Doing the research for this article largely consisted of me reading a fuckton of Lovecraft, since I came into it totally unfamiliar with his writing (my only prior attempt was, I think, to try to read At The Mountains Of Madness about six or eight years ago), and I got the impression that "fantastical materialism" might be nothing more than a funeralese translation of "weird fiction," so I wanted to make sure that wasn't the case. It's definitely not, although the two are very importantly related. In doing that research, I ran across this post, from the winner of the World Fantasy Award in 2011, Nnedi Okorafor, while I was specifically looking around the internet for Miéville's statements about Lovecraft's racism. The WFA statuette is a bust of Lovecraft, and basically what occurred was that Okorafor was shown that infamous little poem that Lovecraft wrote; she, quite reasonably, was furious, and talked to people about it. I thought Miéville's response was pretty fantastic, honestly:
And the award itself, the statuette of [Lovecraft] himself? I put it out of sight, in my study, where only I can see it, and I have turned it to face the wall. So I am punishing the little fucker like the malevolent clown he was, I can look at it and remember the honour, and above all I am writing behind Lovecraft’s back.
Not long after, I read one of Okorafor's stories on Tor.com, thought it quite good, figured I'd try and pick up one of her books at some point, and continued reading Lovecraft.
I think at that point I was also reading Lovecraft's The Mound, one of his stories that were ghostwritten for Zealia Bishop. It was, honestly, one of his stories I've enjoyed most; I am not really sure where I stand with respect to Lovecraft, although I think I'm starting to learn how productive and exciting he could be if I weren't so bored with him most of the time. "The Mound" is racist as all hell too, but there are a lot more interesting things happening within it (both despite and because of the racism) than I find usual for a Lovecraft story. This might just be because GHOSTS, of course, but whatever. I'm a cultural theorist, okay.
Because I liked it, I decided to try out Lovecraft & Bishop's other "collaborations," which lead me to read "Medusa's Coil." When I got to the end (which, as in all Lovecraft, is totally telegraphed the whole way through, of course, but I refused to believe he would actually go that far in spite of everything) I could think only about Nnedi Okorafor's anger, and her short story which I frankly love a whole lot more now that I know how Lovecraft's vileness was being subverted without even being known. Below is an excerpt from Okorafor's short story Hello, Moto
I opened my laptop and set it in the dirt. I put my wig beside it. It was jet black, shiny, the “hairs” straight and long like a mermaid’s. The hair on my head was less than a millimeter long; shorter than a man’s and far more damaged. For a moment, as I looked at my wig, it flickered its electric blue. I could hear it whispering to me. It wanted me to put it back on. I ran my hand over my sore head.
'Why is your wig off, eh? You look horrible.' Her wig flashes as the digital virus tries to cripple it. Notice I say 'tries'.
'I took it off,' I snap. 'This is wrong, o! This is wrong! Wake up!'
Philo chuckles. 'And what is wrong about it? We have everything we want.'
'Stealing from people is not what I made these for! I made them to help us give! To cure the deep seated culture of corruption by giving people hope and a sense of patriotism. Remember??'
She looks at me as if I am crazy. The wig has made her forget. Na wao. Tricky tricky things, these wigs.
Now, go ahead and read the ending, the cosmic fucking horror, the big twist of Lovecraft & Bishop's Medusa's Coil:
It would be too hideous if they knew that the one-time heiress of Riverside—the accursed gorgon or lamia whose hateful crinkly coil of serpent-hair must even now be brooding and twining vampirically around an artist’s skeleton in a lime-packed grave beneath a charred foundation—was faintly, subtly, yet to the eyes of genius unmistakably the scion of Zimbabwe’s most primal grovellers. No wonder she owned a link with that old witch-woman Sophonisba—for, though in deceitfully slight proportion, Marceline was a negress.
I think the most baffling thing about this is that everything I'd read indicated that The Horror At Red Hook was, aside from that poem, the most racist thing that Lovecraft had written. Which, I mean, holy shit is it racist. But that shit? It totally bowled me over.
I suppose that's basically all I have to say for now.