Non-Fiction Spotlight: Lovecraft in the 21st Century Dead, But Still Dreaming, edited by Antonio Alcala Gonzalez and Carl H. Sederholm

The 2022 Hugo nomination deadline is approaching and the Non-Fiction Spotlights are coming fast and furious now. If you’re just joining us, the Non-Fiction Spotlights are a project, where I interview the authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books that came out in 2021 and are eligible for the 2022 Hugo Awards. For more about the Non-Fiction Spotlight project, go here. To check out the spotlights I already posted, go here.

For more recommendations for SFF-related non-fiction, also check out this Facebook group set up by the always excellent Farah Mendlesohn, who is a champion (and author) of SFF-related non-fiction.

The subject of today’s Non-Fiction Spotlight is a collection of scholarly essays about H.P. Lovecraft entitled Lovecraft in the 21st Century: Dead, But Still Dreaming, edited by Antonio Alcala Gonzalez and Carl H. Sederholm.

So I’m pleased to welcome Tony Alcala Gonzalez and Carl H. Sederholm to my blog today:

Lovecraft in the 21st Century: Dead, But Still Dreaming

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Carl: I am originally from Long Beach, California, but I’ve lived in Utah since 1996. I am currently a professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities at Brigham Young University, where I have taught for 21 years. I am also the co-editor of The Age of Lovecraft, another collection of essays that focuses on Lovecraft and his impact.

Tony: I’ve lived my whole life in Mexico City where I’m currently a literature professor at Tecnologico de Monterrey (campus Santa Fe). All my dissertation projects, from college to PhD, focused on Lovecraft and different aspects of his work, so you can say I’m Lovecraft-obsessed. At present, I’m specializing my research on a branch called Nautical Horror.

What prompted you to edit this book?

Carl: Tony reached out to me and invited me to be part of it. He wrote a generous review of The Age of Lovecraft and thought that expanding the ideas brought forward in that book would help spark more discussion about Lovecraft in the current moment. I agreed.

I must also note that editing this book was a pleasant experience overall. The authors gave us terrific work and were very easy to work with during the editing and revising phase. Tony and I were also very impressed with the ways the topics tended to cluster into clear categories from the outset.

Tony: I came up with the idea of this book after having witnessed for years the growing presence of Lovecraft in literature and media conferences as well as in the syllabi of graduate and undergraduate literature courses around the world.

Receiving such insightful proposals from our contributors was an amazing experience that confirmed the tentacles of Lovecraft’s legacy extend longer than the mere literary and film areas. Their contributions state that this author is here to stay for long.

Why should SFF fans in general and Hugo voters in particular read this book?

Carl: I first became interested in Lovecraft because of references to him in popular culture. As I began to read more and more of his stories, I became fascinated by the ways his work continues to show up in everything from heavy metal music to board games to internet memes to television shows. What I didn’t know was that there were dozens of others having similar experiences. This book provides a glimpse at what others have discovered in their own journey through Lovecraft. I think anyone with an interest in Lovecraft, including SFF fans and Hugo voters, can discover just how far Lovecraft’s influence goes through a book like this. Even those who already have a firm grasp of Lovecraft should be able to find new insights and research opportunities here.

Tony: Lovecraft’s Mythos have an ingredient of SFF, especially his production commonly known as Cosmic Horror where he speculates on the role of humanity when pictured against life and knowledge from beyond the confines of our planet. In such line, this book can become a helpful reference for readers interested in finding connections between SFF and the Antrhopocene, and the way Lovecraft even anticipated contemporary concerns about our relationship with the universe.

Do you have any cool facts or tidbits that you unearthed during your research, but that did not make it into the final book?

Carl: Although this isn’t necessarily a cool fact or tidbit, it is important to note that we had such a strong response to the call for papers that we decided to divide things into a book and into a special issue of an academic journal. It was amazing to see the overlap between the book and the journal issue, especially on topics like video games, Lovecraft and gender, and Lovecraft and race. We felt like the issue and the book were in dialogue with each other while we worked on them. In one instance, authors from each collection corresponded and shared some ideas.

Since all those essays are available to read online, anyone who wants to see what else came out of this larger project can find them at

https://www.aeternumjournal.com/volume-8-issue-1

More to the point, the project does not have any “deep cuts” so to speak. Everything our authors wanted to address went into print. For me, the biggest surprises came from how well the essays blend discussion of contemporary challenges with Lovecraftian fiction. He definitely seems to be more relevant than ever.

Tony: Indeed, rather than tidbits, what the project brought was the revelation that the discussion around Lovecraft can bring together many interdisciplinary perspectives in terms of both the media and the academia. As Carl says, the interconnection between the book chapters proves Lovecraft’s legacy can be approached from multiple lines; all of them pointing at the central concern of his thought: the questioning of what being human means in the vastness of time and space around us.

SFF-related non-fiction is somewhat sidelined by the big genre awards, since the Nebulas have no non-fiction category and the Best Related Work Hugo category has become something of a grab bag of anything that doesn’t fit elsewhere. So why do you think SFF-related non-fiction is important?

Carl: When I think of the Hugos, I imagine a community of readers who care about their subjects enough to comment on them and to share their ideas with others. Academic work fits into that impulse to share and discuss even though some people are reluctant to call themselves fans. To me, SFF-related non-fiction is a way to test out ideas and interpretations and to see what others think of those ideas.

Tony: That’s right, SFF-related non-fiction can provide additional angles to approach the way SFF fiction is read, thus enriching the scope of interpretative discussions around it.

Are there any other great SFF-related non-fiction works or indeed anything else (books, stories, essays, writers, magazines, films, TV shows, etc…) you’d like to recommend?

Carl: I would recommend the podcast called “Imaginary Worlds.” I’ve listened to it for years and I love it. The episode on Philip K. Dick was one of my favorites, but the show never disappoints. I’m sure lots of your readers already know about that podcast, but if they don’t, they’re in for a great experience. I’ve also been fond of K. J. Bishop’s writing for the last couple of years.

Tony: I can recommend Sara Wasson and Emily Alder’s Gothic Science Fiction 1980-2010 (2011) as a reference on studies that focus on the interconnection between SSF and other types of fiction.

Where can people buy your book?

Routledge

Amazon

Where can people find you?

Carl: I don’t use social media as much as I used to, but I can sometimes be found on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/CarlSederholm

https://hum.byu.edu/directory/carl-sederholm

Tony: Mainly, at my FB account:

https://www.facebook.com/tony.alcala.5

http://sitios.itesm.mx/ehe/facultad/aalcala.htm

Thank you, Carl and Tony, for stopping by and answering my questions.

About Lovecraft in the 21st Century: Dead, But Still Dreaming:

Lovecraft in the 21st Century assembles reflections from a wide range of perspectives on the significance of Lovecraft’s influence in contemporary times. Building on a focus centered on the Anthropocene, adaptation, and visual media, the chapters in this collection focus on the following topics:

  • Adaptation of Lovecraft’s legacy in theater, television, film, graphic narratives, video games and game artwork
  • The connection between the writer’s legacy and his life
  • Reading Lovecraft in light of contemporary criticism about capitalism, the posthuman, and the Anthropocene
  • How contemporary authors have worked through the implicit racial and sexual politics in Lovecraft’s fiction
  • Reading Lovecraft’s fiction in light of contemporary approaches to gender and sexuality

About the Editors:

Antonio Alcala Gonzalez is founder of the International Gothic Literature Congress and chair of the Humanities Department at Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico City.

Carl H. Sederholm is professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities at Brigham Young University and chair of the Department of Comparative Arts and Letters.

***

Did you publish a work of SFF-related longform non-fiction in 2021 and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

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