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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell

Who Goes There? - John W. Campbell Jr., William F. Nolan

This novella has run the gamut in just three films. The first one used the setting, but none of the characters, and externalized the monster; the second mirrored the text in almost every way; and the third one played off the second more than the novella itself. From "loosely based" to textbook adaptation to "inspired by" -- but at least it took 60 years!

Back in the early 70s, the Science Fiction Writers of America voted on the best science fiction short stories and novellas of all time and, in the latter category, the most votes went to Campbell's claustrophobic tale of horror and paranoia in Antarctica. The SFWA wasn't wrong, either. Forty years further down the road (75 or so since its original publication), and the story still holds up.

You probably already know the plot, so just for fun I want to talk about Carpenter's adaptation for a minute, as it has to do with the hero, MacReady. The purist might quibble with the choice of Kurt Russell to play a man described as "a figure from some forgotten myth, a looming, bronze statue that held life, and walked. Six-feet-four inches he stood..." Yet, at 5'11", Russell was the perfect choice for the role. In fact, Carpenter (or Bill Lancaster; he wrote the screenplay) mitigated the need for a huge MacReady simply by changing his profession. In the story, MacReady is a meteorologist. In the film, he's a helicopter pilot. So we know right away, even though he's no giant, that he's got the chops to command.

That's a subtle point that probably interests no one but me, but if there are any future screenwriters out there, it's worth noting.