The Things (short story)

"The Things" is a science fiction short story by Peter Watts, revisiting the universe of John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing (derived itself from John W. Campbell's story "Who Goes There?") from the viewpoint of the alien. It was first published on Clarkesworld, in January 2010.


The events of The Thing (1982) and (incidentally) The Thing (2011) as well as other happenings are told from the perspective of the alien, a shape-shifting sentient biomass that can absorb and imitate other lifeforms. The alien thinks of itself as an "explorer, an ambassador, a missionary" of the biomass it consists of, the primary instinct of which is to "commune", i.e. absorb and matriculate on a cellular level with other biologies. Confused, damaged, and unfamiliar with earthly fauna, the alien eventually learns the horrifying secret of man: Humans are individuals, "thinking cancers" who do not want to be assimilated and therefore seek to repel and even destroy it. The alien realizes that humans won't ever be able to understand its offerings and concludes that violent integration is the only way to subjugate the species.


The Things won the 2011 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Short Story,[1] and was a finalist for the 2011 Hugo Award for Best Short Story,[2] the 2011 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award,[3] and the 2011 BSFA Award for Best Short Fiction.[4] The audio version was a finalist for the 2010 Parsec Award for short fiction.[5]

Wired called it "not only a startlingly effective portrayal of alien psychology, but also a thoughtful exploration of religion and the missionary impulse."[6] Publishers Weekly called it a depiction of "blindly expansionist colonialism".[7]

Watts has reported being told by Simon Pegg that many members of the film's cast and crew enjoyed the story.[6]

At Io9, Annalee Newitz praised it for "successfully represent(ing) a truly alien point of view", and called it "mind-bending".[8] Gardner Dozois similarly lauded Watts for his "excellent job of showing a totally alien way of looking at life", but noted that people who (like him) were more familiar with the 1951 film than with the 1982 remake "may be a little confused".[9]

Chad Orzel was considerably more negative, calling it "far from impressive", with "two main weaknesses forced on the story by the basic concept": the extent to which it requires familiarity with the 1982 film, and Watts' effort to "basically retcon the goofy biology of the movie alien, which was based on the goofy biology of a John Campbell short story from the pulp magazine era."[10]


  1. ^ Winners Announced for the 2010 Shirley Jackson Awards, at; published July 17, 2011; retrieved April 3, 2021
  2. ^ 2011 Hugo Awards; at; retrieved April 3, 2021
  3. ^ The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award at the J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction; retrieved April 3, 2021
  4. ^ 2010 BSFA Awards Shortlists, at the British Science Fiction Association; published January 17, 2011; retrieved April 3, 2021
  5. ^ 2010 Parsec Awards Winners & Finalists at; retrieved April 3, 2021
  6. ^ a b If You Like ‘The Thing’ You’ll Love “The Things”, at Wired; published June 30, 2018; retrieved April 3, 2021
  7. ^ Beyond the Rift, by Peter Watts; reviewed at Publishers Weekly; published November 18, 2013; retrieved April 3, 2021
  8. ^ An incredible short story told from the perspective of the alien in John Carpenter's The Thing, by Annalee Newitz, at Io9; published October 14, 2011;p retrieved April 3, 2021
  9. ^ Short Story Club: The Things by Peter Watts; originally published in Locus, March 2010 issue; archived at Locus Online, June 10, 2011
  10. ^ Short Story Club: “The Things” by Peter Watts, by Chad Orzel; at; published August 28, 2010; retrieved April 4, 2021

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