Colour Out Of Space
by H.P. Lovecraft
Our Unnamed Narrator is sent to Arkham to survey an area outside of town that is scheduled to be turned into a resevoir. He discovers a large patch of land that supports no life and fills him with an inexplicable sense of dread. Curious, and not just professionally so, he seeks out answers to this phenomenon, which come in the form of homespun rumors and second-hand accounts.
Some years ago, a meteorite landed on that patch of land, bringing with it some mysterious form of alien life. The alien manifested itself as a shimmering color (excuse me, colour) outside of our known spectrum. Its presence destroyed all the crops in the area and even drove people into the depths of madness.
It seems to me that this was Lovecraft's truest expession of "cosmic" horror to date. His description of extraterrestrial lifeforms is interesting in that he stays away from the tried and true sci-fi staples. This is not a humanoid alien, or a monstrous beast, but rather a barely definable creature. In fact, we don't know for sure if the blight it brings is purposeful, or a mere side effect of its presence, much less if it possesses what we know of as intelligence. It's also interesting to view this story as an early example of the nuclear paranoia that wouldn't truly grip the nation until the 1950s, some two decades after this story was written.
Lovecraft himself was particularly fond of this tale. While I did enjoy it, it wasn't one of my favorites. Much of the story wasn't concerned with the story, but rather devoted to describing the negative effects the colour had on the area surrounding it--the grass died, the flowers lost their blossoms, leaves fell off the trees, a squirrel developed a migraine and got all foamy at the mouth, etc. Which may make for great embellishments to a tale, but you can't make a tale out of embellishments.