H.P. Lovecraft’s footprint on modern horror storytelling is inescapable. Even those who have never read his short stories of people driven to madness by the eldritch abominations looming in the darkness recognize the profile of his monstrous, tentacled god Cthulhu.
Also inescapable is that Lovecraft’s fiction was influenced by his deep-seated racism and xenophobia. While the author’s pervasive influence on the horror genre means he can’t be “canceled” entirely—nor should he be—his image was removed from the World Fantasy Award in 2015 following protests.
But the mythos Lovecraft created has outlasted the man himself, and new creators can expand on his ideas with fresh eyes. In the case of HBO’s Lovecraft Country, based on a book by Matt Ruff, they completely reframe Lovecraft’s racial dynamics.
Lovecraft Country shifts the setting from the early 20th century to post–Korean War America amid civil rights and desegregation battles. The protagonists of the series are predominantly African-American men and women thrust into conflict with a cult obsessed with reclaiming the power of the biblical Adam.
The fantastic monsters, horrifying body transformations, mind-corrupting secrets, and esoteric magic will feel familiar to Lovecraft readers. But in this telling, the twisted cult leaders aren’t dark-skinned foreigners but a secret establishment cabal attempting to cling to control in a changing world.