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Literature / The Innsmouth Legacy

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The Litany of Earth.
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The Innsmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys is a Deconstruction of and sequel to The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H. P. Lovecraft. The premise is the Deep Ones of Innsmouth, Massachusetts were actually a deeply spiritual and peaceful people rather than the depraved cultists in the novella. Aphra Marsh is one of the two surviving Deep One hybrids from the original Innsmouth Raid, having spent her formative years in United States concentration camps (that would eventually be used for the internment of Japanese citizens during WW2). Understandably bitter about her experience, she's become assistant to an occult bookstore owner in San Fransisco and lives there with a Japanese family.

FBI Agent Ron Spector approaches her one day and reveals the US government has "changed" and wants her help in dealing with supernatural threats. Nonplussed by the audacity of the request, she is soon persuaded due to the number of people put in danger by tampering with forces they do not understand. While the Cthulhu Mythos is Lighter and Softer here, it is not exactly "safe" either.

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Books in the series include:

  • The Litany of Earth (novella, 2014)
  • Winter Tide (2017)
  • ''Deep Roots' (2018)

The ''Litany of Earth'' is available for free from Tor's website.


This series contains the following tropes:

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     Series 
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Resoundingly averted with the Deep Ones and other species shown to be alien but not evil.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Professor Trumball had a relationship with a (probable) woman in a Yith's body while they were both in the future. She also had a very close relationship with her maid that she was upset had been severed by the Yith. There are other hints too. Justified by the time period.
  • Anti-Nihilist: Aphra's entire religion is based around this as it has the view eventually even the Deep Ones will die out and become extinct. However, you should treasure what time you have on the Earth as well as the fact your race will be remembered by the Yith.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Aphra's gods are depicted as having a cold but beautiful view of the world. The Yithians zig-zag over this trope with Aphra considering them to have this but sometimes challenged that they may simply be evil (since they are going to commit genocide against future inhabitants of Earth to survive their own apocalypse).
  • Broad Strokes: To H.P. Lovecraft's writing. In addition to the obvious change that the Deep Ones weren't Always Chaotic Evil, the Elder Things and Yithians seem to have been combined into one species.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: A major part of the series is how the Cthulhu Mythos isn't evil.
  • Deconstruction: This is one for the overtly xenophobic elements of H.P. Lovecraft's stories. Essentially, it moves the stories from the realm of horror to more explicitly sci-fi.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Done throughout the story with the Deep Ones' treatment deliberately invoking that of the Japanese during WW2 both in-universe and out.
    • The accusations of Human Sacrifice and other evil practices are called "blood libel" several times by characters.
  • Fantastic Racism: More or less the Deconstruction and Reconstruction of the trope is the point of the book.
"There are two ways to write fantastic oppression. One uses the imagined oppression to stand in for real experiences. You can tell powerful stories that way, but it can also make the real thing invisible, or twist the truth in strange ways. I love the X-Men, but if someone can kill you by accidentally dropping their glasses, it actually does have different legal and societal implications than if they’re gay or Jewish. My single favorite moment in X-Men is a confrontation between Magneto and Kitty Pryde, both Jewish, that engages with the intersection of real and imagined oppression. It lets the imagined one have its own nature rather than trying to stand in for something else. That’s what I’m interested in doing with Aphra’s stories. What looks the same about hatred or internment, no matter who and what you are? What changes when there’s real magic involved? What happens when you get Jews and Nikkei and Deep Ones together in a room after World War II—what do they have in common, what’s different, what can they learn from that parallax?"
Ruthanna Emrys
  • Insistent Terminology: Aphra never stops correcting people that Deep Ones are also human, just a branch of it, unlike Yithians or other race.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Cthulhu Mythos is portrayed this way with the majority of monsters just being reasonable and sympathetic aliens. They may have Blue and Orange Morality but doesn't make them malevolent. Human evils, by contrast, are treated exactly the way they would be normally with no attempt at sympathy.
  • Lovecraft Lite: The Deep Ones are a noble culture that, if not pacifistic, then at least no danger to surfacers.
  • Perspective Flip: This is the view of the Mythos from the perspective of the Deep Ones.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Ron Spector for coming to a victim of internment and genocide in order to get their help against the supernatural.
  • Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": All of the inhabitants of Innsmouth, Massachusetts died either during arrest or in the camps save two. Despite this, the majority of characters tapdance around what the United States did.

     The Litany of Earth 
  • Artistic License – Religion: Aphra is appalled by all the liberties which the Aeonist cult has taken with her people's religion. She also notes that it has convinced people to swim out into the ocean to achieve immortality, missing that only applies to Deep Ones and the majority of people who do it will just drown.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: More like FBI Good, US military bad. Ron Spector is a decent, honorable, and enlightened man for his time. However, he's a figure that still represents the authorities which ruined Aphra's life.
  • Cult: Aphra encounters one of these devoted to Cthulhu and immortality. She is appalled by their misinterpretation of Aeonist beliefs and cultural appropriation.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In this case, the Aeonist cult is very much like many New Age religious cults that take the religious beliefs of marginalized communities then repackage them.
  • New Age: The Aeonist cult is a post-WW1 religious group that is adapting Deep One beliefs into a religion for humans.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Aphra struggles to hold back her opinion on the Aeonist cult that more or less amounts to this.
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     Winter Tide 
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Caleb fulfills this role for Aphra. His confrontational angry personality contrasts strongly against Aphra's more sedate one.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: As frequent in this series, the treatment of Miskatonic University of the Innsmouth books and records resembles museums and academic institutions taking artifacts from cultures that they refuse to return. All in the name of "preserving historical relics."
  • Evil Counterpart: Barlow and his team are depicted as these to Spector's Irregulars. They are Fantastic Racist practicing Science Hero types who ignore all the religious elements of Aphra's advice.
  • I Want Grandkids: Aphra is nonplussed that all the Elders want her to breed as quickly as possible.
  • Kick the Dog: The Yith possessed Trumball removes Mary's ability to read as punishment for her attempting a too-powerful summoning.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Professor Trumball serves as this as long as she's possessed by one of the Yith. She gets much better once that's no longer the case.

     Deep Roots 
  • Asexual: Aphra Marsh is speculated to be this and it reflects her interior thoughts. She only thinks about sex and romance in terms of reproduction.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Deconstructed as Aphra treats the Mi-Go as having this when they actually have a morality very similar to the Federation from Star Trek.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Aphra intends to breed with Frank, much to his surprise and irritation since they don't really like each other.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Could be the situation with Audrey and Aphra as she's implied to have no interest in sex.
  • Mythology Gag: Aphra's final speech is a parody of H.P. Lovecraft's The Horror at Red Hook where she looks at New York as a beautiful celebration of humanity using the same reasons as for why the writer treated it as a Wretched Hive.
  • Perspective Flip: Aphra gets one of these when she's confronted by the Mi-Go about a lot of her cultural preconceptions about space travel, the Yithians, and the importance of the body.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Mi-Go are willing to use their mind-control powers to try to take over the world—to prevent humans from destroying themselves.


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