Watch the skies!
September 1, 2009 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Who Goes There - the John W. Campbell short story which inspired the movies The Thing from Another World and, closer to the original, The Thing (which, apparently, was horribly critically mauled upon release but has since become as much as a classic as the 50s film). The story is now being reprinted alongside a treatment by Logan's Run author William F. Nolan for an unmade 1978 screen version.
posted by Artw (18 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The Carpenter version of The Thing also has the best DVD commentary known to humanity.
posted by Artw at 1:05 PM on September 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

The first book of non-juvenile science fiction I got from my local library was a collection of John W. Campbell's short stories. For the next five years I barely read anything but science fiction. Who Goes There was a particularly vivid read.
posted by Kattullus at 1:08 PM on September 1, 2009

You'll notice his thing about telepathy works it's way in their too.
posted by Artw at 1:14 PM on September 1, 2009

Not so interested in a screen treatment that never got done...
John Carpenter's version beats Christian Nyby's into a deep coma.
I haven't read anything else by John W. Campbell, but Who Goes There? is a terrific story.
Seconding Carpenter's and Kurt Russel's commentary as great, mostly because they seemed to be having so much fun. The other bonus bits are really very good as well.
posted by nj_subgenius at 2:48 PM on September 1, 2009

I absolutely love the 50's version but not because it's a good movie. It has some of the weirdest, most formulaic dialog ever committed to film.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:01 PM on September 1, 2009

I remember reading that very story as a kid! I loved it.

The writing grates something terrible now though. The crude physical descriptions of all the men, for example, read like the prelude to some terrible amateur gay porn.

Vance Norris moved angrily. He was comparatively short in this gathering of big men, some five-feet-eight, and his stocky, powerful build tended to make him seem shorter. His black hair was crisp and hard, like short, steel wires, and his eyes were the gray of fractured steel. If McReady was a man of bronze, Norris was all steel. His movements, his thoughts, his whole bearing had the quick, hard impulse of steel spring. His nerves were steel - hard, quick-acting - swift corroding.

It just needs something about his hard cock.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:27 PM on September 1, 2009

The Thing is easily in my horror top three. It's one of a few movies I have throw on every time it's mentioned. This post makes me warm and tendrilly on the inside.
posted by billypilgrim at 3:52 PM on September 1, 2009

>I haven't read anything else by John W. Campbell, but Who Goes There? is a terrific story.

Campbell often wrote under pseudonyms so that other writers submitting to his magazine would'nt throw a possibly justified hissy-fit. He wasn't a prolific writer but he did write a few gems. One of my favorites that I read as a teenager, aside from the one mentioned here, is "Twilight"
posted by Poet_Lariat at 4:56 PM on September 1, 2009

Excellent movie. I refer anyone who thinks that disaster District 9 was a "good" film to Carpenter's version of The Thing. You can have great well developed characters, a dark story with deeper themes of the meaning of identity, plus a subtle and complex commentary on race and STILL have a kick-ass sci-fi action movie with few distracting plot holes.
posted by tkchrist at 4:58 PM on September 1, 2009

The Thing is truly an amazing movie. I love how the destroyed Norwegian(?) set is actually the burned torn up set from the end of the movie. It also has one of the only good endings I've ever seen in a horror movie.
posted by cyphill at 5:02 PM on September 1, 2009

You know, I didn't read "Who Goes There?" until I was an adult, and already had a lot of science fiction under my belt. I was expecting it to be a little like "Black Destroyer" -- a "classic" in the field, but not really a story that still held up decades later.

I was wrong.

No, the science doesn't work in light of decades of genetics research, and the "two-fisted scientist hero" archetype is viewed as a bit cornball now ... but this was a story that was that much creepier because it was scientifically rigorous (Campbell's thing for ESP aside). I mean, the blood in the petri dish scene? It's awesome, and makes total sense. To me, this story is the epitome of science fiction, and it's a real shame that lots of today's readers (and, frankly, writers) don't seem to have a palette broad enough to include much from before 1985 or so.

Anyway. Got to remember this for a "Previously" link for when I finally get around to doing a post on Astounding.</i.
posted by Amanojaku at 6:15 PM on September 1, 2009

As a kid I remember very few comics, but one that scared me witless was a version of The Thing. The frame showing "alien blood leaping away from a hot flame" still gives me the willies 25 years later. So awesome!
posted by shavenwarthog at 8:57 PM on September 1, 2009

As an aside, a prequel to Carpenter's Thing is apparently being planned:

"Matthijs van Heijningen, whose CV consists largely of drinks commercials, is set to direct a screenplay by Ronald D Moore, erstwhile executive producer and writer of Star Trek, Roswell High and Battlestar Galactica. The prequel will be set in the Norwegian camp, which, as we already know from Carpenter's film, is doomed. "(Guardian; well worth reading as an analysis of Carpenter's film).
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:35 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm just going to ignore that.

I've heard the computer game was kind of interesting.
posted by Artw at 7:01 AM on September 2, 2009

Lovers of bad prose and alien Antarctic weirdness may wish to check out Hive, the "sequel" to Mountains of Madness by Tim Curran. It manages to reference the 50s Thing film and then seem to rip off the short story (the evil eyes!) within paragraphs. There's a fair bit of Quatermass Experiment in there too.
posted by Artw at 1:18 PM on September 5, 2009

...actually more Quatermass and the Pit.
posted by Artw at 2:29 PM on September 5, 2009

And, now I've reached the end of it, it references the 80s Thing as well.

Now I have to reread A Colder War to purge myself of it.
posted by Artw at 6:32 PM on September 5, 2009

A.M.U. -- All male universe. There isn't a female character in the whole movie if you don't count the chess playing computer as a female( and really why would you?) I always thought that was kind of odd and something no movie would ever do nowadays.
posted by wolfewarrior at 5:13 PM on September 12, 2009

« Older Prop 8 : CA :: Ref 71 : WA   |   Living Small Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments