It made perfect sense in story, and it managed to be exciting despite being so obvious.
It was also surprising in its own way, because even though it was so predictable, I didn't expect this particular major plot point so early in the trilogy. So there was a lot of tension for me, in the sense of "Oh my gosh, they're actually going through with this," and also wondering how this movie and the next one were going to handle the ramifications of this development.
In hindsight, it amuses me no end how much the filmmakers and Andy Serkis insisted over the past few years that Snoke was really a complex villain with his own personality and character. But in the end, the dear Supreme Leader died as he lived*: a second-rate Palpatine knock-off.
*And just as he came across in The Force Awakens.
I also find it hilarious that this leaves that little chump of a Darth Vader wannabe as the Big Bad for the final film. With him as their Supreme Leader, the First Order could wipe out the Resistance a thousand times over and they still wouldn't have a prayer. (And it's not as if Hux is any better. Palpatine might have been remarkably tolerant of fools and buffoons in high positions within his Empire, but he had a much better track record of promoting competent subordinates to balance them out.)
I thought Admiral Holdo was cool - though not nearly as eccentric as her younger version was depicted in the recent Leia-centric YA novel. I was very relieved when her plan for the Resistance was vindicated, rather than having her just be a straw commander figure. (Plus, it was pretty badass having Leia blast her way through the bridge door, stand there dramatically while Poe looks on in wonder and relief, and then stun him.)
However, this brings up a pretty major plot hole: why didn't Holdo just tell Poe the real plan? It's not as if there was any pressing reason to keep it a secret. Because of his previous insubordination? That might cut it in a real military, but not in the atrociously lax command structure among the good guys in Star Wars, where insubordination is practically standard operating procedure.
ptolemaeus pointed out that the decimation of the Resistance after they flee the command ship is entirely attributable to this lack of communication on Holdo's part. If she'd simply explained the plan, Finn and Rose wouldn't have gone to Canto Bight and picked up the sleazy programmer, and never would have been captured with him, so he wouldn't have been in a position to tip off the First Order about the cloaked escape shuttles, and they presumably would have safely made it to Crait as planned. As ptolemaeus put it: "Many rebels died to bring you this plot twist."
ptolemaeus also shared a point raised by her boyfriend (they saw it separately from us) about Yoda's comment to Luke that failure is the greatest teacher, and how each of the four main characters - three protagonists plus Kylo Ren - fails in their main goals for the movie. Which is pretty interesting, but I guess we'll have to wait for the next one to see if they do in fact learn and grow from their failures, and if so to what extent.
Looking ahead to the third movie, I'm concerned about the climax to the trilogy. Say what you will about the prequel trilogy, but in each of those movies, Lucas created climaxes which were unique to them, while still paying homage to the original trilogy. Both Abrams and Johnson, by contrast, have cribbed heavily from the original movies in their climactic sequences so far, and I'm worried about Abrams' ability to pull off something both new and satisfying for the grand finale of this now nine-movie film cycle. Don't let me down, JJ.
Also, I've been listening to Rogue Podron this year, even though the X-wing books were never my absolute favorites, because I find the hosts (mostly) very charming, and enjoy their interpersonal chemistry and their perspective on these classic books from the pre-Disney Expanded Universe era. Good stuff.
On another note, Ibmiller, I just read "Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black," published by New Paradigm Studios. It's another modern day reimagining of the famous crime solving duo - in this case, modern day Harlem. Apparently, it's the first such reimagining ever to cast Holmes and Watson as African Americans, which is actually kind of incredible.
Anyway, the mystery is pretty good, as are the characters. You've got several interesting updates of the Holmesian cast - though I'm still wincing over Police Lieutenant "Leslie Stroud." And the humor gave me several good guffaws.
My only real complaint is that the first case ends on a very open-ended basis, setting up an arc plot for the series. Which would be okay, except that the comics are published irregular, and information about them is a bit difficult to find online, which is a bit frustrating. But otherwise, a very enjoyable comic.
@Ibmiller: I'm sorry you were so disappointed by the movie. Unless I'm mistaken, that puts the Disney canon at 0 for 3 in terms of films you've enjoyed. Tough break.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, my own thoughts on the movie are many and varied. I could probably write my longest article yet on the subject, but that would require gathering them up into some sort of coherent order, and I don't intend to go to that much effort.
For now, I'll just give my broad impression, and add a follow-up post where I go into excruciating detail after the holiday weekend.
Overall, I thought The Last Jedi was a good movie, and I mostly enjoyed it for what it was. I'll likely go to see at again in the theater, perhaps multiple times.
That said, something about it felt seriously off to me. On reflection, I believe what's going on is that the tone is unlike pretty much any other Star Wars movie. Everything is dark and brooding, and apart from Rey and Luke's interludes on island planet, it's all shot through with this underlying feeling of desperation as the First Order slowly blasts the survivors of the Resistance down to what looks like fewer than two dozen people by the end. Even with the (substantial) victories the heroes score over the course of the film, the overall tone is incredibly bleak.
Despite my reservations, I came out of The Force Awakens excited and energized. I came out of The Last Jedi feeling emotionally drained. I still don't know if I think that's inappropriate for a Star Wars movie, but I get why it would put fans off.
I had a few other major reservations - continuing lack of Billy Dee Williams; continuing inability to take Adam Driver remotely seriously; putting Finn in a romantic subplot with a character who 1) isn't Rey, and 2) isn't Rey or Poe; and some of the stuff with Luke - but for the most part, I thought the plot was good, the characterization was good, the humor was good, the story was thrilling when it tried to be and somber when it tried to be, and there were a number of well-executed surprises.
(And even if it wasn't good Star Wars, I've seen the saga done far worse: Lookin' at you, Legacy of the Force.)
Sadly, it doesn't surprise me about your co-worker; I've had the misfortune to encounter people who have even more creepily revisionist ideas about Stalin. However, you can tell this person from me that claiming Stalin as a conservative is just as ridiculous as Vox Day claiming Richard Spencer is a leftist.
- Everyone loves Chewbacca but it remains to be seen whether the other fuzzy friends we get this time really endear themselves to people.
- We get surprisingly little R2, but what we do get is effective.
- They do some interesting worldbuilding here. Less lightsaber fights than expected.
- Of course there's a hacking sequence, there always is.
- That mercantile guy is an interesting addition, though his ultimate loyalties are a bit obvious.
- That particular pairing of characters - you know the one - will cause controversy.
- Attentive fans will appreciate the new details on Kashykk.
- The acrobatics sequence was pretty odd.
- Can Jefferson Starship please just drop the "Jefferson" and just call themselves "Starship" already? They're so distant from the Jefferson Airplane days now I bet they can't even remember how to play White Rabbit.
- I could have done without the blackface cooking segment. And the electronics lesson. And most of the variety act stuff, to be honest.
- I could have really done without Itchy getting off on erotic VR modules in his sleazy chair.
- Why did Bea Arthur need to sing a song to get all those people to leave her bar? "It's an Imperial curfew, they will kill you and me and all of our families for good measure if they find you here" should have been enough.
- The guy with the crater head should fuck off and learn to respect boundaries.
- Life Day is weird. Why are Leia and Luke and Han there in the interdimensional pocket realm if only the Wookies are celebrating it? Han even makes the point of leaving so the wookies can enjoy it by themselves, but then he shows up there. Are these just the wookies' conception of those characters?
- Why is there no wookie-language TV on Kashyyk?
- At least Carrie Fisher seemed to be having a good time.
Also, regarding your comment about "You don't see me going around trying to claim Stalin, Mao, and Castro were all actually conservatives, do you?" - I have had the misfortune of working with a fellow who did claim that Stalin was a conservative. So while I did assume that you were more honest than him, such folk do exist, sadly.
It turns out that Loki
The second thing I really liked was the little bits of subversive social commentary sprinkled here and there, such as Hela's remarks about Odin papering over the more unpleasant parts of Asgardian history (much of which he actively participated in), or her asking Thor, when they're in Odin's throne room, where he thinks all the gold came from.
Special shout-outs go to disrespecting most of the characters, new and old, at some point or other, especially Heimdall.
That said, I did really like the character Thor, and the way it handled his arc with Loki, and some other pieces of the film. It's a really odd feeling overall.
Was whatever magic you worked last year to stave off the annual blackout ... more of a one-shot?
In other news, I recently saw a screencap where Theo "Vox Day" Beale tried to disavow Richard Spencer by claiming that he's a leftist and no alt-right at all.
... Yeah, that's right Mr. Beale, as soon as one of your fellow-travelers starts getting a little too controversial for you, just go ahead and try to foist him onto your political opposition. You don't see me going around trying to claim Stalin, Mao, and Castro were all actually conservatives, do you?
Was whatever magic you worked last year to stave off the annual blackout a continuous effect spell or more of a one-shot?
My question is simple: why don't people read or discuss Caitlín R. Kiernan? On the surface, it seems like she would would be ideal for the current sf/f/h community. She got her start with Neil Gaiman in the late 1990s, but quickly branched out with her own particular take on Lovecraftian horror and "dark fantasy." She can depict the terrifying nature of "deep geological time" along with sympathetic portraits of alternative sexualities and mental illness that I never would have thought you could do while working in a Lovecraftian framework. She's been critically acclaimed numerous times, and is even in the process of having her papers archived at Brown University. And yet, no matter where I've gone online, no one talks about her work, and I've never been able to understand why.
And yes, I am doing well. Well, well enough, for the most part.
My understanding of Price's place in Lovecraft fandom is as follows:
Phase 1: Fanzine/journal editor. Price produces Crypt of Cthulhu, presenting a mixture of fan essays and fiction. It is a useful early forum for Lovecraft scholarship.
Phase 2: Anthology editor. Price lands a series of significant gigs editing Cthulhu Mythos anthologies. His encyclopedic knowledge of the field allows him to reprint some real gems, but equally his comparative lack of discernment also means he dredges up some utter trash - still, at the time the field was pretty thin and his contributions were welcomed by a hungry fandom. He played a particularly important role in kicking off Chaosium's line of Cthulhu Mythos anthologies, and his two-volume set of Tales of the Lovecraft Mythos/The New Lovecraft Circle, conceived as a sort of alternate take on the iconic Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos anthology, got the honour of being reprinted by Ballantine as part of their Lovecraft/Mythos range. By this point S.T. Joshi has emerged as the major figure in Lovecraft scholarship, with Price's contributions seeming rather tenuous in comparison, but Price's occasional discovery of long-forgotten lost gems of the field help keep him relevant.
Phase 3: More people turn their hands to producing Mythos anthologies. The shortcomings of Price's approach becomes apparent in comparison: in particular, his tendency to pontificate (to the point of putting in mini-essays about each of the stories he includes in his Chaosium collections) and trumpet his own interpretations of the stories before readers get to look over them themselves seems especially grating, and his appetite for pulpy pastiche is a turn-off for readers who want something more polished. The jig is pretty much up once S.T. Joshi turns his hand to compiling Mythos anthologies himself; as it turns out, not only is Joshi more interesting and less prone to going out on odd limbs when it comes to Lovecraft scholarship, but he also has excellent taste in horror fiction and as much of a knack for finding lost gems as Price does.
I'm preparing a series of articles on major Cthulhu Mythos anthologies and the tussle to be the successor to Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos which is going to tease out bits of phase 2 and 3, but spoiler alert: it turns out when S.T. Joshi decides to compile a "best of the Cthulhu Mythos" anthology, it blows Price's attempts out of the water. Joshi is far from perfect, but he fills Price's niche in fandom far better than Price ever did.
On an entirely different note: I'm watching the episode of Night Gallery which adapts "Camera Obscura" this evening, and I was wondering if Arthur might be interested in doing a little retrospective on Basil Copper. He strikes me as one of those authors much praised but little read or significantly discussed.
Our centers of learning have converted to power politics and an affirmative action epistemology cynically redefining truth as ideology. Logic is undermined by the new axiom of the ad hominem. If white males formulated logic, then logic must be regarded as an instrument of oppression.
I mean this way of peppering the text with philosophical concepts to make the writer sound somehow intellectual while at the same time demonstarting that the writer clearly has little idea of the very concepts he is brandishing seems so emblematic of this sort of pontificating in general. Like what on earth does he think logic is? Or truth for that matter? This use of philosophical and scientific terms to mask one's prejudice as somehow objective and rational seems to be especially prevalent with this sort of pontificating. That they somehow are a beacon of "truth" or whatever. Kinda reminds me of that ex-Google employee. Who perhaps wasn't as sordid as this Price fellow, but the rhetoric is similar.
Ichneumon: The Ellen Datlow thing is particularly paranoid-sounding.
Yeah, I found that jarring as well. His argument for why Datlow is not a True Lovecraft Fan consists of 1) her participation in the movement to change the World Fantasy Award from Lovecraft’s likeness to something else, and 2) her statement at one point that Lovecraft’s “prose was often clumsy and overblown.” The latter of these two points reads like something cherry-picked out of what could have easily been a largely positive assessment of Lovecraft’s work. This is what critics do: even when they’re showering praise on an author or their work, they’ll generally make at least a passing nod to the flaws, as well.
The two biggest criticisms of Lovecraft’s work that I’ve heard, from people who generally admire it, are racism; and shaky prose. I believe Stephen King once characterized Lovecraft as having “a tin ear for dialogue.” That hardly counts as an overall dismissal of Lovecraft or his work as a whole. And yet this is the implication I get from Joshi’s analysis of Datlow’s suitability as a special guest.
It seems like he’s saying that anyone who 1) doesn’t hold Lovecraft himself in reverential awe despite his racist attitudes and writings and other reprehensible aspects to his character, and 2) strongly criticizes any given facet of his writing as less than technically brilliant, obviously doesn’t truly respect Lovecraft’s work and has nothing insightful or relevant to say about it. Which is a pretty hard line stance to take.
Arthur: in taking sanctions against a keynote speaker who'd been so offensive to a cross-section of the audience, NecronomiCon is arguably following the example of Lovecraft when he told off fellow amateur press contributors for piling in on an antisemitic harassment campaign.
Yeah, as I was reading through Joshi’s rant, I found myself wondering what Lovecraft himself would have thought of the whole controversy, given your description of his experiences with the UAPA and NAPA.
Well, NecronomiCon Providence (August 20–23) has come and gone, and it was a tremendous event. I fear, however, that it didn’t get off on a very good start, as the opening ceremonies featured a surprisingly lifeless and mechanical summary by Leslie Klinger of the basic facts of Lovecraft’s biography (do we really need such a recitation at such an event?), followed by a rather windy and confused polemic by Robert M. Price in which he suggested that Lovecraft would by some miracle be aligned with contemporary conservative thought and be opposed to affirmative action and political correctness! Whatever the validity of Price’s remarks (and to my mind they don’t have much validity, given that Lovecraft had become a socialist by the end of his life), this was surely the wrong place and time to air them.
Let us unpack Joshi's logic here:
- Price has a track record of giving "windy and confused" talks.
- Price's analysis is clearly flawed and nonsensical.
- Price crowbars his personal politics into talks where they don't belong.
- Price's keynote address was basically a disaster.
- The convention organiser was as unhappy as many of the rest of us about all that, and said as much.
- Price demanded an apology and didn't get one.
- The organiser said that Price was welcome to come along to the next convention, but wouldn't be allowed on any panels.
- It's tremendously important that a confused windbag who packs his talks with irrelevant, offensive nonsense be allowed on panels at NecronomiCon because ?????
- It's especially offensive that a bunch of people that Joshi disagrees with are not also barred from panels, despite the fact that they don't have the same track record of utterly shitting up keynote addresses at the con and the like, because ????????????
The post overall makes it sound like he is grumpy that some of his friends didn't get as much publicity as he wanted, and some people who are not his friends got publicity at all. In other words, the petulant rant of a thwarted gatekeeper. One could imagine a reanimated August Derleth issuing a similarly huffy missive about the excessive exposure given to people who don't buy the idea that Nyarlathotep is an Earth elemental.
I've done a little digging and found the comments which got him banned; note that Joshi doesn't quote them in his post, mostly because if he did then it'd completely torpedo his point.
If we can manage to look past [Lovecraft’s] racism, we will manage to see something deeper and quite valid. Lovecraft envisioned not only the threat that science posed to our anthropomorphic smugness, but also the ineluctable advance of the hordes on non-western anti-rationalism to consume a decadent, euro-centric west.
Superstition, barbarism and fanaticism would sooner or later devour us. It appears now that we’re in the midst of this very assault. The blood lust of jihadists threatens Western Civilization and the effete senescent West seems all too eager to go gently into that endless night. Our centers of learning have converted to power politics and an affirmative action epistemology cynically redefining truth as ideology. Logic is undermined by the new axiom of the ad hominem. If white males formulated logic, then logic must be regarded as an instrument of oppression.
Lovecraft was wrong about many things, but not, I think, this one. It’s the real life horror of Red Hook.
That Joshi is chasing him down this rabbithole is disappointing (and arguably, given Joshi's own status as an immigrant, very much against the best interests of himself and his loved ones). Unfortunately, it's not surprising given his comments on the World Fantasy Award no longer using Lovecraft's likeness. Joshi ends up in a curious rhetorical position here where he, as arguably the producer of the best and most comprehensive biography on Lovecraft, can't really claim that Lovecraft wasn't a deeply problematic figure because he's extensively documented all that. At the same time, he seems to want Lovecraft to retain exactly the same level of esteem he has in fandom, if not gaining more, because... well, because of some flailing appeal to tradition and a sense of history. But that implies that Lovecraft represents a pinnacle unattained before his own work and unattainable afterwards, which I don't agree with.
The appeal to his own authority and Price's as Lovecraft scholars tends to gloss over the fact that they tend not to agree on much. For instance, Joshi is on the side of good and light in terms of regarding August Derleth's material as appalling trash; Price is on the side of the slimy, crawling things that feast on corpses and offal in that he believes that Derleth's Mythos writing has actual occasional merit.
The irony here is that in setting himself and Price up as the unquestionable god-kings of Lovecraft criticism, Joshi is engaging in exactly the same sort of gatekepeer behaviour that Derleth attempted with the Mythos - whereas conversely, in taking sanctions against a keynote speaker who'd been so offensive to a cross-section of the audience, NecronomiCon is arguably following the example of Lovecraft when he told off fellow amateur press contributors for piling in on an antisemitic harassment campaign.