Monday, March 15, 2010

H P Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" (novella, free): Intelligent sea-based amphibians have been interbreeding with humanity!

Cover image of the first edition of the novella titled The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H P LovecraftVery cool ending that has obviously influenced Henry Kuttner. But interesting bits are in the last 20%; first 80% just builds up the creepy atmosphere & kept putting me to sleep. Took me over a week to finish this.

Wikipedia has a quote that suggests this is really a story about "what Lovecraft found revolting in the idea of interracial marriage...the subtextual hook of different ethnic races mating and 'polluting' the gene pool."

Story summary.

The "ancient Massachusetts seaport of Innsmouth", once a bristling city & now a very-low population town that's pariah to its neighboring towns because of
  1. the strange disease that has been afflicting & "killing" its residents,
  2. its creepy jewelry,
  3. association of the town with "blasphemous fish-frogs",
  4. ...
Early in the story, the town is bombed by US government, many of its residents put behind bars for life, & the whole thing hushed up by the government. Narrator was, in a way, responsible for this destruction; he's now telling us his role - the story of a very long day that began with his visit to the town as a tourist...


  1. Story features a religious cult called "The Esoteric Order of Dagon". I got an impression the "Dagon" is what is called Cthulhu & his people in Lovecraft's "The Call of the Cthulhu". But I'm not sure of this.

    Note there is a "Dagon" of Biblical legend too - some sort of "evil" ancient deity that's an object of worship by undersea monsters. Lovecraft's story, "Dagon", is inspired directly by that.
  2. The story also mentions "Cthulhu", in a context similar to that in Lovecraft's "The Call of the Cthulhu". Only the cultists here aren't human but an intelligent race of sea dwelling "fish-frogs".
  3. Wikipedia mentions two stories as its primary influences: Robert W Chambers' "The Harbor-Master" and Irvin S Cobb's "Fishhead" (download), & a third story, H G Wells' "In the Abyss" (1896) as a likely secondary influence.

Fact sheet.

First published: As a book of the same title in 1936.
Download full text from DagonBytes.
Rating: B.
Related: Stories of H P Lovecraft; fiction from 1930s.


Larry said...

I need to read some proper Lovecraft-the Cthulu stuff! Ive only read the disappointing collection called Dagon and other macabre tales.

Tinkoo said...

Going by what I've read of Lovecraft, pretty much anything from him is likely to be somewhat disappointing to modern reader. I find him interesting primarily as a stylist - his method of story telling has been shamelessly & very successfully copied by Henry Kuttner.

Lovecraft's stories seem to be primarily targeted at US readers of early twentieth century, & appeal shamelessly to (presumably their) prejudices - unfamilar is bad, other races are evil, ancient gods are evil, ...

Even readers of his own time did not all share these prejudices. Henry Kuttner copies his story telling method & is more explicitly a horror writer going by ending of many of his stories, but he invokes our emotions by logical & secular devices.

I know of at least two Kuttner stories that have the ending of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", but are much better reads over all: "The Prisoner in the Skull" is a well known genre classic; "Happy Ending" (download) too makes a decent read.