The Power Of Short Stories Part 2: The Long & Short Of It

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Continuing our exploration this week of the POWER of short stories, and how these tales can serve as great inspirational material for other creative mediums!

This week, our Guest Blogger is Rachael Howard who is sharing her insights in part 2 of our conclusion of The Power Of Short Stories:

Who Goes There? (John W. Campbell Jr. 1938) 

I read this in bed with a torch as a kid. It terrified me. 

There is a small, isolated community in a hostile environment. They have creatures hiding amongst them and they cannot be allowed to escape. Paranoia runs riot. Who is human? Who Goes There? 

The story is basically a bunch of twitchy blokes poked with sticks until they snap. With scope for some lovely gore too. A perfect horror recipe. 

There have been three films made from the story. The first The Thing From Another World (Charles Lederer 1951) took the location and a few elements of the story. The second and most successful, The Thing (Bill Lancaster 1982), stuck the closest to the original story. Location, characters and nature of the creature were all retained, even how to tell it apart. 

It did cut the build-up of the spacecraft discovery and release of the creature by setting them in the past at another base. 

This meant an even tighter story that hit the ground running. The third film, The Thing (Eric Heisserer 2011), took that cut part to make a prequel. 

The Birds (Daphne Du Maurier 1952) 

The story is less well known than the film but has been successfully adapted to both film and radio. Again, there’s a small community trapped but this time in a more benign location, the Cornwall coastline. A family becomes trapped in their home as nature turns against the human race. 

The pace is gentler but unrelenting. They discover their neighbours are all dead, the government's rescue attempts have failed and the attacks are everywhere. 

There is no safe place and the ending is without hope. 

The film adaptation, The Birds (Evan Hunter 1963) increased the pace of the story and it shifted to a seaside town in the USA but again concentrated mostly on one family. The peril was the same but this one ended with some hope for the future. 

This is one of Hitchcock's best-known films and, that most of the story elements were retained. Everyone can relate to the need to protect your family. 

The Forbidden (Clive Barker 1985) 

This is in Volume 5 of the Books of Blood, an inspiration for many horror films. Urban legends mixed with serial killing, prejudice, bees and art. If the locals don't want to talk about it then it is probably best not to dig.

But where would a horror story be without a bit of digging. A student researches graffiti and investigates the source of some particularly disturbing art. It leads to the Candy Man and death. One hook after the other pulls you through the story. 

The short story became Candyman (Bernard Rose 1992). The location was moved from Liverpool to Chicago and class bigotry was changed to racism but the core remained the same. The evil people do because of hate and how victims can be transformed into something equally terrible. 

Basically, hate breeds hate with some gory fare added. Again, making only small changes from the source resulted in a successful film.

Rachael Howard writes about outsiders and the macabre, from the beautiful Lake District. Find her at

Both Guest Writers for this Short Story Article series = Mark and Racheal write their own horror stories. Read them in their latest release, Terror Bites. Terror Bites is a charity anthology raising money for Fuck Cancer. 

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