Sunday, November 17, 2013

Who Goes There?

Hannes Bok
I was fishing around in my dangerously overly-stuffed garage and stumbled across a box full of vintage Science Fiction Book Club collections. I used to get reams of neat stuff from this venerable source, at one time a ready window to the classics of sci-fi. A lot the books have gone away over time, but I've always kept my "Best of..." collections as a way to maintain access to some of more famous old stories. A few months ago, after finally seeing the most recent "Thing" movie (see here for more), I had the urge to read "Who Goes There?", John W. Campbell's classic story which triggered off some of my favorite sci-fi movie classics, but alas I couldn't find it.

But find it at last I did, and last evening sitting nestled comfortably in my dangerously over-stuffed garage (which I heat and keep a comfortable chair in for just these matters) I read Campbell's classic creepy story for the first time in decades. Needless to say the walk back into the house in the cold darkness was maybe, perhaps a tiny bit more uncomfortable than normal. Great little tale of creeping paranoia this one is.

The tale of an isolated party of Antarctic professional explorers isolated with a dangerous and deadly and recently re-quickened shape-shifting alien from twenty-five million years before and no counting how many miles is a classic scenario, rarely to be matched.

If you would like to read it, it turns out it is available online at this very nifty location. Why I didn't stumble across this resource earlier this summer is anyone's guess. But by all means check it out.

From Doc Savage Fantasy Covers

One of the most intriguing things about the story which I've come across in more recent years is the notion that it is a stealth Doc Savage adventure, Doc being in reality the main character "McReady" (played by Kurt Russell in the John Carpenter movie). I was always rather skeptical, but after reading this tale again, notably published by Conde Nast, the company which holds and still guards the Doc Savage copyright, in Astounding Science Fiction in 1938 it makes me wonder.

McReady is very directly described as a giant man of bronze with bronze hair and eyes and his role in the story is perfectly consistent with what a young and somewhat less experienced Doc might've done in that situation. According to the Wold Newton chronology this tale would've happened prior to Doc forming the Fab Five and officially beginning his good works. I'm sure it a mere coincidence, but it's an above average tantalizing one. If it were a Doc story, it might bear the title "The Three-Eyed Goblin" or "The Twenty-Five Million Year Menace".

Richard Powers
And for those who like comics best, here's a link to an adaptation of the story which appeared in Starstream in the late 70's by  Arnold Drake and Jack Abel. Enjoy!

"Who Goes There?" is a danged good yarn, one that strikes closer to who we think we are than we like.

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  1. I'd rather look at Heidi than the ghouls on those covers. :)

    "Who goes there?" was one of the nominees at my science fiction literature message board for our Monthly Group Reads. But it didnt get enough votes. I still want to read it though.

    1. It's worth the effort. I have to think it's been before the Carpenter movie since I read the story (hard to believe I know) since it's much closer to that movie than I realized. It's a humdinger!

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