“The Thing on the Doorstep”

The Lovecraft series continues. I actually looked at this story already for my World War One in Fantastic Fiction series.

Raw Feed (2005, 2015): “The Thing on the Doorstep“, H. P. Lovecraft, 1933.Dunwich Horror and Others

I had read this 1933 story before but forgot it’s something a bit odd for Lovecraft: almost a direct sequel to his “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” since it involves an unwholesome, pithican native of Innsmouth marrying the hapless Edward Derby.

She undertakes a sorcerous displacement, bodyswitching with her husband (I wonder if Tim Powers, a Lovecraft fan, picked up this characteristic motif of bodyswitching from an earlier exposure to this story.) Bodyswitching also goes on in Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

Derby can’t resist and knows his ultimate faith is for the switch to be permanent. He also can’t fight it at first. Eventually, though, he finds a way and kills his wife Asenath — who is really possessed by the spirit of her “dead” father who switched bodies with Asenath because women can’t be sorcerers.

Derby’s consciousness survives the death of Asenath’s body, and the disintegrating corpse shows up on the narrator’s doorstep.

This story does have the second best opening, next to his “The Call of Cthulhu“, of any Lovecraft story:

It is true that I have sent six bullets through the head of my best friend, and yet I hope to shew by this statement that I am not his murderer.

Ten years later I read the story again.

That time I was struck by all the interstices (those trips Derby and Asenath take or the rites he breathlessly tells the narrator about) that further tales could be fit into

However, the ending does go on too long.

Lovecraft spends too much time detailing all the bodyswitching just to set up the final scene of a liquescent Derby.


More reviews of Lovecraft are indexed on the Lovecraft page.

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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