“Pages Found Among the Effects of Miss Edith M. Teller” (2005) by Caitlín R. Kiernan

And you stood up, then. You stood, taller than I recalled because you have grown longer, and the moon flashed across the glistening scales below your small breasts, your nipples as erect and sharp as barnacles, thorns grown from the sea, and I took a step back, despite myself.

Do not retreat.
Do not retreat from me.

Only my thoughts, not yours. I will not now be so conceited as to believe I could ever know your thoughts. Not after what she has done with you, or you have done with her. Mother Hydra has held you tight to her bosom in the lightless places at the bottom of the world, and she has accepted all your gifts, all those human parts you were forever trying to cast aside. The old flesh.
—Caitlín R. Kiernan, “Pages Found Among The Effects of Miss Edith M. Tiller” in Frog Toes and Tentacles (2005), 13

Monsters have a particular fascination in a transgender context. The act of transformation, however violent or painful, gives results. What you were is gone, and you have become something else—perhaps who you were meant to be. Body dysmorphic disorder is real, and the fantasy of such transformations that do not require months or years of hormone replacement therapy and surgery is real.

There is a sexual component to such transformation fantasies. Consider the ending to The Shape of Water, blood erupting in clouds from the vertical scars in her neck as the gills finally come in, as a visual metaphor for losing her virginity all over again. To become a woman…and more than that, to cast her old life behind. Such transformations are one-way, like puberty. You can’t go back again.

In the various sequels to “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” a great deal of focus is given to the transformation itself, its implications and effects. “The Gathering” (2017) by Brian Lumley and “All Our Salt-Bottled Hearts” (2016) by Sonya Taaffe both look at what happens when the change does not come, and how those who cannot go down beneath the waves to live in glory forever and ever deal with that. Caitlín R. Kiernan, by contrast, looks at a heretic. Someone who has refused the call.

And her lover.

Innsmouth-related erotica is not exactly rare; Tide of Desire (1983) by Sheena Clayton is an entire novel exploring it, and one could easily fill a fairly decent anthology of short stories including such pearls as “The Flower of Innsmouth” (2011) by Monique Poirier or “Madeline Marsh’s Midlife Crisis” (2015) by K. Z. Morano. Yet it is rare to find stories that focus on the characters involved, their complex motivations and emotions, as much as the sexual action itself. In stories like “The Innsmouth Porno VHS” (2014) by Adolf Lovecraft, the characters involved are consciously skeezy and the fetish is teratophilia; they don’t have any emotional investment in the transformation or the people transformed, much like folks fetishize transgender sex workers, seeing them not as individuals but as commodities.

Not so with Caitlín R. Kiernan.

She wants you to feel the reunion of these two lovers, one of whom took the plunge (literally), and the other who would not. Wants that taste of real horror as the act begins, and the clothes are shredded “making of them ribbons for a mermaid’s hair.” Edith’s lover Samaritana did not come back as she had known her…and there are surprises in store.

I stopped struggling (I had been; I can say that now, because I know I ama a heretic) and lay entirely still while those tendrils worked their way quickly between my legs, those strong tendrils or arms sprouting from the hairless mound where your sex had been, twisting back upon themselves, flexing, searching like blind, unfed serpents. What is it the old stories say? Cut off one, and two will sprout in its stead? (ibid., 21)

There is much unsaid in the story. The text has the quality of Edwardian prose, at once explicit and poetic. This is not sexploitation, no actors mugging for the camera and faking orgasms. Elaborations on the Mother Hydra mythos are hinted at but not elaborated upon, and the relationship, like many of the relationships in her fiction, does not have a happy ending. The subtitle for this story is:

Dead by her own hand, Janury 7th, 1905
Danvers State Insane Asylum, Mass.

Which is how it should be. Not every story, even an erotic story, has a happy ending. Transgender folks know that better than most. The struggle of whether or not to transition is real, and takes its toll both physically and psychologically. There is more to unpack in this story…and that probably says more to its quality than anything else.

“Pages Found Among the Effects of Miss Edith M. Teller” was first published in Frog Toes and Tentacles (2005).


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

“Necrophallus” by Makino Osamu (牧野修)

Well, I can tell you one thing: Lovecraft would never have written this! But whether he would have been capable of it, or would have approved it, these questions are quite distinct. And yet it is a Lovecraftian tale; it belongs in this anthology.
—Robert M. Price, foreord to “Necrophallus” in Night Voices, Night Journeys 237

“Necrophallus” (2005) by Makino Osamu (牧野修) is a story in Night Voices, Night Journeys, the first volume in the Lairs of the Hidden Gods series from Kurodahan Press, edited by Asamatsu Ken (朝松健). It is the English-language translation of the 2002 story 屍の懐剣 (Shikabane no Nekorufaruso); the translator was Chun Jin.

The name of the story is warning and enticement at once. Necro, death. Phallus, the male sexual organ. Like the Necronomicon, it is a name to conjure with and be repelled by. Readers who see the title and keep reading have committed themselves to the act. Sex and death have always been intimately linked in horror; sex is taboo and transgression, excitement and anticipation. The building blocks of any good horror story. Lovecraft understood this, used it in his fiction—not in any explicit depiction, but by intimation and action; “The Loved Dead” by C. M. Eddy, Jr. and H. P. Lovecraft is a tale of necrophilia told from the necrophile’s point of view.

Lovecraft, of course, never lived to learn about Ed Gein, or to see the rise of the slasher film, splatterpunk fiction, torture porn. There was sadism and masochism in the pulps—even in the early Cthulhu Mythos! Robert E. Howard’s bloody flagellation scene in “The Black Stone” was a taste of what was to come in the weird terror pulps; the garish magazines which promised torture, mutilation, strange and terrible surgeries, gruesome injuries…and sex. Naked women, heaving bosoms, strange violations; always implicit in the pulps, because the could not publish the explicit.

Not Lovecraft’s scene.

Makino Osamu, however, brings the splatterpunk mentality to the Cthulhu Mythos. Filmgoers might point to similarities with Audition (オーディション, Ōdishon, 1999), but while there are definite cinematic flourishes to “Necrophallus,” the narrative itself doesn’t hit the same beats. The narrator is a hunter for the limits of human experience; psychologically damaged, sadistic but not in the sense of cruelty but in some profound sociopathic sense. What he meets, when the eponymous Necrophallus appears, is something beyond the limits of mere human sadism.

Which is really the success of “Necrophallus”: to have that moment of Lovecraftian realization, of the smallness of human endeavor, embedded in and expressed through the worldview of a violent, gory psychosexual narrative. There’s no humor to leaven the horror, as is the case in Edward Lee’s “Hardcore Lovecraft” line; no refuge in outrageousness. And, for that matter, not really much in the way of titillation or moral. The protagonist is a monster; if the reader feels any sympathy for them at the end, it is only because they are a human monster, whose appetites have led them into the clutches of something so much worse.

Like most such extreme horror, when taken out of context and without having gone through the narrative the imagery can approach the ridiculous…but then the surreality of the scene is the point. The idea of having arrived at some new state through the bloody and painful process is akin to birth, and once through the other side the narrator is transformed and ready for the final revelations.

Chī-chan rubs its dangling tentacles against my own. They make a sound like someone slurping their spaghetti. Not to compare with being dismembered by the Necrophallus, but such mingling of entrails also holds something like the remnants of pleasure.
—Makino Osamu, “Necrophallus” in Night Voices, Night Journeys 253

Unlike “She Flows” by Takeuchi Yoshikazu (竹内義和), “Necrophallus” has the minimum of explicit Mythos connections; Yuggoth is invoked by name, while At the Mountains of Madness and Miskatonic University are hinted at. It could be cataloged in the next edition of the Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopediastats could be provided for the Necrophallus in some module of the Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game without anyone blinking an eye.

It doesn’t really need that, however. The story could have stood on its own without that, being Lovecraftian without being explicitly Mythos. Which is probably the real testament to what Makino Osamu has achieved. Whether or not you like the story, with its sexually explicit scenes and bloody body horror, “Necrophallus” has successfully adapted elements of Lovecraft’s style of culminating revelations to a very different mode of fiction. That in itself is an achievement.


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

“A Night at Yuan-Su” (2005) by Nanjo Takenori (南條竹則)

My heart is gently warmed, in particular, by the many works left by an obscure writer who lived in Providence in the early twentieth century. when I read his work, I am strangely suffused with warmth, as though I have found a friend from beyond the seas.
—“A Night at Yuan-Su,” Inverted Kingdom: Lairs of the Hidden Gods Vol. Two 279

“A Night at Yuan-Su” (2005) by Nanjō Takenori (南條竹則) was published in the second volume in the Lairs of the Hidden Gods series from Kurodahan Press, edited by Asamatsu Ken (朝松健). It is the English-language translation of the 2002 story ユアン・スーの一夜 (Yuan Sū no Yoru); the translator was Usha Jayaraman.

In his letters, H. P. Lovecraft decried the loss of old buildings, old ways of life. He was not a Luddite, but his sense of aesthetics was tied to antique styles, and he despaired when an old block of buildings was torn down to make way for something new, as a piece of the past was lost. In this sense, he felt a stranger in his own century. Some of these sentiments are apparent in his fiction, in stories like “He” and “The Outsider.” The idea is expressed most succinctly in sonnet XXX of the Fungi from Yuggoth cycle, “Background”:

I never can be tied to raw, new things,
For I first saw the light in an old town,

In this brief tale, Nanjō Takenori sketches the story of a different outsider, thousands of miles away, lamenting the slow loss of historic Tokyo. There are nods to Lovecraft here and there—and a certain kind of humor. The narrator’s deprecation of human beings could almost have turned into one of Lovecraft’s rants about immigrants, the new people displacing the old, but stops short; “A Night at Yuan-Su” is not “The Street” or any other kind of racist fable. It is, ultimately, about a lonely creature out for a drink and a bit of quiet companionship.

This is where the narrative takes a turn, from the atmospheric descriptions of Yuan-Su (really Harajuku in Tokyo), its old buildings torn down to make way for housing developments, to the more fantastic. Reminiscences of a bar named HE, where Imhotep serves araq to an odd clientele. Odd reactions, fragments of names. Unlike Lovecraft’s eponymous Outsider, there is no final revelation in the story…but there is still that peculiar sense of humor. Earlier in the tale, the nameless narrator describes the evil spell of Betelgeuse, the red star, has on them. At the end, finally settling down with a beer and a bowl of tofu, they are thwarted by a shot of ergoutou (Chinese sorghum liquor)—one of the popular brands of which is Red Star.

Given the setting, I almost suspect there are parts of the joke I’m missing. Perhaps the narrator’s particular attributes reflect some specific species of yōkai which Japanese readers might be more familiar with; perhaps the fragmentary names of bars contain more half-hidden meanings for those familiar with Mandarin and Japanese. Whether this is the case or not, doesn’t really matter for the enjoyment of the story. It’s a mood piece, a snapshot of a night, a moment, an attitude. We have all been outsiders, at times; there’s an empathy there for those who desire simple comforts which are then denied.

Never again will I go into that dirty town. Not even on a bright, moonlit night! I have no need to. If my loneliness gets the better of me, if I feel like visiting a friend, I can always go to Celephaïs, the city of dreams, wrapt in its golden aura…
—”A Night at Yuan-Su,” Inverted Kingdom: Lairs of the Hidden Gods Vol. Two 285

In a dream I fled from that haunted and accursed pile, and ran swiftly and silently in the moonlight. When I returned to the churchyard place of marble and went down the steps I found the stone trap-door immovable; but I was not sorry, for I had hated the antique castle and the trees. Now I ride with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night-wind, and play by day amongst the catacombs of Nephren-Ka in the sealed and unknown valley of Hadoth by the Nile. I know that light is not for me, save that of the moon over the rock tombs of Neb, nor any gaiety save the unnamed feasts of Nitokris beneath the Great Pyramid; yet in my new wildness and freedom I almost welcome the bitterness of alienage.
“The Outsider”

The end of “A Night at Yuan-Su” is curiously ambiguous. Does the nameless narrator mean literally that they will go to Celephaïs, or is that a poetic statement to refer to diving once more into Lovecraft’s fiction, finding comfort in the old familiar tales? It can be read either way; nothing the narrator says or does up to this point is explicitly supernatural. Whether they are a human recluse or something else is left up to the reader—and many readers will want to believe in the stranger, more fantastic option. It is a meaner, uglier world that doesn’t allow for a bar named HE to stand on some corner of Harajuku, where exiles from fantastic lands can sip anise-flavored liquors with their collars turned up and their big hats dipped low over their faces, speaking of distant planets and the depths of the sea.


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

“Night Voices, Night Journeys” (2005) by Inoue Masahiko (井上雅彦)

Outstanding stories always leave the reader in silence.

But one very special type of outstanding story, after silencing them, stimulates them into furious action. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
Asamatsu Ken (朝松健), foreword to Night Voices, Night Journeys 2

“Night Voices, Night Journeys” (2005) by Inoue Masahiko (井上雅彦) is the title story of the first volume in the Lairs of the Hidden Gods series from Kurodahan Press, edited by Asamatsu Ken (朝松健). It is the English-language translation of the 2002 story 夜の聲 夜の旅 (Yoru no Koe, Yoru no Tabi); the translator was Edward Lipsett.

This is a story about revelation. In Shanghai, the femme fatale Azie is the plaything of her master, the last in a long line of those who possess her. Yet this is not a story about human trafficking or sex slavery. That is the frame of it, the red herring. Onion layers of truth are peeled back, one at a time, bandaids ripped off as the reader starts to understand what is actually going on…and when you finally get it, when the realization of who and what “Azie” is finally comes together, there’s a desire to go back from the beginning and read it again.

At the same time, this is also a story about how images translate across cultures, in particular how certain images of the Cthulhu Mythos have been interpreted and popularized in Japan.

Lovingly, those fingers toyed with her ear.

Those fingertips, moving so skillfully, soothed along the perfectly-sculpted rim of her ear, cupping; the trace of a fingernail. […] The rhythm of his fingers. She lay on the bench seat, facing upward, body stretched out to him. To his fingers. His incessant, gentle, ravenous fingers.

Of course, the fingers would love not only her ear. He would surely walk them elsewhere. From her ear, on down, to other parts. those unique fingertips, slick with saliva pungent with the scent of myrrh, would glide from that other place to yet another spot, rich in so many secrets, never ceasing their mysterious dance.
—Inoue Masahiko (井上雅彦), Night Voices, Night Journeys 181

ED2Book
Necronomicon Ex Mortis, The Evil Dead 2 (1987)

H. P. Lovecraft first mentioned the Necronomicon in his short story “The Hound” (1924). Although given little description there, it is in good company alongside:

A locked portfolio, bound in tanned human skin, held certain unknown and unnamable drawings which it was rumoured Goya had perpetrated but dared not acknowledge.

This was the beginning of the Necronomicon‘s association with anthropodermic bibliopegy and the strange and varied library of Mythos tomes which continues on even today. While Lovecraft himself did not bind it in human leather, other creators did, and the idea was given visual form in the Evil Dead franchise as a series of props that still possessed discernible human features on cover—including a distorted face on the front cover and an ear on the back cover.

The films in the Evil Dead series made their way to Japan. The image of the Necronomicon Ex Mortis became strongly associated with visual representation of the Necronomcion in various Japanese Mythos artwork, most recently appearing as the inspiration for the volume in Tanabe Gou (田辺剛) in his adaptation of “The Hound”:

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Excerpt from H. P. Lovecraft’s The Hound and Other Stories by Tanabe Gou

It is a fine point as to whether or not “Azia” takes the form of a literal woman in Inoue Masahiko’s story; the prose often deliberately obscures the details from the unknowing reader until practically the end. The idea of the Al Azif becoming a nubile female was a major conceit of the series Demonbane (デモンベイン, 2003), but “Night Visions, Night Journeys” predates that work, and the approach is much more subtle. “Azia” is in many senses an object, the reader gets her view but she does practically nothing, being utterly passive, something to be possessed by different masters.

It is in miniature a history of the Necronomicon in the works of H. P. Lovecraft, from the view of the Necronomicon, and that is fantastic enough when the realization hits, but even more fantastic when the reader sees how cleverly and carefully the work was done. For example, in the story when it is written:

She had donned an Islamic robe for him, plucking the Egyptian qanoon.
—Inoue Masahiko (井上雅彦), Night Voices, Night Journeys 196-197

Is a reference to:

Mediaeval Jews and Arabs were represented in profusion, and Mr. Merritt turned pale when, upon taking down a fine volume conspicuously labelled as the Qanoon-e-Islam, he found it was in truth the forbidden Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, of which he had heard such monstrous things whispered some years previously after the exposure of nameless rites at the strange little fishing village of Kingsport, in the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay.
—H. P. Lovecraft, “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”

That is only brushing the surface of things; “Night Voices, Night Journeys” is a tremendously fun story for fans of the Mythos, with many more references both subtle and explicit. The reader’s sympathies lie with “Azia” (or “Nekkie” as the others call her), who is innocent of the uses that her various “Masters” put her secrets to, yet is forced to witness every evil end, her skin absorbing the spilled blood. It’s imagery that translates very well, especially if you’re familiar with the sources being drawn from—but the story is much more than a nostalgic retread through the pages of Lovecraft.

There is a scene at the end where “Azia” faces an audience—and that is us, the readers.

“They’re your fans. They love you.”

“But… those horrible faces…” she said, shivering. “They’re all my sacrifices.”

“No, your recipients. The recipients of your saga,” he corrected.
—Inoue Masahiko (井上雅彦), Night Voices, Night Journeys 200-201

How could it be otherwise? The Mythos has always been about reader participation; the reader always brings their prior knowledge of the Mythos with them to each new story they read, building their own canon, putting together pieces of the puzzle. For readers who have never read “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” the reference to Innsmouth in “The Thing on the Doorstep” is meaningless—as may be the reference to the limousine driver from the port town in “Night Voices, Night Journeys.” To read about the Mythos and play the game of connections is to be a part of it, whether or not the reader ever creates anything to expand on it themselves.

If there’s a criticism with “Night Voices, Night Journeys,” it’s that certain absences in representation are more apparent. Lovecraft never had any female characters in possession of the Necronomicon, so none of the “Masters” in the book are female. There are in fact no other female characters in the story, aside from the brief passage where the books whisper to each other on the shelves. The gendered perspective of “Azia” as both female and passive and sensual might be interpreted as borrowing on sexist tropes, although in this case that appears to be entirely incidental. A byproduct of the raw material for the story rather than any deliberate statement being made by the author.

Which is certainly true for many other Mythos stories as well. Still, it would be interesting to see how “Azia” would take to having a Mistress caress her instead of a Master—or if there was some fundamental difference in how a woman might use and interpret the Necronomicon. But that would be a different story altogether; “Night Voices, Night Journeys” is about the way “Azia,” simply by existing, twists those around her…and it is fascinating and fun.


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).