The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

This volume contains the best of H. P. Lovecraft’s shorter tales of supernatural horror, selected by August Derleth, with texts edited by S. T. Joshi. Most of them originally appeared in the pulp magazine Weird Tales. Several qualify as science fiction, chiefly “The Colour Out of Space” and “The Shadow Out of Time,” first published, respectively, in Amazing Stories and Astounding Stories.

In “The Colour Out of Space,” a meteorite of curious color and chemical properties lands on Nahum Gardner’s farm west of Arkham, Massachusetts. People begin to notice odd changes in the surrounding flora and fauna, as well as in various members of the Gardner family, who slowly undergo both physical and mental decay. After destroying everything living in the vicinity of the farm, the “colour” returns to the sky whence it came, leaving behind a tiny residue that will soon be covered by a new reservoir.

In “The Shadow Out of Time,” Professor Wingate Peaslee of Arkham’s Miskatonic University suffers an extended bout of amnesia. After recovering his memory, he starts to have dreams of a vast Cyclopean city, located in the Southern Hemisphere of some 150 million years before and inhabited by intelligent cone-shaped beings known as the Great Race. It becomes clear that one of these creatures, who can travel through time, has exchanged minds with Peaslee. Eventually, he travels to the desert of Western Australia,...

(The entire section is 464 words.)