Who Goes There? by John W. Campell

We’ve had some wicked winter weather here in Tennessee this week.  We had snow, freezing rain, ice, and more snow and ice.  Just as bad as the threat of severe winter weather is the possibility of Tennesseans driving in those conditions.  The frosty stuff does not play to our natural abilities the way mudding does.

The best thing to do in the event of snowstorms and Tennessee blizzards is to hunker down and stay in place.  Thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 plague we should be more than experienced and equipped to remain at home and vacate the roads (we are not, have never been, and probably never will be).  My son and I took to the roads to Grandma’s house.  To my way of thinking, it was best:  if our power goes out (it didn’t), we would have no heat; if my mother’s power were to go out (it did), she has a secondary heat source of a wood-burning stove.  So, I chose the route of, potentially, not freezing.

Long story short, if you’re accustomed to electric heat, wood heat will burn your ass up and run you out of the house into the midnight cold to cool off.  Doing such reminded me of John Carpenter’s horror classic, The Thing, which sent me to reread the source material upon which it was based, Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell.

The novella was first published in the 1938 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.  In it, a group of scientists in Antarctica make an amazing discovery:  they uncover a spaceship and alien being frozen in the ice for some twenty million years.  Recovering the ship proves problematic and the scientists accidentally blow it up.  Their efforts to unearth the alien corpse are successful and they take the frozen, three-eyed creature back to base.

Knowing they have discovered the find of the century, the decision is made to thaw the creature in order to better study it.  The thing has been dead for twenty million years, so what could go wrong?  Everything since the Thing is not dead.

The Thing is not only alive and on the move, it is telepathic and can imitate other lifeforms.  Imitation is really an understatement as the alien can divide to conquer and it assumes the complete and total being of its victims right down to their body odor and memories.

Who’s the Thing?  Who’s human?  Who Goes There?

It had been a while since I last read this novella, but I enjoyed it even more this go around.  Was it the dark nights reading by flashlight?  The whistle of wind outside with the crackle of icicles hanging from the eaves?  Me thinking my family may be aliens whenever they got on my nerves?  Me thinking my family may be aliens whenever they said I was getting on their nerves?

Whatever it was, I had fun.