H. P. Lovecraft revolutionized the horror genre with his tales of cosmic terror, and the mythos that he created is one that has captured imaginations for generations. Lovecraft was also an undeniable racist, and much of the horror in his stories is rooted in his outright xenophobia. (Examples range from the extremely blatant racism in "The Horror at Red Hook" to slightly more subtle metaphors about the dangers of outsiders and miscegenation that pervade his works.) But just because the man was rather morally reprehensible doesn't necessarily mean that we can't enjoy his works or engage with his legacy. In fact, in recent years many writers have been using Lovecraft's own mythos to turn his bigotry on its head. Here are a few examples of books that bring a new perspective to Lovecraft's mythos and subvert its more problematic aspects:
1. Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys
Talk about telling Lovecraft's stories from a new perspective. This book is told from the point of view of Aphra Marsh, an inhabitant of Innsmouth and a descendant of that town's notorious "fish-frog" people. While these folk are the villains in several Lovecraft's stories such as "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" and "The Thing on the Doorstep," making one of them the protagonist of this book gives it all a new meaning. Emrys sets her novel in the years after the end of World War II and draws clear parallels between the fear and prejudice directed at Aphra and the treatment of Japanese-Americans during the war. As Aphra seeks to reclaim the sacred texts of her people, she teams up with others who are fighting their own battles with discrimination and oppression, including a Jewish FBI agent whose loyalty is questioned by the government and several female students who are denied the guidance and resources that their male counterparts receive at Miskatonic University.
2. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
This novella retells the story of "The Horror at Red Hook" from a black man's perspective. The protagonist is Charles Thomas Tester, a jazz-age hustler living in Harlem, who is invited by the occultist Robert Suydam to play guitar at one of his underground soirees. The second half of the story switches to the point of view of Detective Malone—Lovecraft's original protagonist, and the man responsible for investigating Suydam's occult dealings. The juxtaposition of these perspectives pits the cosmic horror of elder gods against the day-to-day horror of pervasive racism.
3. She Walks in Shadows, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles hit upon a goldmine when they decided to put together a Lovecraft-inspired anthology with stories written entirely by women from around the world. Funded by an Indiegogo campaign, the collection grew to contain 25 different stories, each with a unique take on Lovecraft. Some stories focus in on the few female characters that make an appearance in Lovecraft's writing—Asenath Waite, Lavinia Whateley, and the eldritch goddess Shub-Niggurath—while others invent new, original characters to flesh out the world that Lovecraft created.
4. Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
Returning to similar themes to those explored in The Ballad of Black Tom, Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country explores Lovecraftian horror in conjunction with anti-black racism. The story is set in the 1950s when Jim Crow laws mandated racial segregation and discrimination throughout the country. Atticus Turner is a young black man who cannot be dissuaded from his love of science fiction, despite the fact that many of his literary heroes would have hated him based solely on the color of his skin. When Atticus's father disappears, leaving mysterious instructions to follow him to Massachusetts, Atticus joins his uncle and a family friend on a road trip. There, they are faced with a blend of supernatural occurrences and New England's particular brand of racism.
Have you read any of the books mentioned here? Do you have some other new takes on Lovecraft to recommend? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Written By: TheGothicLibrarian