PYM by Mat Johnson is not the first novel to be directly inspired by the challenge of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and it’s enigmatic ending. In the 173 years since its first publication, some of literature’s most familiar names (and some less so) have attempted to pick up the gauntlet that Edgar Allan Poe threw down with The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym’s mysterious finale.
Here, in chronological order, is the source novel and a list of those of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym offspring that are now available for free digital download at your eBook site or Project Gutenberg:
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, Edgar Allan Poe’s sole novel. As Lewis Gaylord Clark reviewed in The Knickerbocker upon the book's publication: "told in a loose and slip-shod style, seldom chequered by any of the more common graces of composition”…“This work is one of much interest, with all its defects, not the least of which is that it is too liberally stuffed with 'horrid circumstances of blood and battle."
The most famous direct offspring of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, which several scholars have noted was most likely inspired by Poe’s novel as well as Poe’s short stories, particularly "MS. Found in a Bottle" and "The Fall of the House of Usher."
An Antarctic Mystery (French: Le Sphinx des glaces, or The Sphinx of the Ice Fields) by Jules Verne is the most pragmatic and literal sequel to The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and also the worst sequel. This is probably not a coincidence. Still, even a failed book is enjoyable on an occasional page. Come for the novelty, stay for the unbridled racism.
For a writer that no one’s ever heard of and a novel that barely survived past its publication date, A Strange Discovery by Charles Romyen Dake is actually one of the more readable of the early Pym response novels. It has humor, it has philosophy, it has grace. Unfortunately for Drake, it also had the bad luck of being published as the famous Jules Verne’s An Antarctic Mystery translations were flooding into the English speaking world. Oh well. Charles Drake never published another novel.
Flying directly into the gothic darkness of Poe’s work, H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness yells the call of “Tekeli-li” into the 20th Century. While inspired primarily by The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, the work extends beyond its source in its own idiosyncratic directions. Diving into the depths of Antarctica, Lovecraft’s protagonists find the remains of the monstrous Elder Things and are pushed to the limits of sanity. Read if you dare, but watch out for the six-foot tall blind penguins.