I discovered Lovecraft thanks to the Groff Conklin anthology, Invaders of Earth. I was reading it when I was eleven or so and, like most Conklin collections, it was mostly taken from stories that had appeared in Astounding or other Street & Smith mags – which is to say, John W. Campbell-style, jut-jawed, human-centered, Earth-triumphant sorts of stories. In the middle of that comforting sea of righteous victory, rose the black island of Lovecraft: “The Colour Out of Space”. I read that story at three in the afternoon, with bright sunlight coming through my suburban picture window, and it scared me out of a year’s growth.Smash cut, as they say in the screen biz, to me in Myopic Books last week holding a copy of Invaders of Earth and, preparatory to showing wordwill my personal bullet-pock in Crime Alley, checking its table of contents to find where Lovecraft's story appeared. Only to find -- dramatic sting -- that "The Colour Out of Space" does not appear in that anthology. I remember that anthology like it was yesterday. I remember that yellow-orange cover with the blasé-looking Earthmen. I remember the red edges of the pages, the couch, the light, the impact of Lovecraft's first line hitting me like a meteorite: "West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut."
And it is not there. It was like St. Paul finding a ticket stub in his robe saying he never went to Damascus, but was on his way to Toledo instead. It was like Proust asking his mom for her madeleine recipe and her saying "Oh Marcel, dear, I never made madeleines. Too much fuss. No, you loved ginger snaps as a boy." That memory -- formed at age eleven, at nearly the peak of my pre-vodka photographic memory powers -- is a lie. I was so stunned, so battle-axed by that discovery, that I forgot to buy the copy of Invaders of Earth at Myopic, my original copy having gone the way of all flesh and most paperbacks some time ago. (And yes, smart-asses, I did so own and read Invaders of Earth. You think I'd make up a story like "The Waveries"?)
So now I've double-checked with the source, and the only Conklin SF anthology to include "Colour Out of Space" is his 1952 Omnibus of Science Fiction. I likely read "Colour" not in the full 1952 edition (which I now own in hardback, but hadn't even heard of back then) but in the 1956 abridgement Science Fiction Omnibus. At least it still has a yellowish cover.
However, in happier news, while doing the Googling around for this blog entry I finally figured out which edition of The Dunwich Horror I found in a box of my Dad's books in the garage in 1979 or so, devoured, loaned to my best friend Kevin, and never saw again: it was the Lancer 1969 edition.
So maybe that's two books to look for in the WorldCon Dealer's Room this weekend.