The Shadow over Usenet
"The Colour out of Space"
Sources: _The Dunwich Horror_, Arkham; _Crawling Chaos_, Creation;
_The Best of H. P. Lovecraft_, Ballantine.
Synopsis: A surveyor sent to map out a proposed reservoir near
Arkham learns of a "blasted heath" in the area where no plants will
grow. He talks to an old man, Ammi Pierce, who lives nearby. Ammi
states that the place was once the farm of Nahum Gardner, where a
meteorite fell and subsequently disappeared. As time went on, the
plants and animals on the land began to mutate and die, and soon
the Gardner family itself became insane. But this was not the worst
Comments: What is there to say? This is doubtless one of HPL's best
stories. He described it as an "atmospheric study" instead of a tale,
but if this is true, modern horror could use many more atmospheric
studies. The slow deterioration of the land -- which has been
compared by many people to radiation poisoning -- is probably the
greatest part of the tale, IMO.
Very little on the circumstances which inspired this tale
has been said, to my knowledge, though Joshi reveals that the
construction of two different reservoirs, one in Rhode Island and
the other in Massachusetts, probably led to that element of the tale.
In an uncharacteristic move afterward, however, Lovecraft seems to
have bypassed submitting the tale to _Weird Tales_ and gone straight
for _Amazing Stories_, one of the most famous science fiction
magazines of all time. HPL never submitted anything else to
Amazing; in his _Lovecraft: A Look behind the Cthulhu
Mythos_, Lin Carter stated that this was because of his artistic
pretensions, but most subsequent authors have attributed it
to Gernsback paying him too little too late for it.
"Colour" has predictably given rise to a number of
imitations, though not so many as one might expect. These
include two movies -- Die, Monster, Die! and The Curse --
which I have not seen. A few Cthulhu Mythos stories have
also included the color, the longest of which is Michael
Shea's _The Color out of Time_. The atmosphere of HPL's
tale does come through at points, but in the end it becomes
an action adventure complete with Elder Signs and gunshots.
Not even the horrid death of a character named "Harms" can
make this tale palatable. CoC has included a scenario, "The
Killer out of Space", in Cthulhu Now which includes an
updated Colour scenario; unfortunately, it moves too quickly
for the full horror to take place, IMO.
Daniel Harms "...red hair and cross eyes
Box 3793 Station B have no symbolic significance
Vanderbilt U. in the composition of the
Nashville, TN 37235 civilization." -- H. P. Lovecraft