Lovecraft on Refereeing

The following is a excerpt from an essay H. P. Lovecraft wrote on supernatural horror (originally brought to my attention here). I have struck out mentions of “the writer” and replaced them with “the referee” (colored text in brackets). Obviously, the point of historical scholarship Lovecraft was trying to make in regards to Poe is not relevant to the ideas I am trying to highlight here: detachment, lack of judgment, exploratory freedom rather than preplanned conclusions.

Before Poe the bulk of weird writers [referees] had worked largely in the dark; without an understanding of the psychological basis of the horror appeal, and hampered by more or legs of conformity to certain empty literary conventions such as the happy ending, virtue rewarded, and in general a hollow moral didacticism, acceptance of popular standards and values, and striving of the author [referee] to obtrude his own emotions into the story and take sides with the partisans of the majority’s artificial ideas. Poe, on the other hand, perceived the essential impersonality of the real artist [referee]; and knew that the function of creative fiction is merely to express and interpret events and sensations as they are, regardless of how they tend or what they prove — good or evil, attractive or repulsive, stimulating or depressing, with the author [referee] always acting as a vivid and detached chronicler rather than as a teacher, sympathizer, or vendor of opinion. He saw clearly that all phases of life and thought are equally eligible as a subject matter for the artist [referee], and being inclined by temperament to strangeness and gloom, decided to be the interpreter of those powerful feelings and frequent happenings which attend pain rather than pleasure, decay rather than growth, terror rather than tranquility, and which are fundamentally either adverse or indifferent to the tastes and traditional outward sentiments of mankind, and to the health, sanity, and normal expansive welfare of the species.

— H. P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927)

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