Lovecraft Country: The Immediate Value of Diversity in Genre Entertainment

Note: This isn’t a review of Lovecraft Country, the HBO television series based on the novel by Matt Huff. Nor is it a critical analysis of either. Rather it is merely the distillation of a thought that has rattled around inside me since I started watching the show, so take it as such.

To best avoid burying the lede, I’ll state my thesis outright: the immediate value of diversity in genre fiction is that it creates the opportunity to view otherwise tried — or tired — stories within new contexts, making them fresh an interesting again. Even if one chooses to ignore the important work of examining mainstream — read: straight, white, male — culpability in the marginalization of others — read: queer, brown, non-male — one can still see how authors that are not straight, white men bring something important to the table.

Of course we should be examining that culpability, and we should be doing so in spaces that are traditionally the domain of the mainstream. By doing so, we expose those people to events and ideas they had not been taught or considered. A good example of this is the opening minutes of the first episode of HBO’s Watchmen series which revealed for the first time to many white viewers the destruction of the affluent, successful Black community of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. That sequence did more to teach white American Gen-X and Millenial genre fans about the true nature of their country than most of their history education.

Lovecraft Country does not include so dramatic and shocking a singular event that would surprise white audiences. Instead it focuses on the every day kind of oppression African Americans in post-War, pre-Civil Rights America suffered. These cruelties are more well known to the average viewer: back of the bus, lunch counters, sundown towns and lynchings. This is partly because American education has done a better job of introducing the Civil Rights movement, and probably more due to the love that Academy Award hunters have for the era. In either case, Lovecraft Country certainly protrays these indiginities as the horrors they actually were and that itself is important.

But, that too veers wide of my thesis. The Lovecraftian tale of the young man who is drawn into a web of mystery, horror and eldritch powers by a letter from a lost relative is a thoroughly beaten trope. After all, it was already old when Lovecraft embraced it and his imitators have only further worn it down to a nub of its former narrative usefulness. By applying the trope to this new context, the trope becomes new again and we are engaged by an idea that would have otherwise had us yawning.

This is what diverse creators bring to genre entertainment, be it novels, comic books, video games, television shows and film, or tabletop games. These experiences, either personal or passed down through culture, do not invade or supplant or erase the foundational works, they enhance and update and reinvigorate them. Thankfully, they often also change them for the better by exposing their inherent biases, but at the core the immediate value is that they make otherwise rote stories into something worth exploring.

Blood of Angels: Intermission

So suddenly after 60 chapters with a pretty clear sense of where I was going, I have hit a bit of a hiccup in Blood of Angels. I don’t know if it is just writer’s block or running into the usual “soft middle” of the story or what, but I feel stuck. If you are one of the handful of folks following the story, don’t worry: I am not abandoning it. But it might take a short while for me to find my footing on it again.

 

Thanks.

Blood of Angels: Chapter 60

The people were stacked like lumber in the hold. Their sick and offal reek mixed with that of salt water. For nightmarish months they clung to life, until they couldn’t. If their captors noticed, they were cast overboard to feed the school of sharks that followed the ship across the broad Atlantic.

 

These were the lucky ones. The unlucky ones were brought onto the deck as sport for the captain and crew before being discarded alive into the hungry sea.

 

They were not the first people treated worse than animals by their fellow man, nor would they be the last.

 

Chapter 59

Chapter 61

Blood of Angels: Chapter 59

“Hello? Sammy?” Chira called out. Their words echoed through the parking garage.

 

“I don’t like it,” Omar whisper-shouted.

 

“Here,” called Taiwo, faking a masculine voice.

 

“Fuck,” Chira said.

 

“I don’t like it. I mean, how–”

 

“Shh!”

 

“Help,” Taiwo called. “I’m trapped.”

 

“Shit!” said Chira and Omar said. “No way,” but both still moved closer.

 

Taiwo hit Omar first. She emerged from behind a column and swung her scavenged pool stick. It broke across Omar’s skull and he collapsed soundlessly.

 

Chira spun and raised their keychain pepper spray too late. Taiwo shoved the jagged end of the stick into Chira’s neck.

 

Chapter 58

Chapter 60

Blood of Angels: Chapter 58

Nichelle kissed Honor on her forehead then hugged her tightly.

 

“Mom,” started Honor with tears in her voice.

 

Nichelle held Honor at arm’s length. “Go. I love you,” she said and pushed her toward the gate.

 

She watched, weeping, until the plane taxied away.

 

In the car, she messaged Justin then dialed Bernie.

 

“Hey,” he said. “How are–”

 

“No,” she said. “We aren’t doing that.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“The only reason I’m not on that plane with her is so we can nail this bastard. Tell me you have a plan.”

 

“I do,” said Bernie. “But it’s going to be unpleasant.”

 

“Good.”

 

Chapter 57

Chapter 59

Blood of Angels: Chapter 57

“You are coming out here,” said Justin in his Dad Voice.

 

“I am not leaving the city to go live in the desert!” whined Honor into the phone, then yelled, “Mom, tell Dad I don’t have to go live with him!”

 

Justin did not hear what Nichelle yelled back but judging by Honor’s pouting, “It’s not fair!” he guessed Nichelle had held fast. He wished she had agreed to come, too, however.

 

“Look, Ho-Ho,” he said gently, “it’s important. It might be the most important thing in the world.”

 

Honor huffed her resignation.

 

“I love you,” he said. “Get packed.”

 

Chapter 56

Chapter 58

Blood of Angels: Chapter 56

By the time Taiwo’s plane touched down and she exited customs and retrieved her luggage, she was exhausted. Upon finally reaching her small, dirty hotel room she collapsed onto the bed and fell immediately asleep.

 

The next day she sent the first text. She spoofed it to come from Sammy’s number.

 

I NEED YOUR HELP, it read.

 

She waited and watched the cellular traffic. Sammy’s friends texted each other frantically. After an hour the one called Chira texted back.

 

WHERE ARE YOU? ARE YOU OKAY.

 

Taiwo sent the address and added, I’M SCARED.

 

WE’RE COMING, said Chira.

 

Taiwo smiled hungrily.

 

Chapter 55

Chapter 57

Blood of Angels: Chapter 55

“Look,” said Nichelle into the phone, “I just want to give Mr. Phillips an opportunity to address these allegations head on.”

 

Her lips tightened as she listened.

 

“I couldn’t say. Sometimes a ‘conspiracy theory’ turns out to be Watergate. All I am saying–”

 

She paused suddenly, frustration evident in her expression.

 

“Mr. Phillips and I have a working relationship. He knws that his side will –”

 

She snapped her mouth shut and clenched her jaw.

 

“Well,” she said evenly, “in that case Harrison Phillips can go fuck himself and burn in Hell. We are running the story with or without him.”

 

Chapter 54

Chapter 56

Blood of Angels: Chapter 54

Justin and Javier faced one another across the room. The HVAC foreman’s bruises had faded but his hateful sneer was fresh.

 

“Come on,” pleaded Zavod. “Water under the bridge.” He produced a bottle and glasses and poured three shots.

 

Justin picked up a cup and waited for Javier to do the same. After a quick glance at Zavod, he did. They downed the bourbon.

 

“Okay,” said Justin, “I’ve developed a schedule that will get us complete by–” the word resisted him –”deadline.” He swallowed. “But it’s relentless.”

 

“We can handle whatever you got,” spat Javier.

 

“Good,” said Zavod. “Do it.”

 

Chapter 53

Chapter 55

Blood of Angels: Chapter 53

Taiwo seethed. Twenty four hours had passed and not a single legitimate outlet was running the story.

 

It was incomprehensible: the world’s richest man had intentionally thrown a mountain at the planet, guaranteeing the collapse of human civilization and probably the end of all life. And no one was talking about.

 

Even the fringe social media channels were tentative. The conspiracy theorists had taken it up, of course, but they were fighting over whether it was a false flag or a globalist coup.

 

“He’s going to fucking get away with it,” she said to no one. Then, “No he isn’t!”

 

Chapter 52

Chapter 54