Troubling, enduring work of New England’s strangest son
August 18, 2016 8:05 AM   Subscribe

A new wave of Lovecraftian stories confront, rather than ignore, the racism and antisemitism that permeated Lovecraft's work, and, indeed, served as the basis for much of the horror. This roundtable of authors discussing how they address the problems of Lovecraft is worthwhile. Some authors are explicitly using Lovecraft as a lens on contemporary racism, such as in Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country [PDF preview], while others mine Lovecraft's fear of the other to examine bigotry, as in Ruthanna Emrys's lovely Litany of Earth [full story] (Emyrs is also part of the Lovecraft Reread, which looks at both the Mythos-building and uncomfortable aspects of Lovecraft's stories). Previously, on the World Fantasy Awards and Lovecraft.
posted by blahblahblah (34 comments total) 94 users marked this as a favorite
Strong rec: Ruthanna Emrys' forthcoming novel Winter Tide is really good, both as modern Lovecraftiana and as a scathing indictment of early 20th century racism and genocide against indigenous peoples. To say more would be a potential spoiler, but I'm very glad I was asked to read and provide a cover quote for it.
posted by cstross at 8:19 AM on August 18, 2016 [28 favorites]

Here in Providence, RI, there is a store dedicated to Lovecraft and Lovecraftian stuff. I was in there again last week and was pleased to see books that had been released recently, proving that the genre isn't frozen in time and so stuck with his old prejudices.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:27 AM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Lovecraft Country is top notch - smart, funny, creepy, and just beautifully handled all around. Ruff has suggested on Twitter that there might be a sequel, and I hope he makes good on that.

Here in Providence, RI, there is a store dedicated to Lovecraft and Lovecraftian stuff.

Lovecraft Arts & Sciences, which got a nice plug in the NYT's tour of Lovecraft sites in Providence last Sunday.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:34 AM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

I highly recommend reading The Ballad of Black Tom along with Lovecraft Country. It's a critical / loving retelling of The Horror at Red Hook that explicitly names and explores Lovecraft's racism. The two are a great read together! Some more on the book from a Fresh Air interview:

BRIGER: OK, let's - let's talk about the part that you can't relate to. It seems that H.P. Lovecraft - you know, from his fiction, his poetry, his letters - that he was racist. When did you realize that first?

LAVALLE: Well, here's the funny thing - so I didn't realize it when I was 10 or 11 reading these stories. And I read pretty much all of them. And in some of them, he's pretty blatant about his particular hatred - particularly of black people. When I was 10 or 11 and I read these stories, I read them only for the wild and outlandish plots and the large cosmic dread sort of thing.... And when I was, like, 10 or 11, I just didn't even see it. I think I just couldn't have processed it. And then when I was about 15 or 16, I started being like what is this dude - what did he just say? And it was the kind of thing that you would say, like - if you were walking down the street and somebody said that, you'd smack them in the mouth. So why did I say that it was OK on the page? And yet by this point, I already loved the stories, so it made for these very conflicted feelings... I would say that what Lovecraft was getting down on the page a great deal was his fear of everything - everything. He feared women; he feared anyone who wasn't white; he feared Jewish people. I wouldn't be surprised if he feared, like, cars as well. Like, he was just so afraid of the modern world. And he managed to - rather than making it a one-for-one and just having those groups of people who he feared and hated show up in the books and stories as people acting terribly, he came up with these strange and impossible creatures because really on some level, he was almost trying to capture the depth and breadth of his terror.

posted by ourobouros at 8:36 AM on August 18, 2016 [17 favorites]

Lovecraft also turning up on the New Yorker's site in regards to Stranger Things. The author glosses over the racism angle in favor of the 'unsettling things just beyond the veil of the familiar' commonality between Stranger Things and the Mythos, but still it's a decent 101 read.

As a librarian, I'm really thankful for the new wave of Lovecraftian work that's coming out. Lovecraft Country has been a huge help to me when it comes to recommending Lovecraftian stuff to new readers, especially teens. With Ruff's book, I feel I can recommend the stuff I like from HPL (existential dread of an uncaring universe, the inhumanity of those who quest for knowledge, etc) while also doing the opposite of the stuff I don't like. Also of note is John Langan's The Fisherman or even Drew Magary's HPL weirdness by way of video games The Hike. Both focus on the whole The Universe Is More Fucked Up Than You Know throughline you can see going back through HPL. The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft is a pretty good collection of modern short stories that I use as a sampler to see where the new reader wants to go next ("Lansdale or Barron?" usually).

Also, I'd be a crap self-promoter if I didn't mention that I make Lovecraft stuff. In you're near Salem, MA this Saturday (HPL's B-day!) you can stop by and pick up a present in celebration of your own decaying mortality.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:42 AM on August 18, 2016 [13 favorites]

I think this is exactly the right thing to do with old problematic material that carved out a place for itself that can't be ignored. Strong bright light, critical analysis, remix/mashup the useful bits.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:44 AM on August 18, 2016 [12 favorites]

Man, do I love a MeFi Lovecraft thread - just in time to lard up the bedside table* for Halloween, too!

* Are eldritch practices being suggested here? Maybe.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:47 AM on August 18, 2016

An excellent illustration of how modern Lovecraft fans have surpassed the intolerance of th author himself: Lovecraft Arts & Science has a small sign on their door with the shop hours; the sign includes a picture of Lovecraft. On April Fools Day I stuck big googlyeyes to the glass over the sign's eyes....and I am amazed to report that they are still there, and the shop's owner is aware of them and quite happy to have them!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:49 AM on August 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

Lovecraft Arts & Sciences, which got a nice plug in the NYT's tour of Lovecraft sites in Providence last Sunday.

I'm a Lovecraft fan and I spend a lot of time in Providence (my wife's from there), but somehow I never think about the connection between the two. Thinking about him at the Atheneum, where my wife talks about going to adorable enrichment activities as a kid or living a couple blocks down Prospect Street from where her grandparents lived and had their ghastly WASP parties is amusing me right now.

The exception, obviously, is this story.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:54 AM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

A favorite here is the Mountain Goats' Lovecraft in Brooklyn. John Darnielle is good in several songs at drawing out the big primal emotions from problematic material while leaving the racism/sexism/Orientalism/etc. behind.
posted by praemunire at 9:02 AM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I highly, highly recommend Lovecraft Country. I'm so excited to have my daughter read it when she's a few years older as it's one of the extremely few sci-fi/fantasy/horror novels she'll be able to read that features characters who look like her as important central characters. A friend recommended it to me, and after about 30 pages in, I thought to myself, "Damn, are we sure Ruff isn't black? He gets it in a way I've seen very, very few non-black sci-fi/fant authors get it."

Jonathan L Howard's Carter & Lovecraft is also worth a read, the Lovecraft of the title being a black woman who is a descendant of good ol' HP -- and who is well aware of the problematic nature of her ancestor's works, though she loves them (and him).
posted by lord_wolf at 9:05 AM on August 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

My take on Lovecraft -- speaking as a revisionist Lovecraftian writer with several books and a couple of Hugo awards -- is that the reason we remember his work positively isn't the deplorable racism/sexism/orientalism and so on (which is regrettably widespread to this day: see also the Donald Trump election campaign), but because he wrote speculative fiction in a different key from everybody else. His contemporaries were mostly trying to generate a sense of wonder at the universe; HPLs work, at its best, generated a sense of human insignificance and creeping dread, an apprehension at the scale of the cosmos that neatly inverted the emotions associated with SoW.

Tone is everything: all else is a distraction, and consequently it's possible to produce the same effect in fiction that leaves behind the bad stuff.
posted by cstross at 9:09 AM on August 18, 2016 [39 favorites]

My god, do I love the new trend of confronting the racist views expressed in some of his work (side note: he was a weirdo, he changed his views in his later years speaking out against people who were 1/10th as racist as he had been previously)

Thank you for this thread and for substantially increasing my reading list.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:13 AM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

cstross - I don't want to be too presumptive in arguing with you (and I say as someone who has read and enjoyed basically everything you have written, for what it is worth), but I disagree that all but tone is distraction when considering Lovecraft.

The "Sense of Dread"/Sense of Wonder dichotomy is excellent, and Lovecraft was one of the great "Sense of Dread" masters, but he wasn't the first or only to explore this - Chambers, Poe, and even Charlotte Perkins Gilman all had bits of it. I do think part of what set Lovecraft apart was his ability to conjure the truly alien (and their agents among us), and that this was linked to his racism and antisemitism in ways that are not easy to dismiss.

I think that if he didn't have the horror of other races and cultures, with their weird gods and alien folkways, mixing with his own, he would never have produced the works he did. I think Emrys put in better than I could in her interview: "Lovecraft’s fear of real people (and real houses, real oceans, and the real scale of the universe compared to his own family, in-group, and species) was at the core of his portrayal of imagined terrors." For example, there is this amazing bit from one of his letters, describing real people on the Lower East Side of New York:

"The organic things—Italo-Semitico-Mongoloid—inhabiting that awful cesspool could not by any stretch of the imagination be call’d human. They were monstrous and nebulous adumbrations of the pithecanthropoid and amoebal; vaguely moulded from some stinking viscous slime of earth’s corruption, and slithering and oozing in and on the filthy streets or in and out of doorways in a fashion suggestive of nothing but infesting worms or deep-sea unnamabilities."

This doesn't mean that we can't mine the depths of the Sense of Dread/cosmic horror without invoking this today (again, I think the Laundry books are full of truly Dreadful moments without racism or sexism), but that the way Lovecraft viewed the world was part of what enabled the development of the cosmic horror genre. It doesn't poison everything Lovecraftian, but the fact that Lovecraft actually felt that horror is, I think, a real part of the work that helped create the tone.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:38 AM on August 18, 2016 [11 favorites]

metafilter: monstrous and nebulous adumbrations of the pithecanthropoid and amoebal; vaguely moulded from some stinking viscous slime of earth’s corruption, and slithering and oozing in and on the filthy streets or in and out of doorways in a fashion suggestive of nothing but infesting worms or deep-sea unnamabilities.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:46 AM on August 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

Victor Lavalle is really great.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:52 AM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lovecraft is hard, because simultaneous with this thoughtful resurgence of writing that addresses and rethinks his work, is the dorks-run-rampant commodification and flattening of his work by having it become a cheap in-joke or half-assed shorthand in a variety of media. It's unfortunate, because the fluff is more or less sanding off Lovecraft's edges even as these authors are trying to point them out and use them as the basis of something more interesting.

It isn't easy to know how to handle Lovecraft. He's goofy. He's not a great writer in a lot of ways. His own hysteria bleeding through the pages is so overblown as to be farcical at times, but it can be genuinely scary, and yeah, offensive. I don't know. He put a stake in the ground and sort of established a genre unto itself. You can't really just ignore that and look around it. But at the same time, he was a character unto himself. I feel like the argument here is can you separate Lovecraft and all his neuroses from the genre he created? cstross seems to say yes, the authors in the interview seem to say no. Maybe I'm wrong there.

I would tend to agree with Stross, but I see what the interviewed authors are saying. There's a certain spark you lose when you take Lovecraft himself out of stories he inspired.
posted by picea at 10:22 AM on August 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oh, my annual retelling of my Lovecraft story: discovered him in university, completely oblivious to the racism (that came much too much later, to my shame), and read as much as I could.

The story: On a trip to Toronto, I was walking along the street, looked to my left, and saw a store called "Lovecraft" and (hand to Elder God) thought to myself "Wow, an entire bookstore devoted to the works of HP Lovecraft!"

So I went in (nsfw), got boggled, and bought presents for all my roommates.
posted by Mogur at 10:29 AM on August 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

That moment when you wonder if the reason the Lovecraft store never responded to your query about stocking your Cthulhu woodcuts is because you emailed the sex shop instead.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:52 AM on August 18, 2016 [24 favorites]

Robocop is bleeding, if you ever add females (women and/or dinosaurs) to your dinosaur knights series let me know ASAP.

My daughter is really into dinosaurs and superhero princesses (the kind of princess that wears dresses and glitter, and who can kick ass with superpowers and swords), and it is really hard to find any representation. I spend a lot of time remixing toys with a dremel and glue, and photoshopping coloring books.

This weekend we built a 'diorama' of a dinosaur mom guarding her eggs with the help of a dinosaur riding princess in full armor, with a magical glittery lance and shield.

I was going to put this in me mail, but on proofreading it felt somehow relevant to the thread. I apologize if it is inappropriate.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 11:15 AM on August 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

It's been out for over a year, so not really spoilers any more, but a game that reworks Lovecraft expertly is Bloodborne. The great inversion of Bloodborne is that the elder gods, the slimy things, and the dark cosmic evil that lurks in the heart of mankind isn't some shadowy cult that's usurping good, honest society. The dark, evil cult is the main society itself. Squid-headed statues stand where we'd normally have marble angels in a cathedral. The catholic healing church itself venerates and reveres the monstrous creatures that it's unearthed. The player takes the position of an outside, come to the city for healing of a strange disease, who must cope with a town gone mad. This essay has a cool analysis of the effective way that Bloodborne subverts Lovecraft, notably:

Unlike Dark Souls’ direct lifts from Joseph Campbell, this is all pretty hard to miss for anyone who knows the first thing about one of the last century’s most influential authors. Maybe that’s why for a lot of the game’s fans, the need to keep reading the game stops after merely pinning down the particulars of the narrative and then invoking Lovecraft’s name. It’s all the same themes, right? Space is super scary, madness is the result of seeing too much truth, and everything can be blamed on the outsider. It’s cool because it’s a Lovecraft game, and Lovecraft is cool. Cool game, nine out of ten.

Stopping there would really do Bloodborne a disservice. The game is full of fascinating themes related to dreamspace and gender, but where it addresses Lovecraft’s xenophobia is a particularly smart reversal of expectations. You play as the outsider in Bloodborne, and you arrive at Yharnam city just as the catastrophe begins. The townsfolk are clearly in a bad way, and they seem furious with you. “It’s all your fault,” they scream as they attack you, forcing you to butcher them.

It almost seems like they could be right. The hunter whose role you play doesn’t show any particular signs of being a good person, and whatever caused the entire city to become afflicted with an apocalyptic strain of lycanthropy is unclear. Your character is supposed to be sick – what if you brought this plague here yourself?

You make Yharnam’s filthy streets your hunting ground, feasting on the inhabitants’ blood. A grand cathedral looms above you, an unseen village lurks beneath you, an old college lies in the woods, not as abandoned as it seems. Whatever functions these places once had could hardly seem more distant. You’ve been given no choice but to embrace the hunt, prowling these areas as something primal.

But whether or not your hunter ever explicitly realizes it, Yharnam’s doom was self-inflicted. It was the city’s theocratic leadership, secretly indifferent to its citizens, who caused this to happen, perhaps intentionally. The hunter is being manipulated by several parties to fulfill her role, but for those townsfolk who still want to believe in the establishment, she’s simply a convenient scapegoat. In their eyes, the blame for Yharnam’s downfall rests on her, just as Lovecraft placed the blame for the Lower East Side’s poverty on its victims.

This not only leverages Lovecraft’s oeuvre to create effective horror, it also critiques his work for those facets which no longer hold up. One of the things that makes Bloodborne a good game, and a good piece of art, is that it’s so literary: willing to think deeply about its influences, instead of simply using them as sources of aesthetic tools. I just wish more fans of horror were willing to follow it there.

posted by codacorolla at 11:18 AM on August 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

Doroteo Arango II - Your wish is granted. I never added her to my site because I'm unsure about the blue tinting, but I'm pretty sure I have some untinted Pteranodon Knights kicking around somewhere.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:22 AM on August 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

And I think the interest in female characters as heroes rather than antagonists (Asenath Waite) or prizes to be rescued has a place here. I've been surprised by the number of women who take an interest in my stuff when I have a show or marketplace and it's really made me rethink who I thought my audience is. It's certainly influenced my work, giving me the freedom to feature women as main figures as there is certainly an audience there. I hope the lovers of the weird continue to expand across demographics which will in turn hopefully encourage more works that move away from the darkest aspects of HPL's character.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:38 AM on August 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

This weekend we built a 'diorama' of a dinosaur mom guarding her eggs with the help of a dinosaur riding princess in full armor, with a magical glittery lance and shield.

Pics or it didn't happen.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:40 AM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I disagree that all but tone is distraction when considering Lovecraft.

I think it's worth noting that cstross is making reference to Lovecraft's own assessment of the overwhelming significance of tone in cosmic horror, in Supernatural Horror in Literature. And I think worth noting that cstross is (in my view) an author who has had his greatest successes primarily when exploring the possibilities of this claim.

The "Sense of Dread"/Sense of Wonder dichotomy is excellent, and Lovecraft was one of the great "Sense of Dread" masters, but he wasn't the first or only to explore this - Chambers, Poe, and even Charlotte Perkins Gilman all had bits of it.

I think (as I have argued before) that Lovecraft does something unique with wonder and dread, however. While the authors you cite all evoke dread, they don't consistently, and as a keystone of their Weltanschauung, evoke dread as the specific inversion of wonder. It is interesting to compare Lovecraft and Howard as near contemporaries and giants in a shared field. Lovecraft is, I would argue, almost the polar opposite of Howard in temperament. For Howard (I am thinking primarily of his more Lovecraft's stories here, for example some Solomon Kane stories, or something like Pigeons from Hell) dread is the inert force that heroes seek out and conquer, a darkness that they shine a light onto; for Lovecraft, dread is active and illuminating, seeking out passive "protagonists" and forcing them into them into the horrifying light. For Lovecraft, illumination is horror, wonder is in itself dreadful. This does not deprive it of its essential character, but rather creates an unprecedented relationship to it.

One might get very Nietzschean about it (and, let's face it, that's an option I've never knowingly passed up), and argue that Howard expresses the Master morality of Good and bad, the dreadful being the bad in dominance of which the Good exert their will to power, while Lovecraft's is a Slave morality, in which goodness is merely that small and passive corner of existence that the overmastering activity of Evil has not yet exerted itself upon. HPL would, I suspect, have baulked at such a characterisation, but his homely Yankee fascination with Providence, Christmas and ice cream perhaps argues against it.
posted by howfar at 12:07 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Pics or it didn't happen

These are the only pictures that do not show my daughter, and I don't have Photoshop on my phone to blur the others. You'll have to imagine the finished diorama.

Building the nest and eggs.

The superhero mom dinosaur, with power crystals that can freeze bad guys

Robocop is bleeding: That is great! thanks.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 1:05 PM on August 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think one of the reasons Lovecraft is everywhere now is because of the cosmicism inherent in his stories, which is being compounded by more and more strange scientific discoveries. But I think what many don't realise -- both writers and readers -- is that you can do cosmicism without involving Lovecraft in any way.

When I edited "Dreams from the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror" I found exactly what I was looking for - stories that addressed the above without the need for involving the Mythos at all. Some were contemporary, others were set in Lovecraft's time. I speak under correction, but from memory, one short tale involved Cthulhu (in a comedic sense); the rest of the stories never mentioned either Lovecraft or his creations. Kate Coe just reviewed the antho for SFFWorld and highlighted, better than I have, exactly what these stories aimed for.

I love precious little Howard and the worlds he created. But I'm very happy to critique him, too. Christ, I wrote a 40K thesis on him and Poe, I'm very aware of his shortcomings. And I am delighted to see writers tackle those shortcomings, not because I like seeing him beaten into the ground, but because like the rest of us, he was human and he had flaws. The idea of putting anything on a pedestal is stupid and narrow. Besides, there are always more exciting stories in the flaws, not so much the perfect.
posted by New England Cultist at 1:17 PM on August 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

The "Sense of Dread"/Sense of Wonder dichotomy is excellent, and Lovecraft was one of the great "Sense of Dread" masters, but he wasn't the first or only to explore this - Chambers, Poe, and even Charlotte Perkins Gilman all had bits of it. I do think part of what set Lovecraft apart was his ability to conjure the truly alien (and their agents among us), and that this was linked to his racism and antisemitism in ways that are not easy to dismiss.

These authorial examples all tie in to the Gothic tradition in horror, which was definitely part of HPL's creative makeup but not the sole feature. The Gothic's streak of xenophobia and racism, from the (swarthy) foreign villains of Anne Radcliffe and Bram Stoker to Poe's weird black-skinned natives of Antarctica, obviously appealed to Lovecraft, especially in his early work where he tried to update it with his understandings of contemporary anthropology (which bordered on pseudo-science when it didn't outright cross over).

It's no coincidence that the Gothic elements feature so prominently in his most distasteful fiction, such as the incredibly racist "Facts concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family" and the anti-immigrant "The Horror at Red Hook". Naturally, it's the stories from this stage of his work that's most in need of critical reassessment in light of his horrid opinions, which his advocates from Derleth onward glossed over. That does not, however, fully account for what distinguishes Lovecraft's sense of dread, which went into his unique brand of cosmic horror, so much from them.

What makes his fiction so unusual and why it merits his own adjective - unlike the works of a lot of his peers who were far better writers on technical merits - was how he incorporated what we recognize as science fiction into the traditional horror story, especially in his later work. Once he moved on from his Poe-Dunsany phase, he began blending his idiosyncratic themes with astronomical scale, deep time, relativistic physics, and evolutionary biology (this last one imperfectly, to say the least). Trace elements of his prejudices can still be discerned in his best works from his later period such "The Dunwich Horror", "The Shadow over Innsmouth", and "At the Mountains of Madness", but there's far more going on imaginatively in them than in even his problematic breakthrough, "The Call of Cthulhu".

The only comparable achievement is H. G. Wells, who was a superior writer, with more humanistic politics, but who simply didn't have the pessimistic outlook necessary for cosmic horror. His invading Martians, for instance, with their tentacles and blood-drinking habits, have similar features to today's common conception of a "Lovecraftian" monster, but they're decisively defeated in the end. In HPL's stories, the only alternative to a Pyrrhic victory putting off the inexorable return of the Great Old Ones is death or going mad from the revelations of mankind's cosmic insignificance. While Wells experienced, fundamentally, a sense of wonder at man's exponentially expanding knowledge of the universe that kicked off in the last years of the nineteenth century, Lovecraft was overwhelmed with dread by the accumulated in the early twentieth century. (See cstross's "What scared H. P. Lovecraft" for more.) Wells's outlook colors the Golden Age of science fiction, but Lovecraft's casts a long, deep shadow.

At least we're past the stage of an uncritical embracing of "Grandpa Éch-Pi-El" from the early days Arkham House and Crypt of Cthulhu. (Writing the epitaph "H.P. Lovecraft/Beloved Racist & Anti-Semite/Also wrote stories" seems like a reaction to that cult of personality - the only truly blasphemous cult inspired by HPL.) The more interesting part of examining Lovecraft's stories with a better understanding of his character is underway.

Post-scriptum What's truly frightening to me, though, is how much I can write about an author I encountered in adolescence, whom I would have a hard time picking up today.
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:30 PM on August 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

Uh, well my comment is going to look pretty dumb next to all this in-depth analysis, but uh, these books look good. To me.
posted by teponaztli at 3:03 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

You mean I'm meant to eat the beans?
posted by howfar at 3:18 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Alan Moore's Providence just wrapped up--a ten issue comic run that presents many of Lovecraft's works and even includes HPL as a character. It's definitely Alan Moore-y, so all the standard warnings apply, but he does present at face value Lovecraft's extreme xenophobia and racism.
posted by Kafkaesque at 3:35 PM on August 18, 2016

From the "roundtable of authors discussing" link comes the wonderful descriptor of the new group of women sci-fi Mythos writers: the Lovecraftian Girl Cooties Posse.
posted by Guy Smiley at 4:10 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

The other thing that Lovecraft did beyond "cosmic dread" is that he presented horror rooted in the modern world rather than in the ghosts and vampires of Victorian and Edwardian fiction. In most of hos later stories, there is a sense that the monstrous is not supernatural but something explicable if we only had the wit to see it. Of course, he's also pretty clear that, if we had the wit, we wouldn't be human anymore, either. He's an almost perfect blend of longing for the past and pining for the future (or maybe a glorious past so far back that it might as well be the future). It is a pity that so few of his "followers" get beyond the grue and the unpronounceable names -- Lovecraft built verisimilitude by sticking his creations into lists of real things; the more ham-handed of his imitators crowded out the real with in-jokes and lost the thread.

I really liked "The Ballad of Black Tom," Lovecraft Country slightly less so, because, since he's feeding on all the Pulps, Ruff loses his horrific through-line a little (but it's still worth a read).

Anyway, I am glad that people are making the jump to purge what is best in Lovecraft's vision of the racism and sexism and classism and so on to push that sense of uneasy dread and vistas of blighted infinity into the world where we find ourselves. Keeping the horror fresh, as it were.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:05 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Every month it seems another Cthulhu or Lovecraft anthology is published, some with rather interesting themes, by presses large and small. Here are a few that contain stories and writers doing some of the best work, IMHO, and evolving the genre of weird fiction with progressive stories that are more than pastiche.

She Walks in Shadows, ed by Silvia Moreno-Garcia & Paula R Stiles (reprinted in US as Cthulhu's Daughters), all women contributors
Lovecraft Unbound, Ed by Ellen Datlow
Lovecraft's Monsters, ed by Ellen Datlow
Book of Cthulhu I & II, ed by Ross Lockhart
Cthulhu Fhtagn!, ed by Ross Lockhart
Autumn Cthulhu, ed Mike Davis
posted by asfuller at 9:22 AM on August 19, 2016 [6 favorites]

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