Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ranking the H. P. Lovecraft stories

Like some contemptible illiterate seeking out the novel that was made into that film they like, my interest in Lovecraft's oeuvre has been rekindled by reading Alan Moore's dense comic mash-up Providence. I know: comics! Did I first come across Lovecraft when researching the American horror canon, or was it bloody Metallica? You got me. I hope the original stories have pictures too so I don't get lost.

Each of the early Providence issues adapted one well-known work, so even the casual Lovecraft reader could feel smugly satisfied that they got the references. But then the nonsensical panels build up and you read online annotations by people who really know their Mythos, pointing out how Moore's taking a sly swipe at that bit of criticism you've never heard of in a subtle gag that's not meant for you, and you feel like an idiot.

So I figured, later rather than sooner, I should swot up on the basics at least. And why not trivialise this literary enrichment by making a list while I'm at it? This exercise has also been useful for building my mental library of terror tales, so that if I do have a child, I can scare the shit out of them on demand and make them weird. "No mummy, I don't want to go in the ocean! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!"

Here's my unreliable, definitive guide to The Top 104 H. P. Lovecraft Stories. According to my variable moods over the past month, anyway.

Occasionally misleading key:

Cthulhu Mythos
Dream Cycle

104. The Mystery of the Grave-Yard, or "A Dead Man's Revenge" A Detective Story (1898)

Young Lovecraft would have only been seven or eight when he wrote this, but now he's showing off with chapters (albeit extremely brief), footnotes (superfluous), a multitude of characters and a smattering of olde englishe (until he gets bored of it), he's crossed the line from adorable to tedious. I hit the same spot around Doctor Disguise Book 5 (1992).

103. The Mysterious Ship (1902)

That title promises undiscovered classic Lovecraft, but a look at the date and a little maths reveals that this is obscure for a reason. Young Howard was on the cusp of adolescence when he wrote this tale of sneaky submarine shanghaiing, and while his English teacher would be right to award it an A, the fact that people are still seeking it out 115 years later isn't down to its inherent merits.

102. The Secret Cave, or John Lees adventure (1898)

Lil' Lovecraft's second surviving story from when he was seven or eight years old, and things have already got worryingly dark.

I remember how disappointed my Nana was when I read her my story in which Captain David shoots the Loch Ness Monster with his heat vision and it dies. She made me change it to "got poorly." I wonder how she would have reacted if I'd written a story about my sister drowning in a subterranean cavern and me fishing out her lifeless body. Try blaming TV and video games for this one.

101. The Green Meadow (1919, with Winifred V. Jackson)

I left the collaborations until last, because I wasn't originally going to bother with them (who has that much time on their hands?). I'm regretting it already. I almost can't believe I'm placing this story by 29-year-old Lovecraft below one he wrote when he was seven, but there you are.

It's a transcript or elaboration on his friend's dream, and while H.P. doesn't shy from contributing his own detailed astronomical knowledge (assuming those bits weren't in the dream), he doesn't bother to add anything resembling a plot or point.

100. The Little Glass Bottle (1897)

The oldest surviving of young Howard's juvenilia prefigures some of his most famous themes... if you're prepared to stretch. A mystery lies waiting in the depths, a strange document points the way, and its pursuers come to regret their curiosity.

In this case it's a treasure map, but it's still a fun little story. The twist caught me off guard, so I'm going to assume he stole it, as child authors habitually do. Otherwise I've been outsmarted by a seven-year-old.

Image: HPLovecraft.com

99. A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson (1917)

After the success of 'Dagon,' his first published horror tale, Lovecraft could have ploughed that furrow further and developed a lasting mythology that would outlive him and still enamour readers and roleplay fans today. Or he could try his hand at light-hearted literary parodies before someone or something convinced him to focus on his strengths.

There isn't really anything to recommend about this one, beyond it being a decidedly non-Lovecraftian curiosity. There's still a glimmer of the supernatural about it in the narrator's longevity, he can't help himself.

98. Sweet Ermengarde (1917)

Supposedly no one really knows when this was written, but I'm happy to take the 1917 date to get all the non-Weird weirdness out of the way early. (Update: Foolish optimism!)

Uniquely, there's no whiff of the paranormal at all in this parody of the romantic caper, but neither is there any sign that Lovecraft was a loss to this genre beyond some nice but obvious gags.

Let's get back into the pit.

97. Ibid (1928)

An unexpected return to parody after a decade of fantastical tales, you may notice that absolutely everything he wrote in those intervening years (and after) ranks more highly.

Comedy isn't his strongest suit, and this reads more like an attempted witty contribution to a student magazine than something that deserves to take up a couple of pages between 'The Colour Out of Space' and 'The Dunwich Horror' in a masochistically comprehensive chronological collection.

96. Old Bugs (1919)

Another unexpected wandering from the gloomy path, this time into mawkish moralising. In other Lovecraft stories, I'm happy to forget about the author and take the racism and other unpleasantness spewing out of the narrator as character traits, but it feels off to read pro-Prohibition propaganda from an outsider artist.

95. The Beast in the Cave (1905)

Even the comprehensive e-book collections don't typically include this story, written when Lovecraft was 14 or 15, but it's the first in his chronology that wouldn't look out of place, if overly simplistic. I don't need to describe what it's about, it's in the title.

I don't know which writers were his favourites back then, but this feels derivative of Victorian horror in general. Okay, its final two-word twist is only going to blow your mind if you're about the same age as the author, but what did you write as a teenager that holds up today? I'm reading these in chronological order, and it's possible that some of his adult works might not even live up to this early mood piece. (Update: How embarrassing).

94. The Alchemist (1908)

The last of Lovecraft's juvenilia was also the last fiction he'd write (that we're aware of) for almost a decade. A shame, because as generic and frankly boring as this is, his singular style is starting to come together. The lonely castle setting is so similar to 'The Outsider,' I thought we were heading for the same famous reveal when a ghoulish stranger showed up. But nah, it was just some wizard bloke.

I'm expecting this list to become less broadly chronological now, and for there to be a firm divide between these formative six and his proper career where my Complete Works of HP Lovecraft.epub comes in. If any gaps appear in this yellow block, that means something went seriously wrong. (Update: Sure did!)

93. Ashes (1923, with C. M. Eddy, Jr.)

It's not clear how much of the four Eddy revisions Lovecraft actually wrote, but considering this has none of his usual finesse ("her face had gone as white as the apron she wore"), he probably didn't think very highly of this generic mad scientist tale. The worst/best part is when the narrator witnesses the pointless murder of a rabbit and promptly proceeds to sexually assault a colleague.

92. Deaf, Dumb, and Blind (1924, with C. M. Eddy, Jr.)

Probably not the worst of Eddy's stories revised by Lovecraft, but the most forgettable. Even though it's quite short, it still succeeds in making the reader bored and impatient as it builds towards the reveal of a manuscript that doesn't end up telling us very much either.

91. The Horror in the Burying-Ground (1935, with Hazel Heald)

The final collaboration between H. P. & H. H. is the most conventional with its shuttered rural setting, but it's also probably the worst of the five (which is saying something).

Relating this tale of nefarious embalming through an old local "half-wit" adds the sort of ambiguity I'd normally appreciate, but it also means we're subjected to an overload of Lovecraft's unendearing yokel dialogue.

90. Winged Death (1933, with Hazel Heald)

We open on a mysterious death in South Africa. Oh dear, this is going to be really racist, isn't it? You might be able to console yourself that the narrator's dismissive, proprietal treatment of his servants and liberal dropping of n-bombs is intended to enhance his vileness. I wasn't able to.

I can at least safely assume that the terrible story beneath all that wasn't Lovecraft's fault. He's out of his element when he dabbles in medicine and biology, and his attempts to legitimise this tale of insectoid soul transference are feeble. He doesn't even awkwardly shoehorn the Necronomicon or Shub-Niggurath into this one like he did the rest of the time, so he can't have been very proud of it.

89. The Slaying of the Monster (1933, with R. H. Barlow)

Lovecraft/Barlow's Seinfeld episode. A band of nervous warriors sets out to slay a dragon and nothing happens. Maybe it was supposed to be comical, in line with some of their other tales, but I felt it skewed more towards pointless. On the positive side, it fits on a page.

88. The Man of Stone (1932, with Hazel Heald)

I don't think Lovecraft gets that much stick for being sexist, mainly because he's simply not interested in women, so they barely show up.

Understandably, they're more prominent in his collaborations with women writers. Less understandably, they tend to be treated like shit. But before we get to that pointless brutality and its pathetic conclusion, we have to get to the bottom of an uncompelling Medusa-style mystery. Turns out it was a spell book.

I have to hope this was a case of being bogged down in his co-author's insistence, because for 1930s Lovecraft, this is abominable.

87. The Thing in the Moonlight (1927/41, with J. Chapman Miske)

I was going to miss out the more dubious "collaborations" – specifically all those unauthorised, posthumous ones that enabled otherwise forgotten writers to cheat some undue posterity.

But Miske only added the briefest of intro/outro paragraphs to Lovecraft's original dream account, so this is as deserving of inclusion as those other dream sketches culled from his private correspondence and given deceptive titles ('The Very Old Folk,' 'The Evil Clergyman') so they can be included in anthologies. This one is the least impressive of the three, even before Miske spoiled it.

86. The Horror at Martin's Beach (1922, with Sonia H. Greene)

'The Call of Cthulhu' for morons.

85. Poetry and the Gods (1920, with Anna Helen Crofts)

You can tell something's awry right off the bat when you've read 72 Lovecraft stories and you come across his first female protagonist. His standard preoccupations of dreams and mythology are there, but all in a much lighter, more romantic, less doom-laden atmosphere.

Would it be sexist to suggest that Crofts' contribution was the "action," which sees a woman fall asleep and get whisked away in the arms of Hermes, while Lovecraft filled out the purple prose? No, it would be experience.

84. The Very Old Folk (1927)

I'm not sure what's going on here – a fictional letter embedded within Lovecraft's genuine correspondence, or a true account of a real dream addressed using Roman roleplay nicknames?

Considering it's been preserved for posterity among his fictions rather than his letters, it would seem to be the former. But that makes it even less worthwhile, since if it's a real dream Lovecraft had, the level of detail and repeated insistence on the respective purity or impurity of every character's racial profile at least make it interesting from a psychological point of view, if no other.

83. The Ghost-Eater (1923, with C. M. Eddy, Jr.)

Another Eddy turd polished for cash, this is basically Little Red Riding Hood, only less scary.

82. Medusa's Coil (1930, with Zealia Bishop)

"No wonder she owned a link with that old witch-woman Sophonisba—for, though in deceitfully slight proportion, Marceline was a negress."

The title already spoils the second biggest reveal in this uninspired blend of Ancient Greek and Cthulhu mythologies, so I thought I might as well spoil the final, bigger, apparently more horrific revelation for you too. Now you don't have to read this racist piece of shit.

There is a flimsy thread of optimism to cling to, as we don't know whether that was part of Bishop's outline that Lovecraft was contractually bound to stick to. We can delude ourselves that it was.

81. The Street (1920)

What's troubling about Lovecraft's xenophobia, more than the usual variety you expect from the olden days, is that it tends to spew out of the all-seeing narrator rather than some flawed character.

Never more so than in this detached time lapse of a New England street as it fades from the glory days of the original British settlers (there are some Indians skulking about, but The Street was never theirs) and eventually becomes plagued by a less worthy variety of modern immigrants who get what they deserve.

It's not even like this would have been a classic story without that angle. It feels more like a creative submission to Lovecraft's amateur right-wing fanzine than something that deserves its place among the collected fictions.

80. The Transition of Juan Romero (1919)

Another lesser-known Lovecraft, this private exercise apparently wasn't intended for publication, but if I insist on reading 'The Little Glass Bottle' et al I'm not going to start being picky now.

It's not offensively or bizarrely different like some of these have been. There's a mysterious subterranean thumping, a yawning chasm and an apparition that remains frustratingly undescribed. Classic Lovecraft, really. Just sort of weak.

79. The Last Test (1927, with Adolphe de Castro)

A generic mad scientist and a romance plot mark this out a story Lovecraft didn't write, while a tacked-on exotic sorcerer and pointless name-drops of Cthulhu lore reveal his polishing paw. Though this is one of the few that might conceivably have been better without his interference, especially if that meant it was shorter.

78. The Quest of Iranon (1921)

Is this actually any worse than the other lethargic fantasy tales, or have I just run out of patience after so many? If you're putting together a map of the Dreamlands, the name-checks here will either assist or frustrate you, so that's something.

77. The Doom That Came to Sarnath (1919)

Lovecraft seemed to consider this a significant story, since he mentions it a few times in later, better works, but I'm not fond of his overly fancy tales. He's imitating Lord Dunsany, but in letting the nomenclature get out of hand, it ends up more like encyclopaedic Tolkien.

76. The Descendant (1926)

This seems to be the beginning of an abandoned story, but unlike the cryptic 'Azathoth' it didn't leave me craving more. Even in these early days of the Mythos, Lovecraft's already using the Necronomicon as a crutch. Every sod's got one.

75. The Electric Executioner (1929, with Adolphe de Castro)

The better of the two Lovecraft/de Castro collaborations, mainly because it's shorter.

H. P. is more restrained in the mythos name-drops, but still can't resist mixing them up with the Aztec ones. I don't know who's to blame for the desperate and unlikely stalling of the would-be victim before his equally unbelievable executioner, but that kind of close-quarters tension isn't typical in the Lovecraft canon.

74. The Battle that Ended the Century (1934, with R. H. Barlow)

I didn't know what to make of this seemingly postmodern bit of insanity, until Barlow's postscript disclosed who the various grotesque caricatures were meant to be. This is 100% a cliquey in-joke for the weird fiction community (cheeky rather than spiteful), so unless you were part of that, or you've done a lot more background reading than I have, you're not really going to appreciate it. Bit weird that they still put out the chapbook.

73. Memory (1919)

What this one-pager lacks in substance it makes up in ambience. We take a tour of an overgrown wild amid the ruins of a lost civilisation before its eerie inhabitants deliver a Planet of the Apes ending, albeit a bit less political. It's not really fair to rank this alongside the more substantial works, but I'm going to do it anyway.

72. Ex Oblivione (1921)

Once again (chronologically speaking), a bored fellow seeks refuge from his dreary life in his colourful dreams. Less delightfully morbid than 'Celephaïs.' On the plus side, shorter than 'Sarnath.'

71. Polaris (1918)

I dig the literal cosmic horror of the opening, when our narrator's terror of the winking pole star is inexplicable and unnameable. But then we take a cosmic voyage into the World of Warcraft or something, and it becomes a lesser copy of Bierce's 'An Inhabitant of Carcosa' 30 years down the line, burdening us with extraterrestrial vocab that we don't need.

The unevenness and borderline plagiarism is forgivable, as this is still the early days, but it's the least remarkable of his horrors so far.

70. The Cats of Ulthar (1920)

For all his service to the horrific, Lovecraft could be a softie sometimes. This fable is clearly written by a cat lover, even if that love occasionally manifested in giving his beloved pets racist names. What was he like!

69. The Moon-Bog (1921)

Another creepy castle, in the midst of an Irish swamp this time for the sake of difference. This could almost be an ecological story, if not for all the silly superstition that turns out to be true. Still, any means to an end.

68. The Other Gods (1921)

Another epic fable from prehistory or the Dreamlands, whichever side of the inconsistencies you prefer to fall on.

It's a fair approximation of myth, but if you're in the mood to read something like that, why not seek out some real mythology for a bit of cultural enlightenment?

67. He (1925)

Evidently there was still plenty of pent-up xenophobia left after he channeled it into 'The Horror at Red Hook,' as Lovecraft wrote his second New York tale shortly after. He doesn't spew quite so much bile in this one, which at least implicitly concedes that maybe his blue-eyed brethren aren't welcome in this land either. But at least that one had a decent story beneath the bigotry.

66. What the Moon Brings (1922)

This was the last dream story Lovecraft would write for a few years, presumably having received feedback on where his strengths lie. It's really more of a polished dream journal entry than a story, focusing squarely on imagery and not troubling itself with burdensome details like character and context.

I like it for that, but this brevity rules it out from being a serious contender. If I was putting together a Lovecraft anthology, I'd squeeze this in if I had a couple of pages going spare.

65. History of the Necronomicon (1927)

He's so into his own lore, he's writing fictional encyclopaedia entries. This was probably intended more as background material for his own use (and other writers) than something we're supposed to enjoy on its own merits. Still, it's funny when he has the cheek to suggest that his non-existent text may have influenced Robert W. Chambers' fictional text, the one that inspired Lovecraft's fictional text in the first place.

64. The Evil Clergyman (1933)

This doesn't really belong here, as it's just H. P. passing on a dream he had in a letter to a friend. Unlike 'What the Moon Brings' and the unknown quantity of stories inspired by dreams that he polished for publication, this simply tells the first-person experience without (presumably) any literary embellishment.

So it makes a rubbish story, but it's interesting as far as dreams go (which might not be saying a lot). Unlike my own experience, Lovecraft evidently has no problem operating electric devices and switching lights on and off in his dreams, which are multi-sensory experiences to envy. And the bit at the end, where he approaches a mirror worried about what he's going to see, is scarier than most of his proper stories manage to be.

63. The Loved Dead (1923, with C. M. Eddy, Jr.)

You don't need to have read much Lovecraft to twig that he didn't write this. This coming-of-age story of a morbid outsider takes a very different approach to 'The Tomb,' but the fraught and flowery inner monologues are familiar all the same.

The sexual impulse is almost entirely absent from Lovecraft's tales, outside of the implied unholy trysts that created your hybrids and your Whateleys, but here it's as frank as 1920s magazine publication would allow. Lovecraft gave it a nice polish, but it still comes across like something by that worrying guy in your creative writing class.

62. Beyond the Wall of Sleep (1919)

Possibly my favourite Lovecraft title (maybe just because it reminds me of Black Sabbath), but not one of his most stellar sci-fi stories.

I could have done without the wacky psychic contraption, which pushes this beyond the wall of cheese, but even worse is the laboured exposition at the end.

This is becoming a theme, in his early works at least: let's try to keep the cosmos mysterious and unknowable from here on.

Image: Weird Tales

61. The White Ship (1919)

Illuminated by moonbeams and a sweeping lighthouse, this ethereal voyage is a nice break from the gloom, but it's also a reminder that Lovecraft's strength lies in the sinister rather than the fanciful.

I would have enjoyed it more as a child. You can say that about most of them, to be fair.

60. The Tree (1920)

Up until now (chronologically speaking; it's not like I'm going to go back and edit this), I've given Lovecraft grief every time he eschewed the horror comfort zone, but it's only because the results were always disappointing. This is the first time he's gone out on a limb(/branch) and proved there are more strings to his bow(/bough).

Unlike his Dunsany rip-offs, his archaic satires and that one rom-com misfire, this is a wholly passable imitation. If I didn't know better, I would have accepted it as an authentic Greek legend. It's no more far-fetched than the weird shit in Ovid.

59. The Challenge from Beyond (1935, with C. L. Moore, A. Merritt, Robert E. Howard and Frank Belknap Long)

Usually when we get an incomplete fragment of a story it's an abandoned beginning. This time, Lovecraft handles the centrepiece of a weird fiction round robin, presumably abandoning whatever had come before to present another cosmic voyage of consciousness and body-swapping. It's all old hat by now, but this is just a bit of fun, so I won't hold that against it.

I probably should have read the other parts by legitimately great writers to get the context (or better appreciate its lack), but this Lovecraft odyssey has become its own kind of challenge now I'm on the collaborations, and I'm too close to freedom.

58. The Crawling Chaos (1921, with Winifred V. Jackson)

Like 'The Green Meadow' before it, this is Lovecraft's elaborated transcription – however authentic – of his co-author's vivid dream. Except this time, the reader might actually get something out it.

The dream narratives are easy to spot by now, and it's clear from such non sequitur randomness as babies falling out of trees prophesying cosmic cataclysms that he was determined to honour the source, even at the cost of coherence.

57. The Silver Key (1926)

Randolph Carter makes his third appearance (depending on how you're counting, as if order written isn't always the way to go), but that seems to be more down to Lovecraft's love of mythos-making than anything. Apart from the name and rough geography, there's nothing to link the dreamy protagonist here with the scientist in 'The Statement...' or the author's stand-in in 'The Unnamable.'

If this belongs to any series, it's that subset of cyan-titled stories in which characters seek to escape their drab lives into the technicolor succour of the Dreamlands ('Celephaïs,' 'Ex Oblivione,' probably more to come). Except this one turns into more of a kid's magical fantasy tale by the end than a truly weird one.

56. The Disinterment (1935, with Duane W. Rimel)

A curiously retro tale for this close to the end, this simple reanimation story with an obvious twist is more like something I'd expect in Tales from the Crypt. Inoffensive, but disposable.

55. In the Vault (1925)

There are no identifying marks in this written-to-order story. It's adequate enough in its close-quarters morbidity, but it's not classic Lovecraft.

Though if he did originate the more ghoulish aspects – getting hoist by your own crypt and finding pragmatic ways to re-use coffins that are a human foot too long – then Tales from the Crypt owes him a debt. Not literally, because none of this is copyrighted. You want Cthulhu? He's yours.

54. Imprisoned with the Pharaohs (1924, with Harry Houdini)

Skipping the collaborations for cash makes sense if you're only interested in seeing Lovecraft write on his own terms. But sometimes, even a ghostwritten polish of a frankly crap outline can still tie in with his developing style and interests. Admittedly, only because he was allowed to warp Houdini's dubious "true story" to his own ends.

It's not up to his average standard even at the time, and too much of it's taken up by tedious travelogue as Lovecraft convinces us he's actually been to these places. But considering this was likely the most widely-read Lovecraft story in his lifetime (even if it didn't have its name on it), it deserves its place in collections.

53. Two Black Bottles (1926, with Wilfred Blanch Talman)

This shouldn't really be considered a Lovecraft story. It doesn't jar as much as some of his other revisions, but I don't feel he actually contributed very much of it. And it probably would have been just fine even without his polish.

There's some familiar Lovecraftian imagery in the soul-encased bottles ('The Terrible Old Man') and evil tomes, but it's not like these were his inventions to begin with. With its short sentences and lack of overwrought mythological anxiety, it doesn't even read like a Lovecraft story until the narrator talks to working class people and you hit that familiar patronising hillbilly dialogue.

52. The Tree on the Hill (1934, with Duane W. Rimel)

It doesn't take long before any optimism you might have had about a pleasant pastoral breather is shattered, and it becomes clear that we're dealing with another blasted heath.

This is a nice little story that's too brief to be of much substance, but leaves some pleasant (and less pleasant) images all the same.

51. Celephaïs (1920)

It's clear by now that I'm not enchanted by Lovecraft's Dream Cycle stories anywhere near as much as his sinister ones, but this one has more going on than the standard fantastical imagery.

There's no tell-tale shipwreck or brainwave scanner to suggest that these nocturnal flights are anything more than a fallen aristocrat seeking solace in that familiar domain of madness, and I prefer that view because I'm clearly evil.

50. Out of the Aeons (1933, with Hazel Heald)

This feels like a sequel to 'The Horror in the Museum,' just because of the setting. Clearly, Hazel Heald had some issues there.

Actually, it's a mummy story, which ticks off another of those gothic cliches that Lovecraft supposedly swore to avoid. Never mind, he's happy when he gets to stick his mythos in.

49. The Hoard of the Wizard-Beast (1933, with R. H. Barlow)

Lovecraft's last regular writing partnership is the most interesting by far. It's the first time it feels like a real team writing for the love of it, rather than polishing someone's turds for cash, and Barlow's active teenage imagination results in the zaniest stories of the canon... if not the most coherent or satisfying.

His older mentor jumps at the chance to start fresh and give exotic names to everything, even if the HPL/RHB cosmos wouldn't end up being as rich and populated as the Dreamlands.

48. The Horror at Red Hook (1925)

Despite his reputation, you can read through whole swathes of Lovecraft without bumping into overt racism, save for the odd unfortunate pet name that can be chalked up to a different time à la Dam Busters.

But don't get too complacent, because sooner or later you'll wind up at Red Hook, a place untroubled by cosmic entities where all the sinister goings-on are squarely the fault of those loathsome foreigners. It gets even worse when you read up on the background and learn that this was Lovecraft's disgusted response to multicultural New York.

It's not really possible to redeem a story entirely founded on xenophobia, but I'll try. The bit in Suydam's basement is pretty freaky, right?

47. The Book (1933)

A bit annoying that this beginning doesn't have an ending, though supposedly it was more or less a prose reworking of 'Fungi from Yuggoth' (not read; I don't do poetry), so that should fill in the gaps.

If you were introducing yourself to Lovecraft and somehow chanced across this one, it wouldn't do a bad job thematically. The typical imagery is there – a forbidden text, a dream-flight over an unearthly city, the dreadful burden of knowledge – without getting bogged down in made-up names.

46. The Terrible Old Man (1920)

Part morality tale about respecting your wispy elders, part weird shit about bottled souls and painted stones, the omniscient narrator is more laid-back here than the bawling loons we've grown used to.

He doesn't stress over how unnameable and unspeakable these things are. Maybe he knows and he just isn't telling. Either way, it's refreshing.

45. Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family (1920)

One of Lovecraft's major themes is introduced here: that ignorance is bliss. I'd certainly prefer to know less about the author's tragic family background and resulting phobias, so I could enjoy these more autobiographical tales on a basic level without the burden of psychonalaysis.

More autistic fans might appreciate the level of detail Lovecraft goes into on the fictional Jermyn dynasty. Creative writing tutors would probably advise against chronicling the international exploits of six generations when you've only got a few magazine pages to work with. But the bloated saga is all in service of the final reveal, and that's the part you'll remember. As long as you're still awake.

44. The Mound (1930, with Zealia Bishop)

Based on a 19-word outline that he elaborated on extensively, this deserves to be called Lovecraft's story. He throws all his usual gods in there, and the subterranean kingdom and detailed overview of its inhabitants are almost a precursor to 'Mountains' (though hardly his invention).

Maybe I'm prejudiced against this being a commission, and maybe he did put as much feeling into it as his best work, but even without the shared credit it wouldn't stand out as a favourite. Only as one of the unreasonably long ones. Speaking of which...

43. The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1927)

Wow. That was weird, and not in the way that's usually meant around Lovecraft. His longest work by far up to this point (third longest overall) isn't so much a novel as a meandering stream-of-unconsciousness whose length depends only on how long he could be bothered to keep it up. Marks for effort, but quantity can't make up for quality.

I'm sure there are Dream Cycle devotees who adore this story, but I'm happier treating it as an exercise in creativity (it was only published posthumously) than a serious contender to other fantasy quests and heroic myths. It's chock full of references to the Lovecraft literary universe – not only the Dreamlands, but the Mythos and other random characters and places – though the overall effect is self-indulgent rather than celebratory. Leave the mash-ups to Alan Moore.

42. Through the Gates of the Silver Key (1933, with E. Hoffmann Price)

I can't say I shared Hoffmann's enthusiasm for further installments in the cosmic dream-quests of Randolph Carter, but it turned out a lot better than expected (even if Lovecraft himself presumably wrote nearly all of it).

With its odd multidulimensional logic and body-sharing, I enjoyed it more than the overly magical 'Silver Key' or the shaggy 'Dream-Quest.'

41. Collapsing Cosmoses (1935, with R. H. Barlow)

More Douglas Adams than H. P. Lovecraft, Barlow was a good influence on his weird older friend. I'm not sure which of them we have to thank for the more creative aliens (special shout-out to the one who "spoke by emitting alternate waves of heat and cold"), it's a shame this brief beginning fizzles out to nowhere.

40. Till A' the Seas (1935, with R. H. Barlow)

In one of the few substantial Lovecraft/Barlow collaborations, the duo present the final, depressing day of humanity amid the scorched plains of the dying Earth.

It turns out we needn't have worried about the Great Old Ones and myriad cosmic horrors after all, but that's hardly a comfort now.

39. The Tomb (1917)

Chronologically, this is Lovecraft's first proper/grown-up story, and it's a fittingly explosive start to his career – even if it wasn't published until five years later.

Its reclusive protagonist and dank tomb themes were already established in his childhood works (saves time on the psychoanalysis), but madness was only previously alluded to as a form of escape. Here, the afflicted waxes Alan Moore-like about the lack of distinction between the real and the unreal.

Throw in a beckoning demon and other fun apparitions that are left to our imaginations, and we're into tombstone-cold classics right out of the gate.

Image: Weird Tales

38. The Unnamable (1923)

Lots of Lovecraft's tales are autobiographical to some degree, but this one is taking things a bit far. It's unexpectedly self-referential as the fictional author decries his tendency for unhelpful non-descriptions and characters descending into madness (is this Lovecraft's only self-parodying title?), but then it eats that cake when a monster attacks.

A fun curiosity, but he was always more traditional than experimental.

37. Herbert West–Reanimator (1922)

"Damn it, it wasn't quite fresh enough."

The most popularly unpopular of Lovecraft's works, his proto-B-movie update of Frankenstein is loads of fun if you embrace it for the schlock it is. The fact that most "Frankenstein" episodes of TV shows owe more to Herbert West than Mary Shelley proves that enough people enjoy it despite the corn, or maybe because of it.

Maybe Lovecraft intended it to be tongue-in-cheek? Maybe he was irritated by the publication's demands that he waste time on tedious "previously on" catch-up segments five times in a row, so he tried to make those unusable like Harrison Ford's excised Blade Runner monologues? Or maybe he was trying his best?

Either way, there's still lots to enjoy in his most substantial work up to this point, not least the chance to observe the eponymous West's gradual deterioration from scientific curiosity to morbid obsession.

36. The Horror in the Museum (1932, with Hazel Heald)

A simplistic but enjoyable tale, even if it's one of that not-insubstantial pile of Lovecraft stories that are probably best suited to kids. Strange kids, admittedly. At least that means it isn't boring.

I used to love the Chamber of Horrors bits of wax museums, fondly poring over their ghoulish souvenir guides for years after. Young me would have found this inspiring, preferably illustrated with disturbingly lifelike wax effigies please.

35. Pickman's Model (1926)

'The Music of Erich Zann' of the visual arts, Lovecraft describes Pickman's ghoulish paintings more effectively than Zann's fiendish fiddlings. But where that earlier story is shrouded in tantalising mystery, here Lovecraft tends to over-explain.

We know what the ending's going to be before it's even started. And however scary those paintings are, Pickman's reactions seem a little on the over-sensitive side. Give 'em here, I bet I could handle them.

34. The Curse of Yig (1928, with Zealia Bishop)

If this had been Lovecraft's own story, it would seem a bit retro and simplistic for 1928. But it's clearly not his story – it involves a couple, rather than an asexual loner, and one of them's even a woman!

With its balanced dynamic, action over introspection, and universally scary snakes rather than singularly squeamish seafood monsters, this would be better suited to Hollywood than your standard Lovecraft, and I enjoyed the change of pace.

33. The Strange High House in the Mist (1926)

With its impractically precarious titular location and psychedelic vision sequence, this recaptures the strange, mystical atmosphere that's been lacking in Lovecraft's dreamy tales since they became onanistic exercises in world-building.

Boundaries blur as Lovecraft Country locales like Kingsport and Arkham mix with the Dreamlands, and fictional deities mix with established pagan gods. Even the Terrible Old Man gets a cameo. We're more or less watching Lovecraft masturbate, and it's more pleasant than I would have expected.

32. The Trap (1931, with Henry S. Whitehead)

You could view this as a precursor to 'The Dreams in the Witch House' in its twisted geometry, but Lovecraft only left minor fingerprints on the polished surface of this story – namely some mythological research and one unnecessary racist musing. Unlike most of his revisions, he restrains himself from shoving in Yog-Sothoth et al to allow this nicely weird little tale of a magic mirror to stand alone.

31. In the Walls of Eryx (1936, with Kenneth Sterling)

Lovecraft's solo work gets more sci-fi heavy as time goes on, and this penultimate story (rewriting a teenager's first draft) is arguably the only time it isn't tinged with horror.

It's disappointing at first to see him write such a conventional tale of future solar system colonisation, but it gets more interesting when our prospector stumbles across the invisible maze that will ultimately claim him before a horde of amused reptilian onlookers. Sorry, did I say there was no horror?

30. The Thing on the Doorstep (1933)

I don't know if the body swap was already a cliche by this point, but Lovecraft's isn't exactly conventional, involving as it does disturbing cross-generational, gender-swapping shenanigans. What's more conventional by now is all the unnecessary call-backs to the Lovecraft canon (Arkham and Innsmouth, that blasted book) that probably make this better if you're dipping in and out of the mythos, but are getting a bit tiresome towards the end.

What would have elevated this from middling to brilliant (if I say so myself) is some ambiguity. What if Derby just wanted an excuse to top his wife, so concocted this insane fantasy to convince his naive friend to do the deed? Alternatively, you could go down the Alan Moore route and depict underage body-swap rape. What's he like?

29. The Rats in the Walls (1923)

This is a popular one, isn't it? But it didn't do a lot for me after 'The Lurking Fear' covered similar ground, with the addition of man-apes and a charming Scooby-Doo vibe rather than spectral rats and a racist cat.

It's better written than most of his earlier stories, but that also makes it feel more old-fashioned. If I ever feel like reading Lovecraft again, this'll be the first one I turn to, just to see where I apparently went wrong.

28. The Nameless City (1921)

If I'd been asked to name my favourite Lovecraft story before revisiting and reading them more extensively, this would have been a contender. It was one of the first I read, and its setting amid dusty catacombs is more in tune with my dreams that any of the more overt dream tales.

But the anxiety of experience has only gone and pushed it down. We've walked this antediluvian path before in 'The Temple,' 'Dagon' and others, and the entire thing will be given a definitive rewrite and snowy palette swap to be inserted into 'At the Mountains of Madness.'

The narrator gets on my nerves too. Either he's more easily spooked than usual (they're just murals of funny-looking mutants, don't have a heart attack over it), or I've read too much Lovecraft and started to get irritated by the insistence that I wouldn't understand these things you're refusing to explain to me. At least give me a chance.

Image: Weird Tales

27. The Music of Erich Zann (1921)

The penchant for non-description is more annoying in this one, which hinges on indescribable music. Because it's unnatural and hideous, or because Lovecraft just didn't know the correct terminology?

Paradoxically, the larger mysteries at play – the disappearing street, the gaping view outside, and just what the hell is going on – are what I liked best about it. So it seems there's really no pleasing me.

26. Azathoth (1922)

Just as the indescribable non-descriptions grew tiresome, Lovecraft suddenly gains confidence and presents a psychedelic multi-sensory visitation that leaves me none the wiser about what actually happened, but at least it wasn't off-screen this time.

This is a tiny story (or abandoned first chapter?), sans the dusty idols, parchments and tentacled abominations the title might lead you to expect, but it feels excitingly like the prelude to Lovecraft's golden period. There's a lot of green ahead. Green means good, right? (Update: Mostly).

25. The Temple (1920)

Seldom do Lovecraft's stories cry out to be filmed, but someone could do this Atlantean/R'lyehean submarine escapade justice. It might be because the diving suits reminded me of the contemporaneous 20,000 Leagues silent film. I suppose what I really want is for them to have made the film at the time, not now when it'd be all CG and shit.

You can have fun connecting this to the Mythos if you want, it's not a stretch. What impressed me the most about it is how doom-laden it is, with our narrator being resigned to his inevitable watery grave from the onset. I just realised this is basically 'Dagon II' as well (making a trilogy with 'Innsmouth?'), which is no bad thing.

24. The Statement of Randolph Carter (1919)

Swampy ambience and telephones aside, this is one of Lovecraft's more traditional gothic horrors, but his signature touches are still there. Anyone can write about necromancy and forbidden texts, but Lovecraft eschews stock zombies and ghouls for horrors characteristically indescribable.

Depending on your mood, that's either frustrating and lazy writing or powerfully chilling. This time, the telephone gimmick excuses it. Classic finale!

23. The Hound (1922)

Where Herbert West & companion defiled graves in the pursuit of knowledge (until it got to be a habit), St. John & companion make no bones about their hobby of digging for treasure and for pleasure. The morbid bastards.

This is Lovecraft's most amusingly macabre tale, complete with a howling skeleton, severed heads, cursed amulet and marauding hellhound. I'll wager it's more obscure than it deserves to be, thanks to the folk who take these things too seriously.

The first fleeting mention of the Necronomicon secures automatic entry to Cthulhu compendiums, but its real place lies in the crypt with his other enjoyable Poe imitations.

22. The Picture in the House (1920)

This isn't the first time Lovecraft's looked to the sinister side of his native New England, but it's the first mention of the fictional locales of Arkham and the Miskatonic Valley that would become so iconic in their ghastly, non-copyrighted associations.

Handily, he explains at the onset why he's eschewing stock gothic settings in favour of this new brand that promises to be more nightmarish. So if you were to compile an anthology of tales set in Lovecraft Country, there's no excuse for not opening with this one.

The basic story beats and personified spooky house are nothing new, but there are enough singularly Weird touches that mark this out as a different generation to Poe and Hawthorne. I'm not sure at this point whether I'm more taken with the American Gothic branch of Lovecraft's work or the primordial cosmic beasties, I'll have to wait and see.

21. Cool Air (1926)

I love this simple story for its relatable, everyday horror, which is especially pertinent if you've grown used to unnatural air conditioning and you notice that the circulated air feels oddly colder than usual while you're reading. Must be your imagination.

A shame it's spoiled by yet another narrator who looks down on the foreign rabble he's sharing a run-down tenement with, despite being in the same boat. And the "Spanish" accent. If you're new to Lovecraft, maybe you'd assume this was colourful character flaws, then be a bit confused when it doesn't get an ironic pay-off.

20. Hypnos (1922)

My favourite of Lovecraft's many, many dream stories (at least up to this point), it's no coincidence that it's also the darkest – the looming, unseen presence of its eponymous horror making this more in tune with the Mythos than the fanciful Dream Cycle.

I like what I like. As does the author, clearly, as he once again sends his characters on a doomed voyage to witness sights man wasn't meant to see. I also like the ambiguous ending, where even the narrator accepts that the whole improbable yarn may be the product of his deranged mind. It's optional comfort, it you choose to take it.

Image: Weird Tales

19. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927)

This would end up being Lovecraft's longest single work, and clocking in at just over 50,000 words it's the only one that technically counts as a novel.

There's lots to like in this old-school story of necromancy, but I have the nagging feeling that if I'd read it not knowing who wrote it (and if I was told it was a few decades older), I'd probably be more impressed. The expectation on long-form Lovecraft is too high.

As a novel, this is a hell of a lot more coherent than 'The Dream-Quest,' but the considerable padding and plodding prove that he was best suited to the shorter form. I wonder if Weird Tales' hacked-up serial edit actually improved it?

18. The Dreams in the Witch House (1932)

The ingredients are here for what could potentially have been the greatest Lovecraft story: the Mythos meeting the Dream Cycle, a generous assortment of apparitions, and historic witchcraft set against the latest in abstract mathematical thinking.

What results is still one of his trippier tales, but not one of the most refined. By this point, I'm actually getting tired of Cthulhu & co. being shoehorned into every narrative, I miss the old days of anonymous beasties and undefined terror.

It's also a bit disappointing to see him wheel out the "too much knowledge is dangerous" card more forcefully than ever. Let's all go back to the trees.

17. The Diary of Alonzo Typer (1935, with William Lumley)

This might be the best overlooked Lovecraft tale, or at least one of the few collaborations that really deserves to be considered alongside his solo stories. It easily has the most interesting backstory, when you learn that Lumley was an occultist who supposedly believed the Cthulhu Mythos was really onto something.

That makes for a more confident and authentic black magic backdrop than the standard gothic tropes Lovecraft usually relies on, combined with the revisionist's own familiar touches like evil books and hybrid monstrosities.

It might be as good as 'The Lurking Fear,' and I'm just letting the diluted authorship put me off. But really, you have to take points off for the ending in which the diarist helpfully writes down exactly how he's being dragged away to the cellar, thereby anticipating generations of Lovecraft parody.

16. The Night Ocean (1936, with R.H. Barlow)

When you read this knowing it's the last story Lovecraft ever wrote, it does seem fittingly poignant. And sad, since outside of some dubious collaborations, he was always getting better.

It's reflective and calm, in spite of the storm and apparitions, and distils a career's worth of anxieties about effectively evoking dreams in art and the troubling mystery of the deep, expansive sea.

It's still got a monster in it, don't worry.

15. The Outsider (1921)

There are no extradimensional entities lurking in the shadows of this story, which is unadulterated gothic horror infatuation in the classic mould, worthy of Poe. (What would I know? Have I read all Poe's works in chronological order and ranked them accordingly? Amateur).

Thematically, it has more in common with Lovecraft's teenage writings than anything that came later, only more inspired. Though if you want to imagine that we're dealing with the same type of ghouls that subsequently show up in 'Pickman's Model' and 'The Dream-Quest,' this gives them a sympathetic backstory.

14. From Beyond (1920)

Lovecraft's first bona fide science fiction classic (bizarrely not published for 14 years, while his racist tat got an airing), this is the purest distillation of how "terrors unutterable and unimaginable" drive men to madness, and how we'd all be better off if we'd cease our "unnatural pryings into the unthinkable."

All those non-descriptions give the critics plenty to scoff at in the first half, until the cursed machine switches on. Then there's no unseeing it. If you've ever had your cat dewormed, you'll have some idea of the monstrosities we're dealing with.

13. Nyarlathotep (1920)

Vivid, epic and no longer than it needs to be, this feels more like a modern day tribute to Lovecraft than something the stuffy author himself would put out. When you do insist on reading all the filler and B-sides between the classics, it's sometimes a surprise to remember he's brilliant.

If you want to know what the HPL hoopla is all about, you can spare the five minutes it takes to read this one.

If you want more of the same, but your next Lovecraft feels old-fashioned and lethargic, you might be better off with '80s horror comics.

12. The Whisperer in Darkness (1930)

This is as close as Lovecraft gets to writing a B-movie. That's reason enough to love it, I suppose, but it also departs a little too far from what feel like pillars of his style, despite the roll call of familiar deities, tomes and locales.

My biggest problem is the Mi-go. Aliens that can actually be bothered to interact with humans, rather than being apathetic or oblivious to our insignificant presence, isn't something I'd expect to find in Lovecraft. But the brain in a jar and the sinister unmasking finale keep this more on the side of Weird Tales than Amazing Stories.

11. The Festival (1923)

Things are getting pretty messed up now, I love it.

The basic outline of an eerie fishing town haunted by witchcraft would be a decent enough story, but Lovecraft fleshes out all the little details, like the townsfolk's curiously gloved hands and bulging coats, more extracts from that cursed Necronomicon, implied time travel and a climactic Sabbat with all manner of flocking monstrosities.

Merry Christmas everyone.

10. The Lurking Fear (1922)

Serialised Lovecraft means a more substantial story than we're used to getting at this point. With its ape-like mutants and family secrets, this is what 'Arthur Jermyn' tried to be at a quarter the length, and allows what would have been a simple monster hunt to spread its tendrils.

No elder gods or extradimensional entities are required in this man-made horror, which is American Gothic right down to its haunted mansion, stormy cabin and sinister yokels.

9. Dagon (1917)

Second to the racism, the favourite criticism of Lovecraft is that he's a bad writer. You're talking out of your arse.

So 'Dagon' begins the slightly lazy tendency for "nameless things," "unutterable hideousness" and the like, but at other times the descriptions are lucid. He's only safeguarding our sanity, after all. And let's take a moment to appreciate "a fathomless chaos of eternal night."

What will later be reductively labelled the Cthulhu Mythos begins in earnest here ('The Call of Cthulhu' is effectively a remake) as our shipwrecked narrator comes across a mysterious prehistoric monolith 50 years before Arthur C. Clarke and Kubrick did it. We even briefly get to meet one of its acolytes, which is nice, as long as you have somewhere handy to defenestrate yourself afterwards.

This is exactly what I'd hoped to get from dedicated Lovecraft reading. I have a vague memory of reading this one before, but it was mixed up with those other stories about ancient relics, webbed people and aquatic gods. Now I know it's 'Dagon.'

8. The Shadow Over Innsmouth (1931)

Ranking-wise, we've reached the truly great Lovecraft stories, but not without a healthy dollop of ambivalence mixed in. I can't refuse 'Innsmouth' its rightful place among the classics, but it's also one of the ugliest stories he ever wrote. And not only in the ways intended.

It's one of several in which the author (and by extension his sympathetic characters) are judged by more enlightened times to be the real despicable ones. Just one story earlier in 'Mountains,' he found it in his heart to forgive murderous aliens who were looking out for their own interests. But when you're dealing with mixed-race abominations, clearly the only solution is state-sanctioned extermination and concentration camps.

Not everyone will be able to see past that, but if you have the patience to treat Lovecraft like a daft old relative, there's still plenty to enjoy amid the xenophobia. It's especially nice to get an official sequel to 'Dagon' 14 years on.

7. The Shadow Out of Time (1934)

Lovecraft's final novella is just the right length. It's half as long as 'Charles Dexter Ward' and several times more interesting, but not quite so gripping that it needed to be expanded to 'Mountains' proportions.

Though if we're talking scope, this body-snatching saga across time and space involving myriad civilisations of the past and present is his most epic and ambitious work of all. It makes amends for all those repetitive Mythos references in recent stories.

6. The Haunter of the Dark (1935)

Back home to semi-fictionalised Providence for Lovecraft's final solo story, which is a stylish one to go out on.

Having proved his sci-fi credentials, he returns to pure horror with probably the spookiest of all his tales. Gothic Poe trimmings make a welcome return, and there are still enough Mythos mentions to keep the fans happy without seeming like fan service for himself.

5. The Shunned House (1924)

I think I've nailed why Lovecraft strikes such a chord with the millennial generation. When the subtle supernatural signs of foul odours and luminous fungi make way for many-eyed apparitions, a big blue beastie and slime oozing all over the place, a traditional haunted house tale becomes full-on Ghostbusters.

The stories are getting longer and Lovecraft's getting better as a writer. Not a lot happens until towards the end, but this time the build-up is suitably creepy and worth it for the crazy pay-off. I'm not sure why I rated this so highly but was harsher on the superficially similar 'The Rats in the Walls,' so best not to take this list too seriously. It's chiefly for my benefit after all.

Image: Weird Tales

4. The Call of Cthulhu (1926)

This was presumably the first Lovecraft I read, but it didn't make as much of an impression back then as some of his cheaper thrills. The bigger, bolder brother of 'Dagon,' this pieced-together investigation asks more of the reader than your average Weird Tales shock schlock, and it's a lot more rewarding as a result. It's no tease, either; there is a Cthulhu in it.

It's probably overrated, but that didn't dampen my enthusiasm for reading the definitive Lovecraft tale (even if not the best) after seeing his style and themes gradually come together. He liberally nicks from Bram Stoker, Arthur Machen and Clark Ashton Smith as well as himself, but he does at least have the courtesy to name-check a couple of those, lending credibility to this account alongside the made-up sources.

3. The Colour Out of Space (1927)

"It was only by analogy that they called it a colour at all."

All this time, I thought we were building to Cthulhu. But at the end of the day, that's just a big octopus-dragon. This is the classic sci-fi/horror blend in which Lovecraft's penchant for indescribable and otherworldly entities finally comes to fruition.

The events of "the strange days" are described in detail, yet we leave the story no wiser than when we went in (if anything, a little less mentally sound). Unlike R'lyeh and other cursed locales, there's nothing inherently evil about rural Arkham until a meteor happens to fall there, and its corruption of the local ecosystem and residents lends itself to all manner of clever commentary, if you feel like it. I preferred to merely luxuriate in the eeriness.

Image: Amazing Stories

2. At the Mountains of Madness (1931)

I assumed I'd read this before. Owned a collection named after it at one point. But if pressed for details, I wouldn't have been able to come up with more than "Antarctica?" Well, when there are so many tempting shorties that can be devoured in one sitting, what chance do the bloated ones have? Look, I got around to it eventually.

The exotic, desolate setting may be a superficial point of difference from the rural, urban and aquatic Mythos tales, but it works wonders. I imagine many eager readers through the generations have been put off by the borderline autistic level of scientific detail (accurate or otherwise) that doesn't let up, but as an undiagnosed borderline aspie myself, I find this also works to the story's credit in enhancing the realism and setting it apart.

That does all threaten to topple when it turns out the scientists are just as well-versed in the Necronomicon and the weird fiction of Lovecraft's contemporaries and forebears as all the rest of his characters ever. But this is easier to swallow if you imagine that in Lovecraft world, this stuff's just really popular and mainstream. Apart from H. P. himself, tragically. He always was his own worst critic.

1. The Dunwich Horror (1928)

"Bigger'n a barn... all made o' squirmin' ropes..."

Cthulhu gets the beanie babies and bumper stickers, but the saga of Dunwich's degenerate Whateley family feels the most like it deserves a place in American folklore.

For my part, I'm going to make sure my own hellspawn grow up thinking of it in the same vein as Red Riding Hood, then having to apologise to their kindergarten teachers when their enthusiastic rendering of Wilbur Whateley's grotesque corpse traumatises the class. I named my kitten in his honour; no one knows who his dad is either.

All along this journey, I've been wondering whether it would be the cosmic horror or the gothic horror that would end up winning out. This is the perfect blend.

Image: Weird Tales

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