Friday, 13 April 2012

Review: The Colour Out of Space

The Colour Out of Space by H P Lovecraft

A meteorite lands in the Gardner farm outside of Arkham, Massachusetts, but this is no stony or iron/nickel visitor from the stars.  This one is soft like putty, is shrinking by the hour and gives off a colour that is impossible to describe in earthly terms.  Shortly after being examined by scientists from nearby Arkham University, the meteorite dwindles to nothing and over the coming months strange things start happening on the farm as plants and animals start to mutate, the Gardner family become more sickly and everything takes on the strange, glowing colours of the thing from space.  It soon becomes apparent that what is happening isn't a simple poisoning or radiation, but that something has infested the farm and is living in the well.

One of Lovecraft's early classics, "The Colour Out of Space" is his early success at conveying the "Other" to the reader.  It also sets the tone for his work at pushing weird fiction in a direction that is spine-tingling, nightmarish and other-worldly, yet at the same time completely materialistic.  By definition, this story could certainly be called science fiction, yet by description it is anything but.  The growing sense of dread, the atmosphere of helpless doom and the realisation that the only hope lies in flight and willful forgetfulness is the antithesis of the more optimistic approach of sci fi, which is to exorcise the devil by naming him.  Here, he remains nameless and worse than malevolent, he is indifferent.

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