Thursday, June 9, 2011

2011 Hugo Nominee: Short Story - "The Things" by Peter Watts (Clarkesworld, January 2010)

So, we’re nominating fan-fiction now, huh?

I’m just kidding. Well, mostly. Watts’ “The Things” is a retelling of John Carpenter’s 1984 film The Thing, and it follows the film very closely (it’s on Netflix streaming, and I actually stopped reading and watched it as soon as I realized what Watts was up to). The twist is that Watts is telling the story from the perspective of the creature. It turns out that the titular Thing just wanted to talk, but its method of talking involves splattering Carpenteresque gore all over the place, a process it calls “communion.” It’s an interesting twist, and yet it felt somewhat familiar, even if I can’t pinpoint exactly from where. For most of the story, it felt like the old “the monster is us!” canard. The story does save itself towards the end by questioning the basic nature of life on Earth – what if all the things we take for granted about biology are unique to our planet? What if death and individuality are cosmic aberrations…even errors? I enjoyed those questions, but they came too late to save the story for me. I’ve also decided that I’m not a big fan of Watts’ dense, chewy prose. It’s certainly not bad, and I give him credit for having more of a voice than many sf writers, but it’s not really my cup of tea.

I know this is everyone else's story of the year, but it wasn't mine. I enjoyed the movie a lot though. I don't think I'd ever seen it before (though I had seen the also great Howard Hawkes version).

Grade: B-

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