Stephen King, the master of modern horror literature, celebrated his 68th birthday this Monday. That’s why five Supernaughts columnists/King-fans joined forces to share what impact the writer had on their lives. This is an homage to Mr. King, the man, the myth, the legend.
IAB: King still got it
Hi, IAB here. In honor of Stephen King’s 68 birthday, I decided to reminisce a little bit about the times I first encountered the man’s work.
It was around the early 90’s – around the first year of what stands for High School in our country, so…that would make it circa 1992. I saw this paperback of “Salem’s Lot” in a bargain bin. The book was actually first published here in Finland as a hardback only in 1990 – so that’s quite a long ways from it’s original publication year of 1975. I guess we were sort of late bloomers in the King-mania. But I HAD heard about him by this point – and had seen some movies based on his novels…at least “The Shining”, “The Dead Zone” and “Misery”, probably a few more even. So I knew that this guy was a horror writer. And the word was, that he was supposed to be pretty damn good, too.
As I started reading this book and entered this world of novelist Ben Mears and his colorful group of friends slowly discovering the horrible truth about the Marsten House and it’s dark secret, I had a very physical reaction while reading; I actually felt the hair on the back of my head standing up at times. This was something of which like I had never felt while reading a book before. I actually read this book in one sitting – over the course of a day.
Needless to say, I was hooked. The good thing about this paperback-series was, that on the first page was a list of King’s works that this publishing house had put out by that time – which wasn’t a lot, but in the space of about the next year and a half, about dozen or so more paperbacks were released. So in that year and a half I spent what little money I had and grabbed those suckers the moment they appeared on the paperback-shelves; “Misery”, “The Dead Zone”, “Tommyknockers”, “The Shining”, “Carrie”, “Firestarter”, “Christine”, “The Stand”, “Pet Sematary” and also a bunch of short story-collections like “Night Shift”, “Skeleton Crew” and “Different Seasons”.
I read all of these books back to back during those years and cursed the moments when something ran out of print and I couldn’t find it(actually, I found the long-in-the-searching “IT” only last year!). The invention of online second-hand book stores has really helped in my quest of completing my collection of King’s works – including the “Richard Bachman” novels.
There are all kinds of disputes over the latter half of King’s publications being a bit more “hit and miss”, and yes – on some occasions those are valid, but King is and shall always remain my first real experience of horror literature. Just in this year, I’ve read “Revival” and “Joyland” and enjoyed the hell outta those – especially “Joyland”, which almost felt like a kind of long-lost extra chapter of “Different Seasons”. Which is a good thing. Definitely a good thing. The man’s still got it.
The Finnish book cover for “Joyland”.
Tarmac: Forever thankful to King
The cunning wordsmith from Long Island, known as Tarmac, SN-columnist, occasional podcast guest and author himself, who is tellingly using a “Barlow” avatar, tells us what he appreciates most about the King of Horror.
What I actually think of most about Stephen King—other than his great novels and short stories—is his undying love for writing and writers. He has pointed me to some great books that I normally would have never read, or even heard of. It is one of the main reasons I follow him on Twitter. I will forever be thankful for him pointing me to three great crime novels by an elusive shadow named Shane Stevens. King used a Stevens character—kingpin Alexis Machine—as Thad Beaumont’s fictional creation in The Dark Half. The author’s note in The Dark Half pointed me to three Steven’s books. Dead City, a novel about low-level Jersey City Mobsters. It was in these pages that Machine surveyed his criminal empire. There was The Anvil Chorus about a French Police Inspector hunting a killer. Finally, By Reason of Insanity, which is a novel of such bloodcurdling, epic brilliance that I couldn’t recommend it enough. It makes Silence of the Lambs look like Kindergarten Cop. More recently, King pointed mentioned Richard Matheson’s brilliant WWII novel, The Beardless Warriors when Matheson passed away. Check that one out, as well.
Oh, and he wrote ‘Salem’s Lot. Happy Birthday Stephen!!!!
Scott Colbert: King maybe saved my life
Scott Colbert, resident of Arizona, is SN-columnist, the busy, prolific mastermind behind the podcasts The Imaginarium and Jailbait and a published horror novel writer (Barb Wire Kisses), so he definitely has a unique perspective on King.
Stephen King celebrated his 68th birthday this past week. He’s published nearly the same number of novels, for the last 40 or so. For many of us, it’s hard to remember a time when Stephen King wasn’t around. I know that’s true for me.
My first exposure to King was the paperback of Carrie. My sister had picked it up (snuggled in between the awful romance novels she was fond of), and one afternoon while snooping, I found it and took it back to my room. I want to say I was about ten. That sounds about right, I’ll go with that When I read Carrie, some of it went over my head (tampons, vaginas and menstrual bleeding were a mystery to me), but the things I do remember, have stayed with me my entire life. The rain of rocks, the closet Carrie’s mother kept her in at times, the prom. And Mrs. Fucking White. She terrified me more than anything else.
Not long after that I saw a copy of The Shining (with the silver mirrored cover) Unlike Carrie though, The Shining didn’t do it for me. Not then at least. I found it boring, and not especially scary. In spite of that, I was at my local 7-11 one morning before school and on the paperback rack, next to the comics and magazines was a copy of The Stand. It was the gorgeous blue/black cover that attracted me, and in spite of its heft, I didn’t think twice and spent that week’s lunch money on it. From then on I’ve had a love affair with all his work.
The silver foil cover edition of “The Shining”.
Like many love affairs though, I sometimes saw other people, or kicked him out (Tommyknockers was a bad time for us), but in the end I fell into his cold embrace and have stayed there through several Presidents, a couple of wars, and my own personal tragedies and triumphs. Many people know where they were when Kennedy was assassinated, or when the twin towers were blown from the landscape=I remember where I was each time a Stephen King book came out. I could go through them all, but that would take far more space than anyone would ever want to read. Trust me, when I say I can remember those moments. And for the most part I can remember where I bought them as well. This isn’t to brag, but to illustrate the importance that King has had in my life.
Funnily enough, even though I write horror, King wasn’t my inspiration to become a writer. I’ve learned a lot from his work, but he didn’t inspire me to write (that would have been the criminally underrated T.M. Wright, but that’s another story). What he did, was instil in me a love for reading. Not only horror, but fiction in general, non-fiction, cereal boxes, toilet paper wrappers, you name it, and I’ve probably read it. Long lasting friendships were formed with strangers around the world when online services such as Prodigy and AOL emerged. We talked about his books, recommended other writers, and it felt like a secret club sometimes. With the advent of the internet, it was quite easy to expand that circle of friends. And while we may disagree on his work, no one can ever deny our passion for his novels. Even the later ones which everyone seems to slag off, I love (with only a couple of exceptions).
I mention all this, because King has made my life bearable at times when I thought it would kill me. He introduced me to characters that feel like old friends Beep Beep, Richie! But most of all he made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my love for the macabre.
Happy Birthday Stephen, and may you continue to brighten the world with your imagination, humanitarianism, and above all, the hope you offer in your work in spite of overwhelming odds.
The beautiful blue/black cover edition of “The Stand”.
Read up on Scott’s potentially controversial stance on Kubrick’s The Shining and his less surprising opinion on the Carrie remake, for which he has a few choice words left. He also reviewed the The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep.
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