Six Short Essays on The Two Obeds of H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth and others previous to them - and other Oceanic Lore

T. Jantsang

Some familiarity at least with the tales The Call of Cthulhu (CoC), The Shadow Over Innsmouth (SoI), and The Seal of R'lyeh (SoR) is required to understand this article. Familiarity with At the Mountains of Madness (ATMOM) and The Shadow Out of Time (SoT) is also helpful, but not necessary.

1. Some Confusion about Obed and Obediah Marsh. Written 1972.

After a reader (preferably one that never heard of the Cthulhu Mythos) reads the two stories CoC and SoI, he might not see any connection between the two tales, except perhaps a very loose one if the reader reads one after the other. The reader might, instead, link CoC with ATMOM because Cthulhu and the city of R'lyeh are mentioned in both and, somehow, "Cosmic Octopi that resemble depictions of Cthulhu" tend to transform into "Cthulhu's race" in the minds of most readers. A reader might link SoT with ATMOM, since these two tales deal with ancient alien species that came to earth. The reader might link SoI with ATMOM because Shoggoths and Cthulhu are mentioned in both, and so forth, depending upon how reliable you find the narrators in these tales. There are very loose connections between the tales, especially if you read them very carefully. All of this depends upon a person reading these tales together, not years apart.

It is not all that likely that the reader would link the Innsmouth fish-folk with the primarily land-based Cthulhu cultists in Louisiana or the Alert's crew who are in a ship, in CoC. This might seem like an absurd idea to Mythos fans, but consider the people reading these tales when they first came out. The fact is, I never linked them up myself until I bought The Mask of Cthulhu and The Trail of Cthulhu from Ballantine books in 1972; both of these books are by August Derleth.

For me, SoI was a story about Merpeople, the Oannes of mythology, the Anedotti so well known in mythology. After all, the name of the church in SoI was a dead giveaway: The Esoteric Order of DAGON. Dagon or Odacon is pretty well known and so are the Oannes in myth. With typically Mythos tales, Lovecraft invented names for things and concepts that most readers found very alien and he tended to invent some very alien aliens. Dagon and fishmen just did not fit that pattern. Neither would vampires, demons, ghosts or werewolves. It's all too familiar in myth.

Not only did I not link them up due to the literal textual contents and patterns, but I recognized that Lovecraft was pretty good about details, even details about what Australia was like 150 million years ago! He obviously researched things before he wrote. But I also logically did not link them, and not just because the Alert's crew were on a ship (not in the ocean swimming around) and the Louisiana cult was on land and did not run away into the sea when chased, but because fish are strong! Yes, STRONG!

Small fish are strong. Big fish, the size of a human, would be very strong. Everyone knows this, it's common knowledge, ergo Lovecraft had to have known it.  "Fish" that could swim to the bottom of the ocean and back up would not be "fish" properly, though common people tend to refer to dolphins and octopi as "fish," and refer to all eatable oceanic things, such as fish, shrimp and lobster, as "seafood." So Lovecraft referring to things that can swim to the bottom of the ocean as "fish" was fine. But, that would make them even stronger than fish. That means that the Innsmouth hybrids and Deep Ones could not be "fish" in the taxonomic sense at all. They'd have to be something more like a mollusk, but I doubted that Lovecraft knew or considered the depth factor. He had some of them frog-like and some of them fish-like. Frogs and Fish: that's a big difference. So, they were quite varied.

Needless to say, all Mer-stories have vast cities at the bottom of the ocean and it was obvious to me that Lovecraft was writing a tale in that genre and not in a genre he invented.

Now about reliability, whose explaining this to us? Read the story and consider the "witnesses" in that tale, even granting that they are being as honest and as sane and sober as possible. Do Zadok and the grocery store boy really know what these beings are? Nope!

Putting reality, things from real life, into a story or text that is intended to be fantasy is not deconstruction, which is a rather strange new system of analysis that some people confuse with "destruction" of a story. Using what I used is a technique I learned in school, a regular literary technique called "doubt, reasonable doubt." Doubt includes what's being called deconstruction but "doubt" also allows you to take factual material outside the text of the tale and use it to analyze what a person writes, such as my assuming Lovecraft knew this or that fact, or researched that data, or assumed something that was as-given in society during his time. This is not allowed in deconstruction. Now, to take portions of other people's fantasy stories and interweave that into the text at hand is "intertexting." Intertexting is what every Mythos fan HAS DONE! This is what this is about. Read on.

The link between CoC and SoI is made very strongly after one reads August Derleth's tales. Then it becomes "obvious" that the strange-looking crew of the Alert in CoC were hybrid Deep One/humans. It becomes "as given" that hybrid Deep One/humans were also in the Louisiana cult in CoC. Or so we think it's obvious. Instead of saying that "August Derleth said they were Deep Ones," consider it the faulty information of the character in the tale that is saying that. Or, go the other way, consider that some other character narrating is wrong. In other words, go around the actual authors. Why go around if you choose to link CoC and SoI and make all these people Deep Ones? Because there is no way a mere human being would be able to "easily overpower" a fish the size of a man, and if these are not really fish but more like mollusks, then there is no way a crew would be able to overpower one Deep One! A 3 pound octopus can easily tear off a grown man's head. There is also room for the idea that the hybrids (now that we have decided they are hybrids due to intertexting) were sick and in the midst of transformation, hence weak and thus easily overpowered. Still, why didn't the Alert's crew escape into the ocean and why were they on a boat to begin with? We'll let that slide. The point is, we have now read Derleth, and the stories CoC and SoI are now, in our hearts and minds, JOINED!

Eventually, the reader gets to read SoR, another story by August Derleth. And - just a minute now - something is seriously DIFFERENT and it's something that can not be left to slide. August Derleth normally stuck to Lovecraft's details about specific characters and dates. But not this time. Here is where the reader has to do some deciding and transplant "testimony about events" to real life. For instance, if you wish to know about Apache Indians and you have two versions of their history at hand, which will you think is more factual: 1. History of Apache Indians as told by a drunken red-neck who hates their guts; or 2. History of Apache Indians told by an Apache Indian whose whole family knows the ways of Apache Indians?

As this analogy pertains to "Lovecraft versus Derleth," I'll put some doubt into this equation. The argument that "Lovecraft invented it" doesn't hold water, since he did NOT invent the concept of Merpeople or fish people or fish-frog people or Mer-cities under the sea. Here is Doubt - and it has to be applied to SoI and pertinent things in that tale. Have you ever been in a fish-market? Have you ever smelled the place? Consider that, plus a face like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, plus freezing cold bodies. Add into this equation extreme fear. Zadok Allen tells us that males were forced to breed with such female creatures. Not possible: the cold alone would prevent it. Apparently Lovecraft didn't figure on that. Artificial insemination is possible - but that's outside the text of the story. Lovecraft didn't give details on any of that part; I doubt he could write such a tale in the 1920's and not get put in jail or something. He did, however, gives us a big idea, if we read carefully, about what some of those hybrids are like: "Barnabas Marsh is a DANDY." Dandy means playboy, stud! He had a lot of girlfriends! That leaves the door open to something interesting and my guess is that Derleth walked in.

Derleth not only did the "wild thing," but many know him as a wild thing himself! He certainly was not dualizing or god-izing, as so many accuse him of, when he wrote SoR. The tale is a love story between two hybrid Deep Ones who tell us their own history. What they say is what gives us all the strong notion of "Other Nations among us," more so than Lovecraft did. Lovecraft gave us the notion of aliens visiting us. But not so much a notion of literal Other Nations in the sense that one can intertext Henry Beston's beautiful statements in The Outermost House, also written in 1928. Lovecraft does not give us the beautiful sense of The Forsaken Merman that Matthew Arnold gives us in his poem by that name. Most of the actual tales around the world about such things are much more in line with Arnold's ideas. But this is not all of what Derleth did in SoR. He forces us to "rewrite" events in HPL's SoI. Absolutely!

It is odd that Derleth did what he did in SoR. He literally changed the history of Innsmouth! In so doing, it logically puts a whole new light on what happened in SoI! Derleth literally changed the history of Innsmouth in SoR. Where did he get the idea to do this? Probably from a hint in HPL's SoI that most may have missed (though some surely did not miss it and wondered about it - since HPL so meticulously wrote his lines). Did HPL make a huge blooper? Or did HPL open a big door? I think he opened a door.

In SoI, Zadok tells the narrator, (unnamed in the version of the tale I read*), that, "come to look at ye, ye hev kind o' got them sharp-readin' eyes like Obed had." I.e., the Narrator has eyes like Obed Marsh. Lovecraft did write this. But what did he mean? Obed, as far as we knew from Zadok Allen, was human. It would normally mean that the Narrator has eyes like the human part of his ancestry, except for one crucial thing: he himself remembers that he was told he had eyes like Obed after he notes he is beginning to change into a Deep One! So - Obed Marsh had - DEEP ONE EYES? Yes! And from a reliable narrator, a Deep One that's sane, inside the cult and not drunk, Derleth explains this. (*In a note written by Lovecraft that Randy A. Everts had, the Narrator of this tale is Robert Olmstead. Derleth and every other writer just gave him the name James Williamson and in stories where others used that name, they refer to the Narrator in SoI. People were told this as far back as the 1970's but this went ignored.)

Here follow the differences in the two stories, which, in the end, iron out all the possible misreads on Derleth's part, or rule out forgetfulness on Lovecraft's part.

Here are two distinct histories of Innsmouth, crucial facts in bold:

Shadow Over Innsmouth. Obed Marsh has three ships: Columby, Sumatry Queen, and Hetty. These ships are active in the E. India trade in the 1820's and 1830's. Obed first learns of the Deep Ones from Walakea, a Native Chief on the Island of Ponape. He introduces Innsmouth to the Deep Ones and their religion. In 1846 a riot (more at a race war) occurs and the Deep Ones take over the town. Half the people, those who resisted, are dead. Obed and his male inner-circle marry full-blooded female Deep Ones and most of the town does the same. Obed Marsh's First Mate is a Freemason named Matt Eliot, and he was not in agreement with Obed's plans to introduce Deep Ones into the town. Nowhere does it say why Matt was against it. He either got put out of the way, or he left town. There are Oaths of Dagon: nothing specific is said about these but one can infer from the story itself, "certain houses had to entertain guests; those that helped out extra special, received more gold." Imagine the X-rated stuff that could be written, eh? The only way anyone could "help out" the Deep Ones was to mate with them, because that is the only thing they were really after. Who in the "certain houses" entertained guests, the sons that lived there, or the daughters? Zadok took the first and second oaths, but he would never take the third. The third oath must have been the fertility rite itself: breeding. (Maybe Zadok, on one of his drunken binges, did take that third oath without realizing it. It could be why they allowed him to live on so long, eh? Could well be that Zadok has great-grand-children swimming around somewhere.) This is the story we hear from an openly hostile Zadok Allen, a person who is not in a position to know what is really going on.  

The Seal of R'lyeh.  by Derleth. Obadiah Marsh, which at first we think is Obed's full name, loses his ship, The Corey, in 1797 in the Marquesas (far from Ponape). His first mate is Cyrus Alcott Phillips. All their shipmates perish, but both Obadiah and Cyrus survive the loss of their ship and return to Innsmouth in a row-boat! Next, it turns out that Obadiah, Cyrus, and three others have strange women for wives, women that came back with them from the Marquesas. It is assumed the "three others" are members of the Marsh and Phillips families because the story states that those two families alone intermarried with the strange women. These women they married are not full-blood Deep Ones. They are described as strange and foreign, but not "monsters," nor do they have to hide or keep indoors. The conclusion is that Obed Marsh of SoI is either Obadiah's son or the son of one of the "three others" but from either the Phillips or Marsh families That is, Obed Marsh in SoI is already part Deep One! Now, that explains why the Narrator in SoI had eyes similar to Obed's, which he notices after he's changing! But there is much, much more because this information rewrites events in SoI.

If you now go back and reanalyze events in SoI in order of occurrence, and keep in mind that Obed is already part Deep One, things take on a new look, a conspiratorial look. First, the trade with Ponape and the gold it brought is ended by nearby natives wiping out the people on Ponape. Were they wiped out? Or did they swim off? No one would be able to confirm what Obed said and this sets the stage for the next move. Next, Innsmouth suffers a shortage of fish. Why? Do the Deep Ones cause the shortage of fish in cahoots, perhaps, with Obed and other hybrids already living in town unknown to others? Next, Obed Marsh (not anyone else) heads a group of men that are "in the know" into the new religion: Esoteric Order of Dagon. Zadok states that he doesn't think Obed intended to mate. Right: Zadok thinks this. Does Zadok know this? NO! Did Zadok ask Obed? NO! Eventually, Obed and his group get thrown into jail. Next, Deep Ones swim up into the town, throw open the jail and the riot ensues. What occurs next is a literal take-over of Innsmouth with Obed leading it all, as a loyal servant of Dagon (or Cthulhu? Maybe, not necessarily) and the Deep Ones. Remember, HPL left that door open by telling us that the Narrator of SoI had the eyes of Obed Marsh - and he noticed that after he started to transform. The Narrator was partly Deep One. So this is no Derleth interpretation per se. It's Derleth walking through HPL's open door.

In the Derleth story The Watcher From the Sky, there is mention of "suppressed talk about Obed himself, how he was not really dead, how a party of boating people from Newburyport way, who knew the Marsh family, came into port one day all pale and shaking and said they had seen Obed out there, swimming like a porpoise." Relevant to Lovecraft's intent or not, the name Obed means: "loyal servant," implying "of the faith," i.e., loyal servant of the faith! Marsh, well, "Mar" means sea; the meaning of Marsh is obvious. "Loyal servant of the faith of the Sea." Since HPL was so meticulous, I tend to think that HPL named his character "Obed Marsh" on purpose.

2. Additional Information from Tales. Written 1975.

Dreams From R'lyeh, Lin Carter, Arkham House. How far back does this mixing go? Lin Carter mentioned a Bathsheba Randall Marsh who married Abner Ezekiel Hoag. Bathsheba is the daughter of the famous Sea Captain Obed Marsh; however, the marriage took place in 1713! So that is yet a different Obed Marsh; a third Obed earlier than the other two. It is Abner Ezekiel Hoag who discovered the Ponape Scripture in the Carolines in 1734. He had a half-breed Human/Deep One manservant named Yogash at the time that he discovered this. So the Marshes and at least one Hoag were familiar with Deep Ones and hybrids. This is 63 years prior to Obadiah Marsh's contact with the Deep Ones in 1797, or three generations prior. So the Deep Ones have been living in New England all along, quietly and secretly. They just never took over an entire American town in American history until 1846!

It is due to the Ponape Scripture and what follows that readers get to learn about the Yuggs from Out of the Ages (Arkham House, 1975), and other oceanic creatures that live alongside humanity, including the ones, like Pesh-Tlen, that Brian Lumley introduced in the tale Rising With Surtsey. The picture gets bigger regarding these Beston-esque Oceanic Nations. (I have ideas worked out for Yuggya creatures; but they will not be anything like these races and they won't be Cthulhu worshipers or predominantly oceanic. Odd that Carter used Yugg, Lumley used Yegg-ha, and I plan to use Yuggya and had a non-Mythos story thought out in the 1960's with that name - all independently of each other) (My idea came from Yugyar, Ubbya, Uber and Upir and I never heard of the mythos when I had the idea. It could be put into a Mythos background, like anything else could, but these are not like Mythos creatures, generally speaking.) (Update 2003: novel OTHER NATIONS by T&P Marsh is available.)

The Fisherman of Falcon Point by Lovecraft and Derleth. It is said by critics that Derleth seemed to imagine that people with no prior Deep One blood could magically turn into Deep Ones by merely having contact with Deep Ones. I would suggest they re-read the tale more carefully, more analytically and use some obvious inferences, and not just superficially read Derleth and assume the man was an idiot with stupid ideas. It is blatantly stated that humans are revolted by Deep Ones and anyone, even the illiterate, would know that you do not go fishing at Devil Reef - for if you do, you'll be killed! Yet Enoch Conger goes to Devil Reef to fish and never gets killed going there. He manages to get fish and not come up empty handed. Something down there likes him. Conger catches a female Deep One in his net and he is not revolted. She talks to him. Other Deep Ones don't come up from the depths and kill him outright. At that point in the story I figured Enoch Conger for a Deep One hybrid himself. In the end when Conger is assumed dead, but turns up swimming out in the ocean, I wasn't surprised at all.

Is Derleth always "too obvious?" No. People too quick to criticize him read his tales poorly. Here is an example of Derleth being tricky: he used a well-known, even too-obvious Deep One name, Gilman, for the name of Claiborne Boyd's uncle: Asaph Gilman. That made me think that Claiborne was a Deep One hybrid too, or that at least Asaph Gilman was. That guess was WRONG! Derleth is not obvious, he can play tricky. (Derleth is highly criticized for his use of the "good guys Elder Gods," but the use was approved by Lovecraft which, in our best guess he stuck in there to keep the Mythos going and give humans a chance against them. Brian Lumley and Lin Carter perpetuated the Elder Gods mythology as the "good guys." I personally reject this view entirely, even if I enjoyed their tales.)

Rising with Surtsey by Brian Lumley (Arkham House 1971), we learn more about some of the oceanic beings that may have been Cthulhu's race that allegedly came here with Cthulhu in ATMOM (as said before, ATMOM actually says that cosmic octopi came here and these remind one of the professors of Cthulhu). The Othuum worshiping beings are described in the Lumley tale. Some of us think of these beings as Cthulhu's race. The Deep Ones themselves are agreed upon by all to be naturally evolved and native to earth. Sure, they are recognizable from standard myth, Lovecraft did not invent these.

3. Additional information regarding an Extraneous Tale known to Mythos writers. Written 1988.

Spawn of the Green Abyss, by C. Hall Thompson. A superb story. I had a copy of this tale ages ago and never thought of linking it to the Cthulhu Mythos. Actually, it's not a Cthulhu Mythos tale! Recently, there was criticism for this tale from a bunch of Mythos guys who are into nay-saying things that brought enjoyment to many readers. One must wonder why they bother to trash a tale they didn't like and ruin it for others. (Nyaa nyaa nyaa.) The critics claimed that the story doesn't work. Oh yes it does!

It takes place in Kalesmouth, NJ. Lazarus Heath has a daughter named Cassandra from a female sea-thing named Zoth Syra. Obviously, Lazarus stays with Zoth Syra long enough for the daughter to be born. He runs away from the under-water city with his daughter, who must be at least old enough to survive something like that, and goes back to Kalesmouth. There, Cassandra grows up and marries a human, James Arkwright, but a male sea-thing named Yoth Kala comes for her and mates with her. She wants to go back with Yoth Kala. Her husband Arkwright finds out and kills her and her baby as she and Yoth Kala are about to join each other. That's it. Why doesn't this work? The critics wonder how Lazarus Heath began to get fishy-looking later on. They complain that this is a love story. Complain? Did they ever read merlore? Or Matthew Arnold's The Forsaken Merman? Or the classic story of the mermaid and the human? Or mermen and humans? The nay-saying critics also make the absurd claim that Thompson (the author) seems to infer that these sea-beings are a threat to the world, yet in his story we only get to hear of one example of this threat from one of the characters in the tale. There IS a difference. Perhaps it should be explained since the obvious is not obvious to the critics.

Thompson wrote this story at the same time all the other fish-stories were being written. Readers liked it better than Lovecraft! Of course, anyone reading it now would connect it to the town of Innsmouth and think that Kalesmouth is another one of "those towns" where fishy things go on. Derleth didn't like the idea of Thompson writing such great stories, pressured him to stop, and no more got written - or we never got to see what else was written! (That was terrible of Derleth to do that!) As to the critiques? PHOOEY!

Lazarus Heath was the First Mate of the Macedonia. The ship was bound for Africa and ran into a major fog in the Southern Atlantic. Next follows the well-known "Bermuda Triangle" type phenomena. Next follows the voices of sirens singing. This is right out of Classical Greek Merpeople lore; these beings are Sirens! Next they run into an uncharted island where the ship runs aground and sinks. Again, typical mer-lore. Every single member of the crew drowns, as they are hypnotized, listening to the singing voices. Classic mythology again. Lazarus Heath is not killed by these voices, nor is he unable to move! I know what I thought when I read it: "He's ONE OF THEM." Either that, or he's "Destined" to join with them. Next, Lazarus hears a female calling to him with the classic "Come away" from the Matthew Arnold poem, The Forsaken Merman. The voice sings: "Come away to your bride Zoth Syra." He walks toward the voice, enters the water and right there the story reveals that Lazarus has gills and can breathe water. Therefore, he is ONE OF THEM. He is said to be Zoth Syra's "Chosen One."

This is a tale of Destiny and Fate. Classic. Later, after his daughter Cassandra is born under the water, he runs away. Again, this takes time and Lazarus is there with his "Chosen Bride" the entire time, under the water. The last entry the reader is told he made in his journal is: "Cassandra is one of them, just as I...." I see no flaw here. I see that some confused people are unable to read a story once and grasp it.

Next follows the love story between Cassandra and Yoth Kala, who comes to claim her as his bride, even though she has since married the human, James Arkwright. Arkwright thinks she has his baby in her belly, but it is Yoth Kala's baby.  When Yoth Kala comes to claim her, when she and Yoth Kala seek to join together and leave Arkwright behind, Arkwright kills her. Arkwright (in jail now) seems surprised (as the narrator of the story) that Yoth Kala does not turn on him and kill him, that instead Yoth Kala returns to the ocean. He theorizes in the end that such beings can not stay on land unless a human is a link for them with the land. Yes, but Cassandra is not a human! Arkwright has only a theory, one among many such theories amidst a score of very strange Merpeople tales that predate Lovecraft by about 4000 or more years. Why did Yoth Kala scream in pain when she died? Why did he return to the ocean? Classical Merpeople lore, if the critics were familiar with it, states that the Merpeople love very deeply, and that they usually love once. Yoth Kala probably returned to the ocean to die broken hearted, unable to continue living without his Chosen Bride!

Thompson's tale is out of Classic Merpeople lore, complete with the tragedy. Critics (unfeeling little boys?) perhaps are unable to feel the grief of losing, in one stroke, a beloved mate and child. Would they have Yoth Kala wreak vengeance on the human murderer? Why? Yoth Kala is not a human, therefore he does not behave like a human. Would killing someone bring back his beloved wife and child? No. As far as Yoth Kala is concerned, the human "husband" is nothing: he is irrelevant. Dolphins can easily kill humans, but when humans harm them they don't usually* fight back. Why not? Dolphins are known to take on sharks. Why not take on man? Answer: Because they don't. (Go ask one!) The Thompson tale works fine. The critics can't read. (*2008 off the Gulf of Florida - a dolphin rammed a man out of a boat and then rammed the man to death. The dolphin was known as friendly, prone to swim up to people in boats. The man had been smacking the dolphin and pouring beer down it's blowhole. The dolphin killed him.)

4. Typical Merlore. From a letter, 1972, and later notes.

"...Prior to Lovecraft, Derleth and other Mythos writers picking up on this [oceanic lore] and actually defining an Oceanic Humanoid being (calling it a Deep One), no one quite knew what to make of such merlore except that everyone knew what these beings were and what they did, sort of. Such tales are in all cultures, and they are all equally vague. T.S. Eliot hinted of oceanic things. Matthew Arnold was blatant in his poetry. These are not Hermetic tales, nor do they have a "moral" to them or "deeper hidden meaning," unless it's that "all life came from the Mother Ocean." But they leave the listener with a feeling about the ocean, its vastness, its mystery, and our genetic link to it as The Mother. They make you wonder: "What did our ancestors leave behind when they crawled up out of the ocean to live on land and evolve?" What I like about Lovecraft, Derleth and some other earlier writers, mythos or not, is their defining, once and for all, the Merpeople and giving this lore a nice playground to play in. What I mean is like the vampires, they have a lore now, thanks to Bram Stoker and Hollywood movies; but these are all from old Slavic folklore that very few people knew about. Everyone just knows, it's as-given, what a vampire is supposed to be, these days. Prior to that, these tales were shrouded in mystery and vagueness. The same goes for the Merlore. The strangest and one of the oldest tales of Merlore is from Sumeria/Babylonia, about the Anedotti or Musari. The fish person who visited them was called Odacon, not Dagon, in their myth. Their mythology claims that this, or these "monstrous fishmen, covered in scales like fish, but speaking a human tongue and walking on two legs" came out of the ocean and taught them everything they needed to know to make a big civilization! It's an odd thing to say. Greeks attributed their superior civilization to their being a superior race or culture. Romans attributed their superior civilization to being favored by their Gods. The Sumerians/Babylonians gave credit to strangers of some kind for their superior civilization. It's odd!

"Perhaps the deeper hidden meaning is obvious: our ancestors made a tragic mistake when they crawled out of Mother Ocean to live on the dots of small land-masses that are scattered in the midst of OCEAN. Naturalist Henry Beston echoed this feeling in his beautiful and awe-inspiring quote about oceanic life in The Outermost House. It is the most inspiring quote I've ever seen and is the basis for the story I'm working on which will include the Yuggya creatures that I completed. Here is Henry Beston's beautiful quote:

'We need a newer and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical sense of the animal. Remote from Universal Nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization regards the animals through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby, a feather greatly magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, their tragic fate of having been formed so far below ourselves; and thereby we err.

'For they shall not be measured by man....In a world older than ours, they move more finished and complete, gifted with senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings, they are Other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.'

Written in 1928, the same year as the infamous Innsmouth raid! Coincidence? Well, yes, it surely is! I doubt that Beston ever heard of Lovecraft, and probably would never read pulp fiction...."

Additional notes on Merlore. Written around 1980-1986.

In the various myths, Merpeople are any number of these things in legend, or a combination of these things, some of which are contradictory:

1. predatory oceanic beasts who can shed their skin revealing a human-like being inside;

2. they are like fairy-folk who magically transform into human form;

3. they come with a necklace which enables you to also live underwater;

4. they come with a sea-being that you put around your neck that merges with you symbiotically and enables you to breathe underwater;

5. they sing a siren song that can lure entire ships to destruction;

6. they sing a siren song of love that only their chosen beloved can hear and survive;

7. they sing a siren song that only the beloved is able to hear, no one else can hear it;

8. they sing a song to their beloved, a human that they are destined by Fate to mate with and marry;

9. they are monstrous to look upon, but the song makes them appear beautiful;

10. they are like genie that can change into beautiful forms;

11. they are beautiful and portrayed as black-haired or golden-haired with sea-green-eyes.

12. the human usually has to be with the Mer-person to first enter the water, or lose the chance to live underwater forever. They live forever if they do go with the Mer-person.

13. The cities of the Merpeople are at the bottom of the ocean and are vast.

14. they taught entire nations of humans mathematics and astronomy and the arts of civilization! (Oannes, Annedotti, Musaeus).

15. Merwomen will leave human husbands and return to the ocean. Human men usually follow them, or try to.

16. Merwomen will not stay with human men unless they are forced to, or captured.

17. Mermen are successful lovers among human women and father children with them.

18. They love once, and mate for life.

19. They are very fickle.

20 They appear as human and can walk on land (most tales).

Most tales have the Merpeople as males, who seek out human women. The earliest tales, and the majority of tales, describe the Merpeople as having legs, like Deep Ones. The specifics of the tales differ in this way.

Many of these tales, save for the ones in ancient days about them teaching humans civilization, are tragic beyond compare; some are very happy. They make you cry, even if they are happy! Only recently have there been Merpeople stories with happy endings: Splash, the children's version of The Little Mermaid (where she lives in the end - there are two versions of this, one sad, one happy), and of course Lovecraft's SoI has a happy ending (after changing into a Deep One, he goes to live with them in wonder and glory forever), and Derleth's story SoR is happy. Brian Lumley's Return of the Deep Ones was so miserably tragic that I could never read it a second time. The story is too depressing, though it was a great story!

5. Silliness ala "Look What's Coming to Dinner" Written 1975

So then, how did one help out the Deep Ones extra special? Polish their jewelry for them? Set up decorations at the Esoteric Order of Dagon? Or rent himself out as a stud for a night and impregnate 10 of their females?

How did certain houses entertain guests? The Deep One (picture Creature from Black Lagoon) came to the door, top-hat, tuxedo and all; box of candy in one hand, flowers in the other. He came to call on Priscilla. He wanted to sit on the sofa while she played the piano, classical music, of course, perhaps Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Or maybe he sat in for dinner and chatted about cultural matters.

Or perhaps it went like this - the scene is in a proper household in 1847 Innsmouth:

FATHER: "Priscilla! Think of your mother, think of me the father who has loved you, think of your little three-year old baby brother! You MUST, YOU MUST!"

PRISCILLA: "OH! But father! They're so horrid! I never even saw a man before, how can you expect me...." She bursts out in tears and runs to her mother for back-up.

MOTHER: "Dear, father is right. It's not so bad. The lights will be out, you can close your eyes."

PRISCILLA: "But mother, that's what you said about your marital duties with Daddy!"


6. Strong Criticism of Derleth's critics. Written 1980

First consider that I personally dismiss Derleth's ideas and I get around them by clearly seeing that specific characters in his tales have these ideas. Example: Anne Rice writes vampire tales. But does Anne Rice believe in vampires? If they were real, would she be in favor of doing what Lestat wants to do, go public and be an open vampire, or would she try to kill it before it had her for dinner? No one reads Anne Rice's tales and reads them as if SHE is voicing HER opinion. And no one balks that she went against Bram Stoker's Dracula concepts, in fact she explained some of Bram's concepts away when she explained Santino's cult and why they believed what they believed (i.e., why Dracula would believe such things). Do Anne Rice's vampire fans trash Brian Lumley for his Necroscope tales which are vastly different from both Anne Rice and Bram Stoker? No. They do not.

The first to strongly bash Derleth and get really noted for it was Richard Tierney. He accused Derleth of dualizing the Mythos with his good/evil Elder Gods stuff. Tierney also wrote stories where the Elder Gods, the opponents of Chaos, were the Lords of Pain. (Ultimate order would involve the negation of free will!) Tierney writes stories using a Gnostic setting and quite a lot of dualism. Pot/kettle/black.

Next came the Dirk Mosig clique and Mosig primarily was reacting to his own hatred of Christianity in all of this, his own background! Mosig did not make the clique; it sort of just formed around him with reverent fans seeing him as some sort of Guru. Mosig regarded calling him a "cornudo" preferable to being called a Christian. Calling him a Christian was the greatest insult (sic). (Personal letter - we never saw him as a teacher at all.).

What Derleth said about Lovecraft's fiction in his prefaces, based on a quote about black magic that he was TOLD HPL said) really has nothing to do with the stories Derleth wrote. The two have to be separated, I think (refer above to Anne Rice's personal views versus her stories). In his stories, Derleth is not speaking to us. His characters are speaking to us. Dr. Shrewsbury, the Hastur-friendly zealot magician against Cthulhu, says things that are different from the things that Ada Marsh, the Innsmouth hybrid, says - both written by Derleth. Fans should take that as "Dr. Shrewsbury said" and "Ada Marsh said." NOT "Derleth said." Fans used to do this. What happened? Fans used to also consider who was more reliable: Ada Marsh, a hybrid herself, sane and not drunk - or a drunk ousider named Zadok Allen.

I think the way certain writers have made genealogies for the Old Ones (even though Lovecraft himself was in his own genealogy as a descendant of Yog-Sothoth, making it an obvious joke) removes the Mythos further away from the cosmic/outre realm than Derleth or anyone else ever removed it. Now it reads like a Western version of Eastern ideas, none of which the West ever grasped; or like polluted Hindu ideas of a pure Doctrine. Now it reads like Godzilla versus Rodan who married Mothra whose cousin is Gadirra. Meanwhile they wax reverent on obvious points treating Lovecraft like their new deity/idol or prophet; other writers get the "heretic treatment," and the only people who get printed are either their friends, those recommended by their friends, or MAYBE old-time Mythos "heavies." (I'm not bitching for any personal reason; they've printed things I've written. I just notice this trend and find it serves as a killjoy.)

They are also not uncomfortable with TAKING the ideas of others, writing fluff around them and calling it their own or putting their names on it together with the person that did the actual thinking and research, or just outright taking it and claiming it as their own! In my book, that's stealing. Yeah, I wrote this damned article - it was MY RESEARCH. I see it published in a book with Bob Price's name next to mine - and then my name altogether gone? Sure, I could SUE him. What would I get? Pennies? It's the point of it. This was my research - born of a LOVE of the stories and characters. I have the original research notes on the 2 Obeds typed and taped inside the cover of a very old book mythos book. It could probably be dated.

They have done the absolutely absurd: they've intertexted what Lovecraft wrote in personal letters, even as obvious jokes, with what he wrote as pure fantasy/fiction when he wrote his stories with the CLEAR INTENTION of suspending reality and NOT writing another dualist good/evil farce and NOT writing another Big Monster Spider tale with "Son of Monster Spider" "Wife of Monster Spider" and other such mundane ideas! Who the hell would even think of intertexting the "Life of Bram Stoker" with his Dracula story? Or Stoker's White Wyrm story? Did anyone ever think of intertexting the Dracula story with the White Wyrm story?

What's even worse is that they indulge profusely in selective reading, intertexting their own emotional desires into what Lovecraft actually wrote (now as any deconstructionist would explain, as we read a story we all write the story along with the author as we read - well, some of us do not do that and the trick is to at least KNOW if you ARE doing that)! Aside from that, they'll ignore text in a story, literally selectively reading it; or put text into a story that's not even there! They do not even stick to the intertexting of Lovecraft's letters with his fiction when they do that (which I think is absurd!).

One of the Council of Scholars decided that Hastur is the Yuggothian deity in Whisperer in Darkness, when the text says the complete opposite; but the Monks wanted it to be so, so they crunched/squeezed it into the Mythos. Lovecraft wanted no part of Hastur or people who wrote about it. I pointed this out 100 times through the years, through the decades! If someone gets the clue to mention it, will I even be given the credit for pointing it out? Dream on!

There are those of us in the Large Ocean (in diametric opposition to the Small Pond of the Monkish Order of Lovecraftianity) who know exactly what these fellows are doing! There are only a few of us who speak out openly, too few. When one of the Monks accused the Heretic Brian Lumley of inventing "stupid silly names for his secret books," Lumley really nailed him good by showing that the books he mentioned were titles of real books. When one of the Monks persecuted Lumley for "relying on the testimony of the insane Castro in CoC to base a tale on" Lumley finally told the person to take a flying fuck off Devil Reef (copy of letter, it was edited by Robert Price, I have unedited). And of course, there's me throwing darts at them like a good Diabolos. I pointed out that the testimony of LeGrasse, a white cop in the South in 1905 or circa 1930's was equally unreliable since Castro was a colored guy that allegedly murdered white people - the hearsay spoken by LeGrasse was tortured out of Castro! That went ignored, despite the fact that THIS IS FROM REAL LIFE! Why believe LeGrasse? HPL said the victims were descendents of LaFitte's men - they had something in common with each other. Police procedure would be to NOTICE that and find motive. So why believe LeGrasse? They choose which unreliable witness they want to believe - and trash anyone that believes another unreliable witness. Sheesh - and all this is used merely to spring forth a story supposed to be for entertainment!

Above all, these so-called "purists" are hateful people, obnoxious killjoys that sneer down on stories that they later admit they liked! It's hateful - and it has changed the entire face of the "Mythos fandom" over the years.

All or most of these Monks got into Lovecraft during puberty as sublimation, to "get away" from their own Christian-like backgrounds. The wife of one of the Mythos Scholars made a "casual study of this" and told me how it works. This is not the case for many others of us who read it as adults and found it to be like sci fi entertainment. Why Lovecraft? Many writers claim it is due to the idea of "man's irrelevance in the midst of cosmic infinity." I don't buy that. Even Star Trek can give a person that kind of atheistic idea. Who the hell thinks the Cosmos knows or "cares" that we exist? Such a "thinker" must be daft. Maybe, as another person mentioned, it has to do with the name: LOVE-craft - you know, "God is LOVE?" - the love of "out there, up there in fantasy land," the kind of love that is immune to the pain of rejection? Maybe it is that Lovecraft slightly resembles some particularly bad pictures of Jesus, especially with that austere, ascetic expression on his face in the photos of him shown on most book-covers. I tend to think it's because, real or not, and "real mythology" or not, the Old Ones and the Necronomicon are supposed to be the most EVIL EVIL EVIL thing out there; they are supposed to be the COSMIC EVIL that is so BAD that it makes the Satan myth seem like a tame joke! Ya don't want to conjure up a lame demon, oh no, that's wimpy. Go for one of the OLD ONES - be REALLY bad! Super sublimation. I think it's that! They love the eeevil cults, even if they like to play role playing games that entail "killing the monsters." Vicarious thrills. Join the Army - go fight REAL evil cults (whatever the Government tells you is bad)..... I wish they would!

I don't personally view the Old Ones or anything in the Mythos as evil, or good, or anything value-laden like that. I just don't think that way. Something being inimical to "man" is not evil: AIDS is inimical to man.  So are antibiotic resistant bacteria. So are nuclear bombs. Man MADE those. Heh. Perhaps man is inimical to man? Definitely.

The same types of what I think are sublimators tend to be into the "D" portion of Webster's Dictionary: Degraded, Devolved, Depraved, Degenerate, Deplorable, Demonic, Diabolic, Destructive Demented, Decadent, Deteriorated, Debauched, etc., ad nauseum, as if there isn't enough of this in real life in real society. They are attracted only to the ugliness, which they perceive as "DARK and evil." Social rot, perhaps. But it has nothing to do with the Dark or Darkness which is quiet and soft and lacking in blare and glare and raucous noise! Such people that get into this kind of thing, as well as other such things like ugly imagery, are usually abuse victims of some kind and one would think that such people would want to escape the ugliness and find something beautiful instead. Not the case. They are conditioned. They run from ugliness by looking for more and they tend to trash anything and anyone that can put a SMILE on a face or write something alien and beautiful, and scary in another kind of very outre way. Scary doesn't always come in ugly packages, nor is it always big in size. Often scary and truly horrific comes in a very luring package, very tempting! What is more terrifying? A monster chasing you? Or a monster that can make you come to it all the while you're inwardly trying to scream and flee, make you see it as beautiful while you keep getting glimpses of how utterly alien and mind-blasting it is, and then eat you as you lay there and passively enjoy it - again, soul-screaming inwardly and unable to resist? Heh.

Lumley may have ideas that I personally dismiss; and I find his good/evil dualism and mile high monsters as way "over the top"; (why, that beats that 700 foot Jesus....) but his novel The Burrowers Beneath put smiles on about 10 million or more faces, the readers that enjoyed the tale. It was very entertaining. The purpose of fiction is to entertain. I liked the tale and the rest of what came from that one tale he wrote. Pure entertainment.

These new "purists" (who aren't pure at all and who don't read very well at all) are all considered "Disciples of Dirk Mosig," but Phil Marsh knew Dirk (not as a disciple, far from it) and he was nothing like these guys. However, Dirk was a man a bit weak in the realm of 20th Century scientific knowledge, who went from Christianity, to Moslem, to Sufi, right into B. F. Skinner and then Lovecraft. Then he continued the pattern and abruptly rid himself of everything Lovecraftian he had! He called himself an atheist, but we innately non-religious types saw in him: RELIGION. Mosig wanted the Old Ones to be "impersonal forces," but how can a force be impersonal OR personal? How can you chant words to a force and banish it? How can a force arrive on earth from somewhere else in space? He forced the Old Ones into that role by selectively reading text.

What is religion? Well, in the West it involves having a male idol, usually a celibate or ascetic who shuns The Female (that includes Eros as in Love and Beauty) in everything because he lacks it within himself. Then it involves making yourself incredibly stupid with the illusion that you are "very clever." It involves reading and re-reading, over and over, the same text, almost the way a man might focus/obsess on a sexual fantasy, over and over again. Then you proceed to beat an obvious point to death and read selectively. If anyone points out that it can be viewed another way, or the opposite way, defensive walls go up and that person pointing this out is immediately trashed as nuts, or other vile names. It naturally involves taking your New Prophet's word on every single thing he ever said. Hence, when S. T. Joshi discovered that Lovecraft told a lie about his father, he was shocked. HUH? OH, did he think that Lovecraft never lied? This is amazing. It's funny!

Am I beating a point to death here? Hell no. This is only one measly page worth of critique about what happened in this genre.

What is definitely not to be further isolated is the MYTHOS ITSELF as it stands with ALL of the intertexting with fanzines and varying points of view. It's almost a bonafide religion since the followers of this or that writer have formed cliques that defend "their religion" adamantly: as adamantly and often as viciously as people in organized religion. But that is a large ocean, full of life lapping at the doors of the Monks that would keep it at bay. The ones swimming in the large ocean simply enjoy the tales as pure entertainment.

Watch out boys: the mongrel hordes are HERE and this one's got a typewriter! (Update - and a website!)

This article in part appeared in the book,The Horror of it All "Obed and Obediah Marsh," as by myself and Robert Price. I was a bit miffed about that. The research was mine, I liked Derleth (Robert Price hated Derleth and never noticed the details) and I liked the tales and paid close attention to detail in the tales. I noticed the discrepancy and gave Dr. Price a very short outline of the discrepant facts which I had glued to my copy of Mask of Cthulhu since first reading it in 1972. He never let me give him, or asked me for, the entire article but, instead, wrote one himself using my facts and put his name on it with mine. Uh uh. No go. This was my research and it was noticed due to my LOVING these tales.


Return to menu