TNB Night Owl – Gifts Of Death

Plush Cthulhu, Photo by Daniele Pieroni

What type of gift do you get for a friend? If you’re an author, you might write them into a story. It’s a common practice, known as Tuckerization, where an author names a minor character or product after someone they know. I’ve been Tuckerized myself, as a person in an Elizabeth Hand novel.

What is not typical is to make your friend a main character in a story… and then kill them. If the friendship is not particularly strong, it may come off as a bit passive-aggressive.

Nevertheless, this is what was done by a fledgling author in 1935. Living in Wisconsin, the high school student sent a letter to a prominent writer whose works he admired, H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft, a great fan of letter-writing, answered. A correspondence started, and Lovecraft encouraged the young man to join a group of other authors who were writing strange fiction and sending mail.

At the time Lovecraft was a not especially prominent author whose work was effectively confined to one pulp magazine, Weird Tales. His creations of Cthulhu and the Necronomicon, which would eventually become minor cultural touchstones, were virtually unknown. Perhaps if Lovecraft had been more famous at the time, the teenager would have been less inclined to very thinly disguise the older author as the Rhode Island mystic who befriends the narrator in “The Shambler from the Stars” and is subsequently drained of blood by an invisible vampiric alien.

It could have had a chilling effect on the budding friendship, but the story was recognized for its intent: an appreciative homage to the man who’d helped get a teenager started as a professional writer. Lovecraft proved he understood by quickly writing a story, published a few months later, in which the protagonist, “Robert Blake”, is killed by a creature that can only travel in darkness.

“Robert Blake” was an obvious representation of Robert Bloch, the teen who’d written the story… and who, decades later, would become another of the most prominent writers of the 20th century with his novel Psycho, adapted into the Hitchcock classic of the same title.

Question of the night: Have you known anyone famous before they rose to their greatest prominence?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.