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You're tuning in to Lovecraft Country Radio. There's some strong language. Buckle up. Hello, I'm Ashleigh Ford, I'm a writer, podcast host and horror enthusiast, and I'm Shannon Houston. I'm one of the writers for HBO's new series Lovecraft Country. I'm also a film and TV critic at Paste magazine, a parent of three free black children and a person who watches at least one episode of Buffy Season three.
Every week we are hosting the upcoming podcast Lovecraft Country Radio, the official companion podcast to the HBO series Lovecraft Country.
Ashley, I'm so psyched to be talking about the show. Finally, way back in twenty seventeen, which was basically twenty three million years ago, I met with a delightful storyteller named Misha Green.
I had read this book called Lovecraft Country ahead of our meeting, and then she proceeded to tell me all the ways she intended to adapt the hell out of this story, how she saw horror and conversation with blackness and queerness and fantasy and imperialism and this very strange country we call America.
I thought to myself, even if I don't get the job and I will cry myself to sleep for the next six months, if I don't, I am watching the fuck out of this series. So don't think of me as a writer on the show.
Think of me as like kind of a psychotic fan girl and a critic who will literally never stop talking about this show ever.
You don't have to stop talking about this show because I'm going to want to talk about this show with you all the time.
Yes, I grew up loving horror, and because there was very little censorship in my house, I was allowed to watch horror films really early. And they I didn't realize they were even a different genre.
They were just some of my favorite films, Child's play, Nightmare on Elm Street. When I was five, I was traumatized by the movie Fire in the Sky. Oh, God, that part wasn't fun.
But we made it. We overcame that.
Yeah. And here we are today. I'm so glad to be here.
I'm so excited. And, you know, I would like watch scary movies definitely occasionally with my face half covered, peeking through, you know, like I really have recently come into it. And obviously working on the show had a lot to do with it. So there's something in this for everybody, for the scaredy cat like me and the big brave girls like Ashley.
And, you know, we still have another week before the season begins, but we just wanted to give everyone a little quickie, a little quick crash course on what you should know before tuning in.
That's right. If you've seen the trailer, you know, there's a whole lot of action going on. We don't have to tell you that. Yes, but we are going to make sure your viewing experience is extraordinary. Yes, we are.
So let's start with maybe the most obvious of questions. What the hell is a Lovecraft country? Let's go.
So we should start with a very interesting character, H.P. Lovecraft and the Lovecraftian horror genre. So H.P. Lovecraft is considered the father of cosmic horror and he's beloved for his epic world building. And this like real talent he had in creating powerful monsters that often speak to the terror of the other. He has a powerful legacy in American literature. And like a lot of great writers and great Americans, he has a powerful legacy of racism.
I feel like we kind of need to start this with a quick read of Lovecraft's very famous poem on the creation of niggers. Read it, Channon. When long ago the gods created Earth and jobe's fair image man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed. Yet were they too remote for humankind to fill the gap and join the rest to man? The Olympian host conceived a clever plan, a beast they rot in.
Semi human figure filled it with vice and called the thing a nigger. So there's that.
We do that now. We did not Lesters. We didn't infer anything here. This is not some analysis.
That's what I was reading a poem. You're just reading a poem. That's exactly what was written. So how do we get from H.P. Lovecraft that poem acknowledging this history to the show? And that starts with Matt Roth's novel Lovecraft Country.
Matt Roth wrote this novel after reading a bunch of H.P. Lovecraft and seeing that spectre of racism there.
You know, and let's be honest, a fully formed ghost. OK, this isn't this ghost isn't too transparent. It's right there, you see. Right. It's a it's a Patrick Swayze lighthouse. He writes this novel, and it is also inspired by and by an essay by a woman named Pam Knowles who wrote about the shame associated with being a young black woman who loves sci fi. And honestly, not only didn't see a place for herself in that world, but didn't see a place for any black people in that world.
Right. Until someone else pointed out to her that that should be the case, which, you know, some people will think, you know, how do you not see yourself in a world?
But we know how hard it is to be what you can't see.
And if you don't see yourself in these places, it is really actually very easy to assume that you do not belong there.
You know what's interesting to what I love about Pam Knowles's essay is at the end of it, there's this call to arms and this is really powerful. She's saying and her parents are saying, if you love a thing and that thing has not made space for you, you don't have to give up loving the thing. But you do need to interrogate the thing and fucking put yourself into that space, fight your way and beat down doors. Do something to announce yourself.
Yes. And to also point out the fact that it's not that I didn't belong here, it's that you guys wouldn't allow it or couldn't allow it. Like I was actually always here all along.
You know, in order to grapple with his work, you have to grapple with race. And Pam Knowles talked about that and then got to meet with Jordan Peele, the one and only, which was a little confusing for him, because at the time, Jordan was mostly known for his work in comedy and not horror. But Matt was like, fuck it and took the meeting anyway. And I think that's how we get to Meesha Green.
So, yes, Meesha Greene, showrunner of Lovecraft Country, answers this call to arms. You know, and she's she's a storyteller. And she built this writer's room that was beautiful, chaotic, insane, dysfunctional, powerful. All of the things, you know, a lot of people may be picking up on it from the trailer. But Lovecraft country is also a family drama. And I saw the family drama of our characters reflected in this incredible room that I got to live in for six months with these incredible writers.
And I just have to shout them out.
Sonya went in and Jonathan Kantako, EPWs, E Haoma 040 Ray, Kevin Liow and W Taylor.
And, you know, with me chagrinned as our fearless leader, we really drove and we made something that I'm like thrilled and terrified to share with the world and all and all the right ways.
The way Mischa's vision was presented to me was basically like, look, Matt Ruffs book is our foundation and we are going to study the fuck out of this book and we are going to understand everything that happens and why it happens and all the choices that are made. And we're going to take it and then we're going to like jump in a spaceship and go into, like the universe and do what we want there. I truly think that, you know, well, I truly hope that we succeeded.
I'll let the critics and the people decide. And black Twitter mostly whether or not we succeeded.
But it feels it feels like we certainly fucking went into space with this one.
I love that because, you know, the history of war in America is the biggest influence on this show that I can see. And horror is in the foundation of America. It is in the foundation and it is also here in present day. And I feel like this show does a really good job of showing us that spectrum of time, that these things are not old or new.
These are not old or new monsters.
We have always been dealing with the same monsters here. Yeah, and I think, too, like we're talking about horror being baked into the fabric of this of this country. And, of course, there's so much else that's baked in. Right. But being an American and especially being a black American, it means that you are faced with horror and terror. But I want to say, like our ancestors also built in joy and hope and not just struggle, but fighting back, a constant fighting back.
And it's interesting to think about again how much that's true for our ancestors, how much it's true for our great grandparents, our parents, and how much it's true for all of us right now, for our children coming up in this particular time. So on the one hand, yes, this is a show set in the 1950s. It is a period piece. On the other hand, as much as our characters and stories are, you know, in direct conversation with the arts and culture and black experiences of the 1950s, Lovecraft country is also in direct conversation with the art, film, TV and politics of 20/20.
This show is equally influenced by James Baldwin and Beyonce.
And I think that's going to show I think so, too. I mean, I definitely got that. And one of the things you said earlier about, you know, our ancestors leaving us hope and joy and how those are baked into the foundation of this country as well as whored, is that, you know, horror in and of itself, no matter how it ends, is always a genre that the core is always hope. There is always at least one person who is facing not great odds, which is what makes it scary.
Yeah. And they can't give up. Yes. They can't give up until the end. And when you think about the horrors and atrocities committed against black people, indigenous people, all sorts of marginalized people or people with marginalized identities in this country, like horror is our story.
Yeah, because it is hope that will not end. It will not ease against unspeakable and cruel behaviors and actions taken against us.
Yeah, I love that you said that.
And I also what I'm really proud of, of the show is we're deep and we're still fucking having fun and there's still parties and there's still like an iconic fashion moments that I just cannot get over. And that's what I want for our listeners and for the Lovecraft audience. It's deep, but it's fun.
So in line with having the fucking time of your life, but also, you know, being the intellectuals that we are, we do have some homework, but the fun kind, I promise.
So we're going to leave you guys with some recommendations for movies, articles or TV shows that you might want to watch for better contacts leading up to the premiere. Obviously, one book to start with is Lovecraft Country. Kara Walker, a favorite of mine, my oppressor, my enemy, H.P. Lovecraft. This is something that I'm really excited to tackle throughout the course of this podcast.
Can Shannon learn to pronounce Callaloo Gotha Lahu? It's not Catholic, right? We want it to be Catholic, but it's not H.P. Lovecraft. Call of the Callaloo Adira Lord Uses of the erotic Octavia Butler, blood child, Toni Morrison, Paradise Carol and Randall Williams.
This incredible essay. You want a Confederate monument? My body is a Confederate monument. James Baldwin, The American Dream and the Negro.
What else do we have actually underground by Michiganians?
Because you really want to get a sense, I think, of Michiganians tone and the storytelling the way she does storytelling, because I think that it will it will probably ease the transition into Lovecraft a little bit.
Black Panthers vanguard of the revolution is a must see. And if you get the chance, I would definitely recommend that you check out some photography by Gordon Parks, because that will be a nice little treat as you go through this show to pick up on some of that.
Yes, absolutely. So guys love Craft Country premieres on HBO and streams on HBO Max on August 16th at 9:00 p.m. We will be with you every Sunday night to process what the hell just happened together.
So subscribe now to Lovecraft Country Radio on Apple podcast Spotify. And wherever else you get your podcast, probably Stitcher or some shit, you won't want to miss it.