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The Pecman

The Thread for Stephen King Fans

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Hardened, yes. Cynical? I didn't think so. We should definitely start a Stephen King thread.

And now we have one!

I'm a huge fan, but god, if there was ever a case for somebody to get an editor to cut the stuff down, it's King. Even his last major best-seller, 11/22/63 -- the time-travel story about a contemporary guy who finds a small store in his town with a hole in time in a back alley, which takes him back to 1958 -- is long by at least 20%. If you can manage wading through a 700-800 pg. novel, there are some great rewards there.

I love King's way of capturing the specific time and place of the story, filling in all kinds of details about the streets, the houses, the people, as well as introducing a few little tidbits of pop culture -- songs on the radio, TV shows, and so on. Many of his lead characters have crucial flaws, like alcoholism, pride, or simple forgetfulness, and these flaws make the characters thoroughly believable and relatable.

I mentioned elsewhere that I had just re-read It, the story of seven 12-year-old children in 1958 who come together to try to destroy an evil demon who had been terrorizing a small New England town for over a hundred years, coming out of hibernation every 20 years or so and killing a half-dozen people under mysterious circumstances, then slinking back to the underground drains where it lives and dreams. While the movie version was awful, the novel is really terrific -- particularly in the way King cuts back and forth between present-day (1984) and the past, relating the children to the adults they're going to become in the future. The adults wind up having to get back together to defeat the demon once and for all, and they pay a terrible price in their victory. Great story, very visual, very powerful, full of enormous detail and yet great humanity and emotion.

I haven't ever tried to write a horror story, but it's certainly something I've mulled over in my time. Once I finally get Destiny and Cerulean Project done -- and both of those are very definitely science-fiction -- maybe I'll try my hand at a real horror story, but only if I can go in a direction nobody has thought of... yet. Maybe a gay teenage "Twilight meets Salem's Lot," only we find out the vampires actually are evil, and the love affair is not quite what we think it is. Lots of different potential choices.

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"It' by Stephen King is the single most influential book of my life.

I received it as a present when I was 11. Until that point I had read young adult detective stories, some war novels, fairy tales, bible stories and other good fiction, but nothing grown up.

Soon after school closed for summer that year, I picked up the book. The plot in the book begins on the last day of school before summer. The cast for the 1958 half of the story are 11 too, same age I was. So I had this wierd parallel experience. I was enjoying my own summer, with friends and romping around outdoors and I'd come home at night and read some of 'It' also featuring 11-year-old friends romping around in summer.

The plot was intricate and layered. The friendships just shone bright. Maybe not realistic in the sense of how strong they were, but bright as in an idealization of friendship and that was something I might have needed at that point, having only just embarked on the first deep friendship of my life at about the same time with no example to show me what I might be getting into.

And the villain. Books like this, it always comes down to the villain. And this one is just a doozy. I was never scared reading the book. I saw the words 'terror' and 'horror' on the blurb at the back and kept waiting to be scared, but I was seeing it more like Sinbad fighting giants, as a monster adventure. But what a monster. The clown and his power of deceit was unlike anything I'd ever come across. The sense of magic and power in the world King created was somehow 'realer' than all the other books I'd ever read about wizards or pixies or princes and seemed far more dangerous and full of possibility than the novels about boy adventurers in the Congo and detectives foiling smugglers.

I was always going to be a fan of supernatural 'horror' fiction. Like other aspects of my personality and taste, I could see that looking back. But 'It' got me to the heart of the matter earlier than my natural arc. It short circuited my growth and brought me straight to the good stuff. I read everything I could by Stephen King after that, coming eventually to other influential stuff like The Dark Tower, Salem's Lot, The Talisman and The Stand. And knowing where the itch was that I'd been looking to scratch my whole reading career, I could find more like his work - Alan Rodgers, Dan Simmons, Peter Straub, Eric van Lustbader...

But it all started with 'It' that summer I was 11, reading about 7 other kids my age fighting the most monstrous and ancient evil imaginable, told be a man who understood at the most fundamental level how to tell a good story, to make you picture the people and what was driving them and how they moved in their world.

King has lost some of the magic with his later stuff. Yes, the Dark Tower series derailed, and his editors stopped trying because they know his stuff is going to sell no matter what, but even on his worst day, he's stil clicking along better than most people.

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Stephen King, one of the best all time American writers who has succumbed the the verbage he uses so well. It is almost as if he associates the wordage in one of his stories with successful writing, it all gets to be too much.

Don't get me wrong, I admire his work. His descriptive style is hard to beat when it comes to building up a scene that can terrify the readers. But he can also describe a view, a piece of landscape in a town or a backyard that is elegant beyond belief. He makes you see and feel things in your mind through words on the page. Personally, I don't know how the man sleeps at night. Who could conjure up such terror without feeling that emotion themselves? Probably only Stephen King.

In 2000, he published On Writing, which I still have sitting in the stack on the corner of my desk. A short book by his standards, less than 300 pages. I have mentioned this book before here on the forum. If you haven't read it you should because it is an insight not only to the author's life but to his style of writing. His take on English grammar might startle you.

But I agree with Steven Adamson, "It" is probably one of the most remarkable books I have ever read. It's more of a psychological study on what terrifies people than a thriller. It sure worked me over when I first read it. I am sorry to say King has devolved in some of his recent books. He has every right to try his hand at anything and everything, but I miss the good old days.

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Apart from his vast (and often too lengthy) output, the one thing that confuses me with King are the film adaptations of his work: why it is that some are so good (Carrie, Dead Zone, Misery, Green Mile, Dreamcatchers, etc) whilst others completely and royally suck?

King handles young protagonists beautifully, and 'It' was no exception. However, my most favourite King is 'The Talisman' which he wrote with Peter Straub. It's a riff off 'Tom Sawyer' and is the one movie adaptation I'd most like to see made.

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I've read Salem's Lot at LEAST five times, and if I were to start reading it again today... even knowing in advance who's to die and who's to survive and how, I'd still be getting those wonderful goose bumps. Often enough, I'd still be needing to reassure myself... just a little... that vampires don't really exist...

But still, I think Salem's Lot should be a list of best 20th novels, and one day, it just might be.

But I thought It was awfully good as well. Even if... well, for me, once I'm through with a Stephen King novel, it's not a good idea to start another by him, because almost always, it starts sounding the all the same. Different set of good but flawed characters along with a dose of pure evil, but it still sounds almost the same. .... at least until I've given his writing a rest.

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"It' by Stephen King is the single most influential book of my life. I received it as a present when I was 11. Until that point I had read young adult detective stories, some war novels, fairy tales, bible stories and other good fiction, but nothing grown up.

Wow, that's incredible, Steven! I can't imagine reading a book this dense, frightening, and evocative at that tender age. (Although I did read all the James Bond novels, Lord of the Rings, and all the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was between the ages of 9 and 12.) A book like It would've blown my little mind.

If you liked It, read Dan Simmons' similar book Summer of Night, also about a group of 12-year-olds in a small town who encounter a horrific demonic presence (back in 1962), and they band together to avenge one of the boys' death. I will personally refund your money if you hate this book. It's a very, very, very powerful story. As Stephen King writes on the back cover: "I am in awe of Dan Simmons." Me too!

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Apart from his vast (and often too lengthy) output, the one thing that confuses me with King are the film adaptations of his work: why it is that some are so good (Carrie, Dead Zone, Misery, Green Mile, Dreamcatchers, etc) whilst others completely and royally suck?

I think quite a few of them were sold at a time when King didn't have enough control on movie rights, and so some producers were guilty of just buying the titles and then writing an almost completely-different screenplay to cash in on his name. King was pissed off for decades because of what Stanley Kubrick did to the ending of The Shining -- and I agree with Stephen, it's a pretty good movie except for tacking on an ending that makes almost no goddamned sense, and the explosive ending of the novel is 1000 times better.

Stephen King, one of the best all time American writers who has succumbed the the verbage he uses so well. It is almost as if he associates the wordage in one of his stories with successful writing, it all gets to be too much.

I casually know a famous writer (who I won't name) who once told me, "you can tell the point where Stephen King abandoned the typewriter and started using a word processor: his books started getting to be 700 pages, 800 pages, 900 pages long, all of them in desperate need of an editor." There's some truth to this.

In 2000, he published On Writing, which I still have sitting in the stack on the corner of my desk. A short book by his standards, less than 300 pages. I have mentioned this book before here on the forum. If you haven't read it you should because it is an insight not only to the author's life but to his style of writing. His take on English grammar might startle you.

Almost 10 years ago, I wrote my little piece on Writing Gay Fiction, and I specifically cited On Writing as a book that strongly influenced me. For the first time, I kind of was able to catch a glimpse of the machinery behind the magic -- kind of like seeing the robots and moving parts behind the rides at Disneyland -- and I understood how fiction works, and how a writer has to think in terms of observing the world around him.

In some ways, it's like being too aware of the trap doors and wires in a magic shows, which diminishes the illusion a little bit, but it also helps me observe the technique that's going on. King has a few quirks that make me laugh; one of my favorites is when he'll have a whole long scene with a specific character -- for example, like the mother in The Mist -- and at the very end of the chapter, the happy father and son drive away to the market, waving goodbye to her from the road, and then King starts a new paragraph that simply says: "That was the last time they ever saw her alive again."

Once you're hip to these tricks, you go, "oh, man..." I'm about to do that in one of my stories, and I think that kind of trick has to be used sparingly, but I've gotten to the point where I kind of smile and nod when I spot King pulling his conjuror's tricks. As far as I'm concerned, it's like watching a master craftsman at work.

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A few weeks ago King withdrew his early novel Rage from distribution. Rage (originally titled Getting It On) is the first novel by Stephen King published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman in 1977.

It is about a student who brings a gun to school and kills members of the faculty before taking his class hostage. Four different teenagers who committed school shootings said they had copies of Rage. Read more:

http://ktla.com/2013/01/25/stephen-king-pulls-first-novel-from-bookshelves/#axzz2MlqkcePD

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I thought Rage was taken from publication a long time ago. Back in the 80s I remember. King talked about it either in Danse Macabre or On Writing.

Danse Macabre, BTW is a great breakdown of horror tropes and the reason Horror works and sells.

I have read Summer of Night. Enjoyed it a lot. Simmons is technically a BETTER writer than King, but they could be brothers in the way the approach the idea of growing up, their knowledge of literary history and their sensibilities in general.And if Simmons is King's little brother, then Peter Straub is their big brother. Straub's 'Shadowland', about two 14 year old kids spending the summer at the home of an evil magician is one of my all time favorite books.

What I remember about reading King's 'It' at age 11 is how unalarmed I was by the process. I was alarmed by the things portrayed, like abusive parents and racist bullies, and a whole town going vigilante etc that I hadn't encountered in my reading before, but I was excited in a positive way to be reading about this stuff. My mother, a few years later, would worry that Stephen King would twist my mind and wonder why I couldn't read about nicer things.(I can't imagine why she was worried, since I grew up very normally with no violent or creepy tendencies.). I think reading 'It' was for me similar to the experience many older people have when reading 'Heart of Darkness' for the first time, or 'Clockwork Orange', where you feel like you've seen into the heart of darkness and you are glad you did, because you know what's there and are prepared to deal with it.

In contrast, I once read a book as an adult called 'The Painted Bird' by Jerzy Kozinski about a boy experiencing the horrors of the Eastern Front in WW2. The alarming things I read in that book alarmed me so much that I haven't opened my copy of the book in 15 years. Reading Stephen King at 11 never did that to me, because I never felt like I was being emotionally drained as with Kozinski. In fact, I felt like I was growing emotionally while reading King at that age.

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I thought Rage was taken from publication a long time ago. Back in the 80s I remember. King talked about it either in Danse Macabre or On Writing.

Oops, I believe you're right about that, now that I think back. Perhaps the reference to Rage occurred in reporting King's recent essay on gun violence. Sorry, can't locate a proper link to that just at the moment.

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Straub's 'Shadowland', about two 14 year old kids spending the summer at the home of an evil magician is one of my all time favorite books.

Mine too, along with The Talisman.

Re: Rage.

In December 1996 Michael Carneal shot three fellow students at a prayer meeting in West Paducah, Kentucky. He had a copy of the book within the Richard Bachman omnibus in his locker. This was the incident that moved King to allow the book to go out of print.
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Jerzy Kozinski was a wonderful writer. If anyone hasn't read his 1968 novel Steps, do so. He was criticized for, and defended for, plagiarism. But everything I ever read of his seemed exceptionally original. Not that that kind of anecdotal evidence means anything.

The thing I've found about King is he's great on plot, but not terribly good on writing. I find his use of words, of phrasing, banal and often ugly. I know, he's sold millions of copies. But I don't like his writing.

C

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I run hot and cold with King, but I think at his best, his use of words is amazing. Even his very recent novel 11/22/63 is very evocative, moving, and poetic in some scenes, and I think the structure of most of his books is flawless in terms of being balanced and logical. I don't disagree that he drags things out too long at times, particularly the 1000+ page version if The Stand... which I still enjoyed. I actually think that King is a lot more erudite and literary than some critics believe.

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