The Thing

Long lost, 1930's novel that inspired 'The Thing' discovered and set for publication

Contributed by
Oct 24, 2018

Fans will soon get to read even more of the classic sci-fi story that served as the basis for The Thing.

Both the 1951 film The Thing From Another World and John Carpenter’s 1982 version of the tale, simply called The Thing (as well as, we suppose, the misguided 2011 prequel to the latter), are based upon a 1938 novella called "Who Goes There?" written by John W. Campbell.

Campbell is a literary sci-fi legend, serving from 1937 until his death in 1971 as the editor of one of the most influential genre magazines of all time, Astounding Stories of Super-Science, later (and still) known as Analog Science Fiction and Fact.

But before taking over editorial duties on the magazine and publishing seminal works by authors like Isaac Asimov, Jack Williamson, Robert A. Heinlein, A.E. van Vogt and others, Campbell himself was a writer, and the last major piece of fiction he published was "Who Goes There?", in which a team of researchers stationed in the Antarctic battle the shape-shifting occupant of a crashed alien ship.

But now, according to The Verge, a longer version of that story may be coming to light decades after being locked away. While researching his new book, Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, author Alec Nevala-Lee learned that Campbell had actually written a novel-length version of the story, which he cut down for publication in the magazine.

Spotting a reference in one of Campbell's surviving letters to a box of manuscripts the editor had sent to Harvard for archiving, Nevala-Lee tracked down the box at the university and discovered that it contained Frozen Hell, the full-length original version of Campbell's story.

The Thing gif

It seems that Campbell had mentioned Frozen Hell a few times but had not indicated that it was a novel, with Nevala-Lee saying, "I don't think anybody had any idea that it existed." The latter also described the differences between the published novella and the unpublished novel, such as a 45-page section dedicated to the discovery of the Thing's spacecraft that was condensed for publication.

Nevala-Lee added, "The really fascinating thing is how (the novel) alters the structure of the entire story, which changes halfway through from a science fiction adventure into horror. I love that kind of unexpected shift in tone, and while I can see why Campbell decided to edit it down to focus on the psychological side, there’s something very modern — and effective — in the way that it switches abruptly from one genre to another.”

Next to get involved was John Gregory Betancourt, who runs independent publishing imprint Wildside Press and is the manager of Campbell's literary estate. Taking the "partial final draft and rough draft" of the novel that Campbell had left behind, Betancourt edited them into a final version and launched a Kickstarter fund to raise the money necessary to get the novel published.

The fund's original goal of $1,000 was quickly blown away, with the campaign raising nearly $58,000 from almost 2,200 backers at press time, with 38 days to go. The book is now expected to arrive in January 2019 in digital, paperback, and hardcover editions (along with some bonus features) and will give readers a glimpse of Campbell's original vision, some 80 years after he first conceived of it and 37 years after the most faithful version of the story reached the screen.

(via io9)

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