In ’forty-six Cap’n Obed took a second wife that nobody in the taown never see—some says he didn’t want to, but was made to by them as he’d called in—had three children by her—two as disappeared young, but one gal as looked like anybody else an’ was eddicated in Europe. Obed finally got her married off by a trick to an Arkham feller as didn’t suspect nothin’.
—H. P. Lovecraft, The Shadow over Innsmouth
The undeniable fact of “The Shadow over Innsmouth” is that a great deal of sex has occurred. That is true in pretty much every town; human beings do not spontaneously pop into existence, but are the end result of a typically long and somewhat agreeably messy process of conception, gestation, birth. Within the specific parameters of Lovecraft’s plot, Innsmouth itself has hosted a lot of sexual liaisons with the Deep Ones, and this has fired imaginations in many strange ways because unlike with stories such as “The Call of Cthulhu,” sex is essentially the driving engine of the plot. The central horror of the story isn’t just the revelation that Deep Ones exist, but that they are breeding with humans.
Most of the sequels, prequels, and miscellaneous episodes inspired by Lovecraft’s story deal with the subject in one form or another, examining the gender and sexual politics, the vast possible permutations of marriage, lineage, growing up with or without “the Innsmouth Look.” Most of them don’t get into erotic details. Tide of Desire (1983) by Sheena Clayton does, a little; “Pages Found Among the Effects of Miss Edith M. Teller” (2005) by Caitlín R. Kiernan broaches some new territory; “Mail Order Bride” (1999) by Ann K. Schwader and “A Coven in Essex County” (2016) by J. M. Yales hints at nuptial horrors…
…but does Innsmouth sex have to be horrific?
Fans of horror are no stranger to teratophilia, the love of monsters. While it would be an exaggeration to say that Cthulhu Mythos erotica has been with us nearly as long as we have conceived of Cthulhu, the sexualization of “monstrous” entities has been and is and will be an ongoing aspect of reader interaction. It was not long after Carmilla or Dracula’s wives appeared on the page that “sexy vampires” became a thing, and artists and writers have, in their own way and in their own time, broached the subject of a sexy Deep One or Deep One hybrid.
The psychology of why is varied and individual. The Innsmouth Porno VHS (2014) focuses on a fascination with the different, the monstrous, the alien, the deformed. There’s a certain jaded sensibility expressed where “normal” is no longer arousing. “Under the Keeper of the Key” by Jaap Boekestein in Lovecraft After Dark (2015) uses the Innsmouth transformation as the ultimate physical expression of the mental and spiritual changes experienced during BDSM.
Monique Poirier is more sex-positive. What if a young couple just really hit it off and try something a bit different and end up liking it?
I’d never so much as seen Octavia’s unclothed ankle, never laid a hand upon her thigh for more than the barest moment before she demurely removed it. She had always been most perfectly modest and coy. In the echoing distance, thunder rolled, and another volley of sleet pelted the windows with a smooth hiss. Lightning flashed, and I saw it reflect in her eyes with a ravenous light.
—Monique Poirier, “The Flower of Innsmouth” in Whispers in Darkness
It’s fun. There’s no blood and gore, no hand-wringing or guilt, no rape or regret. All those things have their place, and there are absolutely flavors of Innsmouth fiction that will give them to you. Yet it has to be remembered that the Victorians, for all their straitlaced propriety, produced and consumed a vast amount of pornography as well. Just because sex is taboo doesn’t mean people didn’t do it.
Frankly, it makes you wonder why someone else didn’t do try to write a story like this before.
Plotwise, “The Flower of Innsmouth” is technically a prequel to “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” showing how the youngest daughter of Captain Marsh’s got “married off by a trick.” The setup was right there in Lovecraft’s own story. If one wants to get technical, there’s room to nitpick: Poirier uses “Obadiah” instead of “Obed,” “Octavia” instead of “Eliza,” the marriage should have been in 1867 instead of 1870—but there’s room to gloss that kind of detail. However, most readers will probably be more interested in the kind of bedroom scene that Lovecraft did not and would not write:
Something hot and slick probed between my buttocks in insistent exploration. I think I made a noise of protest then, and certainly tensed at the intrusion, but Octavia chose that moment to tighten her nether muscles in a paroxysm around my manhood, as if she meant to draw it up into her body entirely and the whole of me with it. (ibid.)
There is a bit of a delight in the language involved. It is probably closer to Edwardian than Victorian; reminiscent of The Way of a Man with a Maid (1908), but in the confluence between historical erotica and historical Mythos fiction, Poirier manages to get the message across without losing contemporary audiences entirely. She hits a lot of tropes—”I’m not like other girls”—but tropes aren’t a sin if used well. Nor does the story overstay its welcome; there is a plot, there is a scene, and the finale is a single sentence—but that’s really all you need for a story like this. As a brief episode of Innsmouth history, this works. As a brief erotic episode, this also works.
“The Flower of Innsmouth” by Monique Poirier was first published in Whispers in Darkness: Lovecraftian Erotica (2011, Circlet Press); it has since been reprinted in her own collection This World Between: Erotic Stories (2018).
Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).
One thought on ““The Flower of Innsmouth” (2011) by Monique Poirier”
I’m honored to be mentioned in this blog 🙂 and shared it on Facebook. Many thanks, Jaap Boekestein