Monday, November 26, 2001
Today I did not make any notes for Low Red Moon, but I did spend hours and hours searching for Innsmouth Harbour. That ought to count for something. This all ties into that story I'm trying to find the ending for. I'd hoped that it would be no more than about 6,000 words, but now it's looking like nine or ten instead. At any rate, proceeding from the belief that HPL did have an actual locale in mind when he conceived of Innsmouth, and following his description in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," as well the speculations of S.T. Joshi and others, I have narrowed it down to a short stretch of Massachusetts coastline south of Plum Island and west of Cape Anne.
Lovecraft indicates that the narrator's bus, after leaving Newburyport, is traveling southeast, following the coast. HPL writes: "Out the window I could see the blue water and the sandy line of Plum Island, and we presently drew very near the beach as our narrow road veered off from the main highway to Rowley and Ipswich." This definitely indicates that the direction of travel is, in fact, southeast. A little father along, "At last we lost sight of Plum Island and saw the vast expanse of the open Atlantic on our left." At this point the road on which the bus is traveling begins to climb to higher ground; at the crest of the rise, the passengers ". . .beheld the outspread valley beyond, where the Manuxet joins the sea just north of the long line of cliffs that culminate in Kingsport Head [another HPL invention] and veer off towards Cape Ann. . . . but for a moment all my attention was captured by the nearer panorama just below me. I had, I realised, come face to face with rumour-shadowed Innsmouth." The narrator must, at this point, be looking to the east or southeast.
For me, the key is finding the Manuxet River. Of course, there really is no Manuxet River, per se - it's yet another of HPL's geographical fictions, but there are many rivers between Plum Island and Cape Ann, winding, swampy things that eventually empty into Plum Island Sound or Ipswich Bay. The river closest to Plum Island (and the bus doesn't seem to travel very far from the point where the narrator loses sight of the island before reaching the crest of the hill from which Innsmouth is visible) is the Ipswich River. A little farther on, there's the Castle Neck River. It's the mouth of this river that I'm favoring at the moment as the location of Innsmouth, based on HPL's statement that the Manuxet ". . . turned southward to join the ocean at the breakwater's end." Now, as the sea lies to the north, most of the rivers along this part of the coast do not make southerly turns, but flow north and east to the Atlantic. Notably, the Castle Neck River does have a distinct southeast kink just as it enters the estuary at the northwest end of Ipswich Bay.
Of course, HPL obviously took considerable liberties with the local geography, and I suspect that he may have also shortened the distance between Cape Ann and Plum Island in his head, recalling some excursion or another and compressing or expanding distance as we all tend to do. So, blah, blah, blah, and in my story at least, Innsmouth Harbor is at the mouth of the Castle Neck River (i.e., the Manuxet). And that should give you some idea how my day went.
And speaking of Massachusetts, I just heard on CNN that the first human cloning has been successfuly performed there. I'm not inherently opposed to the idea of cloning humans (or anything else), but I have to question the need for any technology that produces more of us. Making babies is about the only thing for which our species seems to display a more or less universal talent. We hardly need any help.
Maybe tomorrow I'll actually get around to at least talking about the novel. Don't hold your breath, though. You'll wind up dead and I'll feel duty bound to feel responsible.