♪ (HBO THEME PLAYS) ♪
♪ (MUSIC PLAYS) ♪
HOST: You're tuning in, to Lovecraft Country Radio.
There's some strong language ahead, buckle up.
ASHLEY C FORD: Hello, I'm Ashley C. Ford.
I'm a writer, podcast host, and horror enthusiast.
SHANNON HOUSTON: And I'm Shannon Houston,
I'm one of the writers for HBO's new series,
I'm also a film and TV critic at Pace Magazine,
a parent of three,
-free Black children-- -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm.
SHANNON: And a person who watches at least
one episode of Buffy Season three, every week.
ASHLEY: We are hosting the upcoming podcast,
Lovecraft Country Radio.
The companion official podcast to the HBO Series,
SHANNON: Ashley, I am so psyched
to be talking about the show, finally.
Way back in 2017, which was basically 23 million years ago,
I met with a delightful story teller 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 in 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, um,
I am watching the fuck out of this series.
So, don't think of me as a writer on a 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.
ASHLEY: You don't have to stop talking about this show,
because I'm gonna wanna talk about this show with you
all the time. 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-- 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.
-SHANNON: Oh God. -ASHLEY: That part wasn't fun.
But, we made it, we overcame Shannon.
SHANNON: Yas, yas.
ASHLEY: And here we are, today. I'm so glad to be here.
SHANNON: 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 this show
had a lot to do with it. So, there's something in this
for everybody. For the scaredy-cats 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 quicky, a little quick crash course
on what you should know before tuning in.
ASHLEY: 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.
ASHLEY: But we are going to make sure
your viewing experience is extraordinary.
SHANNON: Yes we are. So, lets start with maybe
the most obvious of questions. What the hell is,
a Lovecraft Country?
ASHLEY: Let's go.
SHANNON: 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 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.
SHANNON: 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."
ASHLEY: Read it Shannon.
SHANNON: "When, long ago, the gods created earth.
In Jove's fair image, man was shaped at birth.
The beasts, for lesser parts, were next designed.
Yet, were they too remote for human kind.
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. -ASHLEY: Woo!
That-- Now we did not, let's just--
We didn't infer anything here.
This is not some analysis. (LAUGHS)
That's what was written.
SHANNON: I'm just reading a poem.
ASHLEY: 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 this show?
Um, and that starts with
Matt Ruff's novel, Lovecraft Country.
Matt Ruff wrote this novel after reading...
(CHUCKLES) ...a bunch of H.P. Lovecraft,
and seeing that specter of racism there.
You know, and let's be honest, a fully-formed ghost.
Okay? This isn't--
This ghost isn't too transparent.
Uh, it's right there, you see it.
-SHANNON: Right. -ASHLEY: Um... (CHUCKLES) It's a--
It's a Patrick Swayze-like ghost.
He writes this novel, and it is also inspired
by an essay by a woman named Pam Noles.
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. -HOUSTON: Right.
FORD: 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.
-SHANNON: Amen. -ASHLEY: And if you don't
see yourself in these places, it is really, actually,
very easy to assume that you do not belong there.
SHANNON: Yeah, what's interesting too,
what I love about Pam Noles' 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 in, beat down doors,
do something to announce yourself.
-ASHLEY: Yes. -SHANNON: 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?
ASHLEY: In order to grapple with his work,
you have to grapple with race. And Pam Noles talked
about that. And then Matt 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...
-(SHANNON CHUCKLES) -...and not horror.
But Matt was like, "Fuck it," and set the meeting anyway.
And I think that's how we get to Misha Green.
SHANNON: So, yes, Misha Green, showrunner of Lovecraft Country
answers this call-to-arms, you know?
And she's-- She's a storyteller and she built this writers 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. Um, 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, um,
just have to shout them out, Sonya Winton
and Jonathan Kidd, our co-EPs,
Ihuoma Ofordire, Kevin Lau, and Wes Taylor.
Um, and, you know, with Misha Green
as our fearless leader. We really dove in,
and we made something that I'm, like,
thrilled and terrified to share with the world,
in all-- in all the right ways.
The way Misha's vision looks presented to me,
was basically like, "Look, Matt Ruff's 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 actually think that, you know,
while I truly hope that we succeeded,
I'll let the critics and the people decide,
and Black twitter, mostly. Uh, whether or not
we succeeded, but it feels--
It feels like we certainly fucking went into space
-with this one. -ASHLEY: 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.
SHANNON: 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-- and especially
being a Black American 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,
and 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 2020.
This show is equally influenced by James Baldwin and Beyonce,
and I think that's gonna show.
ASHLEY: 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 horror.
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,
uh, not great odds, which is what makes it scary
and they can't give up.
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 horror is our story
because it is hope that will not end,
it will not ease against unspeakable and cruel behaviors
and actions taken against us.
SHANNON: Yeah. I love that you said that, and I also--
What I'm really proud of, of this show is we're deep
and then 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.
Um. We do have some homework, but the fun kind. I promise.
So, we're gonna leave you guys with some recommendations
for movies, articles, or TV shows that you might wanna
watch for better context leading up to the premiere.
Obviously, one book to start with is Lovecraft Country,
Kara Walker, a favorite of mine, My Oppressor, My Enemy.
This is something that I'm really excited to tackle
throughout the course of this podcast.
Can Shannon learn to pronounce "cthulhu"?
-ASHLEY: Cthulhu. -SHANNON: Uh-huh.
It's not cafuloo, right. We want it to be cafuloo.
But it's not. H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu.
Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic. Octavia Butler, Bloodchild.
Toni Morrison, Paradise.
Caroline Randall Williams, this incredible essay,
"You Want a Confederate Monument?
My Body Is a Confederate Monument."
"The American Dream and the Negro."
What else do we have, Ashley?
ASHLEY: Underground by Misha Green
because you really want to get a sense, I think,
of Misha Green's tone and the storytell--
The way she does storytelling-- because I think that it will--
it will probably ease the transition into
Lovecraft Country a little bit.
The 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 Gordan Parks because that will be
a nice little treat as you go through the show
to pick up on some of that.
SHANNON: Yes. Absolutely.
So, guys, Lovecraft Country premieres on HBO
and streams on HBO Max on August 16th at 9 p.m.
We will be with you every Sunday night to process
what the hell just happened together.
ASHLEY: So subscribe now to Lovecraft Country Radio
on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever else
you get your podcasts. Probably Stitcher or some shit.
You won't wanna miss it!