"The Moon Pool" Re-Read: Part One


Back in June I wrote a post commemorating the centennial of the first publication of A. Merritt's landmark novelette, "The Moon Pool." Then, in the fall of 2018, I decided that an in-depth reread of that tale was fully justified and necessary. However, there's this thing called "real life." That, plus the need to write DMR blog entries that I also considered crucial, led to there being no such reread in 2018. Now, however, the centennial of the All-Story publication of "The Conquest of the Moon Pool" looms on the horizon. It seemed to me that a reread of the original novelette which spawned it would make an excellent lead-up to this new Merritt centennial.

Some of the reasons which impelled me to do a deep analysis of "The Moon Pool" are the same ones that kept me from actually pulling the trigger until now. Once you step away slightly from the gripping, haunting story and look for influences upon later writers, it can get pretty revelatory. We know that Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith thought very highly of the original version of "The Moon Pool." I also believe that Robert E. Howard had probably read some version of it by 1930.

That is to say nothing of the fact that "The Moon Pool" and its sequel were very likely the final impetus which pushed James Churchward to concoct his "Mu" hypothesis/fable/whatever. Considering the influence of the Mu concept upon the fantasy fiction of HPL, CAS, REH and others, that's a massive secondary influence right there.

In other words, diving deep into "The Moon Pool" is a daunting task.

Before I begin, I'd like to give a shout-out to a blogger who goes by the moniker of "Temple Talysman." In a blog post from seven years ago--which I just stumbled upon the other day--he iterates some of the conclusions I came to independently over the last year. He spotted a couple of things I'd missed up to this point. I also believe I've spotted plenty more that he didn't, but total props to the guy.

So, let's be about it, shall we?

Right off the bat, we see a difference between the original novelette and the novel version of "The Moon Pool." Both versions start with an introductory letter "To the Editor of All-Story Magazine." Here's how the original starts:

The International Association of Science has directed me to place before you the following narrative with the view, if you are agreeable, of publication as soon as possible. Because of your extraordinarily large circulation and its diffusion not only throughout the United States, but throughout the reading world, it was felt that yours was the ideal medium to bring the facts before the greatest audience and so enable the association to right a wrong which, but for Dr. Goodwin’s very understandable and perhaps entirely human hesitation, would never have gained headway.

Here is the first part of the later novelized version of the same thing:

The publication of the following narrative of Dr. Walter T. Goodwin has been authorized by the Executive Council of the International Association of Science.


“To end officially what is beginning to be called the Throckmartin Mystery and to kill the innuendo and scandalous suspicions which have threatened to stain the reputations of Dr. David Throckmartin, his youthful wife, and equally youthful associate Dr. Charles Stanton ever since a tardy despatch from Melbourne, Australia, reported the disappearance of the first from a ship sailing to that port, and the subsequent reports of the disappearance of his wife and associate from the camp of their expedition in the Caroline Islands.

In order to make the fix-up version of The Moon Pool flow better as a novel, Merritt had to make some revisions and change some events. We'll look at that as well as a probable influence on Lovecraft in my next reread.