My last post introduced you to my relationship with the book, The Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft. In this post, I would like to discuss a few specific elements of one of the stories, a personal favorite of mine and one of the more well-known weird tales—The Shadow over Innsmouth, 1931.
It can be difficult to summarize Lovecraft’s works without spoiling them, so instead of a summary, I will try to convey the feelings the story evoked.
As is often the case with Lovecraft, the story's narrator and main protagonist is not at all reliable. Not because you get the sensation that they are intentionally lying to you…you just start most of the stories and end them with the feeling that the narrator is very much insane.
“Where does madness leave off and reality begin?” our narrator says at one point, a very good question as he takes us with him on his journey through his secretive, allegedly government-issued investigation of the ruined town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts.
Innsmouth is a mostly derelict fishing town, its populace made up mostly of a distinct type of person with a distinctive shambling gait and an even more distinctive appearance, with their "queer narrow heads with flat noses and bulgy, starry eyes". Their appearance seems a little fishy, to say the least, and to get to the bottom of the strangeness, our government investigator narrator gets a local man by the name of Zadok Allen slam-danced drunk so that the fellow will give him the scoop on the freaky people in the freaky town.
After the drinking, the story really kicks off into weirdsville and what does start off as a bit of an expository beginning quickly turns into a frantic thrill-ride through the eyes of someone who is altogether deranged. The narrator finds out the truth behind the fishy look of the fishy folk in the fishy fold by the sea. And when this esoteric knowledge has been unlocked so has the threat to his life. Through the shadow over Innsmouth our narrator flees and fights through the crooked alleys formed between the cruel crooked buildings that line the streets, through dark cobwebbed rooms with things not entirely human dwelling within. Struggles are had, twists come at every turn but although insane, our narrator is clever and he may be able to escape. (You will have to read to find out! )
My favorite lines in the story are: “One night I had a frightful dream in which I met my grandmother under the sea. She lived in a phosphorescent palace of many terraces, with gardens of strange leprous corals and grotesque brachiate efflorescences, and welcomed me with a warmth that may have been sardonic. She had changed—as those who take to the water change— and told me she had never died. Instead, she had gone to a spot her dead son had learned about and had leaped to a realm whose wonders—destined for him as well —he had spurned with a smoking pistol. This was to be my realm, too— I could not escape it. I would never die, but would live with those who had lived since before man ever walked the earth.”
The story stuck with me for a number of reasons but front and center is a fear of one’s own ancestry. It is the fear of what a concept like evolution may actually mean? If we were once another thing, is that thing still part of us? Or stranger still, will we again change? Change once more to the thing we were, or perhaps something new, something in between the then and the now?
These thoughts and questions were what I used as inspiration to create the esoteric cult of the Friends of the Void and their Arcane Church of The Great Dark as they first appear in Embers on the Wind and Black Sun Moon. These tentacle-armed, bulbous-headed pale, sea freaks take over towns slowly. They wear human skin that looks much like wax and always put on a welcoming smile. They believe they are descended from the seed of Leviathan himself and that one day the sea shall take back the world. And when it does, all of humanity must be ready, they must be turned back to what they once were, they must turn back to the sea, to the void and the Great Dark and only there may a soul find peace and light. Only in the abyss may humanity be returned to their all-father, oh megalithic Leviathan, oh eater of worlds, Zole!
Thanks for reading! Next post lets take a look at how the Necronomicon has an impact on our culture not only in art but the spirit and collective consciousness. Are there warnings to learn from in the big black book?