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Stephen King


Chris B
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Enough discussion taking place in the film thread to warrant this, I think.

So, who are Stephen King fans? Has anyone read everything? (I haven't, but I'm around 90%). What do you think are his high points, low points, etc? What are his worst tropes?

And to keep things fun, here's 80s King, coked off his tits, introducing the Maximum Overdrive trailer. (This is, btw, not as bad a film as made out - it's far from great, but for a first-time director, it's not *that* bad. Probably for the best that he didn't do much more, but I don't think he'd have been terrible at it.)

 

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His worst trope by far is weird sex stuff. “Oh, look at these under age kids gangbanging their best girlfriend. It represents the loss of innocence and a coming of age blah blah blah” No mate, it’s a bit off. Followed closely by him having his main characters being writers/aspiring writers who are the best at everything with big willies who are great at his weird sex stuff.

That being said the familiarity that runs through his stories with his tropes are quite comforting and even though his stories are mostly trashy they’re very digestible trash and he writes a great small town.

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I think he's great at writing characters and creating a sense of time and place but he's dreadful at pacing and writing plot. Salems Lot is a prime example of this. The first two thirds is this slow build where he brilliantly builds up the history of the town, all the various characters involved and all along there's this undercurrent of tension and horror. Then in the last third all that goes out the window as he tries to cram a shitload of plot in and nothing is given time to breathe or make an impact.

It's been a while since I've read a King novel though so I may need to revisit him.

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3 minutes ago, Mr_Danger said:

His worst trope by far is weird sex stuff.

Genuinely, has he done it often enough to be a trope? Not taking the piss by asking - I just don't see sex as something he's written about that much in his books, let alone weird sex. There's IT, Gerald's Game and...? If I'm forgetting a bunch of obvious stuff, I'm open to it. I just can't think of it off the top of my head.

As something I do think was a genuine trope, there was the 'Black characters doing a 'black' voice for reasons', which turned up in The Dark Tower, Mr Mercedes and somewhere else I'm trying to remember. It's really fucking awkward and I'm glad he packed it in.

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14 minutes ago, Chris B said:

Genuinely, has he done it often enough to be a trope? Not taking the piss by asking - I just don't see sex as something he's written about that much in his books, let alone weird sex. There's IT, Gerald's Game and...? If I'm forgetting a bunch of obvious stuff, I'm open to it. I just can't think of it off the top of my head.

There's that rather unpleasant scene between The Kid and Trashcan Man in The Stand. Also, a couple of odd ones in The Dark Tower - Odette/Susannah and the demon, and Susan Delgado and the mayor she's made the concubine of.

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There was a couple where he kept going on about nipples I think it popped up a couple of times in The Dark Tower and was in IT too and because I listened to them all so close together it definitely amplified it. I think more than anything he writes about sex in quite a vulgar adolescent way. That part of his writing comes across very fan fic-y.

As for the ‘Black Voice’ man does it stand out even more in audio format. Christ alive, a white old actor reading out a white author’s interpretation of a black woman was never a good idea in any era.

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I've never could get into his books, but my brother and my mum have read them all I think.

So I obviously can't say if this something that rings true, but my brother always jokes you can do a fair pastiche of King these days by taking 50s slang, having a character describe some sort of deviant sex act and adding a reference to something incongruously modern, like Facebook.

 

 

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The fans of his put me off more than his writing. They were always smelly red dwarf fans who liked terrible rock music. I’ve tried to read a couple of his and couldn’t ever get into them, but that’s probably down to my attention span more than anything to be fair. 

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Posted (edited)

I can pretty much give King credit for getting me into novels. I didn't read a single book after finishing school, picked up The Gunslinger on a whim when I was about 21-22 and have spent every spare moment I have reading a book ever since.

He's not even close to being the perfect writer. He fucks up the ending in almost every book he's ever written. And I groan every time a character is another writer from Maine. But I think he's genius at creating original horrifying and creepy imagery and moments that really stick with readers. He has a remarkable empathy with all his characters (heroes and villains and even the smallest of side characters) and understanding of human emotions and personality which is what raises his work above typical trashy horror and I believe what really sucks readers in. His writing style is incredibly easy to get along with and hook you in. When he gets it right he balances character, plot and momentum better than anyone in "popular" literature I can think of. 

But he's occasionally incredibly lazy. You can always sense the moment in his books where he's lost interest and just decides to wrap shit up. I remember in Cell where he clearly ran out of use for a character and just killed them off by someone randomly throwing a brick at their head. Also his writing style has never really adapted or changed. Even books set in modern times feel stuck in the 50s-80s just because that's where his often cheesy writing style is stuck. He's fucking terrible at writing jokes but will have all the other characters guffawing with laughter. Pop culture references no one under the age of 60 will get. Any modern references feel like that time your Nan asked you about "that Nintendo".

I've probably read about 2/3rds of his stuff. My favourites will always be The Dark Tower series. Messy, overlong and incredibly flawed but the sheer scale, ambition and creativity is incredible. Roland Deschain is one of my favourite characters in fiction, and I think sections of The Wastelands and Wizards And Glass feature some of the best writing he's ever done.

EDIT: also with Harold Lauder in The Stand he perfectly captured the depressing, sad horror of a modern incel decades before incels were even a thing. A brilliantly written character. 

Edited by LaGoosh
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Posted (edited)

It took me quite a while to read a King book - when I did, it was The Dark Tower. Fantasy/sci-fi fan, so it was the natural first choice. Oddly, despite it being his grand unifying work, I didn't feel like I'd missed out too much from not recognising the numerous references from previous works - it's a cracking read, and, despite being long, does fly by. Thinking of re-reading it soon, especially as I haven't read the follow-up story he did, The Wind Through The Keyhole

Other than the Tower series, I've only read The Stand, but I do intend to read others at some point. I definitely agree with a lot of the criticisms, but I think it's also important to recognise his place in literature and pop culture.

In terms of individual titles, he surely has to be the most cinematised/televised author ever. Just off the top of my head:

  • The Shining
  • Firestarter
  • Carrie
  • Christine
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • The Green Mile
  • The Stand
  • It
  • Stand By Me
  • The Running Man
  • The Lawnmower Man
  • Misery
  • Pet Sematary
  • Cujo
  • Children Of The Corn
  • Dolores Claiborne
  • Gerald's Game
  • Needful Things
  • The Dark Tower
  • The Dead Zone

I'm sure there's a whole host I've missed out.

EDIT: Yep, there's a shit-ton. So many, that they have their own Wiki article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_adaptations_of_works_by_Stephen_King

Edited by Carbomb
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I mentioned in that thread the Just King Things podcast, which has really reignited my interest & love for Stephen King books, which I used to devour as a kid/teen.

In line with what you're talking about with the sex stuff, I think that can be expanded further to fit his tendency to just try to do something disgusting when he's stuck in a novel. The quote from Danse Macabre (which I've lifted from a Vox article because I'm lazy) “I recognize terror as the finest emotion…” he writes in the book, “and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find I cannot terrify him/her, I will try to horrify; and if I find I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out."

I think he's a great writer though. He's variable in terms of how it holds together, but he's great at creating a sense of interiority to characters and making them feel like real, fleshed out people. I think of all the kind of 'name bigger than the book' writers he's head and shoulders above the likes of Crichton, Clancy & Brown in writing books that can linger with you, even if they drag or fizzle out at times.

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21 minutes ago, Carbomb said:

In terms of individual titles, he surely has to be the most cinematised/televised author ever.

I don't think you need to be Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot to find someone with more adaptations.

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, Tamura said:

I don't think you need to be Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot to find someone with more adaptations.

To be honest, I put "in terms of individual titles" because the most obvious answers would probably be the numerous remakes of the works of Shakespeare, Conan-Doyle, and Dickens, but Agatha Christie never occurred to me - mainly because I was seeing Poirot and Marple as single properties, and not the protagonists of numerous works. Good shout.

EDIT: Yes, I know Sherlock Holmes would be similar, but I think we tend to individualise his adventures more than those of other detectives, because so many of their titles are famous. With Marple and Poirot, it seems that only a few titles tend to be remembered, partly, I would guess, because we remember the TV series more than the films.

Edited by Carbomb
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53 minutes ago, Carbomb said:

To be honest, I put "in terms of individual titles" because the most obvious answers would probably be the numerous remakes of the works of Shakespeare, Conan-Doyle, and Dickens

Makes sense now, I thought you were referring more to the likes of Dracula or Frankenstein where there's many adaptations of a single work.

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