Skip navigation

Tag Archives: Stephen King

In 1977, Stephen King chilled readers with a tale of a young couple and their son, and the worst winter to ever pass in a hotel in Colorado. That book, The Shining, was King’s third novel, and thanks in part to the brilliant work of Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick, is widely remembered as the basis for one of the greatest horror films ever. Now, almost forty years have passed since The Shining first hit shelves, and we are granted a rare treat from the master of horror. On September 24th, 2013, Stephen King released Doctor Sleep, a sequel to one of his earliest and most famous novels.

One winter, long ago, one of Colorado’s finest hotels burned to the ground after the aging boiler exploded. Four people were at the Overlook Hotel at the time. Jack Torrance (the recently hired winter caretaker), his wife, Wendy, and their son, Danny (a young boy gifted with the titular “shining”, a type of psychic power), were living in the hotel for the season. Also on location was Dick Halloran, head cook of the Overlook, who had returned from vacation in Florida because of a growing concern for the safety of the Torrance family. Mr. Torrance was killed in the blast while the other three escaped with relatively minor injuries. Torrance had reportedly returned to the hotel’s basement in an heroic attempt to relieve the pressure in the boiler, albeit regrettably too late to save the hotel and himself. The truth of that winter is known only to the survivors.

Years later, Danny Torrance is a grown man struggling with ghosts, both literal and metaphorical. Having inherited his father’s propensity for alcohol, Dan tries to hide from his past, locking away the memories of the Overlook and drinking to numb his psychic abilities, always on the move from town to town. After a time on the road, bouncing from bottle to job and back again, Dan realizes that he has to get his life back together. In a small town in New England (surprise!), Dan finds an AA sponsor and gainful employment at a local hospice. Before long, he’s learning to use his shining to help those who are near death to cross over to the other side, earning the nickname “Doctor Sleep.”

Far across the country, a group of people known as The True Knot are stalking people with shining, feeding off of their powers and extending their lives. They soon set their sights on a young girl named Abra, whose latent shining is a blazing fire next to the flickering match that is Dan Torrance’s power. The True intend to find the girl, torture her to death, and feast and rejuvenate on her power, or “steam.” When she learns of their existence and their plans, Abra reaches out via the shining, attempting to find someone who can help her stand against the True, and finds Dan. Soon the two are communicating, planning a way to defend Abra from those who would do her harm and simultaneously lay Dan’s ghosts to rest once and for all.

King has crafted a delightful tale with Doctor Sleep, continuing the story of a tormented young boy as he passes into adulthood. He skillfully weaves new and old, tying details of The Shining into the present-day narrative. It’s not The Shining all over again, but rather a different, more mature type of horror. Dan is sympathetic, and overwhelmingly human, struggling to flee from the gifts that saved his life when he was a child. Abra is a bright spot in his life, reminding him of the hope his family once had.

If you’re a Stephen King fan, odds are that you’ve already at least considered giving Doctor Sleep a read. I devoured it, and as always, I wanted more when I was done. It’s a fascinating opportunity to see the evolution of King’s writing style and technique, and a great story in its own right.

Three and a half years ago, Stephen King released a short story collection entitled Just After Sunset. Twelve of the stories in the book had been previously published, leaving one new title to bring the total up to that wonderful number of thirteen. That story was N.

N. was one of the most terrifying stories that I’d read at the time I first encountered the book, and it still chills. King crafted a phenomenal series of layers of narrative. N. is the story of a psychiatrist named John and a patient referred to in his records only by his first initial, the titular N. N. is suffering from insomnia and severe obsessive compulsive disorder that he claims stem from a visit to a field near John’s home town. When N. eventually commits suicide, John is driven to investigate more, to see if there was something that he could have done to save his patient.

The outer layers of the story focus on John’s investigation and the impact that his own visit to the field has on his family and friends. It’s eventually revealed that part of the madness that comes upon the people who visit Ackerman’s Field derives from a series of standing stones in the middle of the field. There are seven stones (a bad number) there when the field is viewed by the naked eye. Gazing through a filter of some sort such as a camera, however, reveals an eighth stone. Is it there? Touching each of the stones in turn seems to prove that there are eight, but the other stone isn’t always there. N. believed that something, some Lovecraftian horror, lurked in the center of the stones, and as long as there were eight (a good number), it would be contained. “Eight stones would keep them captive, but if there were only seven…they’d come flooding from the darkness on the other side and overwhelm the world,” he said. Was he right, or is it only a delusion?

I recently returned to the world of N. Marc Guggenheim and Alex Maleev collaborated with Stephen King to transform his novella into a skillfully paced graphic novel.  If you’re a fan of well-written horror, I would highly recommend giving N. a read, in either format. The graphic novel maintains the delightful and terrifying prose that King is known for, and shows just how unsettling uncertainty can be.

King himself has said that, despite the Lovecraftian atmosphere of the story, it’s actually inspired by Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan, of which Lovecraft himself said “No one could begin to describe the cumulative suspense and ultimate horror with which every paragraph abounds.” Time to add that to the list of stuff to read tonight.

I’m rereading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises today, and I blame Woody Allen. Actually, I blame Corey Stoll and his incredible performance as Ernest Hemingway in Allen’s latest film, which won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Stoll’s performance was only one of the many constant bright points in the film, but it was this moment that really won me over. I knew then that I was going to have to return to one of my favorite books of all time. It’s quite the change of pace from the other story that I’ve been reading lately, and it’s always good to return to familiar territory.

When I was in college, I read Hemingway for the first time. I had read his work before, when I was in high school, but that was before I truly read Hemingway. Now I feel as though I am reading some of my favorite works for the first time, and so it is that The Sun Also Rises has made its way back into my hands. It feels right to be reading classic literature. I’m not trying to be a book snob or anything, because I’ll read pretty much anything and give any author a chance at least once, but it’s good to come back to perennial favorites. There is something almost indescribable about Hemingway’s storytelling that pulls you in. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend you do so. He’s really not that intimidating of an author. Personally, I feel that he’s the easiest of the Lost Generation to really understand.

On the other side of the reading coin, there is the Lovecraft collection that I’ve been borrowing from a friend. Now, I own a copy of the Necronomicon, quite possibly the most thorough (and best titled) collection of H.P. Lovecraft’s work ever published, but it’s sadly hidden away in a storage unit for now. Despite the presence of perhaps only a third of the more well-known titles that exist within the pages of the Necronomicon, this collection does a phenomenal job of presenting some of the best work (albeit the shorter pieces) that he ever wrote, including “The Call of Cthulhu” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” within its pages. I read the former story while on an airplane over the Pacific Ocean, and I think that the only better way to experience it would be to read it on a ship in the Atlantic. You can’t beat reading a story where it takes place. This reminds me, I’m working on a piece at the moment that is set in a building not unlike my hometown library, with a few creative twists. I’ve never been in a building that is more suited for a horror story. I’m drawing on influences of Poe, Lovecraft, and King, masters of the genre, and injecting just a little bit of truth. We’ll see how it turns out.


Do you ever fear that, as a blogger or a writer, you’re repeating what you, or worse, what others have said? I do, and unlike other things, I consider this to be a perfectly rational fear. Do you ever fear that, as a blogger or a writer, you’re repeating what you, or worse, what others have said? I do, and unlike other things, I consider this to be a perfectly rational fear. Wait… Anyway, the point is that mindless repetition can be a terrible thing. According to Stephen King’s Storm of the Century, hell is repetition. Imagine the worst thing that you can fear happening to you, and it happens to you over and over again, for eternity. That’s hell. That’s part of why we mix things up at my job, switching everyone from one duty-station to another every hour. For one thing, it means that everyone has to be pretty good at everything. For another, it means that we don’t get bored to death and decide that we have to go medieval on the next patron who asks for the location of the very clearly labeled return desk.

We take your questions very, VERY seriously.

When I’m not considering acting out D&D-based fantasies, I just worry that I’m going to run out of things to say on this blog, and my few readers will leave me, and I’ll be left talking to myself. After all, there’s not really a whole lot of structure to what I write about, other than that it’s sometimes writing and other times stories of library work. Honestly, though, I can’t really expect my blog to maintain any sort of rhyme or reason to topics when I can’t keep focused myself. Other times, I think that maybe going crazy would be the best thing that could happen to me. Repetition could be a form of writer’s block, I suppose. Maybe you can’t come up with any new ideas, and so you end up rehashing something that you wrote months  or years ago.

Don't worry, Stephen. I still love you.

I guess my biggest fear as far as repetition goes is that I want to write novels, and as my good friends at a favorite weekly webcomic like to say, “Sooner or later we’re going to have to stop calling them ‘novels.'” Are all the good ideas taken? Yes. No, seriously. They are. Every story is a retelling of an ancient story, when you get right down to it. The difficult task of crafting originality is based in the presentation. It’s the same with food, really. I mean, you can have ramen noodles every meal for a month, to the point where seeing them would make you physically ill (and likely violently so), but if someone hands you a silver platter with an ornate ceramic bowl filled with ramen that’s been topped with a slice or two of pork, some green onions, and whatnot, and you’re probably going to say “Hey, that looks delicious!” Moreso if you’re hungry. The point is, we’re stuck with repetition, whether we like it or not. The question is how we’re going to handle it.

Think back, oh writing ones. Think about your favorite influences, and what they wrote, and who or what inspired them. It’s a vicious circle, but that’s not really a bad thing. Popular stories resurface regularly. Sure, if you don’t want to work too hard, you can just jump on the bandwagon for whatever’s trendy right now. However, if you want to create at least some semblance of actual writing, you’re going to be better off to come up with something that hasn’t been done to death (hahaha, vampires) in the last ten years. Tell your own story. It might be incredibly similar to something someone else has done. Think of the poor bullfighters who tried to right autobiographies after The Sun Also Rises debuted. I’m not saying that writing The Sun Also Rises will get you anywhere now. Repetition, or at least perceived repetition, isn’t always the best thing you can have going for you. Now a modern story of a man wandering a European city and searching for meaning in his life, well, that could be something special.

Good luck, fellow writers. Off to the grand adventure that is life!

Somehow I missed out on the fact that they’d been developing a Lovecraft musical. To make up for this, I’ve been listening to the score. This is the first track on youtube, and it’s absolutely brilliant. I suppose it’s even better for people who are Lovecraft fans already, but it’s still pretty enjoyable for the general public, provided that you’ve seen A Fiddler on the Roof, the original play that this one parodies. I don’t care if they’ve only ever had a handful of successful productions of this show, I want to see it. Hell, if I had the money, I’d produce it. Much like Spamalot, this is one severely underrated musical that needs better exposure.

Lovecraft needs more exposure, frankly. I mean, kids today know Edgar Allan Poe from their high school English classes, if not from earlier. They see Stephen King (of whom I am a huge fan: 11/22/63 is on hold for me at the library, and I absolutely cannot wait for Dr. Sleep and The Wind Through the Keyhole) or Dean Koontz or the others on the shelves at bookstores, and many of them don’t realize that there was someone (or some thing…) filling in those years between Poe and today. Lovecraft’s fiction is deep, disturbing, and profound, and I can’t read enough of it. Just as entertaining are things like Neil Gaiman’s short, “I, Cthulhu.” Check it out on Tor’s website, here. I just wish that I’d had a formal introduction to Lovecraft the way I was introduced to classic literature. Some things just go unappreciated for far too long. Maybe, if ever I slip off of the pier and lose what’s left of my sanity (to the Dark Lord Cthulhu or otherwise) and become a teacher, I’ll try to sneak something like “The Color Out of Space” into my curriculum. Or maybe I’ll just avoid teaching. It could be dangerous and hazardous to young, impressionable minds. Damn kids might actually learn something, and we certainly can’t have any of that.

There’s all kinds of great things to read out there, and there are great people making things happen for people to help them get access to the things that they’re needing or wanting to read, whether it’s a copy of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon collection or the latest political biographies. The people of the Occupy Wall Street Library are those kind of people, and they need your help. Check out their wordpress page and see what you, as a writer or a reader or a lover of books or of democracy or of protests can do to help them out. Send them your donations, your books, your poetry, or even just a letter saying “Hey, OWS Library, we totally appreciate that you’re trying your best to help make this whole shitty situation a little less shitty by providing books and whatnot to all the people here.” Maybe you can send them a spare Lovecraft collection. In his house in Wall Street, dread Cthulhu waits dreaming of equality and fairness and an end to the bullshit that is politics. Right? We can only hope, and hang on, like a shoggoth on the roof.

This one’s kind of a complicated subject, and was inspired by the latest Penny Arcade comic. How many of you feel that what you do as a writer actually counts as art?

I say yes. I know that some people would disagree with me.  However, I feel that a well written story or poem, regardless of the formal training  behind it, can be just as beautiful as some works of art, and far more impressive than others. I’ve read some pieces that, while incredibly well-written, strongly structured, and clearly organized, did absolutely nothing for me in terms of evoking an emotional response, and I’d consider them almost trash. Are those stories art? Much like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder (along with antimagic, disintegrate, etc., but I digress).

I know that my feelings on certain pieces change based on my age, my own life experiences, and my state of mind when I am reading it. Therefore, there are some books that I pick up on a regular basis. My love for Tolkien remains undiminished throughout the years, no matter how many times I’ve read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Other authors, I attempted to read in junior high or high school, and were totally dismissed at the time. Later on, particularly thanks to my degree, I would read them again, and I found that my tastes had changed. For example, let’s take Willa Cather. When I was a junior in high school, my English teacher taught Cather as a standard in his curriculum because she was his favorite author, and had lived where he had lived. That year, I attempted to read Death Comes for the Archbishop. I found it painful and dull, and questioned the relevance of Cather’s work.

Four years later, now a third-year English major (in part thanks to the influence of said English teacher), I read Willa Cather again, this time tackling The Professor’s House. With far more reading experience under my belt, I dove headlong into the book, and I finally found myself enjoying Cather’s prose. This time, I was fascinated by her characters, and eventually took it upon myself to revisit Death Comes for the Archbishop. Now that I was more accustomed to her writing, I realized that I really liked Cather, and was happy to add her to my list of favorite authors. I went through a nearly identical process when I first encountered Stephen King. Granted, I started with Desperation. Also granted, I was in fifth grade. Still, King’s writing style didn’t appeal to me. A couple of years later, however, I picked up The Green Mile, having seen the film version. It was, I guess, a more mild story, but it allowed me to adapt my mind to King’s writing form and characterization. Now I find myself hard-pressed to find King books that I’ve not read.

Based on my first impressions of both of these authors, I wouldn’t have called either of them artists. Skilled at their craft, yes, but neither Cather nor King would have kept my attention long enough for me to care. For whatever reason, I decided to give them another look, and that’s when I found the art. Now I feel that I’m able to see it far more often. In my own work, I’m trying to find the balance between craft and art. There’s only so far that formal training and technical approaches can take you. If you’re not putting feeling into what you’re writing, then you might as well quit now.