This essay investigates Elizabeth Bear’s use of H. P. Lovecraft’s mythos in her Hugo award-winning 2008 novella, “Shoggoths in Bloom.” This article shows that Bear’s tale, far from being a simple homage to Lovecraft, adopts his fearsome monster, the Shoggoth, in order to critique his racism on scientific grounds. The first part of the article argues that “Shoggoths in Bloom” stages a mutually transformative, ecological encounter between its protagonist and the titular creature: an intimacy that countermands the prejudicial fears and racial hatred embodied by the Shoggoth in Lovecraft’s weird horror-tinged masterwork of science fiction, At the Mountains of Madness (1936). The second part of the article examines a network of images in “Shoggoths in Bloom” that liken the titular monster to an artificial intelligence. In addition to stressing that artificial intelligence constitutes sentient life worthy of respect, the author argues that this surprising move reveals how Bear navigates the racial politics implicit in the act of writing in Lovecraft’s mythos. By having her African-American protagonist reprogram the Shoggoth, Bear suggests that Lovecraft’s mythos is not just source material to be revisited, but source code to be hacked into, re-written, and reconfigured in order to address its history of racism.


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pp. 24-47
Launched on MUSE
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