Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Peter Watts' "The Things" (short story, fanfic, free)

This is a retelling of John Campbell's "Who Goes There?" from the point of view of the alien rather than humans. Or, more likely, a retelling of John Carpenter's movie adaptation titled "The Thing" of the Campbell's story (I haven't seen the movie). The title comes from movie's name.

Best piece I've seen from Watts so far. And the first one I would actually recommend others. Also among the better pieces from Clarkesworld - & I've read quite a bit of their fiction. But read or see one of the originals (linked below) first, if you are unfamiliar with them.

Fact sheet.

First published: Clarkesworld, #40 (January 2010).
Download full text/MP3 from publisher's site.
Rating: A.
Added to my "best of 2010" list.


  1. Download any of the several versions of "Who Goes There?", including original text.
  2. In US only: watch Carpenter's movie "The Thing" at SF Signal or at Hulu.
  3. Stories of Peter Watts,
  4. Fiction authored by/edited by John Campbell.


Owen said...

This story is pure genius, and gave me some killer ideas for original works of my own:

-"The List of Schindler", about a heroic Gestapo agent trying to root out an evil traitor who's been smuggling Untermenchen
-"Flowers for Charlie", a story about a lab mouse who becomes superintelligent for a brief period of time and befriends a human retard undergoing the same treatment
-"Bottom Gun", which follows the day-to-day hijinks of a group of military pilots for the Red Star Circle Republic and their underdog struggle against Goose, Maverick and the rest of the Great Satan.

But seriously, how is this not some form of plagiarism? I would bet good money that the original publishers had to consult a lawyer before printing this. And the worst part? He RUINS the fucking story. Am I really supposed to believe that on "a thousand worlds" (and why is it always "a thousand" worlds? Didn't they use that line in "Slither" too?) this alien has never encountered differentiated tissue? So...the thing that had giant spider legs, the thing with the six-inch teeth that bite the doctor's arms off, the thing with eye-stalks...none of those creatures had a brain? That makes absolutely no goddamn sense. If he's going to make a crass dollar mutilating a beloved film from my childhood, he should've stuck with re-writing "ET".

Mewlinwillinwodd said...

I completely loved the previous comment, particularly the observation about the eye-stalks and the thought that you were watching The Thing as a child. I'm no biologist, but I'm pretty sure that eyes require a centralised nervous system of SOME kind.

I'd like to add that Watts just flat-out rewrites parts of the film to suit himself. If I were crueler I'd say he was drawing conclusions without any evidence and then twisting and misinterpreting the actual data presented in the film to suit what he'd already decided. Copper? Really? A character that the film explicitly identifies as not a Thing? Why not Clark (no 'e', by the way, Watts), or Nauls, or MacReady himself? Was it because he was older, and that made it easier to slot in the in-built obsolescence comments you were determined to shove in? And, say, what happened to Fuchs? You know, the single most glaring unanswered question from the film? Surely the story should have been able to cover that, seeing that he invented answers and explanations for pretty much everything else. The most irritating way he does this is by pairing things actually seen in the film with things he just made up, to give the imaginary scenes a little more credence. One line in the story claims that the Thing remembers being Palmer, and boarding up the windows on the tool shed, which is true. But a line partnered with that one says it remembers being Norris and suggesting the tool shed as the place to stick Blair. Which is something completely invented for the purposes of this story; the actual dialogue from the film implies that it was MacReady's idea.

Oh, and the constant use of religious terminology. Was there any particular reason to use it, besides the obvious fact that it already holds fairly creepy connotations for most readers?

These are just a few of the things that got on my tits. If he wanted to tell this kind of story, he had the opportunity to write his own, instead of contorting and twisting the frame from an existing story into his own story, as he did. All it does is muddy up an already murky story.

Mewlinwillinwodd said...

I'd like to add that it did occur to me that Watts may have called him "Clarke" as a shoutout to the magazine and Arthur C., but, regardless, that's still worthy of derision.