Cover art by Hannes Bok; edition from Shasta Publishers, 1948.
Digital Collage by JF
I recently perused John W. Campbell's 1938 novella Who Goes There?, which has germinated three films to date (all of which I also watched/ rewatched lately). Campbell wrote the tale not long before the start of WWII in Europe; but the writing feels fresh as the thing in the ice itself (an earlier version, Frozen Hell, predated Who Goes There?). It has a few parallels to Lovecraft's short novel At the Mountains of Madness. These include the location in the Antarctic, and the uncovering of prehistoric and alien discoveries in the polar wastes (at the same time, there are great differences in development and atmosphere).
Who Goes There? has a surgically minimal, yet poetic style. Campbell's characters frequently have outsized qualities. "Moving from the smoke-blued background, McReady was a figure from some forgotten myth, a looming, bronze statue that held life, and walked." In contrast with the careful assemblage of background and details in At the Mountains of Madness, the following line almost symbolized Campbell's approach: "There is no need for details." The novel also has vague echos of the Antarctic destination in Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym; and its portentous albatross, feels like a harbinger out of Coleridge. Campbell's terse novella, with its replicated physical forms, and terrifying transformations, is a powerful read.