Epeolatry Book Review: The Dagon Collection, ed. Nate Pedersen


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Title: The Dagon Collection
Author: Various, ed. Nate Pedersen
Genre: Horror Anthology, Literature
Publisher: PS Publishing
Publication Date: 1st January, 2024

Synopsis: The Dagon Collection is a companion book to “The Starry Wisdom Library. Once again, the new anthology is presented as a fake auction catalogue, however this time it is 1929, shortly after the events in “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” The feds have just raided the Esoteric Order of Dagon Lodge. Now they’ve contracted with Pent & Serenade, Occult Auctioneers, to sell the items secured in the raid.

The Dagon Collection has such a good premise that it’s surprising no one has written it before. The book purports to be a catalogue for an auction held in 1929 of items seized by the US government during its raid on Innsmouth. This allows editor Nate Pedersen and his shoal of contributors to range more widely in the type of artefact under the hammer than in his last exercise in the same vein, The Starry Wisdom Library. The catalogue features arms and weapons, jewelry, artworks, antique curios, and of course, nautical memorabilia as well as books and manuscripts. Clearly the Esoteric Order of Dagon had deep cellars and bulging attics.

The entire book is decked out with great tongue-in-cheek fidelity as a period auction catalogue. Andrew Leman and the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society contributed a 1920s period design to their usual impeccable standard. Rebecca Baumann of the University of Indiana provided a plausible catalogue format. Liv Rainey-Smith and Eduardo Valdes-Hevia contributed illustrations. The author credits are couched in the form of fake scholarly pedigrees. The production quality at least should secure it some longevity as a collector’s piece.

It’s a shame then that the joke falls a little flat, although perhaps that’s by unfair comparison with its brilliant predecessor, The Starry Wisdom Library. The problem lies with certain stories/catalogue entries. Some have only the most peripheral connection to Innsmouth or anything aquatic, although this disjuncture is more jarring at certain times than others. The pedigree of the Fox Mask Stirrup Cup by Thomas Savage, for instance, seems to fit field sports rather than fishing, but the French Panoramic Scroll from a Production of La Chrysopée des Sirènes seems even more out of place, and time. Nadia Bulkin’s Indonesian Statue of Unknown Deity is at least closer to the kind of colonialist narrative that crops up in the Marsh clan’s relation to the Kanakys, and Polynesian Tapa Cloth “Arrases” . Jeffrey John Wells’s Cthäat Aquadingen and Robert M. Price’s Zanthu Tablets do cleave close to what the more gaming-oriented readers will be wanting – a crib and inspiration for canonical Mythos grimoires. Livia Llewellyn’s Tiffany Lamp manages to be as faithful to the premise, and as unsettlingly erotic, as her contribution to The Starry Wisdom Library. But not all work so well.

That is quite surprising considering that sequels and tributes to Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth” have been so numerous, and meretricious, that they have practically formed a sub-Mythos of their own. I’m surprised that any modern cosmic horror writer should find their inspiration running dry – to coin a phrase – on this theme. Ruthanna Emyrs practically created a sub-Mythos of her own with her delightful, poignant Innsmouth Legacy series, recounting the experiences of the living relics of the Innsmouth Raid. Caitlin R. Kiernan, meanwhile, produced some of  her most dazzling virtuoso exercises with a marine Mythos inspiration. Nick Mamatas manages something close to this with his subversive and on-brand Fischbuch, as does Gemma Files with her “Mister Deep” diving suit, but other contributors seem content just to plough their own furrows. And if this is going to be a collection of more or less unconnected Lovecraftian bibliographical jests, with no particular common theme, why not leave it at that, instead of floating it under the Innsmouth banner?

The book does include one of the last stories from the much-lamented Joseph S. Pulver Sr., in the shape (literally) of the scrimshaw carving “Dagon’s Lighthouse”, with a model which is crying out for a future 3D print template or spinoff gift piece as a last memorial to that great talent. But that’s one of the high points – no pun intended. It’s a good wheeze, but one that could have been much better.


Available from Amazon.

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