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The Shadow Out of Time by H.P. Lovecraft: The Corrected Text
edited by S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz
Hippocampus Press, 136 pages

The Shadow Out of Time: The Corrected Text by H.P. Lovecraft
S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz
S.T. Joshi was born in Poona, India, in 1958. In 1963, his parents moved to the USA settling in Urbana, Illinois. At 13, Joshi discovered H.P. Lovecraft in the public library. This interest in Lovecraft led him to choose Brown University for its holdings of Lovecraft's manuscripts and papers. Joshi, meanwhile, had graduated from Brown University in 1980 (in the department of classics) and had gained a master's degree from Brown in 1982. He has written several scholarly works and compilations including An Index to the Selected Letters of H.P. Lovecraft (1980) and Selected Papers on Lovecraft (1989). With David E. Schultz, he edited an anthology of original essays on Lovecraft to commemorate the H.P. Lovecraft Centennial, An Epicure in the Terrible (1991). Since 1990, Joshi has worked closely with Schultz in an effort to transfer every word written by Lovecraft into electronic form.

ISFDB Bibliography: S.T. Joshi
ISFDB Bibliography: David E. Schultz

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Marc Goldstein

Often cited as pulp horror master H.P. Lovecraft's last major story (and some would argue, his greatest) The Shadow Out of Time has never been published as Lovecraft originally intended, until now. The introduction, by editors S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, details the story's difficult path from conception to publication. Written between November 1934 and February 1935, Lovecraft's confidence was so poor at the time that he refused to type a draft of the manuscript. That task fell to 17 year-old weird fiction fanboy R.H. Barlow, who, despite a sincere effort, inevitably made mistakes transcribing Lovecraft's barely legible handwriting. Lovecraft's original manuscript was lost until 1995; the rediscovered manuscript serves as the foundation of this corrected version.

Like many of Lovecraft's tales, The Shadow Out of Time is written as a first-hand account by the protagonist, in this case Professor Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee. Peaslee has a fainting spell in 1908 and wakes in 1913, with no memory of the past five years. He quickly learns, however, that he hasn't been unconscious the whole time. Rather, according to the testimony of his companions, he awoke almost immediately, though his behavior was severely altered. Peaslee becomes obsessed with learning about these lost years. As he pursues the mystery, he is increasingly tormented by vivid nightmares of an ancient race of alien beings. These dreams compel him to investigate the recently unearthed ruins of a prehistoric city, where he discovers horrible truths that no man was meant to know.

The Shadow Out of Time shares many similarities with "At the Mountains of Madness": both are first-person accounts, written as dire warnings, and both seem to take place within the same universe, which Arkham House publisher August Derleth later dubbed the "Cthulhu Mythos." I consider The Shadow Out of Time the superior tale. While it lacks a backdrop as bleakly evocative as the Antarctic wasteland in "At the Mountains of Madness," it has a powerful plot hook, and the final revelation, Lovecraft's finest, will unhinge your jaw. I'd just add, as an aside, that if the story is new to you, then skip the spoiler-filled introduction!

I'm familiar with S.T. Joshi, a thorough scholar as well as a passionate Lovecraft fan. Joshi and Schultz supplement the text with generous footnotes, and supply an appendix enumerating all the textual corrections. The footnotes are quite useful, explaining Lovecraft's arcane language, and drawing connections with other "Cthulhu" stories. The textual corrections are mostly cosmetic, including changes in punctuation, spelling, word use, and paragraphing. Aside from their historical value, these changes do improve the clarity of the prose, but don't really alter the plot or the story's impact.

For Lovecraft devotees, this corrected version is a must-have. For horror fiction fans unfamiliar with Lovecraft, however, this may not be the best place to start. Lovecraft's antiquated prose is notoriously difficult, and The Shadow Out of Time is one of his longest works. Patient readers will find that Lovecraft's powerful imagination more than makes up for his stilted prose style -- in this way Lovecraft reminds me of J.R.R. Tolkien. All Lovecraft needs now is a director of Peter Jackson's caliber to film one of his stories...

Copyright © 2002 Marc Goldstein

Marc is the SF Site Games Editor and the principal contributor to the SF Site's Role Playing Department. Marc lives in Santa Ana, California with his wife, Sabrina and cat, Onion.

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