The Shadow Over Lovecraft: Interrogating H.P. Lovecraft’s Racism (NYC)

Date(s) - Tue. Apr. 16, 2019
7:00 pm GMT - 9:30 pm GMT

Film Noir Cinema

Matt Ruff, Peter H. Cannon, Rodney Perkins, Ruthanna Emrys, Victor LaValle


NOTE:This archival class is now available online at  

This archival class is behind a paywall for a limited time, from August 20, 2020 – September 20, 2020. 70% of proceeds from purchase or rental of this class during this period will be donated to Black Lives Matter charities.

Featuring Authors Victor LaValle (THE BALLAD OF BLACK TOM), Matt Ruff (LOVECRAFT COUNTRY), Ruthanna Emrys (WINTER TIDE), Peter H. Cannon (H.P. LOVECRAFT: A CRITICAL STUDY) and moderator Rodney Perkins.


There is no denying that H.P Lovecraft was a racist. In his earliest years as a writer, he was an outright white supremacist, later supposedly softened into a cultural elitist. Though racism was not uncommon in his day, and some have argued that this excuses his attitudes, his racism and xenophobia was especially vehement, even for his time. These attitudes are directly apparent not only in an infamous 1912 poem denigrating those of African descent, but in journal entries and personal correspondences, as well as indirectly discernable through allegorical descriptions of non-human races in his fiction. This latter point is the most tricky, as it is not discernible to everyone (sometimes a fish-person is just a fish-person) and this has on occasion made fans of his work defensive when it comes to this line of questioning.

Often held as Lovecraft’s most racist horror story, The Horror at Red Hook was addressed, revised and reclaimed by writer Victor LaValle in his brilliant, multiple award-winning novella The Ballad of Black Tom in 2016, which reconfigures the perspective of the story to that of African American protagonist Charles Thomas Tester, which Locus magazine praised for “co-opting Lovecraft’s epic-scale paranoia into the service of a trickster tale.”

The same year saw the release of Matt Ruff’s novel Lovecraft Country – currently in production as an HBO series with Jordan Peele and JJ Abrams – which similarly explores issues of race in Lovecraft’s work through its tale of an African American science fiction fan named Atticus Turner, traversing through New England during the heyday of the Jim Crow laws in search of his missing father.

The release of both of these books prompted renewed questioning into the legacy of Lovecraft’s fiction for a legion of fans and fellow writers who have found magic in his Mythos and Cosmic Horror, easily one of the most influential strands of horror in literary history. But does Lovecraft’s racism overshadow his incredible contributions to the field? Should Lovecraft be demoted in the pantheon of horror writers based on his personal ideologies? Can people of those races and ethnicities Lovecraft directed hate towards still find value his work?

Come join us as we hash it out Town Hall-style, with our special guest speakers, Lovecraft scholar Peter H. Cannon and authors Victor LaValle, Matt Ruff and Ruthanna Emrys – whose debut novel Winter Tide (2017) was called “A mythos yarn that totally reverses the polarity on Lovecraft’s xeophobia, so that in the end, the only real monsters are human beings.” The panel will be moderated by author and festival programmer Rodney Perkins.