“The Electric Executioner” (1930)

Creators

H. P. Lovecraft (writer), Adolphe de Castro (writer).

Extent

Read in 2018.

Subject

A mad engineer at a Mexican mine invents a novel apparatus for electrocution:

I realised, as no one else has yet realised, how imperative it is to remove everybody from the earth before Quetzalcoatl comes back, and realised also that it must be done elegantly.

Commentary

The private rail car, although it is not the main setting, evokes the era beautifully. I love the note that it has a mechanical pencil sharpener; it’s probably not the most extravagant car on the tracks. There is also definite potential in the premise of a Fred A. Leuchter figure who worships “Cthulhutl” and plans global euthanasia by some vaguely capitalist means, but that potential is wasted. There is an internal contradiction in the protagonist: he is enterprising enough to put off his own wedding and track a dangerous criminal in another country, and he goes around armed and alone throughout, but when he sees a tall madman sitting down, he turns to mush. His stalling tactics are bathetic and the madman’s incoherent ranting is some of Lovecraft’s worst Yog-Sothothery, interesting only in how it sucks the Aztecs into his mythscape, perhaps a little better than in “The Curse of Yig” (1929).

References here: The Stranger (1942).

fiction text