Monday, November 9, 2015

My Favorite Literary Villain: Dr. Fu Manchu and Death by Political Correctness

From 1913 to 1959, Sax Rohmer graced us with a witches coven of pulp novels that introduced an eager public to one of the most fascinating and controversial villains of all time: Dr. Fu Manchu:
"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government--which, however, already has denied all knowledge of his existence. Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man."-- Nayland Smith to Dr. Petrie, The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu,
I am in the process of collecting the series which follows. The ones that are bold are ones that I have in my collection:
  • The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu (1913) (US Title: The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu).
  • The Return of Dr Fu-Manchu (1916) (UK Title: The Devil Doctor)
  • The Hand of Fu Manchu (1917) (UK Title: The Si-Fan Mysteries)
  • Daughter of Fu Manchu (1931)
  • The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
  • The Bride of Fu Manchu (1933) (original US Title: Fu Manchu's Bride)
  • The Trail of Fu Manchu (1934)
  • President Fu Manchu (1936)
  • The Drums of Fu Manchu (1939)
  • The Island of Fu Manchu (1941)
  • The Shadow of Fu Manchu (1948)
  • Re-Enter: Fu Manchu (1957) (UK Title: Re-Enter: Dr. Fu Manchu)
  • Emperor Fu Manchu (1959) was Rohmer's last novel.
Today I was fortunate enough to find in a local used bookstore a passable copy of the second book in the series (pictured at left) and I confess I am weak-willed enough that I will drop everything on my reading list to once again run with Inspector Nayland Smith as he effectively puts an end to the Doctor's plans, but completely fails to put an end to Fu Manchu once and for all.

Alas, the series is an acquired taste. Sax Rohmer (real name Arthur Henry Ward) was born in 1883 and died in 1959. A product of his time, he held politically incorrect beliefs that today require even that dead authors be castigated and purged from memory and sight.

Case in point, last weekend's World Fantasy Convention buckled under the pressure of social justice warriors and rid themselves of the World Fantasy Award that was modeled after author H. P. Lovecraft. There is conjecture as to what the new award will look like, but I believe it should be a simple can of generic vanilla pudding.

So why did the WFC remove the "Howard" as it was called, disdaining an author that had been described as "an incalculable influence on succeeding generations of writers of horror fiction" (Joyce Carol Oates), and "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale" (Stephen King)?

Like Rohmer, Robert W. Chambers, Robert Howard, and a host of other writers, Lovecraft was a product of his time and held racist beliefs that today people rightfully disagree with. Lovecraft and his peers were racist. I don't deny it. Lovecraft also hated Christians and was an avowed materialist, but why is it that I, a Christian pastor, can still enjoy the man's work and not feel threatened by his beliefs?

I shall withhold comments about my emotional maturity, a belief that pulp fiction does little to impact the worldviews of others, that I recognize racism as an outdated belief whose time has come, and that a man's body of literary work can often transcend the man himself.

So, in protest of the safe and sanitized prose that passes for genre fiction today and stories that must be approved by the thought police before they can see the light of day, I shall spend my nights with Dr. Fu Manchu and ponder the mysteries of the Cthulu Mythos and let my imagination wander the Dreamlands.

Someday, when the stars are right, people can return to the old tales and though the authors were very human with very human failings, the stories of old can still be enjoyed and still inspire another entire generation of readers and writers.

I close with this quote from author Vox Day:
"None of the (Social Justice Warriors) writing today, no matter how many awards they give each other, will have one-tenth the lasting literary impact that Lovecraft did. None of them has his imagination; the very best they have to offer can only offer pallid, perverted imitations of him."
My chair and reading lamp call me. I have a date with the good Doctor.


  1. I know that HPL was an atheist, but 'hated Christians'? I really never got that feeling from him.

    And yeah, to show my own opinion of the shallow cretins and sniveling wimps behind this "decision" I'll be going through some of my Lovecraft fiction. I might even pick up that beautiful leatherbound edition of his work at B&N.

    1. In his private letters he had quite a bit to say on the topic of religion. None of it was friendly.

    2. I think his writing is, like the book of Ecclesiastes, an excellent reductio ad absurdum that indirectly establishes the basic premises of a more or less Christian world view. At any rate, he fails to sell nihilism as an attractive alternative. Spectacularly, I might add...!

  2. Oh yes, and that list gives me some ideas for getting something for you if you don't mind the books used and off Amazon.

  3. I find your proposed replacement reward to be offensive by implication. The can exalts capitalist consumer post-culture, and as to 'vanilla', well--need I really spell this out? So, as an award let us rather take all available flavors of pudding, combine them in a hole in the ground, and let the winner take a handful of it to serve as an award.


    1. What is amazing as well is that S.T. Joshi is returning his two World fantasy awards!

      He is a highly respected member of the organization and it will be intriguing to see what reaction there will be to his decision.