Despite the fact that I am a scaredy cat, every year around Halloween I feel like I have to read one scary book and watch one scary movie. Please don’t ask why, as I don’t understand it myself. I think it’s a challenge to myself to try an unfamiliar genre and get into the spooky spirit. So I was delighted to find out that one of my favorite creepy reads, Lovecraft Country, was getting turned into a show on HBO. And over the past few weeks, I’ve been scared silly during every episode. Now that it’s coming to a close, I wanted to suggest some books to keep you in the eldritch mood of the show.
If you haven’t read Lovecraft Country yet, it's a great start. The anthology feel of the show is taken straight from the book. There are some changed characters and gender swaps, but the twists and turns will feel familiar and fun.
One of the things I love about Lovecraft Country is how it subverts the tropes of the Lovecraft mythos. This year’s The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin does the same thing. New York City always feels like it has a pulse, but in this book, the city that never sleeps is finally awakening and coming alive. Unfortunately, a squamous creature from another dimension wants to keep this from happening. A diverse set of avatars, one from each borough, comes together to fight for their city. This novel discusses gentrification, white flight, urban development and lots of tentacles. And it’s book one in a series!
You can’t discuss science fiction without talking about Octavia Butler. She’s most famous for her novels, but her collection Bloodchild and Other Stories is amazing too. And the short stories evoke the anthology format of Lovecraft Country. The title story, “Bloodchild,” serves up imagery of slavery, subjugation and invasion with some body horror on the side. “Speech Sounds” describes a post-apocalyptic world where, due to a virus, people have difficulty communicating by speech or writing. And “Amnesty” follows Noah as she tries to convince other humans to work with aliens living on Earth. As always, Butler’s writing is prophetic and incisive.
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle reimages one of Lovecraft’s most xenophobic stories, "The Horror at Red Hook." In LaValle’s novella, the protagonist is an African American small-time hustler. Even though the perspective has changed, the dangers of New York, devil worship and the Great Old Ones remain.
What’s your favorite Lovecraft-inspired fiction? Are you reading anything creepy for Halloween? Let me know in the comments and give me your scary suggestions!