The Impossible Extraterrestrial Colour

No, I’ve not been at the B-Movies again – although I have been reading HP Lovecraft and remembering why I find him so intense sometimes. Perhaps the odd short story now and again is all right, but twenty or thirty one after the other – no. It’s headache inducing, if I’m honest. That said, I’ve found some stories that I’ve not read for a long time and had actually completely forgotten how much I enjoyed. Like his classic short story, The Colour Out of Space.

The title tells you the significant plot point; a meteor lands in a field adjoining a farm in rural New England which, unlike most other meteors that do not appear in science fiction stories, heats up rather than cools. Various scientists come and investigate, taking samples that mysteriously react to very little and seem to be of no substance ever found on earth. As time passes, the farmer on whose land the meteor has landed notices his crops becoming larger, more florid and abundant – yet impossible to eat, being bitter and rancid. His entire crop is destroyed.

Then his livestock start to turn thin and grey; what’s left of the land turns grey as to, eventually, the farmer and his family. Their children die, alternately from illness, in an accident and apparently by being stolen by a blob of impossible colour from the well. Whatever it is that has landed with the meteor has got into the water supply and is slowly but surely spreading.

It’s a slow moving, incredibly detailed and scarily plausible invasion story where the aliens are truly other worldly and very different. I was reminded at how difficult it is to describe an impossible colour – and how this affected any other description one could offer. “It’s a blob of an impossible colour” doesn’t sound like much does it? No wonder his neighbours thought the farmer a bit bonkers.

I had completely forgotten how much I liked this story. Unlike some of Lovecraft’s stories, it’s not too sensationalist but the eeriness stays with the reader long after you reach the last page. I could quite happily read it again and marvel at just how much information can be conveyed in so few pages.

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