This is the second part of my interview with Bryant Burnette of the Ramblings Of A Honk Mahfah blog.
Talk Stephen King: Do you have a some favorite spots on the web that are King related?
Bryant Burnette: Duh. Talk Stephen King and Lilja's Library, of course!
Talk Stephen King: Strong in the force, this one is.
Bryant Burnette: I also enjoy the message boards at StephenKing.com from time to time, although message boards are really not my thing. I also enjoy The King Cast and the Stephen King Fancast sites, as well as Joe Hill's blog (if you want to count that, which I sorta do).
Talk Stephen King: Let’s have some fun with the Honk Mahfah: You are now required to list these Stephen King films in best to worst order (meaning 1 is the best.) Only problem is. . . they’re all terrible! However, if anyone can do it, the mighty Honk Mahfah can!
The Langoliers. Sleepwalkers. Dreamcatcher. Thinner.Is this terview beginning to feel like work? Well, put some sweat into it!
Needful Things. Graveyard Shift.
Children of the Corn. Maximum Overdrive. . . .
Needful Things. Graveyard Shift.
Children of the Corn. Maximum Overdrive. . . .
Bryant Burnette: Ironically, one of the next big posts I was planning was a film-centric version of my Worst To Best post, wherein I rank ALL the movies -- even the various sequels which don't even really count.
Talk Stephen King: Not that ironic. We read your thoughts before you think them. But please, carry on.
Bryant Burnette: I compiled an initial ranking just the other day, so I'm prepared for ya on this one!
Talk Stephen King: You read the questions ahead of time, didn't you?
Bryant Burnette: Let's see now...
8 -- Thinner (absolutely awful in every way)
7 -- The Langoliers (also absolutely awful, but it at least has David Morse and Dean Stockwell in it)
6 -- Sleepwalkers (also absolutely awful, but it has Alice Krige in it, and that counts for A LOT)
5 -- Graveyard Shift (terrible, but also enjoyable in some curious way, at least for me)
4 -- Children of the Corn (see above comment)
3 -- Dreamcatcher (I'm tempted to say this is worse than all the rest put together, simply because it had a lot of talent both in front of and behind the camera, and therefore ought to be judged more harshly; but without grading on a curve, I can't honestly rank it lower than this -- it's pretty damned awful, though)
2 -- Maximum Overdrive (it's a terrible movie, but I love it fiercely; falls into the so-bad-it's-fun category; I'll take that over merely bad ANY day of the week, and I'll take it over mediocre three days out of the week)
1 -- Needful Things (we part ways here a bit in that I think this is at least a competently-made film; not great by any means, but competent; if you ever have a chance to see the three-hour version, do so -- it's quite a bit better!)
Talk Stephen King: The really sad thing is that I agree with your comments on all of these!
Bryant Burnette: Easy-peasy, David! You're gonna have to work harder than that to rattle the Mahfah!
Talk Stephen King: I was really bummed when the Dark Tower hit the most recent speed bump. Do you think the project is dead, or just going to get a giant budget cut?
Bryant Burnette: I think if it were totally dead, we'd know it. As soon as Universal pulled the plug, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer would have thrown in the towel and just moved on to the next project. Instead, they pop up every few months and talk very passionately about how much they still want to get the project going ... somewhere ... ANYwhere.
I'd dearly love to see Roland and his merry band of flint-eyed badasses marching across the silver screen, but I've felt all along that doing The Dark Tower as a series of movies is deeply problematic. Then again, so is doing them as a television series: given Jake's age, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which the character wouldn't have to be aged upward to be 15 or so, since he'd end up that old by the time the series was over anyways. I could live with changing Jake's age, I guess, but it would certainly take a lot of bite out of certain events in The Gunslinger.
The ideal solution, I think, is going to be to wait a decade or so, until the motion-capture technology used in movies like The Adventures of Tintin has become inexpensive enough that it can be routinely employed on a television series. Then, HBO -- or perhaps (by then) Netflix, or Facebook, or Google -- needs to commit to making a series which will last roughly ten seasons. That's going to be the only way it can truly capture the novels, and THEN only if someone massively talented is running the show.
To answer your question, though...? I think it will end up getting made in some form by Ron Howard. He's a big deal in Hollywood, and when someone that notable digs his heels in and decides he's going to get a project made, it typically gets made eventually. It will end up being a very compromised version of the story that will have King purists screaming bloody murder, but it will be big, and it will be fun, and it will be a hit, and if one can set the novels aside it will be good on its own terms.
That's my prediction, at least.
Talk Stephen King: Do you have a favorite format for King material? (Movies, reading it, listening to it, comics)
Bryant Burnette: Reading. No question about it. I love the movies, and I love the comics, and I love the audiobooks, but when I think of Stephen King, I'm thinking of reading. A book, too; not a Kindle or some other such e-reader. Maybe I'll change my mind about that when I inevitably get one, but for now, I'm a paper man.
And you already know my stance on audiobooks: that's listening, NOT reading. That is not to say that one experience is more valuable than the other; I just feel that they are very different experiences, even when the person performing the audiobook is the author himself.
Talk Stephen King: What did you think of the Cemetery Dance edition of IT? Personally, I’m still having to work out and build up some muscle just to lift the thing.
Bryant Burnette: I only got mine in the mail today, and somehow, the day has conspired against me a bit: it's managed to slide right on by without me making the time to sit down and really examine the thing. I skimmed it a bit, though, and my impressions are twofold.
On the one hand, I love -- LOVE -- the look of the pages, with the red and black borders. Gorgeous.
On the other hand, I'd be a liar if I didn't admit to being extremely unimpressed by what I've seen of the artwork so far. I started feeling a little uneasy about it back when the samples were released several months ago, and so far, I've seen nothing in the book to make me feel much better about it. The artwork was the major reason I bought the book, and if I'm being honest, I don't feel like it's good enough for me to have spent $125 on. $50, maybe; $125, not a chance. Being an assistant movie theatre manager is fun, but it doesn't pay much, and if I'm being honest with myself, I look at the nearly $150 I spent on a book I already had and I think, that's more than I spend on groceries some months; that's something I probably shouldn't have bought at all, especially if I was going to end up disappointed by the artwork.
I'm happy to have the book, though, for the new afterword if for nothing else. (Still haven't read it; waiting to do so after thumbing all the way through the book, as a reward in case I end up being disappointed by ALL of the art!)
Talk Stephen King: You lean left, I lean right – neither of us live for politics! So, that said: When King includes politics in his novels, do you usually find yourself agreeing with him? Do you think it’s effective when King introduces politics?
Bryant Burnette: That's a great question!
The only time I've found myself responding negatively to King's politics was in Under the Dome, where I felt the characters of Big Jim and Andy were maybe just a bit too much. It's a very leftish novel, of course, and while I personally agree with way more of it than I disagree with, it felt a bit too one-sided.
All things considered, I don't like fiction -- be it books, movies, or television -- that gets too specific with its politics. I kinda prefer that the politics be -- on the surface, at least -- neutral, so that I can make up my own mind. I think the reason for that is that since pop culture is our common language in some ways, that makes it something that can unite us. Get a bunch of Star Wars fans in a room together, and we might end up arguing ... but it's going to probably be about the prequels, not about politics. Conversely, I suspect that if you put two people in a room who are diametrically opposed to one another politically, and then somehow convince them to ONLY talk about movies, they'll eventually find some real common ground. I don't know if that counts for much in the grand scheme of things ... but I think it potentially can count for at least something. When the entertainment goes too far to one side, though (as in Under the Dome), I think it begins to lose some of that universality. That's not to say that I think ALL fiction ought to be politically neutral, though; clearly, sometimes taking a specific stance is necessary.
Mostly, I find myself agreeing with King's politics, both in his books and outside of them. I have occasionally found myself wondering how I would feel about it if he were a conservative, and the answer I've come up with is this: if he were a more conservative person (or, for that matter, more liberal than he already is), I don't think he'd be the same writer that we think of, and so therefore maybe I wouldn't have found myself drawn to his work in the same way at all.
Then again, Ray Bradbury is a noted conservative, and I enjoy his books a lot. Not to the extent I enjoy King's, granted, but his politics don't seem to have biased me against him.
Talk Stephen King: I didn't know that about Bradbury.
Bryant Burnette: Just don't expect to see me starting a new blog devoted to the fiction of one G. Beck anytime soon...
Talk Stephen King: I enjoy books about Stephen King as much as books by Stephen King. I know one of my favorite books about King is Lilja’s Library. Do you have some favorites?
Bryant Burnette: That's easy: The Art of Darkness by Douglas E. Winter.
Talk Stephen King: Oh! That is a good book!
Bryant Burnette: Remember earlier, when I talked about scavenging The Book Rack for all the Stephen King books I could find? Well, one of the books I bought was Winter's awesome study of King's work up to that point in time. I read it with utter fascination, and (I kid you not) as a result my critical abilities took a leap forward greater than any that had been prompted by any class I'd taken in school. For the first time, I was coming to an understanding that books I actually liked could be About Something. Because of that, I was able to start thinking about books I was assigned in school -- To Kill a Mockingbird, or Fahrenheit 451, or A Separate Peace -- in a different way.
I think that may have a lot to do with why I eventually ended up getting an English degree, so I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Winter's book had as big an effect on me as any of King's books themselves did.
And frankly, while there are plenty of books about King, I find them most of them to be fairly shallow in comparison. There are others I love, though, including The Stephen King Companion by George Beahm (his The Stephen King Story is also good), Creepshows (a fine book about the movies) by Stephen Jones, and Rocky Wood's awesome, encyclopedic books about King's uncollected works and his nonfiction. There are also several biggies which I either haven't bought yet (including, to my shame, the Lilja's Library book!) or have a copy of but haven't yet read (Bev Vincent's The Road to the Dark Tower and Robin Furth's Dark Tower concordances being probably the two most notable).
But when I think of nonfiction about King, The Art of Darkness is always the first thing to come to mind. It's deeply insightful, and yet also so thoroughly readable that it manages to be accessible for "common" readers, rather than being dry analytical stuff aimed squarely at dusty old intellectual types alone.
At this point, I may as well level with you, one Constant Reader to another: the whole -- the ONLY -- idea behind my blog is for me to teach myself to write something along the lines of The Art of Darkness. There doesn't seem to be an updated edition forthcoming from, so I'll just have to fill that void myself. That's an arrogant goal, of course, and I'm aware of it; I'm also aware that I'm nowhere within shouting distance of Winter's skill level, not yet ... but, maybe, someday. And even if I never get there, I'm intently focused on trying. I'd love nothing more than to be able to write a multi-volume series of books exploring the entire breadth and depth of King's work, and do so in such a way as to be able to appeal to some kid somewhere who's in a used bookstore, pawing through musty old paperbacks looking for another book to fall in love with. If I can't get that kid, then I'll have considered my attempts to be failures.
If I get to where I want to go, though, King won't be the only topic I take on. Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, James Bond, Walt Disney (especially Walt Disney World), Larry McMurtry, Quentin Tarantino, the Dune novels, Star Trek, Bob Dylan, Alan Moore ... those are just a few of the topics my brain screams at me to write about. Who knows; maybe someday...
And if so, I'll have The Art of Darkness to thank for it.
Talk Stephen King: Okay, we're now on question #13, a good number for any horror blog! Here's the most important question I have for you: How did you win the Lilja's Library contest and I didn't? HUH?!
Bryant Burnette: Beats me, dude! I've never won nothin' like that before, and I don't have a clue how I managed it this time!
Talk Stephen King: I don't win anything, either. Maybe I should have entered the contest.
Braynt Burnette: The audiobook sure does like nice on my shelf, by the way... :)
Talk Stephen King: Now you're rubbing it in!
Bryant Burnette: Well, I could go on answering questions like that all day, but only at the risk of annihilating my welcome.
Talk Stephen King: Hey, thanks for the great answers. One constant reader to another -- keep up the good work.
Bryant Burnette: Thanks for the opportunity!
Talk Stephen King: Okay, Merry Christmas mister Honk Mafah extraordinaire.