How is Lovecraft Country inspired by HP Lovecraft?

Sky Atlantic and HBO’s new fantasy/sci-fi drama is full of familiar monsters.

Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett-Bell in HBO's Lovecraft Country

Sky Atlantic and HBO have another intriguing sci-fi/fantasy series on their hands with Lovecraft Country, an alternative history story that combines real-life racial oppression with weird and dangerous creatures to create a pulpy, action-packed adventure.

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But why is the series called Lovecraft Country, and what does it have to do with HP Lovecraft? Well, the answer is slightly complicated.

Based on a 2016 novel of the same name by Matt Ruff, the series first makes use of the phrase “Lovecraft Country” when main characters Tic and Uncle George (played by Jonathan Majors and Courtney B Vance) find a note from Tic’s father (Michael Kenneth Williams) directing them to join him in Massachusetts.

The science fiction and pulp novel-loving pair note that this area is “Lovecraft Country” – specifically, the setting of many novels and stories from influential horror and fantasy author HP Lovecraft, whose Cthulu Mythos has inspired countless works of fiction, games and films.

However, as Tic, George and their friend Leti (Jurnee Smollett) venture to find a mysterious lost town called Ardham – a play on Lovecraft’s fictional town of Arkham – the group discover just how apt that description is, with the trio encountering horrifying creatures that could be ripped straight from one of Lovecraft’s paperbacks, along with the usual dangers of racism that have become part of their daily lives.

Sometimes, the Lovecraft references are more explicit – Ardham/Arkham for one, and the presence of a Cthulu-like monster in a dream Atticus has in the very first scene of the series – whereas at other times the series is more loosely playing with settings and themes that evoke a sense of his and other pulp novels through a historical lens.

In fact, this ends up forming the basic centre of the novel and show – the real-life dangers of racism faced by Tic and company running alongside Lovecraftian and other supernatural monsters – which itself plays off Lovecraft’s controversial and well-documented racist views, which many fans have struggled to reconcile with their love of his works. In this story, that difficulty is given its due.

In other words, the Lovecraft Country that Tic and his family and friends are living in is as much the United States – full of racism and monsters of every stripe – as it is Massachusetts.

Though sometimes it is also that they’re facing HP Lovecraft-style monsters in the country, too. Who doesn’t love a few layers of meaning?

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Lovecraft Country airs on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV on Mondays at 9pm. If you’re looking for something else to watch, check out our TV Guide