The Book: “The Color Out of Space” by H.P. Lovecraft from Science Fiction Omnibus edited by Groff Conklin. Story originally published in 1927. Edition read was published by Berkeley Books in 1956.
The Setting: Earth, rural New England
The Story: A meteor falls to Earth and infects? hunts? destroys a family and their land, manifesting itself as a color no one can quite describe.
The Science: Meteors fall to earth all the time, bringing with them bits of the universe, which is what makes this story so effective – it’s plausible! The universe is a big place, and we can’t know everything that does or does not exist in it, so the possibility of something otherworldly falling to earth and not being totally compatible is there. The color out of space cannot be described, but it was carried within the meteor and spread when it came to earth. It got into the water supply and poisoned plants, animals, and people, sucking the life out of them until they turned to grey, crumbling dust. I don’t know of any earthly analogy other than certain wasting diseases specific only to plants or animals, not both, but, hey, the universe is a big place…
The Reaction: Great story. I read stories like they’re movies, and this one was a great story. I had to see if it had been made into a film. And it has. Three times. Must be hard to capture something like an indescribable color on film. The story also struck me because I’ve been reading so much Burroughs lately. In Burroughs, the characters are relentlessly active. In this story, the characters watch in terror that which they can do nothing about. Super.
The Cover: It’s an anthology and clearly this cover has nothing to do with this story, but it’s gorgeous. I mean, look at all those spaceships! And they’re such space age spaceships of the future. Love it. But I’m a sucker for retro-future spaceships and rayguns.
Next Up: The Master Mind of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs