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Horror Roundtable 11 – The Master: The Continuing Impact of Stephen King

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When: 11 August, 2013
Time: 8pm EST (use the Time Zone Converter to find your local time)

The Master: The Continuing Impact of Stephen King

Carrie, Salem’s Lot, It, The Shining, The Stand, The Dark Tower series, Under the Dome, Joyland… Movies such as The Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me, Misery, The Green Mile, The Mist… The comic American Vampire, plus all of those wonderfully chilling short stories… Stephen King’s impact on not just the horror genre but the writing world in general is immense. Let’s delve down into it and see what this impact is, and why his name will forever remain indelibly imprinted upon the world of literature, and continue to influence generation after generation of writers.

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You can follow the Roundtable discussion in the comments section of this post.

Note: the page will not auto refresh, so please you the refresh option on your browser to keep up to date with the discussion.

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Special Guests:

Rocky Wood     Bev Vincent     Michael Collings     Douglas E. Winter

Rocky Wood lives in Melbourne, Australia and is the co-author of three major works about Stephen King, all of which were nominated for the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award™ nomination for Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction – Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished (latest edition from Overlook Connection Press), Stephen King: The Non-Fiction (Cemetery Dance) and Stephen King: The Literary Companion (McFarland), which won the 2011 Bram Stoker Award.

He is also the author of ‘Horror! Great Tales of Fear and Their Creators’ (McFarland), a graphic novel illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne, which was shortlisted for a Black Quills Award; and ‘Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times’ (McFarland), with Lisa Morton and illustrated by Greg Chapman, winner of the 2012 Bram Stoker Award.

He has spoken at numerous conventions, including the SKEMER Con in Estes Park, Colorado (2003); Continuum 3 (2005) and Continuum 4 (2006) in Melbourne; Conflux 3 in Canberra (2006); the 2nd Annual Stephen King Dollar Baby Festival in Bangor, Maine (2005), the World Horror Conventions in Salt Lake City (2008 and 2012); the World Horror Convention in Austin (2011); the Bram Stoker Award Weekends (Burbank, 2009 and Long Island, 2011); Worldcon in Melbourne (2010); the combined Bram Stoker Award Weekend/World Horror Convention in New Orleans (2012); and has even addressed Stephen King’s hometown Historical Society about the author’s works and motivations. He has undertaken seven research trips to Maine, rediscovering many previously lost or unknown pieces written by King. He has published non-fiction worldwide for over thirty years; and is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on King’s work.

He served as a Trustee of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) from 2008 to 2010; and was elected President of the HWA in 2010 and re-elected in 2012. He is also a proud member of the Australian Horror Writers Association.

Bev Vincent has been writing News from the Dead Zone for Cemetery Dance magazine since 2001. In each issue he provides news, reviews and commentary about current Stephen King projects. There is also an online version at www.newsfromthedeadzone.com. He is also the author of three books: The Road to the Dark Tower (2004, nominated for a Stoker), The Stephen King Illustrated Companion (2009, nominated for a Stoker and an Edgar) and The Dark Tower Companion (2013). In 2010 he was interviewed for an update to the Biography Channel International’s profile of King. In addition to his nonfiction work, Vincent is also the author of over 70 short stories, dozens of essays and interviews, and hundreds of book reviews. His website is www.bevvincent.com.

Michael Collings is Emeritus Professor of English and former director of Creative Writing and Poet-in-Residence for Pepperdine University. In addition to teaching subjects ranging from Beowulf to Stephen King, he has published over two dozen scholarly, critical, or bibliographic book-length studies of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, including books on Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Piers Anthony, and Brian W. Aldiss. Dr. Collings has also published novels and multiple volumes of poetry and short fiction, including The Slab, The House Beyond the Hill, Dark Transformations and Naked to the Sun. He has been a Guest/GoH at LTUE a number of conferences and twice Academic GoH at the World Horror Convention. He is a two-time finalist for the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award®; and currently serves as Senior Publications Editor for JournalStone Publications, reviewer for Hellnotes.com, and reviewer and columnist for Dark Discoveries, in addition to posting articles and reviews at Collings Notes.

Douglas E. Winter – Publisher’s Weekly has hailed Doug Winter as “the nation’s most accomplished critic of horror, dark fantasy, and dark crime.” His books include the only authorized biographies/critiques of Stephen King (Stephen King: The Art of Darkness) and Clive Barker (Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic); the Book of the Month Club’s “Best Suspense Novel of the Year,” Run; and the best-selling anthologies Prime Evil and Revelations.

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151 comments on “Horror Roundtable 11 – The Master: The Continuing Impact of Stephen King

  1. Good morning and welcome to Horror Roundtable #11 – the subject: The Continuing Impact of Stephen King. We’ll start at 8pm US EDT (about half an hour after I type these words!)

  2. Our Guests are:

    Bev Vincent has been writing News from the Dead Zone for Cemetery Dance magazine since 2001. In each issue he provides news, reviews and commentary about current Stephen King projects. There is also an online version at http://www.newsfromthedeadzone.com. He is also the author of three books: The Road to the Dark Tower (2004, nominated for a Stoker), The Stephen King Illustrated Companion (2009, nominated for a Stoker and an Edgar) and The Dark Tower Companion (2013). In 2010 he was interviewed for an update to the Biography Channel International’s profile of King. In addition to his nonfiction work, Vincent is also the author of over 70 short stories, dozens of essays and interviews, and hundreds of book reviews. His website is http://www.bevvincent.com.

    Michael Collings is Emeritus Professor of English and former director of Creative Writing and Poet-in-Residence for Pepperdine University. In addition to teaching subjects ranging from Beowulf to Stephen King, he has published over two dozen scholarly, critical, or bibliographic book-length studies of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, including books on Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Piers Anthony, and Brian W. Aldiss. Dr. Collings has also published novels and multiple volumes of poetry and short fiction, including The Slab, The House Beyond the Hill, Dark Transformations and Naked to the Sun. He has been a Guest/GoH at LTUE a number of conferences and twice Academic GoH at the World Horror Convention. He is a two-time finalist for the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award®; and currently serves as Senior Publications Editor for JournalStone Publications, reviewer for Hellnotes.com, and reviewer and columnist for Dark Discoveries, in addition to posting articles and reviews at Collings Notes.

    Douglas E. Winter – Publisher’s Weekly has hailed Doug Winter as “the nation’s most accomplished critic of horror, dark fantasy, and dark crime.” His books include the only authorized biographies/critiques of Stephen King (Stephen King: The Art of Darkness) and Clive Barker (Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic); the Book of the Month Club’s “Best Suspense Novel of the Year,” Run; and the best-selling anthologies Prime Evil and Revelations.

    As for myself: Rocky Wood lives in Melbourne, Australia and is the co-author of three major works about Stephen King, all of which were nominated for the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award™ nomination for Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction – Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished (latest edition from Overlook Connection Press), Stephen King: The Non-Fiction (Cemetery Dance) and Stephen King: The Literary Companion (McFarland), which won the 2011 Bram Stoker Award.

    He is also the author of ‘Horror! Great Tales of Fear and Their Creators’ (McFarland), a graphic novel illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne, which was shortlisted for a Black Quills Award; and ‘Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times’ (McFarland), with Lisa Morton and illustrated by Greg Chapman, winner of the 2012 Bram Stoker Award.

    He has spoken at numerous conventions, including the SKEMER Con in Estes Park, Colorado (2003); Continuum 3 (2005) and Continuum 4 (2006) in Melbourne; Conflux 3 in Canberra (2006); the 2nd Annual Stephen King Dollar Baby Festival in Bangor, Maine (2005), the World Horror Conventions in Salt Lake City (2008 and 2012); the World Horror Convention in Austin (2011); the Bram Stoker Award Weekends (Burbank, 2009 and Long Island, 2011); Worldcon in Melbourne (2010); the combined Bram Stoker Award Weekend/World Horror Convention in New Orleans (2012); and has even addressed Stephen King’s hometown Historical Society about the author’s works and motivations. He has undertaken seven research trips to Maine, rediscovering many previously lost or unknown pieces written by King. He has published non-fiction worldwide for over thirty years; and is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on King’s work.

    He served as a Trustee of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) from 2008 to 2010; and was elected President of the HWA in 2010 and re-elected in 2012. He is also a proud member of the Australian Horror Writers Association.

  3. So, in about half an hour we will begin discussing:

    The Master: The Continuing Impact of Stephen King

    Carrie, Salem’s Lot, It, The Shining, The Stand, The Dark Tower series, Under the Dome, Joyland… Movies such as The Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me, Misery, The Green Mile, The Mist… The comic American Vampire, plus all of those wonderfully chilling short stories… Stephen King’s impact on not just the horror genre but the writing world in general is immense. Let’s delve down into it and see what this impact is, and why his name will forever remain indelibly imprinted upon the world of literature, and continue to influence generation after generation of writers.

    The discussion will initially be between the Guests. HWA members and the public can join us and ask questions/make comments from 8.30pm US EDT

  4. I just realized I need to explain my Good Morning (lol) as I am in Melbourne, Australia and it’s already Monday morning. So, Good Evening to those of you in the Americas!

  5. Good evening, Rocky, from Northern Virginia, where we’re awaiting sight of the Perseid meteor shower. Which means, of course, that I’ll be checking into a hospital later tonight to have some sort of surgery and avoid seeing anything … allowing me to wake up tomorrow or 28 days later while everyone else has to deal with the Triffids or the Rage-infected populace, depending on their generation.

  6. Good day :), Bev. We’re just waiting on Doug and Michael (I know Michael has some connectivity problems,so may be late)

  7. Here in Texas we’re coming off a massively hot week. My car thermometer read 122 F on Friday afternoon after work. Fortunately only in the mid-90s today.

  8. Ok, let’s start and Michael can join us.

    Let’s open by asking the panel what they think Stephen King’s impact is right now, in 2013.

  9. The obvious, current impact is the fact that a TV series based on one of his novels is “changing the face” of the summer TV landscape, which is typically a wasteland for standard networks. The project was something of a risk and it seems to be paying off for CBS. One wonders what other author(s) could have contributed to something of that sort.

  10. It seems to me that King “keeps on keeping on”, in that new generations of readers seem to keep picking him up, discovering his backlist and become fans. He continues to experiment with things like ‘Ghost Brothers of Darkland County’ to keep himself fresh and he is still the GIANT of the horror genre.

  11. Doug/Bev – this page doesn’t auto refresh for us,so it’s worth hitting your refresh button fairly regularly 🙂

    And Doug, when you ‘go in’ for that procedure, take your survival pack with you!

  12. I have to agree with Rocky. Essentially I have lived through three “reading generations” of King’s follower, and each time there is the excitement of discovering that first book, then the next and the next. Plus, as you note, he is always working in new directions, which inspires new readers.

  13. Some people don’t appreciate what an innovator King has been over the years. For example, he published an eBook twenty years ago — Umney’s Last Case in 1993. This year, his projects are expanding that frontier with the enhanced eBooks of Ghost Brothers and Hard Listening. He’s never been content to sit back — he’s always pushing himself and the publishing frontiers.

  14. Hey, Michael, welcome – there’s a storyline there somewhere. Feel free to dip on our first question –

    Let’s open by asking the panel what they think Stephen King’s impact is right now, in 2013.

  15. I tend to take the long view. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to measure impact and influence on a book-by-book, project-by-project basis. With novelists and most other creators, it’s about a body of work – or a specific achievement that changed the way we look at or think about our world … or, at the least, a mode of art or entertainment. William Peter Blatty’s influence, for example, is profound – consider the recent spate of new Exorcist knock-offs – but that influence stems from a single book. That’s not to discount his other writing, whether in horror or in comedy, but that one book changed popular culture forever.

    With Steve King, it’s the body of work – but also, within that body of work, several highly influential books. We can debate whether any one book matched the impact of The Exorcist – I don’t believe so – but Steve’s overall influence on popular culture is far more profound.

  16. Throughout his career, he has set new standards for writing and for publishing. He and Peter Straub took minimal royalties for THE TALISMAN

  17. That leads me to ask,

    In terms of broad readership and viewership do you see King’s influence increasing, fading, or staying the same over the next decade?

  18. (I got that Doug but it was fun to play along). I was wondering who’d play you in the movie?

  19. He’s become an adjective. Anything weird that happens is described as “something out of a Stephen King novel.” Not many other writers have had that kind of impact on popular culture.

  20. Sorry, hit the wrong button. He forced publishers in essence to report on every copy of the book sold. He demonstrated to them in the mid-1980s that an author could sell more than one book a year–he had five titles on the bestsellers lists simultaneously in that one year. He showed how e-books could be bestsellers. He supported independent bookstores by holding signings. Again and again, his popularity has allowed him to push boundaries and show that, in many ways, there ARE no boundaries.

  21. And he has for a long while been a tag line on sit-coms and print comics…suggesting that he is so well known that everyone–even those who haven’t read the books–knows what he stands for.

  22. In terms of broad readership and viewership do you see King’s influence increasing, fading, or staying the same over the next decade?

    I think that depends on whether readers are willing to follow him as he “mutates.” I see him trending a little toward crime fiction. There’s Joyland, of course, but also the 2014 novel Mister Mercedes, a crime novel with no supernatural elements. His horror fans may not appreciate that kind of shift.

  23. If you mean numbers of readers or viewers, I’m not willing to make a prediction, although it’s difficult to envision a lessening of interest in his work; but I can say that his influence, particularly on cultural perceptions of horror and fantasy — and on other writers and creators — will no doubt continue, if not increase.

  24. I also wonder how long it takes people who are discovering him now to go back to all those earlier books. There’s such a backlist to consume. When I started reading him, I only had five or six books to catch up with.

  25. Interesting point Bev – many of the hardcore readers still haven’t attempted the Dark Tower. ‘Joyland’ did have supernatural elements but it was a certainly a whodunnit at its core.

    Which leads me to ask:

    The general public tend to think of King as a horror writer, although we know he crosses genres and has written a lot of mainstream short fiction in recent year. The Dark Tower cycle is one example, how do you think his work translates outside horror?

  26. Bev, To that extent, he has perhaps literally become a “brand name”–recognizable for a certain kind of writing done extraordinarily well. To try something different–as with MISTER MERCEDES–means that in part he will have to re-define himself and his audience.

  27. He’s also fairly unique as a writer in that he’s also become a recognizable celebrity. A lot of people I read, if I passed them on the street I might not recognize them. But King has put himself out there, not only in the usual interviews, but in things like the AmEx commercial and his cameos. People know that face.

  28. I agree Doug – I think when you have a well as deep as King’s your influence can only spread. I guess there be some more failed experiments, along with major successes (which is what I am predicting for ‘Doctor Sleep’). The more mainstream fiction and other genres he writes him opens the door for new readers (I got at least a dozen friends who ‘don’t read King’ to read ’11/22/63′ and all have gone on to try other of his books)

  29. In a way, it is more a question of how well he makes horror an integral part of other genres. The DT series is an ideal example. Individual stories partake of multiple genres, with enough horror intruded to make that genre part of the story. The result is a widening of scope and a diminishing of the labels and their effectiveness. So something like THE DARK TOWER, with all of its connections to his other novels, becomes an epic-western-romance-sciencefiction-apocalyptic-historical-novelstory. All at once. That is in part why it is so intimidating.

  30. A lot of readers didn’t care for his existential ruminations in books like The Colorado Kid and From a Buick 8, but I get what he was exploring there. As he gets older, the things that are important to him are going to change, too. He’s a grandfather now, so his perspective on kids is probably a little different, for example.

  31. Again, I want to speak from the long view, which is now nearly 40 years since Carrie. When you look at the “body of work,” you can see that Steve’s fiction fought that connectivity to genre early on. In genre books, as in genre film, popularity has a way of both liberating and jailing the creator. Not surprisingly, most successful writers write about what juices them, moves them, to write. Steve King writes dark fiction for a reason. A lot of reasons, really. That made him a bestseller. But popularity breeds expectation – not only from readers, but also from publishers. Publishers want to publish books that readers want to read, but they tend to believe that, when it comes to genre fiction, readers are like the guy who goes to the Chinese restaurant every week and orders Kung Pao Chicken … every week. And that’s true, to a point. Readers can be like that … and we know so many who read only Stephen King novels and never pick up another title that would be considered “horror.”

    Whether instinctively, or in considered response to how swiftly he was typecast as a horror writer, Steve began pushing at the perception of the boundaries – the perception of a genre – rather early on. That came both through entwining other genres – whether political thriller or western or fantasy – and through educating readers and publishers to his craft, not only in The Dark Tower, but most notably in Different Seasons, with “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” and “The Body.” That was 1982….

  32. Agree, Rocky. He is inviting “non-horror” readers with things like 11/22/63, then incrementally introducing them to the techniques and images of horror, inviting them to move further in.

  33. Here’s a doozy: If Stephen King has never appeared on the horror scene, where do you think the horror genre would be today?

  34. To be honest, I don’t read King with an expectation of “horror”–although most of the time that element is present. I read him for solid stories well told, for characters (whether major or minor) that make me care about them, for landscapes that are at once familiar and alien, and for the sense that there are possibilities just beyond our sight, and we explore them at our own risk. Whether that results in “The Body” or “11/22/63” or “From a Buick 8,” he answers my needs.

  35. A major reason for his shift from Viking to Scribner was the fact that he didn’t think Viking was doing anything to expand his readership. He was selling a ton of books without any effort, and that was okay with them. King wanted more readers, and thus the interesting deal with Scribner and books like Bag of Bones. He avoided as much as possible including Dark Tower elements in 11/22/63 because he wanted that book to appeal to new readers, too. The book was sold in the bookstore at the Texas Book Depository — people interested in history more than fiction.

  36. On Writing has been a very influential book, too. A lot of people (especially writers) who say they never read King have read this book and found applicable lessons.

  37. If Stephen King has never appeared on the horror scene, where do you think the horror genre would be today?

    There would be far fewer books with titles ending in -ing…

  38. From my perspective, and I would dare say Steve King’s as well, by the mid-1980s, he wanted to pass the baton — the “King of Horror” to borrow the inevitable tag line back then — to Clive Barker. Who soon learned he’d rather not hold that title either. He became, increasingly, Stephen King the writer. Not the horror writer. But he never stepped away from the H-word. Even after the publishing industry, which had pushed for a genre, decided that the genre didn’t sell. Which, in turn, meant – in their confused vision of the reading public – that horror novels didn’t sell. Or didn’t sell well enough to justify much of an investment. Unless you were Stephen King or one of a handful of other major names.

    And again, that’s where the body of his work – which continued to grow, and which continued to mine the dark side – had an impact, in serving as a weighty reminder that what historically had been considered horror fiction played a vital and continuing role in our popular culture. He “mainstreamed” his fiction while holding true to the core impulses that drove him to write.

  39. Bev Vincent

    On Writing has been a very influential book, too. A lot of people (especially writers) who say they never read King have read this book and found applicable lessons.

    Good point, Bev. Educators also say this often.

  40. For me, King took horror out of the Lovecraftian backwoods villages and showed that it could happen ‘here’–even his most isolated landscapes are still connected to a life-flow that doesn’t seem as important in much pre-King horror. His places are real places, his people are real people, which allows the horror to become more intense, more personal. MISERY was one of the most frightening books at the time…because just about then, the news covered stories of a nurse murdering patients. So you don’t have to go to ancient piles for creaking and groaning. They are just up the road.

  41. I often say that I would read King if he started writing romance novels because for me it has always been about the characters. I can look back on King books that I’ve only read once, or maybe not for years, and still remember who the characters were. The same isn’t true of many of the other authors I read. Who didn’t get a rush when Richie and Bev popped up in 11/22/63? It was like a visit with old friends from school.

  42. Doug – “And again, that’s where the body of his work – which continued to grow, and which continued to mine the dark side – had an impact, in serving as a weighty reminder that what historically had been considered horror fiction played a vital and continuing role in our popular culture. He “mainstreamed” his fiction while holding true to the core impulses that drove him to write.”

    I couldn’t have said it better.

    One thing I know for sure – King has inspired generations of horror writers. I wouldn’t hesitate in estimating at least half of the HWA’s members would claim him as a major influence. With the new world of ebooks and self-publishing more horror writers than even before are hitting the market with their works, liberated perhaps by King and the other masters of the 1980s in particular

  43. Stephen King also opened the last quarter of the 20th century (and this much of the 21st) to many of the daily horrors that most people don’t talk about. Cancer. Abusive parents. Failed households. Failing education. Loss of community and connectivity. One of my colleagues at Pepperdine referred to him as one of the most significant last-quarter writers because essentially he talks about everything that we fear, that bothers us.

  44. This Roundtable is now open to the public, so feel free to post any questions or comments you have, but please keep them on topic.

  45. A reminder to HWA members and the public that you can drop in and ask questions/make comments from now

  46. Liberated, yes, Rocky–and instructed in how to do it. Clear storytelling, strong characters.

  47. To Rocky’s question: <>

    Let me cite one of his more influential books as an opening to the answer. The Dead Zone had a weighty impact on horror as a genre and as commerce. That was Steve’s first New York Times bestselling hardcover. And in that time and place — 1979 — The Dead Zone brought legitimacy to horror. Not literary legitimacy, not yet, but commercial legitimacy. For better, but also for worse, the publishing industry perceived horror as a genre – a type of fiction – that could be packaged and marketed to a committed audience. And as a result, The Dead Zone gave a number of fine writers an opportunity to bring their unique voices to the game.

  48. It’s hard to imagine a fear that he hasn’t addressed in one way or other in his myriad books and stories.

  49. Sp The Dead Zone created the possibility that many more people could read Ramsey Campbell and Charlie Grant, and that talents like Jack Cady, Michael McDowell, Rick McCammon, and so many others would find a welcoming home in New York publishing — at least for a time.

  50. I find it interesting that he has, of late, been tackling story ideas that he first had back in the 1970s but didn’t feel mature enough or capable enough to handle at the time. Under the Dome. 11/22/63 — although in a way, The Dead Zone was a back-door approach to the subject matter. And now he’s going back to see what one of his 1970s characters has been doing all these years.

  51. And, Doug, he helped demonstrate that “literary” fiction, while it has its place, is not the sum total of literature. And that “sub-literary” genres can be explored using critical tools, and can be made as multi-faceted, as can many of the strongest literary works.

  52. Great discussion, gentlemen. Thanks for letting us eavesdrop.

    Do u think in recent years, Steve has changed his prose or execution? Lisey’s Story is a bit diff from his usual work. As is 11/26/53. No?

  53. King has indeed dealt with these many fears – Is there any area of fiction (or non fiction for that matter), a genre, a storyline or a theme you would like to see King investigate?

  54. His speech at the National Book Awards banquet was instructive. He chided the “literati” for ignoring writers like Jack Ketchum and Elmore Leonard. “You don’t get social academic brownie points for not having read them,” he said, more or less.

  55. Usman: I think he may be attacking more literary subjects from time to time, but I don’t think his overall language has changed all that much. Evolved, yes, but shifted abruptly? No. Case in point — what King fan couldn’t identify which of the four stories he wrote in Hard Listening? Even a computer was able to do it!

  56. I like the defense Michael Chabon made of genre fiction, wherein he called literary fiction contemporary, quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth stories. Happily, many ‘genre’ writers easily blend the two and create original works.

  57. Usman, my view is that Steve is learning as a writer every single day. You don’t see the style from ‘The Shining’ or ‘The Dead Zone’ in his fiction any more (which is often a shame). He gets better as a writer year by year, allowing him to investigate themes, fears, etc that he couldn’t approach earlier. All this is IMHO, ofcourse. Bev makes a great point about his investigating past ideas now that he is confident he can tackle them well

  58. I think that it is less a matter of changing style or execution but of exploring stories that can only be told in more complex structures. Kennerdy’s assassination had been a shadow over almost a half-century of history–the only way to look at it fully is to be both here and there, otherwise the story becomes merely the working out of historical threads. King brings his own memories, his own history (and some of his own characters) into the historical thread–as he has done often before. What is different here, I think, is the added twist that BEING in the past also CHANGES the past…an idea congruent with contemporary physics but that might not have worked as well forty years or so ago.

  59. True, Bev. I love that abt him. He brought his own voice and great depth to horror and, to be honest, elevated it to a level sometimes greater than contemp realistic fiction.

  60. Is there any area of fiction (or non fiction for that matter), a genre, a storyline or a theme you would like to see King investigate?

    I’m very much looking forward to Mister Mercedes. King has written some great “straight crime” short fiction and I’m eager to see what he does at book length. Most of the stories in Full Dark, No Stars fall into this category, too.

  61. A large number of King’s stories have been adapted for the screen. Some have been outstanding but most either mediocre or downright disappointing. Yet, King writes in a very visual, almost cinematic manner. What do you put this uneven screen record down to?

  62. To answer usman, I didn’t read 11/22/63 as a departure from what is, after all, the continuing evolution of a writer. Underscoring an earlier point, it’s not a horror novel; not really. It’s arguably a science fiction novel, given its time travel conceit, and a historical novel, to be surew. But 11/22/63 is not really about the Kennedy assassination, as opposed to the mythology of the assassination – not simply in terms of the endless conspiracy theories, but also in terms of de-mythologizing Lee Harvey Oswald, forcing the reader to accept the pathetic smallness of a man who killed a president (and that, yes, JFK’s death really was the work of one miserable man). But it’s foremost a novel about lost moments, those tiny missteps as well as those massive ones we make, and that we wish and hope we could undo, but can’t. And what Steve brews from that sprawling palette is a nostalgic melancholy. It’s a long time coming, and I’m not entirely sure it was worth it, but it’s powerful when you get to those final pages.

  63. I actually would like him to write a horror story ala Salem’s Lot or The Shining again? I havent read Dr Sleep yet, so dont know if it’ll measure up to the hype, but I honestly feel some of his earlier works are more powerful for me as a reader than the newers ones. Or at least more memorable.

  64. Coming from academia, I see one key difference between King (and fantasists/SF writers in general) and literary writers. Too often “literature” seems overly self-involved: placing of symbols in just the right places to critics will “get” it; using language for its own sake, to create poetic passages (nothing wrong with that…in poetry); experimenting with conventions for the sake of doing so, not because the story needs it. King reverses that, concentrating not on the critic or the scholar but on the reader. And at the same time creating sufficiently complex fictions that we can still talk about symbols and language and experimentation…but only AFTER we finish with the story.

  65. King is such a visual writer that we don’t NEED film to make it visual for is. It already is. We know what people look like, how they sound, where they live. So when that is translated into film, the result is almost guaranteed to disappoint. ‘That’s not the way he REALLY sounds,” etc. King makes his unique speech patterns and word choices work for him and for his characters; actors too often make them sound forced, unnatural.

  66. Story comes first. Chip Delany, who really cares abt language and ‘literary legacy’ says the same thing. A fact sometimes lost on ‘literary writers’.

  67. Here’s what PW says about Doctor Sleep: “Less terrifying than its famous predecessor, perhaps because of the author’s obvious affection for even the most repellent characters, King’s latest is still a gripping, taut read that provides a satisfying conclusion to Danny Torrance’s story.”

    I agree that it’s less terrifying (it’s hard to beat being trapped) but I think the reviewer overlooks the fact that King had obvious affection for Jack Torrance, too.

  68. Rocky, I’d love to write a book on the pathos of Hollywood adaptations — and not simply of Stephen King’s novels and stories. Imagine being F. Paul Wilson and learning that Michael Mann was going to direct the adaption of The Keep. And how infuriating it must have been to watch the results. My own dealings with producers and directors has taught me never to underestimate the ability of Hollywood to undermine creativity, or hijack it for its own purposes.

  69. To be fair, many directors have also ruined his concept and execution. I mean what the hell was that all about in Dream Catchers when Morgan Freeman blows up in the copter? Irked me so much. Similarly, except for Frank Darabont and (perhaps) Stanley Kubrick, most really misdirected his works.

    I;d love to see Chris Nolan direct 11/26/63.

  70. I’ve always thought “The Body” (later the movie, STAND BY ME) was mainstream. There are many mainstream elements in King’s works, which I think help the “civilians” identify.

  71. To Michael’s point about dialogue, etc. Now I don’t think “Under the Dome’ is one of King’s best books (or worst) but somehow it has captured viewers on screen, despite some very clunky scriptwriting (the dialogue is frightful at times), patchy acting, etc. This sure ain’t ‘Breaking Bad’ but mainstream viewers seem to have attached themselves to the series?

  72. True that, Marge. Stand By me is a great movie. I think it’s when Holywood Hollywoodizes his work that the movies become lifeless and cliched.

  73. Again from an academic background: Hollywood seems dedicated to the idea that the least director, the least producer, knows more than the greatest writers the language has produced. Streamline it; remove all subplots, even if they are needed to understand the story; tailor it to meet whatever sociological/psychological gimmick is currently in vogue; then release it as actually representing the author’s ideas.

  74. In other words, the uneven screen record has little to do with the source material. And we can’t put it down to disappointment that the adaptation didn’t match the book or short story — as constant readers, we may be disappointed, but despite Steve’s popularity, many more people will see a film or television adaptation than have actually read the source.

  75. “I agree that it’s less terrifying (it’s hard to beat being trapped) but I think the reviewer overlooks the fact that King had obvious affection for Jack Torrance, too.”

    Right on, Bev. They often think of the Kubrick movie Torrance, not the one that was in the actual book – for which the reader even was entitled to empathize.

    ‘Doctor Sleep’ reveals things about ‘The Shining’ beyond the obvious, as readers will discover

  76. That’s exactly right, Michael. There was a great article on Slate abt it recently that explored the idea ‘the more money u spend, the more u HAVE to focus on special effects and stunning visuals’ bc the teen viewer subconsciously expects it then. I thought Apt Pupil was a great movie and I can’t inagine a lot of money having been spent on special effects on it.

  77. We’re coming to the end of the hour. I will hang in for half an hour more – Bev, Doug, Michael – are you up for it?

  78. Right about dialogue. Here is where my own difficulties come to the surface. I can’t watch television or films; I can’t listen to them. I have to READ them through subtitles, which means that visual nuances of acting and directing are nearly totally lost for me. What comes across are the words used, bluntly. I watched the first part of episode 1 of DOME and couldn’t get into it at all.

    That, by the way, is my only reaction to the series. If I can’t enter into it, I really shouldn’t talk about it.

  79. Apparently this discussion is still going on, but I haven’t seen any posts for ten minutes… darn! Anyway it’s been interesting and good to hear from you, Usman!

  80. What is King’s legacy likely to be? How will he be viewed in say 2060? King has often said his stories are too closely anchored in the times they represent and therefore may not age well. Which of his stories are likely to be the equivalent of say Dickens’ or Twain’s classics?

  81. A lot of people are going to have to expunge Kubrick from their minds when they read Doctor Sleep. The film imprints so heavily. They’ll have to adjust to the fact that Dick is still alive, but the hotel is gone, etc.

    King hasn’t always been the best adapter of his own work, either. You don’t even have to trot out Maximum Overdrive — The Shining miniseries is a deeply flawed adaptation. Too long by about 50%. It’s main achievement was in a brilliant portrayal of Wendy by Rebecca DeMornay. But the schmaltzy ending? Ugh.

  82. I think Dolores Claiborne is one of the (under-rated) top tier adaptations, and it turns the book on its head, guts characters, adds new ones — but in the end is very faithful to the book.

  83. I think THE SHINING stands a good chance of becoming a classic. Yes, it is locked into a particular time and place, but at the same time it reaches out in so many directions. It is ‘teachable’ in ways that others are not; it allows for discussions of literary devices because they are needed in it to make the story work. It alludes to much of the literature of (its) present and past. It fits nicely into a classroom at high school (perhaps) and college levels, which gives it a change for a larger-than-usual audience. And it’s a rocking good story.

  84. I agree – Misery, Dolores Claiborne, The Green Mile, Shawshank, The Mist (with the new ending that King has said he wished he had come with if I remember rightly), Stand By Me – all great adaptations of King’s work and mostly films the public really, really liked

  85. I suspect that a major appeal of Under the Dome to its television audience is the near-archetypal Stephen King, mundane small town setting. Although its conceit is fantasy, it’s not presented as one. It’s not set in the future, or on another planet or an alternate reality, it’s here and now. So it’s centered, in the same way that Breaking Bad is centered, on us — and on how we react to an event that shatters perceptions of reality, and of each other.

  86. What is King’s legacy likely to be? How will he be viewed in say 2060? King has often said his stories are too closely anchored in the times they represent and therefore may not age well. Which of his stories are likely to be the equivalent of say Dickens’ or Twain’s classics?

    I said to him once that Jonathan Kellerman said in an interview that his books would be taught routinely in schools in 25-50 years. King said that was nice. “But I’ll be dead.”

    I think The Shining of all his books is one that will stand the test of time. It’s so hard to say, though. Maybe 11/22/63 because of its historical context and setting.

  87. Curiously, one of the most faithful adaptations of a King novel–FIRESTARTER–resulted in the least King-like and least successful films for me. His words work on the page; they don’t necessarily guarantee to great film. Although DEAD ZONE, STAND BY ME, SHAWSHANK, and others demonstrate that they can be made into strong films that, in spite of changes, are still “King.”

  88. Legacy books

    I think ‘Salem’s Lot’ will always be the great American horror novel. I think ‘The Dead Zone’ will stand the test of time. Great fantasy series tend to last, which augurs well for ‘The Dark Tower’. ‘It’ is almost primeval and is likely to have a long cultural pull. ‘On Writing’ for it’s teaching value. ‘The Green Mile’ as a powerful morality tale

  89. I like that–“I’ll be dead.” He succeeds, and his works gain new audiences, because I don’t think he is concerned about a legacy as such. He has stories to tell. With each life experience, the trove of experiences grows larger, and now it almost seems as if he can’t wait to get to the next one. That is what makes readers respond to well to so many books by a single mind–he clearly loves the telling.

  90. I wonder, too, if it won’t be some of his short stories that end up in the kinds of collections that are taught in schools. Shirley Jackson wrote some fine novels, but The Lottery will forever be her calling card because of its length and anthologization (new word). I could see teachers using “The Reach,” for example.

  91. To Rocky’s question about legacy. That is such a tough call. The likelihood is that novelists will be best remembered through the film and television adaptations of their work, whether good, bad, or downright ugly. By 2060, or even 2020, we’ll have any number of remakes. And remakes tend to provide an even weaker filter of the original source material.

  92. I am sorry I mispoke above – I meant Salem’s Lot will always be the great American vampire novel

  93. I did the REFRESH and thanks. It could well be that THE SHINING is going to outlast all of the body of King’s works as one that people will remember. But FIRESTARTER is another, I agree.

    Can anyone comment on the great stuff that he did under a pseudonym, and y’all know well what name and probably where he got from?

  94. I can’t get over his facility as a storyteller. These things just seem to bubble up from within him. It’s interesting to hear how he tells himself the story as he goes to sleep at night, getting a little further each day until he finally has enough of it to start writing. Or to hear how, when he met with the Marvel people at the beginning of the Dark Tower graphic novel adaptations, how in a few minutes he spun off enough untold stories from Roland’s youth to fill a book.

  95. “The Reach,” absolutely. I first read the story, then tried to read it aloud to my wife and couldn’t get through it. It is deeper than it appears, and its appeal is universal. I’d go with that one if I were in charge of collecting one story of his for an anthology.

  96. As time is counting down I wanted to pose one specific question to each of you:

    Bev, as the resident expert on the Dark Tower, do you expect more DT stories from King? Any idea where he might dip into the mythos next?

    Doug, as a noted critic, what would you see as the best and worst aspects of King’s writing?

    Michael, as an academic, what themes do you see as the foundations to King’s work? Which of these resonate most with readers and is there one theme you believe most truly represents King as a man, as well as a writer?

  97. Marge: I consider most of what he did under a pseudonym to be minor works. They were almost all very early efforts. Good work for his age and experience but not really on a par with most of his King stuff. Some of them pack a pretty good wallop, but they’re somewhat slight. (I’m ready for the others to disagree with me on this one!)

  98. But if we look at legacy in terms of continuing impact — which, after all, is the focus of the roundtable — we can see King novels “remembered” through the novels that they have influenced, or spawned, or made possible.

    ‘Salem’s Lot is arguably the great American horror novel, seen through the lens of its impact on the horror novel, not only in the States but across the world. ‘Salem’s Lot wasn’t very influential as a vampire novel, but its impact on horror writing is unmistakable. Until Steve channeled Don Robertson in ‘Salem’s Lot, horror novels were relatively insular affairs, with narratives devoted to one or a few characters. ‘Salem’s Lot was the template for the multiple-viewpoint horror novel, prefiguring so many major horror novels to come from those who we now consider the major talents of our time.

  99. I did post a question about his short stories — his “The Long Walk” was probably my all time favorite, gave me such impact and ideas.

  100. Excellent discussion Rocky, Bev, Douglas, & Michael!

    Was good reading! I’m a big fan as some of you know. 😉 And I’m really looking forward to Mister Mercedes and Doctor Sleep! But it bugs me that I’m SO disappointed in the tv series Under the Dome. Your thoughts on the fans reactions to all the changes and King’s rebuttal posted at the SKMB? 🙂

  101. So Rocky concludes by asking each of us a question that it would take another hour or so to answer!!!

  102. Marge … The Long Walk has always been on my short list — a long short list, to be sure — of favorite SK novels.

  103. do you expect more DT stories from King? Any idea where he might dip into the mythos next?

    Yes, I think that in five or six years we might see another DT novel. The story seems to build up to a critical mass within him every half-decade or so, and it’s been doing so since the early 1970s.

    My suspicion, based on my interview with him for The Dark Tower Companion, is that he’ll tackle The Battle of Jericho Hill. That’s one part of the Marvel adaptation he deliberately did not read because he didn’t want the comic version to taint his vision of the story.

  104. Themes? Loss and fear. Loss of control over the world outside of us, around us, and inside of us. Fear of that which waits, be it cancer, or a truck barreling down a lonely road, or a steamshovel slamming into the side of another truck. These are in essence, themes present throughout much great literature. King has translated them for our time, using our everyday languages, in sentences that reflect the way we think, and in doing so creates stories that resonate with our own lives.

  105. CJ, I tend to agree with King – UTD the series is what it is. The book is still on our shelves unchanged. I am not disappointed in the changes but the clunky dialogue and uneven acting grates with me

  106. CJ: I’m happy that Under the Dome isn’t a slavish adaptation of the novel. It would be pretty boring for me if I knew what was going to happen each week. This way I can watch the series as if it’s something totally new. The very first scene, with Barbie digging a grave, told us that all bets were off and everything you thought you knew about the book did not apply.

    I especially like what they’re doing with Big Jim. He’s a complex guy, and you like him half the time. Even Junior has his moments. Some people argue that the characterization is inconsistent, but I would say rather that it is rich and complex. People are like that.

  107. Bev: “My suspicion, based on my interview with him for The Dark Tower Companion, is that he’ll tackle The Battle of Jericho Hill. That’s one part of the Marvel adaptation he deliberately did not read because he didn’t want the comic version to taint his vision of the story.’

    Now, that WOULD make my day. As to his multiple DT story ideas you mentioned earlier he once told off the cuff how Mid-World celebrates Halloween – there sure was a story in there!

  108. I would like to see him reaching out even more to earlier stories that clearly share the universe of the Dark Tower and bring them closer to the center.

  109. Yes, Rocky. I guess that’s what bugs me most. The acting is so bad in these tv adaptions. I just wish someone could do his stories justice on the television screen. Maybe Frank Darabont? 😉 Thanks for the interesting discussion!

  110. Back to an earlier comment, THE LONG WALK is the one of his pseud. stories that I refer to often when writing about King. It is short but packed with powerful images, characters, and ideas. A strong story by any standards.

  111. The Wind Through the Keyhole started out with a plan to write a book of Mid-World “fairy tales,” though they would not all necessarily feature fairies. Roland stepped in and took the book over, but King could still tackle the other fairy tales at some point if the idea still interests him.

  112. I think King is going to write even more about the process of getting older and the frailties involved with aging. Mister Mercedes is about a retired cop, for example. His “productive” days are over, supposedly.

  113. Good point, Bev, as is the earlier one about being a grandfather and seeing kids again through that lens

  114. My short answer to Rocky — to what I see as “the best and worst aspects of King’s writing” — will come from the perspective of impact, versus a deeper critical perspective (which could well require a 20,000 essay to do it justice). Steve’s writing has had a profound impact on the way in which dark fiction is read, written, considered, discussed, adapted in other media, packaged, marketed, and accepted in popular culture. And we’ve noted some of the best and worst aspects of that impact in this discussion. The positive far outweighs the negative, but with a writer of such significant popularity and proliferation through other media, we can see that there are negatives; for example, the mixed results of the adaptations, which we’ve discussed … but there are also the endless imitators, and the publishers and writers who flooded the brief-lived horror genre with junk that wasn’t worthy of the name.

    But I can say this, speaking again from the long view … I believe the best is yet to come. That this is a story of a continued evolution of an artist and a man, husband and father and grandfather, who is freed of any commercial concerns and who can write for himself … and, in so doing, inform and elevate us.

  115. Last comment: I’ve been involved in King’s worlds for over 30 years and haven’t regretted a moment of that time. I’ve been able to incorporate his stories and his storytelling into my profession, which wasn’t always that easy or that well received, and I think that my teaching was the more effective for it. And now that I don’t have to write anything unless I want to, I still find him at the front of my list of things to do. He has had an enormous impact on culture and writing…but he also has equally enormous impacts on individuals who begin to thing in his terms, see in him images, tell stories along his lines. That is a wonderful thing.

  116. We haven’t even mentioned King’s non-writing contemporary influences — his generosity and philanthropy and even his strong stand on political and social matters.

  117. Doug said:

    “But I can say this, speaking again from the long view … I believe the best is yet to come. That this is a story of a continued evolution of an artist and a man, husband and father and grandfather, who is freed of any commercial concerns and who can write for himself … and, in so doing, inform and elevate us.”

    And what a great note to end the formal discussion.

    HWA members and the public may continue to post to this Thread at any time. The four guests will pop in at least once more (at the end of a week) to answer posts or add further comments

  118. With that I thank Doug, Bev and Michael for their outstanding contributions to this Roundtable

  119. Off to catch up on Breaking Bad, but I will check back in from time to time in the coming days, so feel free to post any questions you might have.

  120. On behalf of the HWA, I’d like to offer a huge THANK YOU to our brilliant guests, Rocky Wood, Bev Vincent, Michael Collings, and Doug Winter, for providing such a great Roundtable.

    Thank you, guys.

  121. Bev said: We haven’t even mentioned King’s non-writing contemporary influences — his generosity and philanthropy and even his strong stand on political and social matters.

    Good point! Hope to hear more about that next time.
    Also, as a fan who hasn’t read everything or seen every movie made from King’s stories, still I think that reading his stories/novels was better than watching any movie of said story/novel. It’s a movie in my head, while reading, and nothing can make that a more enthralling experience, to my mind.

  122. Hey All~ I have read through almost all of your posts. I’m a little late to the game here, sorry.

    Bev, my question is directed at you but, if Doug, Michael or Rocky have any input, please don’t hesitate to post your responses! Of course, I love almost all of Steve’s work – except Gerald’s Game (only exception) – and I’d love to see The Eyes of the Dragon turned into a film adaptation. Along similar lines (RF, The Man in Black, and other incarnations), do you think that a series of films with the recurring evil, could make a mark on the industry? One per year or something, maybe?

    In regard to the Dark Tower series, specifically, what format do you think would best suit a film adaptation of each of the books? My opinion is that TV Miniseries don’t reach enough people to make a true mark and the budget certainly isn’t there. I think The Dark Tower series would be a good one to push to the theatres, maybe two parts for each book and three for the bigger, more in-depth ones.

    Any comments?

  123. Regarding the Dark Tower:

    I interviewed Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman about their ideal plans for the adaptation in The Dark Tower Companion and they were amazingly forthcoming. I thought they might give me a superficial treatment, but they really went into depth. Their plan makes sense, though it might sound strange to fans of the series.

    For one thing, they do not plan to start with The Gunslinger. As heretical as that may sound, it makes sense — if you’re going to launch a multifilm franchise, you want to do so with something where something actually happens, and there’s very little going on in the first book. So they intend to start off later in the series and use an interesting combination of movies for the big, cinematic, epic elements and interstitial limited TV series to handle the character pieces. It’s intriguing and, perhaps, demanding for the viewer, but I’d like to see them pull it off.

    One problem with The Dark Tower is that it doesn’t have the following of, say, The Lord of the Rings. It isn’t part of the social context the way LotR is. Hell, even a significant chunk of King’s own fan base hasn’t read the series. So they have an upward battle in terms of gaining a viewership. I can understand why the studios have been wary of throwing a bunch of money at it. There have been some huge flops lately. (e.g. The Lone Ranger)

    They seem to have two possible financial sources at the moment, one of which is Netflix, which has produced some interesting series recently. I would have absolutely no objection to seeing it done as a cable series, and Goldsman said they would consider that, but he has dreams of seeing it on the big screen, so he won’t easily give up on that possibility.

  124. As for the continuing impact of Stephen King, one only had to pick up last Sunday’s issue of The New York Times magazine insert and find a cover story and huge article on “Stephen King’s Family Business”. I believe that Stephen King will continue to write, influence other writers and continue to have an impact on popular culture for many years to come. I would like to see his non-fiction pieces collected in book form and accessible for all to read. As all the authors involved here know, many of the non-fiction pieces are hard to find or difficult to obtain. I have spent many years searching for these non-fiction pieces and I will probably spend many more for the chance to read all of them. I believe they are that important and should be collected. Maybe someone here can influence Mr. King to publish them. There are not too many weeks that go by where there is no Stephen King news, novels, short stories or non-fiction pieces to read.

  125. I know I’m late to the party (story of my life), but I want to address two distinct aspects of this discussion:

    1. In the discussion about literary versus genre, or whether there even should be a “versus,” I think King himself put it best when he pinpointed the difference between the two as “ordinary things happening to extraordinary people as opposed to extraordinary things happening to ordinary people.” Now, that’s a paraphrase, as I don’t recall the exact quote, but it really goes to the heart of the distinction and explains why, given our individual makeup and needs, we fall on whichever side of the fence we do.

    2. People mentioned King’s short stories, which is a good call as a departure from the more familiar novels, but in terms of his even longer term legacy, I’d make a case for his novellas as possessing enough longevity via more efficiently rendered narratives. The Long Walk, The Mist, Rage, The Body, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, The Library Policeman, The Langoliers, Secret Window, Secret Garden, The Sun Dog, 1922, Dolan’s Cadillac, Big Driver, a Good Marriage: each and every one of these tales had a powerful and lasting impact on me and is perhaps indicative of King’s immense storytelling talent when he chooses to hone and shave the exact amount of excess that can sometimes bloat his novels.

    I’ll just add a thank you: the overall conversation was illuminating and very much appreciated.

  126. I agree that I’d like to see a collection of King’s Non Fiction (hence my book, ‘Stephen King: The Non Fiction’ which at least described and summarised each article). Many pieces are very valuable on their own – either in understanding Steve’s canon, autobiographical information, his often very incisive opinion, etc.

    As to David, good points on the shorter fiction – as I think Michael may have pointed out earlier, they are very teachable.

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