When I heard the news, I grabbed a copy of the book to get a sense of what we’ll be in for. Lovecraft Country is an excellent novel which makes a few daring choices in transmuting 1950s America into the sort of non-Euclidean horrorscape that made Lovecraft himself a household name. Better still, it does not shy away from confronting the shocking racial hatred that always underpinned Lovecraft’s work: the man who invented the Cthulhu Mythos also penned “On the Creation of N******”.
We’ll be in good hands with Jordan Peele bringing this to the screen: Peele has proven himself more than capable at fulfilling the promise of his genre.
Trigger warning for frank discussion of racism below.
I’m a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories. They evoke a sense of wonder, dread, and the allure of forbidden knowledge. As Neil Gaiman has stated1, “Lovecraft built the stage on which most of the last century’s horror fiction was performed.” He draws the reader into a world of arcane mystery and nameless horror, threatening his protagonists’ sanity and indeed their very lives with a sense of addictive fascination that practically flows out of the page. Lovecraft’s method of “describing the indescribable” with florid and evocative language has all but made him a genre unto himself.
However, he was also a racist imperialist whose protagonists share those biases in spades.
While that never stopped me enjoying his stories, it is sometimes off-putting and makes much of his stuff difficult to read. It is tempting to contextualize this to the period he was writing (where such attitudes were expressed openly), but Lovecraft’s social and racial elitism was considered beyond the pale even for his times; though the tone of his arguments on this topic became more general over the years, they did not appear to change with the times. His correspondence (much of which has been collected and published by S. T. Joshi) bears this out.
But as I’ve re-read his stories over the years, something has dawned on me: the often wholesale embrace of “the white man’s burden” is not only a central metaphor in Lovecraft’s work, it often deepens the isolation of his characters and heightens their peril.
TW: Racist and imperialist language and themes, as well as ableist language and themes, after the jump.
A while back, Rin talked about Fifty Shades of Green as an in-progress experiment by the Nostalgia Chick of ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com, and a few others, all co-writing a love story involving Cthulhu. The experimental writing story, now titled Awoken, parodies the common romance themes in popular YA novels nowadays. It is finally on sale, and though my copy has yet to arrive, it sounds all sorts of amazing.
Certainly, NChick and her friends are rather proud of their achievement, as they should be, and what makes the experience even more enjoyable are the reactions people have had to their story. Personally, I find the anger and bile for this book by people who don’t understand the joke to be quite marvelous.