TALKSTEPHENKING.BLOGSPOT.COM

From Carrie to Mr. Mercedes

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Returning To Joyland


Joyland Journal #6

Warm weather often brings me back to familiar Stephen King books.  I just finished reading a small pile of John Grisham books.  Good stuff.  And as I await the new books by King, I decided to return to a book I loved the first time through; Joyland.

I return a little hesitant.  Often when I really look forward to something, I come away disappointed.  Will I enjoy it as much as I did the first time through?  Here's what I've discovered in just the first few pages:

It's been long enough since I read Joyland, that the little twists, turns and even characters are not familiar to me.  So while I know the main thrust of the plot, the details are still vague enough to surprise and delight me again.  Devin's first visit to Joyland, meeting various characters -- all feel fresh and new, even though I've been here before.

Knowing the plot puts my mind to ease a bit.  I'm free to watch for other things and not just try to keep up with the mystery elements.

Returning to Joyland is a return to the 1970's.  I realized as I drove, listening as I went, that Joyland is special to me because I grew up int he 70's.  King perfectly captures the flavor of the era in his narration.  And in many ways, this book doesn't "feel" like a Stephen King book.  At least, not a modern King book.  This feels like something written by the kid who wrote The Stand, and Carrie.  But -- better.

Even with just the first few pages down, I can't believe how much I love this book.  Because it wasn't a big hardcover release, I'm afraid many readers will tend to overlook this little treasure.  Unlike Blockade Billy, which was a great read, but difficult to read over and over because once the surprise is sprung, it can't be unsprung -- Joyland has more staying power with the reader.

Will Joyland ever be a movie?  I hope so.  And I hope it correctly captures the sweet flavor of the book.

So, here I go on an old adventure down trails I love to travel.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pennywise Birthday Time



Happy birthday.  How would you like a Pennywise cake?  Sure you would.  Pennywise always loves a good party.

Creepy IT REMAKE website



Check out the creepy IT remake website at itremake.com.

From the site:

Cary Fukunaga is the last person we heard was attached to this project, which is planned as a series of two films, to accommodate the massive 1100-page tale of an evil monster who shape shifts into a murderous clown named Pennywise, and the group of friends who have to stop it. The inclusion of Fukunaga is a very positive sign that we’re in for a well-made It Remake.

Fukunaga's resume has some pretty impressive credits on it, starting with his feature film debut Sin Nombre, an emotional, harrowing tale of children trying to escape gang life in Honduras and leave the country. The movie picked up the Directing Award and Sundance and a pile of other prizes from film festivals and award shows. He then went on to direct a 2010 adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. This too was critically acclaimed and even picked up an Academy Award nomination for Costume Design. Perhaps Fukunaga's biggest credit to date has been the zeitgeist-filling hardboiled HBO detective series True Detective, where he was the sole director for the first season's eight episodes. In terms of his writing skills, he’s done much less writing than directing – though he did write the acclaimed Sin Nombre.


We have yet to hear any casting rumours, but stay tuned to ItRemake.com for more information about this film.

The site also offers the case for the remake:

Why remake IT?  Anyone that has read the book and then seen the 1990 movie can tell you that the movie itself was terrifying, so why mess with something that was already done?  The answer to the question of why remake IT is quite simple, the technology is better now than it was back in 1990 when the first movie was done.  Computers have impacted the way that movies are made now, so with even better technology, the IT remake is guaranteed to be even more terrifying than the original.

Whenever you hear the words movie remake, you immediately feel the need to cringe.  You get images in your head of beloved movies being redone, and possible in the worst ways imaginable.  Warner Brothers has decided to take the Stephen King movie, IT and remake it.  Though the idea of this remake can worry you, the film studio has promised that IT will be just as scary as King’s novel and the 1990 movie.  Over twenty years has passed since IT came out as a movie, and now with the newest movie-making technology, the remake of this classic is  sure to be a terrifying movie experience. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How James Patterson Writes So Many Books

Stephen King is very prolific.  King usually offers at least one new novel a year, and often he's treated constant readers to two new novels a year.  So 2013 gave us Joyland and Doctor Sleep.  This year will see the release of Mr. Mercedes and Revival.  (I'm still waiting for someone at the big publishing house to tell us that Revival cover was just a joke.)

My wife commented recently that King sure writes books quickly.  But compare that pace to James Paterson, who has published 130 novels.

Wait.  What?  -- 130 novels?! How is that possible?

Drake Baer lets us in on Patterson's secret at businessinsider.com, noting first Pattersons pattern is one of short, fast paced chapters with lots of action.  But how does he write so much?  Baer notes,
he treats his Alex Cross, Women's Murder Club, and other series the way a television writer might approach a new season of "The West Wing" — he's worked with more than 20 co-authors.
From Baer's interview, this is an interesting note on writing:
 For me it's all rewriting. It's layering. The writing keeps hopefully getting better. The dialogue gets sharper. My style is very colloquial. It's the way we tell stories. It would be a disaster if everybody wrote the way I do. I don't put in a ton of detail.
Of course, King doesn't write this way at all.  His books are not fast paced at all, but build slowly, revolving around deep characters and a layered backdrop that make the story strike a deep chord in the reader.  Thus, I think, King readers have more of a personal connection with King's work.  Patterson pleases us the way a television episode does; it entertains us for the time.  But a good King novel draws us back time and again, because we want to reengage with those characters and relive those situations.

Stephen King Offers Game Of Thrones Spoilers




Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Scholes Review Of A BRIEF GUIDE TO STEPHEN KING


Here is a Sandra Scholes review of A Brief Guide to Stephen King, reposted with permission from sfsite.com

The book is available  at amazon.com

*   *   *   *   *

As the master of suspense and horror, Stephen King's first novel, Carrie was published in April of 1974. 2014 is the 40th anniversary of his first published horror book that set him on the path to stardom.

Everyone has a tale to tell of a moment in their lives that they could not forget. For Stephen King, it was the moment he struggled with his first draft of Carrie, frustrated with how it looked on paper he tossed it in the trash, probably hoping to forget about it, but his devoted wife, Tabitha, rescued the manuscript and read it. Later she would tell him it only needed to be improved on rather than abandoned. It has often been said that there's a good woman behind every good man, and in this case, Tabitha is a very good woman. Since the day King edited the draft and sent it to the publisher, the rest, as they say, is history.

A Brief Guide to Stephen King is a nice, pocket size paperback whose cover sports a rather open photograph of the author sitting in his car. The red, black and white cover is reminiscent of what to expect from a photograph of a horror author as red is the colour of blood and black death, while white is the void between. Paul Simpson breaks each part of King's life into six parts and nineteen chapters starting with part 1: "The Life of Stephen King" where we read about his early life from him first selling his horror stories to magazines to getting his first novel published. Rather than only discussing his books, we get to find out about the man behind the books that influenced several generations of readers enough to want to read the new ones that get released. From his first novel, Carrie in 1974 to his most recent, Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining in 2013, there is all readers need to know and more besides with an Afterword, an Appendix of King's works and the dates they were first published in case anyone wants to track them down. There is also a bibliography of interviews and articles that have appeared in magazines and newspapers worldwide. A normally solitary man, King has done interviews before but often maintained an air of mystery. One of the main points of this book is that in most of King's work aspects of his real life appear in them and. on reading this book. readers will decide which of the novels contains them.

 Paul Simpson does a great job of putting a prominent author's life in chapters so he can be appreciated as much as his works.

*   *   *   *   *

Sandra has been interviewing some of the best big-eye artists in the field recently and when she isn't working on that, she reviews for the following: The British Fantasy Society, Albedo One, Hellnotes and Diverse Japan.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Petite Gives King Some Praise



In his Huffington Post article, "Taking The Stand For Stephen King," Steven Petite makes the argument that Stephen King is more than a popular genre writer -- but a truly "great" writer.

Petite notes that King is often underrated, though he has received numerous awards that should break him out of the horror mold.  

And, Petite steps out to make a rather bold statement; one book alone is strong enough to be considered a 20th century "classic."  And he isn't talking about The Shining.  The Stand, Petite argues, is a truly great novel.  "In 1991," he writes, "The Stand should have been considered for the Pulitzer and the National Book Award."
The Stand is without a doubt one of the greatest stories ever told. He may be considered the greatest genre writer alive, and his books are likely to be read for hundreds of years, most likely surpassing some of the nominees for both awards in 1991.
Is The Stand that strong?  I think Petite has hit the nail on the head.  But he might be so focused on a single novel that he isn't seeing the library King has given us.  Has King done better than The Stand?  That's up for debate, isn't it?  But IT, The Green Mile, 11/22/63 and The Shining should all rate up there as truly great novels.
That The Stand reaches beyond simple popularity to literary importance is a theme of my upcoming book, Stephen King, A Face Among The Masters.  What makes The Stand so much fun?  It’s a modern telling of the end of the world.  The apocalypse comes right down to us.  It’s our New York and our Los Angeles. It all comes to an end thanks to a government created plague the West Coast calls Captain Trips.  A long, sprawling novel, The Stand has lots of little cubbyholes–pockets of story that are a world of their own within the larger story.  (Brighton David Garnder, Stephen King A Face Among The Masters)
More than just being fun, King dives into other authors worlds and plays with their toys.  With The Stand, King even dabbled in the world of Poe.  -- but I'm saving that for the book.

Read Steve Petite's full article at: huffingtonpost.com

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Classic King Is Coming Back



Cemetery has announced a return to Stephen King's "Doubleday Years."  Six volumes that will include Carrie, 'Salem's Lot, The Shining, Night Shift, The Stand and Pet Sematary.  Carrie will feature an introduction by Stephen King and an afterword by Tabitha King.  It also features six color paintings by Tomislav Tikulin, and "Special Bonus Features Exclusive to This Edition!"  What's that mean?  I dunno.

It's interesting that the Doubleday books were cheaply produced with sometimes awkward covers.  Who was that on the cover of Carrie? Is Cemetery Dance purposefully righting this wrong?  

From Cemetery Dance:
www.cemeterydance.com

These are the books that launched King's career and made him a household name, and our special editions will be beautiful and oversized volumes like we've published for From a Buick 8, It, Doctor Sleep, and many other King books over the years.

The first title in this special six volume set is Carrie, which will be published later this year and is available for preorder immediately. Other volumes in this series will follow approximately every six months after that and several acclaimed artists are already creating stunning art for these books. These special editions will feature exclusive bonus features such as introductions, afterwords, artwork, and even deleted material in some cases.

We expect extremely strong demand for these special editions of Stephen King's extraordinarily popular early books, and collectors who preorder Carrie directly from us will be the first collectors offered the opportunity to order the next volume before the general public.
Please note that our last Stephen King Gift Edition sold out in just ONE WEEK, so please don't wait because you could miss out and there will be NO second printings.
"These were the ghosts which kept trying to come between me and what I was writing, kept insisting that I combine them, somehow, into a story that would tell what could have happened if there really was such a thing as telekinetic energy..."— Stephen King, from the introduction
Special Features Exclusive To This Deluxe Special Edition:
• An introduction by Stephen King detailing why he wrote the book
• A lengthy afterword by Tabitha King discussing the book's unbridled exploration of adolescent terror, sexuality, and the unknown
• Deluxe oversized design (7 inches X 10 inches) featuring two color interior printing as part of the page design
• Printed on a heavy interior specialty paper stock that is much thicker than the paper in a normal trade edition
• Epic wrap-around full-color dust jacket artwork by Tomislav Tikulin
• A different full-color dust jacket for the Artist Edition painted by Tomislav Tikulin
• Six full-color interior paintings by Tomislav Tikulin
• Interior artwork will be printed on a heavy glossy stock and tipped into the book
• High-quality embossed endpapers and fine bindings for all editions
• Full-page reproduction of the telegram Doubleday editor Bill Thompson sent Stephen King to announce the publisher was buying the book
• Extremely collectible print run that is a tiny fraction of the TENS OF MILLIONS of copies of this novel you've seen in bookstores over the last 40 years!

Get it at cemeterydance.com

Is Oculus A Pattern For The Next IT Movie?



Cinema Blend brings up an interesting point in its review of Mike Flanagan's OCULUS.  Noting that Occulus is a possession story, the article then points out that it "that bears striking similarities to Stephen King’s It (and provides filmmaker Cary Fukunaga with a template on how to juggle King’s sprawling text when he attempts that adaptation later this year)." (cinemablend.com)

I've been a bit worried about the IT remake when I heard they were moving the timeline up the the 80's.  I really (REALLY) liked the trip back to the 50's.  I didn't grow up in the fifties, so it's not that I have sweet memories of the era.  But the novel was good -- really good -- at bringing the era to life.  I did grow up in the 80's.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Carrie by Stephen King (1974): Her Long-Time Curse Hurts But What's Worse Is...

I really like Will Errickson's blog, Too Much Horror Fiction.  It's like a cave full of horror books from the 60's and 70's.

His article on Carrie was great -- and, he graciously allowed me to repost it here.  Be sure to check out, toomuchhorrorfiction.blogspot.co.uk

I especially like this line, "Carrie is no freak, but desires a normalcy she knows she'll never have --" Okay, now read the article.  It's good.

Carrie by Stephen King (1974): Her Long-Time Curse Hurts But What's Worse Is...

By Will Errickson
orginally posted at: toomuchhorrorfiction

What happens if there are others like her? 
What happens to the world?

So asks a survivor of Prom Night, the name the media has given to the tragedy that befell Chamberlain, Maine, on the night and early morning  of May 27/28, 1979. Despite all the investigations and interviews and biographies and memoirs about that unbelievable event, it's a question no one can answer. It's a question that leapt out and haunted me deeply when I read it, because it is an innocent, honest question, one that intuits the unimaginable changes and dangers humanity faces if the powers that Carrie White had at her command are also shared with unknown people the planet over. With no answer forthcoming, both its terror and its perception are enhanced. With such invisible forces at the hands of our fellow man, what hope would any of us have to survive such rage? Always at the mercy of someone who can... well, as an academic commentator on the Prom Night horror posits: For if Carrie White is the truth, then what of Newton?

I read Stephen King's debut novel Carrie 25 years ago when I was in high school - when I read the bulk of his then-published works - but found it mitigated by its classic '76 De Palma film adaptation, so it's always been at the bottom of my list of King books to reread. But with the release of this new movie version I knew it was time for a revisit. And found the novel was spectacular.  I was pleasantly surprised, nicely creeped out, at the power and conviction this little book still has. Had King written it later in his career, I imagine he would've expanded on the characters - the home lives of Carrie's classmates Chris Hargensen and Sue Snell, Principal Grayle, and even that half-assed '50s-style greaser Billy Nolan would've been fascinating reading - but as it is, Carrie is a lightning-paced unassuming thriller that has moments of real electric shock and real human emotion.

The infamous opening gym shower sequence alone, of menstrual blood and sanitary napkins and the horrifying chant "Plug it up, plug it up, plug it up" is surely one of the most humiliating moments in horror, and still taps into that cringing shadow in us that is both the bullied and the bully. Fewer than 10 pages into his first novel and King has given us one of the greatest imaginings of abjection in pop fiction.

Like Bram Stoker did in Dracula, King uses a variety of sources to tell his story: there are AP teletypes and passages from science journals, academic books like The Shadow Exploded, transcripts of court depositions, popular magazine interviews with Carrie's neighbors, Sue Snell's own memoir. None has the complete truth; only King's omniscient voice fills in the gaps and satisfies the ignorance and unknowns all the other documents ultimately labor under. Nor does he disguise the tragic climax; we know right away that many people died and the town destroyed in a massive conflagration from these sources. The uneasy suspense this generates, as we wait for all these accounts to converge, is masterful.

A staple of King's fiction to come, class conflicts are prominent at the outset. King clearly delineates the economics of his characters and the town. Lots of talk about adults joining country clubs and living in the right neighborhood - the hypocrisy of the middle-class, the bourgeois values that are ultimately a facade for the same hatreds found in someone like teenage queen sociopath Chris Hargensen. Once a high school teacher, King's depictions of the ins and outs of the teenage social cliques feels real, as do the administrative politics of principals and teachers.

The girls who assaulted Carrie are given a week-long detention - avoidance of which will result in suspension and loss of prom tickets. When the girls' gym coach, Miss Desjardin, pushes Chris and screams at her when telling the girls how far over the line the girls went and gets personal ("if any of you girls think I'm wearing my teacher hat right now, you're making a bad mistake"), Chris Hargensen thinks her lawyer father will sue the school and fire the coach. But in the novel's most satisfying scene, slick legal eagle Daddy Hargensen is sent packing by Principal Gayle after Gayle states the school can easily sue Chris and her cohorts for criminal assault on Carrie White.

"You apparently haven't realized all the implications of in loco parentis in this matter, Mr. Hargensen. The same umbrella that covers your daughter also covers Carrie White. And the minute you file for damages on the ground of physcial and verbal abuse, we will cross-file against your daughter on those same grounds for Carrie White." 
Hargensen's mouth dropped open.

Daddy can't do anything for Chris now. This enrages her, of course, so she turns on the one girl who wants to be an adult and accept her punishment and move on: Sue Snell, the novel's ambivalent heroine. This tension is explicated perfectly in a soda shop confrontation:

"Aren't you getting to be the Joan of Arc around here? I seem to remember you were in there pitching with the rest of us." 
"Yes," Sue said, trembling. "But I stopped." 
"Oh, aren't you just it?" Chris marveled. "Oh my yes. Take your root beer with you. I'm afraid I might touch it and turn to gold."

How dare Sue think she's better than the rest of the evil children who assaulted Carrie White? This pecking order of high school society, so often a mainstay of popular entertainment even for people decades removed from the setting, is seen in sharp relief. While Chris gets an almost erotic thrill - probably no "almost" about it from the vibe of her and Billy's trysts - from doling out "punishment," Sue is ashamed, even mystified, of her involvement with the shower incident, and this is the impetus for her getting her boyfriend Tommy Ross to ask Carrie White to the senior prom. Poor doomed good-kid Tommy, huh? No good deed, etc.

Still, Sue is uncomfortable about her own motives and afraid to examine them too deeply, lest she discover a jewel of selfishness glowing and winking at her from the black velvet of her subconscious. Does she enjoy a manipulative power over Tommy, as Chris does over Billy? Tommy comes across as utterly sincere in his brief relationship with Carrie White. But Sue must protect what she has: And having something she had always longed for - a sense of place, of security, of status - she found that it carried uneasiness with it like a darker sister. Ah-ha! the reader should think, and this darker sister has a name, it's right there.


The Black Man grinned at her with his jackal mouth, and his scarlet eyes knew all the secrets of woman-blood.

Mother Margaret, our true villain, is almost unbelievably deranged. Her religious hysteria is her sole characterization, and even in her back story we find that she was always maniacal. Carrie's powers have exposed themselves when she was a child, and the infant was only saved by her late father. Their arguments are exhausting, leaving you drained, despairing even. What adolescent could live in such choking insane environs? In times of stress and rebellion, Carrie makes her talents known as she flexes flexes FLEXES and terrifies Margaret with whirling dervishes of plates, tables, knickknacks, bursting lightbulbs, etc....  except now Carrie is practically an adult, and Margaret has little say any longer. No more will Carrie be dragged into the prayer room, the altar, the worst place of all, the home of terror, the cave where all hope, all resistance to God's will - and Momma's - was extinguished.

And what of Carrie herself? King is sympathetic but not sentimental. Her thoughts and impressions are scattered everywhere, in parenthetical snippets and well-drawn passages of her inner life: her utter fear of being tricked again, her bewilderment about the most basic facts of physical life, her growing confidence in her skills - her dressmaking and her unfathomable power - as well as her growing distrust of her mother... and perhaps a tiny hopeful glimmer that her prom night with Tommy Ross will be no trick. Carrie is no freak, but desires a normalcy she knows she'll never have; in a school notebook she sadly quotes Dylan: "Till she finally sees that she's like all the rest." No, her mother is the freak; Chris Hargensen might be one too, but Carrie is the one with the tragic flaw, that power that allows her an otherworldly vengeance upon the guilty and the innocent alike.


And finally: the devastation that has been foretold rolls out in the final third of the book and it's breathtaking. King fills in his climax with interviews from survivors, ordinary men and women in the thrall of unimaginable powers; in bold-faced objective AP wire reports; more quotes from his academic sources. Fires burn out of control with no firefighters available, nearby towns send in equipment and men but much too late, and if we look at these flash points on a municipal map, we can pick out Carrie's route - a wandering, looping path of destruction through the town, but one with an almost certain destination: home....

Many of the surviving townspeople inexplicably know Carrie White was responsible, even though they did not know her on sight. As they saw her on the streets wreaking her havoc, they knew. How did they know? the investigators ask; how did they know Carrie if they'd never seen her before? They knew it. They just did. Her psychic emanations, her desperate flailing about in pain and despair, impress themselves upon the besieged and innocent townsfolk. And when Sue finds the pig-bloodied and mortally wounded Carrie and is overwhelmed by the swirling images psychically transmitted... Sue still can't help but think the bleeding freak on this oil-stained asphalt suddenly seemed meaningless and awful in its pain and dying. She thinks that, and she stumbles away, screaming, and then of course, oh but of course, she feels the slow course of dark menstrual blood down her thighs.


We actually do find out that the origin of telekinesis is genetic, so perhaps not all is lost in confronting it. But perhaps all is, as a science journalist ponders: If overt TK ability occurs as a part of puberty, and if this hypothetical TK test is performed on children entering the first grade, we shall certainly be forewarned. But in this case, is forewarned forearmed? If the TB test shows positive, a child can be  treated or isolated. If the TK test shows positive, we have no treatment excpet a bullet in the head. And how is it possible to isolate a person who will eventually have the power to knock down all walls?

If this is truth, what will happen to the world? What of Newton?


In a recent New Yorker article that refreshingly refrained from the sort of backhanded complimentary tone which that mag often adopts when talking about bestselling writers of pop fiction, the perceptive author writes "Carrie succeeds because it feels accurate about things that are unreal... There are lots of writers who tell it like it is, but only a few who, with such commitment and intensity, tell it like it isn’t." Goddamn right. Commitment and intensity, that's what I want!

And there's a comfort I find in revisiting King's prose and storytelling - for better or worse - a feeling of settling back with old friends, with his familiar stylistic tics and peccadilloes, the warmth of his humanity and the coldness of his horrors. You can trust King. Sure, he may get some of the details wrong - a slip into cliche or a banal metaphor, a weak phrasing, a character from central casting - but as we all know, when King is good he's great, his commitment paramount, and you can read it, see it, fucking feel it, from the very first pages of Carrie, his very first book.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

King Books Worthy Of A Return Visit


I read Gerald's Game a couple of times, but really have no desire to go back again and again.  In fact, many novels are a great read once.  Some books actually lose something on the second read.  The first time through a book, the writer has the ability to surprise the reader.  The second time, the reader is emotionally armed up.

There are a small handful of books that are worth returning to again and again.  No matter how many times I read these books, they maintain their magic.  In fact, I look forward to the little plot twists.

Sometimes rereading a book reminds me of the period of life I first read it in.  So reading the Stand takes me back to High School and those long days I sat in summer school reading the book as a teacher droned on.

These "favorite" books are ones I'm most likely to buy special editions of.

So here are a few King books I've read more times than I can count:

Joyland



This book is absolutely delightful!  I could really care less about the who done it part of the murder mystery, this story is all tone and setting.  We get a behind the scenes look at the old amuse park and a trip back to the 1970's.

King spares the reader the typical "who done it" -- even though that is a central part of the book. There is no running around, room to room trying to put clues together.

The novel focuses on first love -- and next love.  The love we find in the midst of a broken heart.  Can that love be trusted?  Is it real?  Can we really love when we're on the rebound?  This is actually a pretty complex emotional equation King sets up for a short book.  Kings skill at depicting relationships is superb.

Early on, man suggested that Joyland would be "vintage King."  I disagree.   Joyland is not like Carrie, Salem's Lot, The Dead Zone or any other King novel.  It's stronger.  Much stronger.  The characters are deeper and the story is told with a depth of maturity King could not bring to earlier novels.  So it may have elements we saw in King's younger work, this is ultimately the work of a seasoned writer.

Favorite Scene: Mike's visit to the amusement park.

Favorite Character: Mike.

First read: 2013

check out my post about the real corpse in a theme park's house of horror: talkstephenking joyland journal


The Stand.  



I love the entire book and was so happy when it finally came out in audio.  Have read it both as the abridged version and unabridged.  Both are delightful.  There are lots of little sub stories that run through the book that are easily forgotten.  And, I could travel with Larry through that tunnel a hundred times and still be scared.

Favorite scene: I like the final scene in Las Vegas.  The hand of God reached down and took evil out.  That's pretty gutsy writing.

Favorite character: The Walkin' Dude.  Flagg.  I love it that King dared to give us evil personified. And he wasn't a seething dark monster oozing goop -- he was one cool dude.  Of course, if you made him unhappy, he had a few tricks up his sleeve to return the favor.

First read: High School.


Needful Things.  



It's been too long since I've read this book!  Time to come back.  I think Needful Things is not given enough credit as a strong, character driven book.

Favorite character: One complaint sometimes leveled against Needful Things is that it lacks likable characters.  There were certainly people I liked!  How about Sherif Pangborn and his girlfriend, Polly Chalmers.

The book worked, for me, because it was long and had lots of breathing room. King interwove the characters and moved the plot toward a final crescendo that I thought worked on behalf of the town.  The final scene with the Sherif being offered a video of his wife's death was goofy.

Favorite scene: When Wilma and Nettie go crazy and hack each other to death in the middle of the street.  Yuck.

First read: High School.


IT



This book is many people's all time favorite King book.  I like it a lot.  I think I would like it even more if I had grown up in the fifties.  The story is as a much about childhood and friendship as it is monsters.  But King isn't afraid to give us lots of monsters!

Favorite character: Eddie.

Favorite scene: There's so many!  I really like the part where Bev hears the dead children calling to her through the drain.  The book has plenty of scenes that don't work for me.  But the overall narrative and magic of the book simply overwhelms these troubling/dull passages.  I like scenes where the kids are running around town, going to the theater and shops in Derry.  King transports us to another time; not only the 1950's, but to our own childhood.

First read: High School.


11/22/63



The book is absolutely brilliant.  Never mind the awkward means of time travel.  Naturally, we all go to the 1950's via our pantry.  In fact, like IT, there is plenty that doesn't work in this book for me.  When King finally gets down to alternate history, his own mechanisms of time travel distort what might have been.  Because of the earthquakes and other things related to time travel, we never get a clear view of the stories promised theme -- what if Kennedy had lived?

But then, mid or late novel, I realized something; this isn't really about alternate timelines!  King plays with the "white if" for just a while, but the thrust of the novel is really a love story.  A LOVE STORY!

What is so powerful about the book is King's ability to take us back in time.  For people like me, who did not grow up in the late 50's and early 60's, it is a grand tour of a place I've never been.  King starts by giving us the good, and then slowly begins to uncover some of the deeper evils of the era as the novel progresses.

Favorite character: Sadie.  I'm sure I'm supposed to connect  more deeply with Jake Epping, but the guy makes so many bad decisions that it is difficult to actually like him.  There were many times I found myself  going, "really, dude?"  But Sadie is emotionally complex and real.  I didn't start out liking her, because she seemed like a distraction from the plot.  "Why this side stuff about a love story," I asked myself.  But she won me over.

Other favorite Character: TIME.  Yep, time.

King plows new ground in 11.22.63 with the concept of time itself being obdurate. 

What if time wasn't a thing, like a block of wood or even a machine -- what if it was alive?  What if time was insulted when people tried to change it?  And, the biggie -- what if it could fight back?  What if the time line itself was able to protect itself against time-travelers. 

Notice how the past is indeed alive as King writes, "the past is sly as well as obdurate. It fights back. And yes, maybe there was an element of greed involved, too."  Later in the novel, King says, "The past is obdurate for the same reason a turtle’s shell is obdurate: because the living flesh inside is tender and defenseless." (p. 827)  Time protects the people within its shell.

Sadie picks up on the theme and tries to relate to it but she uses the wrong word–malelevolent--instead of obdurate. She hasn't experienced the obdurates of the past the way Jake has!  It has beat him to a pulp!

Favorite scene: When the story passes through the IT narrative.

First Read: 2012

Non-King

1. The Pillars Of The Earth
2. Cold Sassy Tree
3. The Pelican Brief
4. The Grapes Of Wrath
5. The Martian Chronicles
6. Great Expectations
7. A Dangerous Fortune
8. Piercing The Darkness
9. 1984

What Stephen King books are you most likely to come back to?
What non-King books do you read again and again?

PAPER TOY: STEPHEN KING HANGS AROUND YOUR HOUSE


This is kind of strange. . . from writesideout.com

What could be better than having a famous writer hanging around the house, classing up the joint with witty anecdotes about his published works? Nothing, that's what!
That's why I've made the "Stephen King Hangs Around Your House" paper toy. Print it out. Cut it out. Paste a button on Stephen's foot and hang him to balance anywhere his feet can swing free. A light switch will do or a pin on your bulleting board. He'll even hang from your finger...and who wouldn't want Stephen King wrapped around their little finger? 
Make this simple paper toy today and tomorrow you can began complaining, in all honesty, that "Stephen King keeps hanging around my house."Time needed to complete this project: about 6 minutes 
Supplies needed to complete this project: color printer 8 1/2 by 11 inch white, heavy card stock scissors white glue or glue stick button or pennyActual size of this paper toy is about 6 inches by 6 inches.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Stephen King Meets Super Mario

culturepopped.blogspot.com

This is re-posted with permission from: www.backofthecerealbox.com by Drew Mackie

For you who don’t follow video games, a quick preface: 2002 saw the release of Super Mario Sunshine, the Hawaiian shirt-wearing black sheep of the series that sent Mario off to face all manner of tropical danger during an island vacation. One of the areas Mario must hop through is Sirena Beach, which exists in a state of perma-sunset and which is home to the Hotel Delfino and more than its share of ghost problems. In fact, Mario’s first mission in this area pits him against this weird, manta ray-shaped shadow that emerges from the ocean and slowly slimes over the whole resort. Mario can only kill it by repeatedly attacking it, breaking it down into smaller and smaller mantas until the smallest of them die for good.

Here’s a video of the manta monster in action:




Note that the music is appropriately creepy and David Lynch-y. I though this would be the extent of pop-cultural connections to be made, but that’s apparently not the case. The “cloudbush” thread, an ongoing NeoGAF message board discussion that’s been trying to find “mind-blowing” video game trivia since 2008, makes an interesting point about the Super Mario Sunshine manta. (It’s not the first surprising connection it’s made, and this isn’t the first one I’ve noted on this blog.) Basically, the whole scene could be a riff on The Shining. At the end of the book, when Wendy and Danny are fleeing the burning Overlook with Dick Halloran — remember, the Scatman Crothers character doesn’t get axed to death like he does in the movie — only Dick looks back, and when he does he sees something odd... even in the context of everything else that happens in The Shining.
From the window of the Presidential Suite he thought he saw a huge dark shape issue, blotting out the snowfield behind it. For a moment it assumed the shape of a huge, obscene manta, and then the wind seemed to catch it, to tear it and shred it like old dark paper. It fragmented, was caught in a whirling eddy of smoke, and a moment later it was gone as if it had never been.
These creatures aren’t the same, and the message board post incorrectly calls the Shining manta “paper-thin,” when it’s actually the Mario manta that gets called that. The Shining text does eventually compare its manta to paper, however. And both mantas fragment into nonexistence. Debatable physical qualities aside, how many giant manta shadows can you think of that are associated with pop culture hotels that have serious ghost problems? That’s a fairly specific condition, you must admit. I have no idea whether the similarity might be intentional, but on coming to your own conclusion, please consider about these two points. First, I would have never thought that a Legend of Zelda game would have been inspired by Twin Peaks, but it happened, and weirder things have inspired video games. Second, Nintendo loves obscure references. Even Super Mario Sunshine is full of them. The whole Sirena Beach map, for example, is designed to look like a Gamecube controller. See?



The controller of the system you’re using to play the very game is less out-of-nowhere than The Shining, as far as references go, but I feel like the hidden controller at least shows that Nintendo sometimes operates on a subtle level. Someone just casually playing the game probably wouldn’t notice either — the hidden controller or a debatable nod to a Stephen King novel. I’m not sure who at Nintendo could say with any certainty “Yes, it’s supposed to be The Shining” or “No, who are you and how did you get past security?” but at the very least, this must be a very specific, very strange coincidence a double ghost hotels and oversized mantas that have both fragmentary and papery qualities.

Monday, April 7, 2014

King and Bradbury: Fear and Technology

image credit: elive.com.ua


by Brandon Engel

Although some critics dismiss the work as low-brow and sensationalist, horror and science-fiction literature can have socially redeeming value, if only insofar as that both lend themselves to identifying common sources of anxiety and dread. Horror typically deals with primal, visceral fears - isolation, bodily harm, or other more abstract neurosies. Science fiction typically has something factual as its basis, and offers grim speculations about issues pertaining to science and industry, such as the implications of space travel, or widespread fear of rapidly advancing technology itself becoming an instrument of oppression.

Even more disturbing than the notion of technology being used as an instrument of oppression is the idea of machines functioning with some level of autonomy, perhaps acting as instruments of oppression by their own volition. This is a theme familiar to genre fans. It was a concept addressed in several episodes of The Twilight Zone, and it is also a theme which Stephen King has embraced himself, notably in the novel Christine (which was later made into a film directed by John Carpenter), about a 1957 Plymouth Fury with a mind of its own and a lust for human blood. King also explored the concept more ambitiously in the horrendous, cocaine fueled script for the film Maximum Overdrive, wherein all electronic appliances are trying to kill people.

Years before King was a professional writer, his hero, Ray Bradbury, had explored similar concepts himself. You may recall Bradbury’s short-story August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains, which tells the story of an eerily vacant, fully automated suburban home. In keeping with all of the advances in domestic technology that were abundant in the United States in the years after World War II, the house Bradbury envisioned was capable of speaking to the home’s occupants, preparing meals, and even lighting cigars. We come to learn that the family who owned the house was vaporized by an atomic blast; we catch glimpses of silhouettes permanently burned into the sides of buildings, and baseballs that have become forever embedded in the side of house. The house inevitably burns itself to the ground - reinforcing the notion that technology, if left unchecked, could be our undoing as a civilization. Bradbury had also toyed with this concept in some of the stories he contributed to E.C. horror comics in the fifties, most notably the story entitled The Coffin, which tells the story of an elaborate, fully automated coffin which entraps a man, and buries itself deep into the earth. These stories challenge romantic, egalitarian notions of technology as something that has bettered society wholesale and they also provoke speculation as to what degree technology is a potential liability for humanity.

Bradbury’s writing address anxieties that were rampant in the cold war era. The United States had demonstrated its nuclear capabilities by obliterating Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and at the height of the cold war, anxieties ran high. Children of the cold war era may recall going through the drills in school where the entire class would crouch underneath desks. Mock villages were constructed for the sole purpose of being decimated by test bombs. There was also intense friction between the western empire and the former U.S.S.R., and the unspoken truth behind the space race was that both superpowers were demonstrating their potential military capabilities. For instance, it was horrifying to the American public when Sputnik was first launched in 1957.

What’s alarming about the present day is that it often feels like real world technology is, in effect, manifesting some of the anxieties. With all of the paranoia in recent months surrounding the NSA scandal. and stories about Google acquiring the home automation company Nest, it’s more than a little disconcerting to read about things like the ADT Pulse home automation system that controls multiple household functions (kitchen appliances, heating and cooling, etc.) from a single smartphone app. What happens when someone hacks into our mobile phone when we leave it in the back of a cab? Or worse, what happens when the tech giants who manage these systems (who may or may not be working in tandem with the government) gain even more insight into our day to day lives - so much so that our smartphones might essentially function as the “telescreens” predicted by George Orwell in 1984?

Technology plays an increasingly large role in society, and for every advantage and convenience this affords, it also opens up new and elaborate means for people to harm one another. It’s for this reason that science fiction and horror should not be outright disregarded as trivial or unsophisticated - but rather, as a vehicle for discussing wide scale problems.


* * * * * * * * * * 
Brandon Engel is a blogger in Chicago who loves vintage horror and classic speculative fiction. Among his favorite authors are Arthur Machen, H.P Lovecraft, and of course, Stephen King. Follow Brandon’s zany adventures (and misadventures) on Twitter: @BrandonEngel2

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stephen King Video Games


Doesn't it seem like there should be more games based on Stephen King books?  I'm still waiting for someone to give me an edition of THE  STAND Civ 5.  Really, no one has wanted to drive Christine?  Think about it -- it would be a lot more fun than Pole Position.  Actually, a lot of things were better than that game.

Here is a list of video games based on King's work.  I am not including Discordia.  If you know of others, tell me in the comments section (or email me).

1985: THE MIST:

Was a text adventure game.  Remember Zork?


1989: THE RUNNINGMAN

The Running man was released as a Commodore 64 game.  It also inspired a game called "Smash TV."




1992: THE DARK HALF:




www.giantbomb.com gives us this review of The Dark Half video game:
The Dark Half is a point and click story based adventure game based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. It was released in 1992 by Capstone and even though many consider it to be a terrible game, it is highly sought after and considered a cult hit.
The Dark Half was developed by Symtus and published in 1992 by Capstone. It is a ScummVM-esque point and click adventure game that is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. Although the mechanics of the game are very similar to many adventure games released around the same time from LucasArts, it is possible to die / be arrested in the game, bringing your adventure to an eary finish. 
The game itself is a poor reflection of the novel and is riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies. Even with these inherent flaws, The Dark Half remains a cult classic, a title that is still highly sought after even this long after it's debut. The ease of getting a "Game Over" screen is such that it's vital to save often and in different files, which is a turn off for many gamers with games such as Monkey Island setting the benchmark of a "deathless" game.



1994: The Lawnmowerman 

This was a Sega Genesis game. I never got to play it because we were Atari people.  Then Commodore.  



For more, check out David Finniss article at voices.yahoo.com.
Finnis' article covers all of the above games,and also a wallpaper program called F13: "The only thing that I was able to find on my own was a program called F13. It wasn't so much a game as a program that gave you wallpapers for your desktop. There were some mini-games as well as an electronic copy of Everything's Eventual. It received a mixed review at best."

10 King Novels That Should Be Video Games:

I liked this article by Clayton Ofbricks: 10 Stephen King Novels That Should Be Video Games.  He gives a nice outline of how each game would be played out.
1) The Shawshank Redemption: 3rd Person Stealth Action 
2) The Stand: Post Turn Based Strategy 
3) The Green Mile: Construction and Management Simulation 
4) Misery: Tower Defense 
5) The Dark Tower: Action RPG 
6) Christine: Extreme Driving Sim 
7) Rose Red: Survival Horror 
8) Pet Sematary: FPS 
9) Salem’s Lot: Sandbox 
10) Cujo: Trivia
Or. . . you could just play The Sims 3 Supernatural!  Or, Naughty Bear.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Stephen King’s Scary House

This is reposted from house-crazy.com with permission.

image: flicker.com/ (by: Madeleine_H – Madeleine Holland)
Why wouldn’t the king of horror have the creepiest house in New England?

There’s a gazillion pictures of the exterior of writer Stephen King’s house on the Internet (driving by his house is somewhat of a pilgrimage for horror novel fans). But there are few, if any, of the interior. Stephen King and his wife Tabitha (who is also a writer) would like to keep it that way as they value their privacy behind the batty gates.


image: downeastdilettante.wordpress.com (via Bangor Daily News)

Nonetheless, being the curious house-peeper that I am, I decided to do a little digging to see what I could find out about the house’s history.

image from: commons.wikimedia.org (by: Blaine Puckett)

The King manor was built in the mid-nineteenth century. Official records state the year 1870 but I found one account that claims the house was built as early as 1858.

The home is located in Bangor, Maine and the address is widely available on the Internet for curious fans and dedicated stalkers. The poor King family has in fact been dogged by stalkers and I read that they have to employ bodyguards to keep people at bay.

The King’s (Stephen, Tabitha and their three children) purchased this home in 1980, after living for a year in Boulder, Colorado – where King famously wrote The Shining. The house in Bangor was intended as a second home but soon became the King’s primary residence.

image: flickr.com (by: By MERealtah – Denise Reed)

The King’s now own two other homes including one in Lovell, Maine and one in Sarasota, Florida where they spend the winter. But it is the historic house in Bangor that attracts the most attention.
This might have something to do with the creepy appearance of the house – in line with the home owner’s notorious obsession with all things dark and ominous.

Mr. King added spiders to the fence (inside the spiderwebs at the center of the gates) and bats to the top of the gateposts.  He later regretted adding this detail, as it makes tourists even more likely to stop and take photographs. - from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashorriblyitryii/

image: flickr.com (by: By The Facey Family – Blake Facey)

I’ve read in the past that the King family used to go all out for Halloween at the house in Bangor. It would not be hard to dress this morbidly Victorian home for a night of Halloween fun. 

Unfortunately, things got out of hand and too many people  began showing up at the King house on Halloween (one year as many as 1400!) so the tradition was halted.

In recent years, the King’s have resorted to taking out ads in the local newspaper announcing that they would not be at their house on Halloween, so please stay away.

image: flickr.com (by: By cliff1066™ Cliff)

Anyway, back to the house’s early history…

One account I read stated that the house was built at a cost of $7000 – mind you, this was a decent sum of money back in the mid-nineteenth century.

The structure is set on just over one acre of land and was built to resemble an Italian Villa. The original part of the house was built from wood and had only one tower (the tower on the right).


image from: flickr.com (by: wonder_al Al)

The multi-sided tower on the left hand side of the house was added in 1895. The large front porch was later added in 1912.

image: flickr.com (by: The GC Four)

The house today is much bigger than it appears from the street. It clocks in at 4,952 square feet according to zillow.com, and it has 5 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms. The home is technically zoned “multi-family” though I could not find any record of when the home was last used as a multi-family dwelling.

The modern reincarnation of the house features an attached barn which has an indoor swimming pool. There is also a 3 car garage and Stephen King’s writing studio is located at the rear of the house.

Here’s an aerial shot of the estate from Virtualglobetrotting.com:

image from: virtualglobetrotting.com

In 2011 the county tax assessor valued the King home in Bangor Maine at $1,188,900. I found two nearby homes currently for sale on the same street for $425,000 (see here) and $299,000 (see here).

Unfortunately for the Kings, this beautiful (slightly creepy) home has been a magnet for adoring fans, crazies, and house lovers alike. It is probably one of the most photographed private homes in America.

In fact, when I looked at the Google street view, there were people ogling in front of the house in the image captured by one of Google’s famous roving photo cars!

Screen shot of Google maps street view of Stephen King’s house

The King’s clearly cherish this house and I hope they never change the spooky spider web/bat gate – it just makes the house grin with glee - in my opinion anyway.

image from: commons.wikimedia.org (Julia Ess – Creative Commons)

~~~
Sources:
Stephen King’s official website
Wikipedia Stephen King page
Flickr Stephen King photos
Stephen King’s  house on Trulia.com
Stephen King’s house on Zillow.com