“From the Cold Dark Sea” (2016) by Storm Constantine

“Book title Marvels of the Deeps,” she began. “Dimensions approximately 30 centimeters width, 40 centimeters height. Thickness 8 centimeters.”

“How very forensic,” murmured Mrs. De La Mere.
—Storm Constantine, “From the Cold Dark Sea” in Dreams From the Witch House 278

Bibliophilia has been descried as “the gentle madness,” and is one of the more respectable sorts of mental illness for both fans and characters of the Mythos to fall into. Ever since Lovecraft’s “History of the Necronomicon and Robert E. Howard’s history of Nameless Cults in “The Black Stone”, the various tomes and texts of the Mythos have attracted the love of readers. Sometimes this extends to full catalogs of pseudobiblia, including Ex Libris Miskatonici (1993) by Joan C. Stanley and The Starry Wisdom Library: The Catalogue of the Greatest Occult Book Auction of All Time (2014) edited by Nade Pedersen. Sometimes too, it provides an entry into a story through the antiquarian book trade: collectors, sellers, forgers, book detectives like Corso in The Club Dumas (2006) by Arturo Perez-Reverte…and, in the case of Storm Constantine’s “From the Cold, Dark Sea,” a book-restorer named Cara Milltop.

It’s a fish out of water story, pun very much intended. The shadow of “The Shadow over Innsmouth” hangs over it, as it does with many other stories, though Constantine makes no explicit mention of either Innsmouth or the Deep Ones. This is a Mythos story in construction and inference; Cara Milltop never hears any calls to Father Dagon and Mother Hydra, or great Cthulhu. Yet there is enough indisputably there that Mythos aficionados can slip into the feel of this story like putting on an old glove; the pace and texture of it almost tells itself—but Constantine knows what she is doing, and if you don’t question the plot there’s more than enough embroidery on the Deep Ones lore to satisfy, with some lovely imagery to the description of the woodcuts and the dreams that they bring.

What really sets “From the Cold, Dark Sea” apart from stories like “Mail Order Bride” (1999) by Ann K. Schwader is that there is no confirmation. Cara Milltop remains a hired hand, an outsider. Knowledge does not bring initiation, nor does Constantine provide a final proof to any mystery. The unreadable words on the page remain unread, the actual truth remains unconfirmed. Readers are left to wonder if it really is just all in Cara’s head, an overactive imagination from working to restore an old book, exacerbated by staying in a spooky old house full of women.

There are no male characters in the story. Something that might sneak up on readers, but one of those nice details that dovetails with the frisson of unknowing in the story. Is it just coincidence, or is there something more to it? The legend, as Cara interprets it, is a female rite of passage, starkly in contrast to the patriarchal approach of the Esoteric Order of Dagon in, say, “A Coven in Essex County” (2016) by J. M. Yales. Not so much a rebuttal to Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” but an alternative. Maybe the Deep Ones don’t marry, as such.

Of course, if every child survived there would be far too many of them. How cruel, though, how barbaric. Yet, little different from the way baby turtles started life, Cara thought. Just the cruel barbarism of Nature herself.
—Storm Constantine, “From the Cold Dark Sea” in Dreams From the Witch House 294

Bibliophilia is a gentle madness. Cara Milltop never gets violent, never says outright what she thinks she knows—or suspects. The Marvels of the Deep can slide onto the shelf next to The R’lyeh Text and the Cthäat Aquadingen, squeezed between the Codex Dagonesis and Invocations to Dagon, and it would not be out of place. What she is left with in the end is not horror, or awe, but disappointment. To have come that close to something so magical, or almost-magical, and yet be unable to know if what she suspects is true, no invitation to take part. In the end, she doesn’t even have the book; she was only there to restore it, as she did. Money is a poor coin in a Mythos story, because so rarely can it buy what the characters—and the readers—really want.

“From the Cold, Dark Sea” was first published in Dreams From the Witch House (2016), and was reprinted in Storm Constantine’s collection Mythumbra (2018).


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

“Somewhere To Belong” (2020) by Yolanda Sfetsos

The thing was like something out of a Lovecraft story.
—Yolanda Sfetsos, “Somewhere To Belong”
in Under Her Black Wings: 2020 Women of Horror Anthology Volume One

His name was Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Invoke it at your peril.

One of the side-effects of the rising awareness of H. P. Lovecraft is an increased number of references to the man and his work. What might have started out as a geeky in-joke or homage, such as “I Had Vacantly Crumpled It into My Pocket … But By God, Eliot, It Was a Photograph from Life!” (1964) by Joanna Russ or “The Discovery of the Ghooric Zone” (1977) by Richard Lupoff, would go on to become a deliberate effort to conjure associations with the man and his work, to inform a story by mentioning Lovecraft without necessarily drawing any tangible link to the Lovecraft Mythos into the narrative. This can be seen in works as wide apart as Brian McNaughton’s “To My Dear Friend Hommy-Beg” (1994) to the discreet use of a copy of The Shadow over Innsmouth as a prop in Aquaman (2019).

When Yolanda Sfetsos invokes Lovecraft in “Somewhere To Belong,” it tells the audience things, both explicitly and implicitly. That the story is set in a world where Lovecraft wrote and published his fiction; that the narrator (Enid), has read Lovecraft; and that, connection established, the reader should be primed for more subtle references. In this instance, the last bit is probably the primary point. The story would be Lovecraftian without any explicit reference to Lovecraft, but invoking Lovecraft sets the reader to look for the themes and parallels.

A good point of comparison might be “She Flows” by Takeuchi Yoshikazu (竹内義和). Both stories have a similar mood, and some common elements—the rain, children, a supernatural transformation, friendship and loneliness. Takeuchi’s story is more subtle in execution; Sfetsos’ more explicit, but they’re playing around with some of the same themes and building blocks. Water, childhood, transformation. The ghost of “The Shadow over Innsmouth” hangs over both stories, even if they never mention Innsmouth or anything explicitly connected to it. Sfetsos, by invoking Lovecraft, establishes a connection in the mind of the reader while keeping it out of the narrative itself. Enid doesn’t make the connection between the entity of Mother and Lovecraft’s Mother Hydra. The burden of such connections is placed on the reader.

We shall swim out to that brooding reef in the sea and dive down through black abysses to Cyclopean and many-columned Y’ha-nthlei, and in that lair of the Deep Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory for ever.
—H. P. Lovecraft, “The Shadow over Innsmouth”

The ending of Lovecraft’s story is either horrific or wondrous, depending on your interpretation. A loss of self or a finding of ones true self, a true family. Somewhere to belong. Y’ha-nthlei is in that sense a promise of things to come, and for those who are lonely in their life—and there are few that have not felt like outsiders—finding such a place might be worth a few sacrifices. Loneliness is definitely one of the quieter sub-themes in many of Lovecraft’s stories, including “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” The protagonists tend to have few friends, to be disconnected from those around them. The nameless narrator wanders through the streets of Innsmouth, a stranger in a strange land, and yet he already has the Innsmouth Look…he already belongs there. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Enid’s journey in “Somewhere To Belong” focuses on that theme of loneliness and belonging, on a smaller, more personal scale. Enid thought about getting a dog or a cat, but she really needed was a friend…and got one. Yet this is not a bittersweet reflection on Mother Hydra’s promise, as in “All Our Salt-Bottled Hearts” (2016) by Sonya Taaffe. Sfetsos’ maintains the horror of it all, the loss. A bit more visceral and metaphysical than Lovecraft, because tentacles can squirm inside brains and souls can be plucked out. There’s not much beauty in it, but that might be the whole point. Sometimes we don’t feel we belong anywhere beautiful, and as Milton says in Paradise Lost:

The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.

“Somewhere To Belong” by Yolanda Sfetsos was published in Under Her Black Wings: 2020 Women of Horror Anthology Volume One.


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

“Down into Silence” (2018) by Storm Constantine

We know the secrets of Innsmouth, or what the alleged witnesses told us were true so long ago. Nearly a hundred years has passed. […] Maybe none of it was true. The surviving records sound like witch trials to me, more imagination than fact. Yet standing here on the bridge over the tumbling River Manuxet, gazing out to sea, I wonder. The fact is, I want it to be true, all of it.
—Storm Constantine, “Down into Silence” in 
What October Brings: A Lovecraftian Celebration of Halloween 19

Salem, Massachusetts proudly advertises itself today as Witch Country. The 1692 trials have become fodder for tourists, something for the ancient city to hang its hat on. Sightseers gawk at Gallows Hill, take pictures of the Witch House to post on the internet. Lovecraft did some of that himself, nearly a hundred years ago, and it’s only gotten more commercial, more elaborate.

What if that happened to Innsmouth?

Kenneth Hite in his essay “Cthulhu’s Polymorphous Perversity” in Cthulhurotica commented on the advent of Cthulhu kitsch:

But Cthulhu is not unique in this. Everything that can be sold in the modern age will be sold, and in every form possible. Count Dracula, after all, not content with great movies, novels, mediocre movies, nonfiction tie-ins to novels, debunkings of non-fiction tie-ins to novels, worse movies, superb comic books, and the entire Romanian tourist industry, appears thinly disguised as a fictional children’s rabbit (Bunnicula) and a molar-corroding breakfast cereal (Count Chocula). There are bobble-heads, and illiterate T-shirts, and clever board-games, and plastic toys, and ridiculous cameo appearances devoted to Dracula, and James Bond, and Batman, and every other figure of modern myth. (You can also get a plush Cthulhu dresses as Dracula or James Bond.) (291-292)

We live in the now of Cthulhu kitsch; 3D-printed idols and plushies, action figures and posters, cereals and soda and beer. But we do not live in a world with a real Innsmouth, where the Gilman Hotel has been refurbished and dressed with Hallowe’en decor for the kind of guests that like seeing strands of dried corn and pumpkins strewn about the lobby for that Authentic Old New England™ flavor. How would that work, exactly, if you could read “The Shadow over Innsmouth” and then go drive to Arkham and Innsmouth in your car? If Robert Olmstead, instead of living forever in glory, died of a brain tumor in a sanitarium after publishing his narrative?

This is the kind of mood that Storm Constantine explores in “Down into Silence.” The desire for something real, something dark and magical, and being sold instead the licensed, authorized version of the experience. It is in many ways something of the other side of “The Nyarlathotep Experience™” (2019) by Miguel Fliguer, where we see someone trying to craft that kind of experience for others.

At the same time, it is also an interpretation of “The Shadow over Innsmouth”—and not necessarily a cynical one. What if there was some truth to the story? Not everything, not nearly everything. What would Innsmouth be like, if it had been a real place, a small town with an Esoteric Order of Dagon and a Devil’s Reef, and the g-men had come and there had been blood in the streets? What would it look like, if the town had survived that, and bore the scar proudly, and charged people to take photographs of it?

“If it hadn’t been him, then it would have been someone else, Kezia. Innsmouth couldn’t have stayed hidden for ever. The modern world doesn’t allow that. If Innsmouth had—or has—an enemy it is time, the changes in society, not merely the word of one man.”

“He was bitter,” Kezia says, in a voice craving for vengeance. “He wanted to be here, he was one of them, but he ruined it. They chased him out and then, like a mean little boy, he told tales.”
—Storm Constantine, What October Brings 32

Is Storm Constantine’s Innsmouth your father and mother’s Innsmouth? No. It’s a mark of a more mature phase of Lovecraftiana. You need a certain hit of commercialization and nostalgia, like Hallowe’en itself has become, to appreciate what she’s driving at. Before you could have “Down into Silence,” you needed the Cthulhu kitsch zeitgeist. So it has, and so here she is.

In the sense that Innsmouth is a real place—in the sphere of human ideas, not the physical world—it took a Lovecraft to mark it on the map. Once, perhaps, it was a bit of a secret. Fans of weird fiction were few, they shared their pleasure of discovery with each other…and word got out. Now everyone knows about Innsmouth, it seems. There are comics and erotica, entire anthologies dedicated to Innsmouth and its diaspora. Like a tattoo that fades in time, but keeps getting re-inked, the memories of the old lines distorted but still there like a shadow, adding depth. Innsmouth is in the now, constantly re-discovered, re-invented, re-visited—and the Mythos needs that to stay relevant, to grow and change rather than stagnate and sink into decay. Fans need not fear the tourists, the new readers attracted by films like Dagon or Innsmouth. New blood, new ideas, new media to keep the old concepts alive for another generation. Just so that one more crop of visitors can find Innsmouth, and leave wanting more of that strange town with its weird shadows and furtive mysteries.

“Down into Silence” was published in What October Brings: A Lovecraftian Celebration of Halloween (2018).


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

“The Flower of Innsmouth” (2011) by Monique Poirier

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).

“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).

“Paedomorphosis” (1998) by Caitlín R. Kiernan

“Oh,” Annie said and sat down on the rug, grateful for something between her and the concrete. “Where are you from, anyway?”

The loose flap of cloth falling back in place, once again concealing the crack, and “Massachusetts,” Elise replied, “but no place you’ve probably ever heard of.”
—Caitlín R. Kiernan, “Paedomorphosis” in Song of Cthulhu 93

Music, lesbians, a muggy Georgia summer, and white blind things in the dark. “Paedomorphosis” is a story of mood and affect, intimation almost to the point of deliberately hiding things. If it wasn’t published in a Mythos anthology…if it wasn’t published by Caitlín R. Kiernan…there are certain connections which might not be made at all. Like “She Flows” by Takeuchi Yoshikazu (竹内義和) the story lives in that liminal space between telling and showing and knowing. It’s not a horror story by any stretch, but there are the bones of horror story technique there: the way the story and characters are built up, like fossils emerging from dry rock of an ancient river bed, and there are only a few people that can read those old bones and reconstruct something of what happened.

To a degree, all stories are reflections of their authors. We read about Lovecraft’s life and we look for the echoes of events and ideas in his fiction; as his life becomes more well-known through biographies, Lovecraft himself has become a kind of character in the fictional universe, fragments of his life and thought cropping up here and there in stories, some more explicit than others.

With “Paedomorphosis,” readers may well ask how much of Kiernan herself is reflected in the story. The setting of Athens, Georgia, where she lived. Elise-from-Massachusetts with her interest in paleontology; Kiernan herself a paleontologist. The imagery of drowning, repeated in some stories, especially her later novel The Drowning Girl: A Memoir (2012). The lesbian characters and her own sexuality.

“I thought dykes were supposed to be all tough and fearless and shit,” she said.

Annie shook her head, swallowed before she spoke. “Big ol’ misconception. right up there with the ones about us all wanting dicks and pickup trucks.”
—Caitlín R. Kiernan, “Paedomorphosis” in Song of Cthulhu 93

The story has the feel of something cribbled together from bits of life; people and places known rather than imagined. A bit of sexual longing, fulfilled. Drugs and rock and roll. And it takes Annie…and the audience…somewhere they never expected, gives them a glimpse of a world they never imagined might exist, those strange caverns measureless to man, the porous world spoken of so cryptically in “Machines Are Digging” (2009) by Reza Negarestani.

The title is never explained; look up the definition on your own time. The story ends with, of all things, a quote from Tolkien:

There are strange things living in the pools and lakes in the hearts of mountains…
—J. R. R. Tolkien, quoted in “Paedomorphosis” in Song of Cthulhu 98

But not the whole of it:

There are strange things living in the pools and lakes in the hearts of mountains: fish whose fathers swam in, goodness only knows how many years ago, and never swam out again, while their eyes grew bigger and bigger and bigger from trying to see in the blackness; also there are other things more slimy than fish. Even in the tunnels and caves the goblins have made for themselves there are other things living unbeknown to them that have sneaked in from outside to lie up in the dark.
—J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, Chapter V “Riddles in the Dark”

The story captures a mood, but the mood itself is almost inexpressible in anything less than the story. There are things to think about, long after the last page is turned. What might have happened, if Annie had been fearless enough to take the plunge? Who is the subject of paedomorphosis in the story? These are questions that Kiernan doesn’t answer in this story…but in some of her other stories, we catch hints of what might have happened, in love affairs that lasted a little longer and got a little weirder.

“Paedomorphosis” was first published in The Urbanite #10 (1998), it has been reprinted in Kiernan’s collection Tales of Pain and Wonder (2000, 2002, & 2008); Song of Cthulhu (2001); and Rock On: The Greatest Hits of Science Fiction & Fantasy (2012).


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

“Legacy of Salt” (2016) by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Mayans thought the cenotes were portals to the realm of the dead, Xibalba, but his family called it by another name, Y’ha-nthlei, and the cenote was Yliah’he. It had no meaning in Mayan, this was an older language, the elders had told him. A language from before the Conquest, before the great pyramids rose upon the limestone bedrock of Yucatán. Much of the knowledge had been lost through the years, but some true names and words remained. Yliah’he.
—Silvia Moreno-Garcia, “Legacy of Salt” in The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu 324

The Mythos, from its small hard core of writings by Lovecraft and his contemporaries, has been spun out by many writers in many ways. That is the great gift of it: being able to play with the ideas, to have readers trace the shape of old stories and old ideas, newly embodied: refreshed, reincarnated, yet recognizable.

Scene: Yucatán, the 1960s. An old family, an old house; echoes of Edgar Allan Poe, the shadows a little darker in the harsh tropical sunlight. The family name is Marin rather than Marsh; there is no Devil’s Reef, but there is the cenote Yliah’he.

A Mexican Innsmouth, a new corner of Lovecraft country.

The story itself is a romance, almost a telenovela; we know this story even if we haven’t read it before. Will they/won’t they? There are all the usual and unusual obstructions: a fiance back in Mexico City, the call of the modern world, the titillating hint of incest. Yet Silvia Moreno-Garcia carries us through admirably. She knows these waters, the details that make the setting pop, the buttons to push to keep the reader wondering, until the very end, which way it will go.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia wrote “Legacy of Salt” around the time she was reading a lot of philosophy of biology materials and also a Darwin biography as part of her Master’s degree studies. “Some of the scientific issues I was exploring collided with this story. I have always found ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ to be fascinating since it seems to dip its toes into the notion of repulsion/attraction. Is it such a bad thing to swim eternally in underwater palaces? I kind of like the idea. The Yucatán peninsula is definitely nothing like New England but the numerous markers for archaeological sites somewhat reminded me of the nation of the past creeping upon the present, which occurs in some of Lovecraft’s fiction.”
The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu 312

Unlike “Ahuizotl” (2011) by Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas or “Mail Order Bride” (1999) by Ann K. Schwader, there is very little of horror in this story, and that which remains is mixed with fascination. The protagonist, Eduardo Marin, has tragedy in his life—father dead in a car crash, a mother that abandoned him to start a new family—but there is nothing as traumatic to the family as a whole as the raid on Innsmouth which overshadows and informs “All Our Salt-Bottled Hearts” (2016) by Sonya Taaffe and “The Litany of Earth” (2014) by Ruthanna Emrys.

Except in the sense that the Marins are survivors; remnants of some family line that dates back before the Conquest of Mexico. There are hints throughout the story, references to the Mayan rain-god Chaac, in the shape of a frog, but nothing specific. Hints, remnants, just enough to whet the imagination. The lack of knowledge, loss of knowledge, is the great sub-theme of this story. The biological and material “legacy of salt” is undeniable, but there is a loss of cultural knowledge keenly felt…and that too is a legacy of the Conquest.

“Legacy of Salt” was published in The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu (2016), and has not yet been reprinted. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has been an editor, writer, and translator. Her Lovecraftian fiction includes “Flash Frame” (2010), “In the House of the Hummingbirds” (2012), “The Sea, Like Broken Glass” (2014), and “In the Details” (2015), and her latest novel is Mexican Gothic (2020).


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

Tide of Desire (1983) by Sheena Clayton

“Their religion? You mean, they have one of their own?”

“The Reformed Order of Dagon. It’s a branch, or a schism of a church that was founded in Massachusetts about a hundred and fifty years ago. As I understand it, the main body of the church was stamped out by some pretty high-handed federal action back in the nineteen-twenties. But they never got around to bothering the Squampottis bunch, either because they’re so isolated, or because cooler heads prevailed in Washington. The thing in Massachusetts was remarkably well hushed-up. All the relevant government records have been destroyed.”
—Brian McNaughton, Tide of Desire (1983)

The very first erotic novel to deal with the legacy of Innsmouth came from the typewriter of Brian McNaughton. Active as a fan during his teenage years in the 1950s, McNaughton was briefly a journalist before turning his hand to erotic novels, starting with In Flagrant Delight (1971). His “break” came in the late 70s when he began producing erotic horror novels, starting with Satan’s Love Child (1977)—the publisher’s title, not his—which included elements of or references to the Cthulhu Mythos. It was successful enough to merit several other books, and McNaughton transitioned back over into doing mainstream horror in Weirdbook and other publications, and won the World Fantasy Award for Throne of Bones (1997).

Erotic horror wasn’t exactly new, as Grady Hendrix notes in Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction, sex has long been a selling point and those two decades saw a boom in erotic horror and horror erotica. Still, this was a decade before Ramsey Campbell’s Scared Stiff: Tales of Sex and Death (1987) or the anthology Hot Blood (1989), and erotic horror fiction of the period tended to work off existing properties like Universal Monsters or classic horror novels—The Adult Version of Dracula (1970) and The Adult Version of Frankenstein (1970) being exemplary of the latter trend. By comparison, Lovecraft was largely a virgin field for erotic horror, or at least not entirely played out.

Beginning in the early 1980s, McNaughton wrote a series of erotic novels for Tigress Books. These were written under the pseudonym “Sheena Clayton,” and the line itself may have been aimed more at a female audience than typical adult novels of the period, a more hot-blooded and explicit counterpart to mainstream romance novels. The books tend to feature female protagonists and writers with female names, and the relatively sedate photo covers give the impression. On the name, McNaughton once wrote:

Sheena Clayton was the illegitimate daughter of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, and
John Clayton, Lord Greystroke. I channeled her in several novels, of which TIDE OF
DESIRE may have been the best. (Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos 202)

These novels were Love and Desire (1982), The Aura of Seduction (1982), Tide of Desire
(1982/3), Danielle Book Two (1983), There Lies Love (1983), and Perfect Love (1983). All of these to greater or lesser extant contain references to the Mythos. For example, Edward Pickman Derby appears briefly as a member of a “Rats in the Walls”-esque Magna Mater cult in Love and Desire; Ramsey Campbell’s Lovecraftian fictional grimoire Astral Rape from his novel The Parasite (1980) is prominent in Danielle Book Two; and the cult in Perfect Love was founded by a Rev. H. P. Whateley from Arkham, Massachusetts.

Inside the door, Cthulhu ran up with a hearty meow, and he seemed just as glad to see Melisande as herself. The girl was quite indifferent to him, however, perhaps even a bit impatient with his rubbing against her ankles.

“Scat!” Antonia cried, moving him along with a nudge of her toe. “Cthulhu doesn’t normally take to strangers.”

“Who?” The girl seemed startled, even shocked.

“Cthulhu. That’s the cat’s name.”
—Brian McNaughton, Tide of Desire (1983)

The style of the novel partakes strongly of the Derlethian combination that Lovecraft’s fictional works exist in the world of Tide of Desire, and that the stories chronicle at least partially real events, so that the Mythos definitely exists. A good point of comparison might be Robert Bloch’s novel Strange Eons (1979). More interesting for fans of McNaughton’s later Mythos fiction is that several of the concepts for the Deep One culture are carried over between the novel and his story “The Doom That Came to Innsmouth” (1999). For example, the idea of a Deep One hybrid transitioning from land to water is called “Passing Over”:

“Dagon flay me alive! Ye be right! What an old ninny I be! Our Caleb’s daughter, she passed over a good ten-fifteen years ago. I ain’t seed her lately, but she be down there, don’t you worry. You look like her; that got me all confused. You look like her before she passed over, I mean. I never seed her before she passed over, of course, but I got her picture as a girl someplace. Our Caleb sent pictures of him and his mainland wife and all their kids to prove that the kids didn’t have the look, no more’n he did. But that girl sure did, all right. Poor Caleb. He was right about hisself, he never passed over, but he never told his daughter a word about the Blessing of the Deep Ones. So there she lied, passing over in the middle of nowhere, miles from the sea, and not knowing what the hell were happening to her.”

Mrs. Nicker mumbled to herself as she debated the whereabouts of the photograph she’d mentioned. Then she said to Antonia: “But by pure luck-or more likely it were the hand of Dagon stretching out to help her-there were this colored man from New Orleans who knew somewhat about the doings of the Deep Ones, and he told her she had better get herself to the sea, fast. She paid him to help her, and he took her to… where? To Charleston, South Carolina, that’s right! So she got there just in time to pass over. Then she come to Squampottis and told us all about it. It were the most exciting thing happened on this here island since the visitation of Shug-N’gai, just after the federals smote all them blasphemers and heretics at Innsmouth. That were in nineteen-and-twenty-eight, I do believe. Who says my memory ain’t perfect, hey? Don’t you try to tell me about our Caleb, boy. You wasn’t even borned then.”
—Brian McNaughton, Tide of Desire (1983)

The gist of the novel is that the protagonist, Antonia Shiel, is herself a descendant of the Deep Ones whose body is preparing to “cross over,” encountering a splinter sect of the Esoteric Order of Dagon on Squampottis Island—and realizing too late that she herself has the “Squampottis look.” the changes in herself adding a touch of body horror to the novel as her hair falls out and her feet swell…all of which are undone by the ending.

“Your hair seems to be thicker all of a sudden,” he noted admiringly. “That lovely pubic patch is just like a beautiful young woman’s, and not bare like a child’s. And the hair on your scalp looks thicker already.” (ibid)

The novel comes to an abrupt, jarringly disconcerting “happy ending” very atypical for McNaughton’s novels, as the novel was bowdlerized badly by the editors. McNaughton found the original ending and was revising Tide of Desire for eventual publication at Wildside Press, under the title Riptide. However, McNaughton’s untimely death in 2004 appears to have ended any plans to republish the novel. We can only speculate what the original ending would have been, but given that the story as a whole is a kind of contemporary, sexually explicit update to “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” it would have been both appropriate and in keeping with the tone of the novel if Antonia had “passed over” and joined the Deep Ones.

It would be wrong to say that Tide of Desire, or any of the Sheena Clayton novels, were influential. Pornography is ephemeral literature, and the novels didn’t make much of a splash in Lovecraftian circles when they came out. Which is unfortunate because, as Matthew Carpenter notes in his own review and synopsis, this is actually a very competent Mythos novel, and presaged some of the ideas developed independently by later writers. Sonya Taaffe in “All Our Salt-Bottled Hearts” (2016) wrote about some hybrids that don’t make the transition, and McNaughton wrote:

“It’s me that’ll die, it’s me that’ll be dumped into the ground like dead meat.” She began to sob bitterly, clawing at the arms of the chair with abnormally large hands. “Oh, you should see Rev. Preserved. He’s like an angel! Just last month I seed him in all his glory at Marsh Cove, taking no less than a dozen of our maidens, and our Melly one of them. Whether she be carrying his child or not, I don’t know, it be too soon to tell. When Rev. Preserved told me to have faith, I nearly believed it. He were like a god walking on earth. He said I’d pass over yet, but I don’t believe him now. Dead meat in the churchyard, that’s where I be bound.” (ibid.)

Tide of Desire is not quite the spiritual ancestor of erotic Deep One works such as The Innsmouth Porno VHS (2014), Innsmouth After Dark (2014), Taken By The Deep Ones (2015), Ichythic in the Afterglow (2015), and The Pleasures Under Innsmouth (2020). There is rather less sex, and that less explicit, than one might think; there are no sexual encounters such as in Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Neonomicon (2011).

Which makes sense, because Brian McNaughton was not writing an erotic story dealing primarily with sexual encounters with Deep Ones, a horror story not afraid to go into details like mature sexual relationships, body image issues over breast size and pubic hair, etc. Vulgar terms for genitalia are completely absent. One of the more explicit passages in the book is almost sedate by contemporary standards:

She’d had only two hours of fitful sleep, sleep plagued by distorted versions of her conversations with the Boggs boy and Rev. Marsh and Mrs. Nicker; by dreams in which she gazed on a hostile world through a black veil, where she lay wheezing in a dark bedroom in Hamlen, where a long-dead minister pinned her against the Joyful Pillar in the town square with ravaging thrusts of his phallus while Melisande Seale looked on with demonic glee. (ibid.)

More of a dry (wet?) run for the paranormal romance novel genre, in many respects.

Whatever the initial print run was, Tide of Desire did not become an instant collector’s item. Very few copies of any of the Sheena Clayton novels appear to survive, with Tide of Desire being noted as especially rare…at last in the English version.

tide_japan (1)

By a quirk of fate, Tide of Desire actually got a Japanese translation and publication in 1984. 謎に包まれた孤島の愛 was one of a number of erotic novels translated into Japanese for mail order. Although out-of-print, copies may still be available today on the second-hand market.

For those who do desperately desire to read this novel, while the paperback is long out of print, ebook editions (really text files, but beggars cannot be choosers) of the Sheena Clayton novels are available from Triple X Books.

 


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

Vidas Ilustres Presenta: Lovecraft, el hombre que revivió ritos espantosos (1972) by Editorial Novaro

The works of H. P. Lovecraft were first translated into Spanish (Castilian) and published in book form in the 1950s, no doubt some individual magazine appearances preceded those publications. But readers in Mexico in the 1970s could enjoy El color que cayó del cielo (1957 or 1964, Ediciones Minotauro), Obras escogidas (1966, Ediciones Acervo), En las montañas de la locura (1968, Eidtorial Seix Barral), El caso de Charles Dexter Ward (1971, Barral Editores), and Viajes al otro mundo (1971, Alianza Editorial)…and in September of 1972 in Mexico, eager young readers could snap up Vidas Illustres #292, thirty-two color pages dedicated to H. P. Lovecraft.

The date is significant; the first English-language biographical comic of H. P. Lovecraft was Kuchar’s “H.P.L.” in Arcade #3 (1975), and the first full-length biography, L. Sprague de Camp’s Lovecraft: A Biography (1975), were both published three years later. While Charlton Comics had published a very brief piece on Lovecraft in Baron Weirdwulf’s Haunted Library #61 (1971), that was only about a third of a page at the back of the book. Yet based on the details in the panels, the makers of this comic book (neither writer or artist is credited) obviously knew their Lovecraft. From the very first page:

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This is a very fair snapshot of Lovecraft’s life, as readers of imported Arkham House titles (or the cheaper paperback reprints) would have had in 1972, right down to signing off as “Luveh-Kerapf” (“Luveh-Keraph”). Nor were the writers/artists unwilling to show their influences:

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This issue would have been on the stands next to Mexican horror comics like Tradicions y Leyendas de la Colonia, El Monje Loco (issue #52 of which contains an uncredited adaptation of “The Colour Out of Space”), Las Momias de Guanajuato, and Mini Terror. These were infinitely more lurid and creepy than nearly anything on the newsstands in the English-speaking world in the early 1970s, with the possible exception of Warren publications like Eerie and Creepy. Mexico had no Comics Code Authority, but the Comisión Calificadora de Publicaciones y Revistas Ilustradas had limited resources with which to censor comics.

In production quality, the paper and printing are cheap and shoddy by today’s standards—but by 1970s standards, this wasn’t half bad, definitely on the lower end of the scale of professional publication but far from embarrassing to be seen next to second-tier horror comics like Charlton’s Haunted or Gold Key’s Doctor Spektor. Some of the panel layouts in particular show an awareness and willingness to experiment. This triptych layout for example:

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Not the height of comic art in the 1970s by any means, especially the bizarre anatomy of the critter in that lower right-hand panel, and the backgrounds are perfunctory at best, but the framework is more than just a four-by-four grid. Someone was definitely trying to invoke something, no matter the limitations of their skills or the medium.

While nominally Vidas Illustres #272 begins as a bio-comic of Lovecraft, by page eight it morphs into a very brief adaptation of “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” presented as a quasi-biographical story of Lovecraft himself! This is actually pretty fair for such an abbreviated epic, with the most notable odd discrepancy being the mix of clothing styles—the protagonist’s top-hat recalls the 1800s rather than the 1900s, although I suspect it owes something to The Haunted Palace (1963), a period horror film nominally adapting Edgar Allan Poe’s story of the same name but really borrowing from Lovecraft’s “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”—the second figure in the third panel of the first page bears a distinct likeness to Haunted Palace star Vincent Price.

Some things did get lost in translation, or at least a little jumbled. The swastika-shaped signs are reduced to a single out-of-context panel that probably confused a lot of readers in a post-World War II Mexico. In one panel, “Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn” is transliterated as “¡Ia, Ia, Cthulu tfañg!” These are features more than flaws, writer and artist trying to cram as much into the thirty-two page comic as they could.

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There is something really poignant about the last pages, where fact and fiction combine and you get this version of Lovecraft reflecting back on his life and saying:

El horror de mi vida solitria y extravagante adquirió entonces un sentido: yo no soy de este mundo.

The horror of my lonely and extravagant life then acquired meaning: I am not of this world.

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As an individual work, Vidas Ilustres #292 might be seen by many as a curiosity—but it should be seen as exemplary of a distinct mode of Spanish-language graphic works involving Lovecraft and his Mythos. Artists from Latin America such as Alberto Breccia (Los Mitos de Cthulhu), his son Enrique Breccia (Lovecraft), and Horacio Lalia (Les Cauchemars de Lovecraft) have crafted superb adaptations and original stories based on Lovecraft’s work, as have Spanish artists such as Joan Boix (Grandes de la Macabro) and master painter Esteban Maroto (Lovecraft: The Myth of Cthulhu). Several of these works have been translated into English, but most can only be read in their original Spanish or in other languages.

References to the Mythos in Spanish comics has ranged from the erotic, such as Ignacio Noé and Ricardo Barreiro’s The Convent of Hell, to the lighthearted and comic such as José Oliver and Bart Torres’ El Joven LovecraftLovecraft continues to be an influence on Spanish-language comics to this day through the ongoing comics anthology Cthulhu from Diabolo Ediciones, including the special issue Lovecraft, un homenaje en 15 Historietas.

I could go on; the field is vast, and the influence of Lovecraft and his mythos runs deep. As far as I am aware, this issue was never reprinted in any form. If you are interested in reading the long out-of-print Vidas Illustres #292 yourself, the issue has been scanned and uploaded to the Internet Archive, where it can be read for free.

My thanks and appreciation to Silvia Moreno-Garcia whose article “Mexican Horror Comics” in the Weird Fiction Review #10 provided some of the background and inspiration for this piece.


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

 

Innsmouth (2019) by Megan James

I grew up reading the works of H. P. Lovecraft. I loved every fish monster, evil cult and doomed protagonist, frankly finding his affected writing style and weird creatures intrinsically hilarious because of how corny it all was.
—Megan James, Foreword to Innsmouth (2019)

H. P. Lovecraft, and to a degree his compatriot Mythos creators Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, and Robert Bloch, have seen their life and works adapted to the medium of comic books and graphics novels since the 1950s. These range from fairly straight adaptations a la Alberto Breccia, Richard Corben, John Coulthart, I. N. J. Culbard, Gou Tanabe, and Ben Templesmith (to name a few) to original re-imaginings of the Mythos such as Alan Moore & Jacen Burrow’s Providence, Matt Howard’s Con and C’Thulhu, Mike Vosberg’s Lori Lovecraft, and dozens of other offerings in a number of languages.

Megan James is in good company.

The tone of the story is reminiscent of nothing else than a particular scene in Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens:

Sister Mary Loquacious has been a devout Satanist since birth. She went to Sabbat School as a child and won black stars for handwriting and liver. When she was told to join the Chattering Order she went obediently, having a natural talent in that direction and, in any case, knowing that she would be among friends. (27)

The point being that at a certain point in the life of a church, the mundanity sort of grinds out the divine nature of the proceedings. Or, as is the case in Megan James’ Innsmouth, the end times when Cthulhu is summoned can’t be held on a Thursday because they’ve already got the potluck scheduled.

“Well, the Elder Gods clearly didn’t give the events committee proper notice.”
Innsmouth, issue #1

What we get in five issues is a re-imagining of Innsmouth where intermarriage with fish people is just accepted and maybe working toward the end times is not a major priority for most of them. But like certain outbreaks of Millenialism and Milleniarianism, a few folks are actually looking forward to (or actively trying to cause) the project of waking Cthulhu up in more than a theoretical Sunady-go-to-meeting sense. Which is a problem if you kind of like the world as it is, thank you very much.

The cast and crew assembled by the combination of slapstick and well-meaning anti-cult activities is not coincidental. The team that is assembled includes a female Innsmouth acolyte (Abigail), a female Muslim (Fatima Alhazred, descendant of that Alhazred), and a pair of homosexual African-American reanimators (Drs. Edward Herbert & Jason West). This well-rounded cast is a deliberate effort on James’ part:

While much of the book is inspired by Lovecraft, James said she did take a few of his common outdated themes and views on certain issues such as race and switch them up.

“I wanted to address that in how I’m treating these characters, updating that for 2016,” she said. “Kind of giving voice to some of the characters he shafted along the way.”

For example, in the author’s 1924 short story, “The Hound” he introduces the Necronomicon, which according to James is a book of evil which Lovecraft linked to Arabic heritage.

“That’s not really cool,” she said. “I have a character Fatima she’s Muslim and studies the Necronomicon and it’s part of her family heritage…kind of reclaiming the stuff that he’s messed up.”

—Amy David, Local Comic Book Artist Megan James Mixes Humor and Evil in Upcoming Book, Innsmouth (28 July 2016)

It’s worth pointing out, none of this feels forced. Having Abdul Alhazred’s descendant majoring in eldritch anthropology at Miskatonic University is a key plot point, especially since the Innsmouthian’s Pocket Necronomicon is only about 20% complete; she and Abigail score a couple of gags playing off of each other’s alienation to the culture at large. Each of the characters has their role to play and is a character in their own right, not a walking two-dimensional stereotype.

James expands on this in her foreword a bit:

Of course, Lovecraft stresses fear of the unknown. Unfortunately, as I realized more and more as I grew older, his unknowns included not only fungus planets and brain-snatching flesh spiders, but also anyone who did not fit the mold of a white, straight, educated, Anglo-Saxon. […] I wanted to pay homage to all the things I love about the Mythos, but I also wanted to reinterpret the more troubling aspects and have some fun along the way.
—Megan James, Foreword to Innsmouth (2019)

This is in many ways the meat of the book, and the issue that every contemporary writer and artist has to consider when working with Lovecraft and the Mythos today. There are things that Lovecraft wrote in the 1920s and 30s which passed for publication then, but would not and should not today. It is a good thing that new artists approaching the work are willing and able to engage with this aspect of his writing, to grapple with how best to approach the material and update it to fit the syntax of today.

With any luck…there will be more:

This is just the beginning of Randolph, Fatima and Abigail’s story. Ideally, by the end of Innsmouth, I’ll have crafted a story that Lovecraft would have detested…but truly, I have no interest in playing by his rules just because I’m in his sandbox.
—Megan James, Foreword to Innsmouth (2019)

H. P. Lovecraft is long dead, and cannot render judgment—but in the here and now, what matters is not what Lovecraft would have thought, but what the readers and audience think. Megan James has put together a fun, adventurous story with a group of likable (if not always competent) characters whose hearts are in the right place. Readers looking for seriously nihilistic cosmic horror would be better off looking elsewhere, but for those who can take enjoyment in something more light-hearted, it’s a good book.

Innsmouth ran for five issues from 2016 to 2018, published by Sink/Swim Press and available at the store on her website. The collected trade paperback edition, published by ComicMix in July 2019, is also available on Amazon.com.


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