H. P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness (written 1931; published 1936) and John W. Campbell's Who Goes There? (1938) are both stories about prehistoric extraterrestrials discovered frozen in the Antarctic. Published just two years apart, the stories seem to share a common DNA despite the obvious differences in plot. Lovecraft's story uses its spare plotting to frame a lengthy disquisition on the history of the extraterrestrial Elder Things and their civilization, while Campbell takes a very similar premise and instead takes it in an action-thriller direction, telling a story of paranoia and fear later made into the movies The Thing from Another World and The Thing. To close the loop, in making The Thing director John Carpenter drew on Lovecraftian influences from At the Mountains of Madness.
Scholars have been divided on whether Campbell's story was inspired by Lovecraft's or whether the two hit upon the same premise independently or from a common source. Madness was published in 1936 in Astounding Stories, and Campbell became the editor of that magazine the next year, when it was renamed Astounding Science-Fiction. In that magazine he published Who Goes There? Given this, it seems to me likely that Campbell was familiar with Lovecraft's story--what editor doesn't review back issues when taking over?
A comparison of specific details from the stories show just how similar they are beneath the differences in style, pacing, and plotting.
I don't think Campbell was copying Lovecraft or meant anything nefarious; I think he was probably inspired by Lovecraft's story and made his own faster-paced, more commercial version. I can't say whether this was done purposely or was the result of an unconscious influence. The underlying similarities, though, suggest a connection that is probably more than coincidence.
6/19/2012 09:28:06 pm
In 1930 Astounding Stories serialised Victor Rousseau's "The Beetle Horde" about an Antarctic expedition that discovers an underground civilisation of beetles. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/28617/28617-h/28617-h.htm#The_Beetle_Horde
6/19/2012 11:27:45 pm
Thanks for that, Steve. I hadn't read that story before. Obviously, Lovecraft's and Campbell's stories aren't the only Antarctic tales ever written. Lovecraft, after all, used material from Poe's ancient Egyptian Antarctic civilization from "Pym." And the trope of the underground civilization is at least as old as Bulwer-Lytton's "Coming Race"--Lovecraft had used it himself in "The Nameless City" (1921).
The Other J.
7/14/2014 06:00:46 pm
I was just making the same link earlier today, and someone else on a different blog sent me here. Neither of us knew the other person were already familiar with this blog.
6/12/2015 03:08:17 pm
Maybe a little late reply, but it's always interesting to see how one idea inspired another.
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