Roger Luckhurst at Public Books:
Matt Ruff’s novel Lovecraft Country drops into the world of science-fiction and horror publishing at an interesting time. The fandom around this culture is arcane and probably irremediably nerdy to outsiders, but even “mundanes” (non-fans) must have registered something of the huge boom in Lovecraftian horror that has plumed out through film, TV, and video games into the general culture. You can’t move for cosmic pessimism (True Detective), visceral horror (Hannibal, The Walking Dead), or tentacular, slimy horrors (The Strain, the recent monster movie10 Cloverfield Lane). Leading director Guillermo Del Toro’s whole career has been coiled around Lovecraft—and it is no surprise that he has long harbored the ambition to make a film of Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. Meanwhile, you can buy cute plushies of Lovecraft’s tentacled god Cthulhu and even get your Cthulhu 2016 presidential campaign T-shirt, bearing the legend NO LIVES MATTER. As this dubious last joke suggests, in the last few years this fandom has become a microcosm of the American public sphere and its fractured politics.
Sci-fi/horror fandom has displayed this contention nowhere more publicly than at the Hugo Awards, handed out at the annual World Science Fiction Convention. Since 2013, these awards have been hijacked by right-wingers angry at the liberal diversity that (they say) has ruined everything. The Award used to go to proper, virile, technophiliac science fiction: the right stuff. Now, so the argument goes, science fiction has been contaminated by all that awful race-blending, gender-blending stuff favored by liberals and pinkos. A tactical vote to ensure that the traditional values of rabid militaristic science fiction always get represented has skewed the democratic principles of the award, prompting flame wars, resignations, withdrawals, denunciations, and general chaos. Just Google “Sad Puppies” if you want a face full of vitriol.