Lovecraft, the author who puts the Xeno in xenophobia, wasn't always a master wordsmith who made readers flinch in fear with his eldritch hentai horrors. While the early 20th-century author seriously started publishing in his 30s, Lovecraft had been a precocious little writer since the age of seven, writing both poetry and scary short stories. And his first big break came when The Alchemist, a twisted Gothic horror tale titled he had written at the tender age of seventeen, was published in a magazine called United Amateur.
Equal parts Lovecraft Country Arkham and Batman Arkham, The Alchemist revolves around a lone Gothic nobleman, Count Antoinne de C, whose parents died at a young age leaving him to be raised by his stalwart butler. As his 30-second birthday draws near, he is reminded of his terrible family curse: 600 years ago, his ancestor slew a dark wizard unaware that this foe had a little wizardling of his own. Using every bit of his family's occult magic, this son cursed Count Antoinne's family for an eternity so that each one would die mysteriously around the age of 32.
And what was the name of this vile necromancer, this ur-Lovecraftian fiend who could rob the life-essence of countless generations? None other than the ominous, portentous … Charles le Sorcier? Seriously? The man who created an entire mythic universe filled with incomprehensible eldritch gods from Cthulhu to Zstylzhemghi couldn't think of anything more otherworldly sinister than a dude called Chuck the Sorcerer -- a name that sounds like a bad first draft of a level 1 D&D wizard from the magical school of DeVry?
But like any good Lovecraft story, there is a twist: Charles le Sorcier isn't even a sorcerer! As Count Antoinne de C (and I'm just going to assume that C's short for "comte") explores the ruins of his familial keep, he stumbles upon a strange man chittering around in the darkness. The feeble hermit launches himself at Antoine but is dispatched with ease. With his last breath, the dying madman reveals that he is none other than Chucky S. Instead of actually cursing the de C family with his shitty magic, he chugged his dad's (who is named Michel Mauvais, by the way, or "Mitch the Baddie") potion of eternal life. Since then, he has spent half a millennium hiding in the basement, popping out every few decades when his birthday calendar told him it was time to stab another generation before they hit their midlife crisis.
The socially maladapted basement troll isn't the only thing about Lovecraft's writing that is celestial leagues away from his eventual eldritch mastery. Without the years of refinement, Teen Howie Philips' moody storytelling comes across as more edgy than eldritch, more purple prose than Yellow King, with adjective-laden sentences that run on for so long you'd think they're hanging around to kill the next generation of readers before they turn 32. What's strange isn't that Lovecraft was a crappy writer at the age of 17 -- crack open any random teen's hidden notepad, and you'll find much worse -- or even that it was deemed good enough to be turned into a comic book in the late '90s when everything Lovecraft was hot. It's that he was a much better one at 13. A later published short story titled The Beast in the Cave, which Lovecraft had written when he was much younger, is a genuinely disturbing and gripping tale about forgotten darkness. Which just shows that when it comes to writing far out occult horror, teen hormones and Hziulquoigmnzhah don't mix.
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