December Belongs To Cthulhu

12 Days of Lovecraft: “The Colour Out of Space”

Today we journey to another out-of-the-way New England town, where, strangely, the inhabitants don’t seem to have any inherent genetic deficiencies due to racial impurity or inbreeding.

I know! Weird, right? [Read the story here.]

The Story:

Our narrator, out surveying for the new reservoir that’s going to emerge when a bunch of towns are intentionally flooded, (note: this part really happened), finds a native of one of the towns who tells him the tale of the decades-old Strange Days, in which his town was visited….by a colour out of space.

According to the guy telling the story within a story, a meteorite crashed, scientists tried to study it, a strange, heretofore-unseen colour was released, and one guy’s farm was ruined as all the plant, animal, and human life on it was snuffed out. Eventually most of the colour shot back into space, leaving only a tiny speck down in a well. Which is going to still be in the drinking water formed by the reservoir!)

What’s Awesome:

Almost nothing. Nobody bats a thousand, but H.P. strikes out looking with this dud. There’s one cool part where the storyteller recounts finding a barely-alive lump of goo that once was a human, and our narrator explains how this guy, being a stolid farmer and all, dispatched the suffering lump of goo but doesn’t speak of that. This is actually pretty effective, pathos-wise.

What’s Horrible:

This story is just ill-conceived and poorly executed. First of all, we know at the outset of the story that the Strange Days are over, so there’s pretty much no suspense at all. Whatever danger the strange colour…ugh, I’m sorry, British Commonwealth readers, but that spelling of color drives me nuts and is just insufferably pretentious coming from an American, so from now on it’s “color”—anyway, where was I? Right. The color killed a bunch of stuff and then left. And the water supply of an imaginary New England city might be slightly affected as a result! Do you have chills? Nah, me neither.

And, I mean, the antagonist here is a color. A color previously unseen by human eyes and therefore indescribable by our author. And yeah, I guess there’s stuff about contagion and rot that might be kind of scary if you’ve got the near-pathological obsession with purity that H.P. evidences in much of his writing, but I just didn’t thrill to the description of the oddly-colored skunk cabbage.

This one made the Best of H.P. Lovecraft anthology I have, and for the life of me, I don’t know why.

Join us next time, when we meet our old friend “The Thing on the Doorstep”!

Illustration by Scott Altmann.

Seamus Cooper is the author of The Mall of Cthulhu (Nightshade Books, 2009). He lives in Boston and regularly drinks water from a reservoir that may or may not have covered a certain blasted heath.


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