Is HP Lovecraft truly Neoreactionary?

It goes without saying that Lovecraft is undoubtedly the most right-leaning author in the sci-fi mainstream. To question his reactionary cred is almost heretical in itself. Nonetheless, even our most core elements deserve rigorous investigation. I’ll start by saying I’ve been a fan of Lovecraft’s work since I was about fifteen, back when I was a bleeding-heart liberal. Back then, I was enraptured by the idea of these freakish monsters and their godlike powers. Indeed, for my sophomore year research paper, I wrote about how Lovecraft’s life directly affected his fiction. Not a bad paper, but being a good little liberal, I failed to see his greater social messages and just dismissed it as archaic, regrettable racism. Having grown up and undergone rampancy, I can look at his work and truly understand his message.

The common sci-fi fan sees Lovecraft’s abominations merely as creative abominations. The more literate of them will assume that such monstrosities are a metaphor for social and cultural decay. However, only the most learned of Lovecraft fans will see that there is no metaphor- indeed, the true horror of Lovecraft’s work is the very real threat of degeneracy and entropy. In The Call of Cthulhu, Cthulhu himself is not the threat to humanity. Indeed, it is never even stated that he is even aware of our existence before his awakening. The true danger is the effect his awakening will have. Mankind will return to his primordial nature: a miserable, primitive, savage existence. Likewise, in The Shadow Over Innsmouth, it is not Dagon and his disciples we are supposed to be wary of, but of a degenerate, savage culture undermining traditional civilization. The Dunwich Horror is about rural decay, and how people will revert to backwards, savage beasts when kept away from culture. Indeed, the real evil in Lovecraft’s story is not the monsters, but is in fact the darker nature of mankind, the destructive side that the monsters simply help bring out. As cliché as the line has become, mankind is the true monster.

Lovecraft’s heroes are quite reactionary: intelligent, learned white men of a socially conservative outlook. They solve their problems through a combination of a carefully honed intellect and a firm sense of virtue. They are not heroic in the sense of being human, but rather in that they are underdogs, merely ordinary men going against impossible odds. Indeed, the fact that Lovecraft often makes a character’s curiosity and fascination with the world outside civilization into a fatal flaw would be unforgivable in modern sci-fi. What’s even more enthralling is how he not only is aware of class difference, but he celebrates it: His heroes are almost always of an upper class, while his villains are either deviant aristocrats or degenerate proles. Any heroic proles are good-natured spirits simply too inept to handle whatever evils are menacing them. And yet, in spite of all of this, Lovecraft’s work is still riddled with liberal ideology.

First and foremost, we need to understand Lovecraft’s background. Howard Phillips Lovecraft is a son of New England. Yes, one of the most conservative authors of the twentieth century is from the home of contemporary liberalism. Lovecraft, however, was raised in a very puritan, conservative part of Rhode Island. This explains why, in spite of his strict belief in human biodiversity (he rejected Hitler and Nazi Germany because he deemed their science to be incorrect) and social tradition, he cannot help but embrace the liberal framework established by his ancestors in Plymouth Bay. Yes, for all of his reactionary posturing, Lovecraft was still part of the Cathedral. His work places a high value on education, especially at the University level. While Lovecraft was primarily interested in the sciences, a division not yet at the whims of progressives, he still never really understood the role that universities play in ongoing social decay. Instead, he buys into the mythology of his puritan ancestors: that the only hope for civilization lies in the enlightened minds of academia. Indeed, while Lovecraft understands the importance of oligarchy in guiding civilization, his taste in oligarchs is somewhat misguided.

There is also a disturbingly luddite trend in Lovecraft’s work. While stories like The Shunned House show mankind triumphing over monsters through science and ingenuity, the vast majority of his stories shun technological advancement. Lovecraft buys into the nonsensical idea that there are some truths mankind is better off not knowing, and some areas that we best left unexplored. In The Mountains Of Madness is essentially one large screed against the human desire to improve and grow. While Lovecraft recognizes the Hobbesian flaws in humanity, he still never really shows any hope that they can be corrected through study and exploration. While not all neoreactionaries share the sentiment that mankind can overcome its flaws, some of Lovecraft’s fiction strongly implies that striving to correct the human condition is a futile and pointless affair. Perhaps most damning of all is Herbert West: Re-Animator, a tale directly lifted from the highly progressive Enlightenment-era novel Frankenstein. The story directly criticizes men for trying to pursue power far beyond their reaches. It’s a very anti-western attitude, criticizing men for their advances in science and technology.

So in the end, can we truly call Lovecraft a neoreactionary? Not quite. While he touches on quite a few key themes and elements of reaction, Lovecraft’s work is still very much within the framework of liberalism. While we can nod our heads in how spot-on his predictions of cultural decay were, we still need to take a more critical viewpoint. His views are very coarse and unrefined in terms of intellectual rigor. They are mere observations and amateur theories rather than actual reactionary content. It would be foolish of me to say that Lovecraft’s work has no place in the alternative right, but we must not venerate him as high as we do the classics. Lovecraft is an entry-level writer, a means of awakening and encouraging individuals to explore the alt-right rather than actually educating already rampant individuals. His work, while entertaining, is hardly genuinely enlightening or interesting.

By no means should we stop reading Lovecraft. In fact, we should encourage people to read his work, and spread interest in it. Lovecraft’s fiction as well as his entire idea of social decay is wonderfully subversive. Stories like True Detective that treat human degeneracy as a disgusting evil are an important part of undermining the Cathedral and liberalism as a whole. As much as his work is hardly serious, high-level literature, it still deserves to stick around for a few more strange aeons, don’t you think?

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