Is it possible to separate an author from their work? The reference to antiracist books in the book thread got me to thinking about HP Lovecraft.
I adore much of the writing of HP Lovecraft and the mythos it has spawned as far as gaming (RPG as well as video games) goes. Cthulhu became a bigger force than he ever could have imagined. But I have also read Collected Essays of HP Lovecraft: Philosophy, Autobiography and Miscellany, and I am well aware that he was, overall, a despicable human being. He was deeply racist, anti semitic and misogynistic. He was NOT simply "a product of his times" as his beliefs went far beyond that. There's really no way around it: Lovecraft was a white supremacist.
I have been pondering the ethics of compartmentalizing his work from his character, and whether that is really possible. But there is no way around the fact that popular gaming culture (even the horror genre in general - games, books and movies) would not be what it is today without Lovecraft; his work cannot be extricated from the work that came after it, and games like Bloodborne wouldn't exist without him. Heck, his influence on even the DC world is clear when villains are sent to Arkham Asylum. And everyone has heard of the Necronomicon. It would take an essay to describe his influences over the Marvel world. So how do we square the fact that Lovecraft was a truly awful person with the fact that his influence is applauded in almost all aspects of entertainment? Does condemning his beliefs also involve condemning his work as well as anything that was based off his work or influenced by it?
Revelations about contemporary authors' beliefs generally taints their work, as well. This actually extends beyond literature to all sorts of businesses and franchises, involving everything from the world of Harry Potter to whether one shops at Hobby Lobby. At least for me, it is impossible to ever think of these individuals in the same way again. Yet the "classics" were often written by deeply flawed people, but are still widely assigned to high school students. The O Henry Award is still given for short stories, despite the blatant racism in his writing.
So clearly my thinking on this is all over the board, but I am interested in the thoughts of people like you - from different countries, cultural backgrounds and experiences. How do you condemn the beliefs of people while still appreciating their work? Is it possible? Should classic literature written by racists of the last century still be required reading? Should awards still be given in the name of racist writers? Even so, those would be relatively simple changes; how do we separate a man like HP Lovecraft from the stories, books, movies, games, and the countless other things that reference his work?