Below you will find details of our keynotes for ‘Cults, Cthulus, and Klansmen: The (Hi)stories within Lovecraft Country’, a half day online symposium exploring the history, theory, and sociopolitical commentary neatly woven into the series Lovecraft Country.

To access the pre-recorded keynotes please visit either link 1 or the alternative link 2. Both pages are password protected and information on how to access these pages have been emailed to registered attendees. If you would like to attend the symposium you can do so here and registration is free.

Linda D. Addison

Four-time Bram Stoker Award Winner; author of The Four Elements and How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend among others.

Cults & Monsters: How Real Life Horror Inspires Horror Fiction

Writing fiction is often motivated by reality. 1960s America is etched in the American psyche with images of Colored only bathrooms; hoses turned on Civil Rights Movement demonstrators, and a country in racial turmoil. As a child of the 1960s, Matt would have understood the bigotry in H.P. Lovecraft’s work and that Lovecraft’s aliens were reflections of that bigotry. Ruff wrote a fantastical horror novel from the point of view of strong Black characters, with unpredictable creatures and vicious racists. Ruff knows in real life, being Black in America means the monsters are human, and death can come without reason. A hardcover edition of the book, Lovecraft Country, was published in 2016, the year America elected the 45th president. And, thus began a horror show of irrational fears and non-truths used to pit Americans against each other, while at the same time technology (cell phones, etc.) recorded the suppressed truth of racial violence. Real change takes time, but the Lovecraft Country series’s dark fantasy can inspire, capture society’s weaknesses, and strengthen the human spirit.

Maria Hamilton Abegunde

Author of Still Breathing and Learning to Eat the Dead: Juba, USA.

“Faith Made Flesh”: Disrupting Death through the Practice of Sankofa

Death and dying pervade the lives of Black people in Lovecraft Country. They arrive in the noose of a rope, the end of a bat, in the basement of a house, on the wheel of immortality. In the series, historical violences are opportunities for characters to return to the past to disrupt – even stop – death. While neither the ancestors nor their pasts can be changed or saved, ancestral  knowledge and ritual are instrumental in altering the horror-filled future for their descendants. My talk will discuss several of these instances, and focus primarily on Episode 9, “Rewind 1921”, in which Atticus, Leti, and Montrose travel from 1950s Chicago to 1920s Tulsa to fetch the Book of Names to save Dee’s life.

Kinitra Brooks

Author of Searching for Sycorax: Black Women’s Hauntings of Contemporary Horror and co-editor of Sycorax’s Daughters.

John Jennings

Co-author and illustrator of Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation and Cosmic Underground: A Grimoire of Black Speculative Discontent.

The Power of Black Horror in Popular Culture: A Conversation between Kinitra Brooks &  John Jennings

This talk is a free-flowing conversation centering on the growing landscape of Black horror in contemporary popular culture. The conversation will also contextualize today’s explorations, demonstrating the long history of Black Horror since at least the 19th Century

Susana Morris

Author of Close Kin and Distant Relatives: The Paradox of Respectability in Black Women’s Literature and co-editor of The Crunk Feminist Collection.

The Ethnogothic Imagination in HBO’s Lovecraft Country

This essay contextualizes HBO’s speculative television series Lovecraft Country as an example of Ethnogothic cultural production. Artists Stanford Carpenter and John Jennings initially coined the term “Ethnogothic” to describe the proliferation of ghosts, vampires, haunting, and the supernatural in Black diasporic literatures, with Jennings noting that “the black body has been an index for other spaces. White folk think of our bodies as heterotopic places and then we internalize that.” Foucault’s notion of heterotopia describes certain cultural, institutional, and discursive spaces that are somehow “Other”: disturbing, intense, incompatible, contradictory, or transforming. I argue Ethnogothic cinema and television can be understood as a type of sf cinema that merges Gothic material with a Black cultural context, creating an iconography that emphasizes a haunting sense of Otherness while disrupting heterotopic depictions of Blackness. Using the episode “Holy Ghost,” as an example, I argue that the Lovecraft Country‘s Ethnogothic narrative exploits tensions between the so-called natural world and the supernatural world, calling into question Western epistemologies of reality.  Ultimately, I contend that infusion of Gothic elements in Black sf cinema and television helps to illuminate the horrors of science and technology and interrogates the contemporary techno-scientific world—as both a repressive power and a power that might be turned upon itself—to sketch the complexly haunted identity of Black experience, while also challenging the primacy of white supremacy.