Authors: Rocky Wood
Tags: #Nonfiction, #United States, #Writing, #Horror
Revised and Expanded Edition
Copyright © 2010, Rocky Wood
All rights reserved.
and Chapter 71 from
Sword in the Darkness
, by Stephen King are copyrighted by Stephen King, and are printed with permission.
Cemetery Dance Publications
Revised & Expanded Edition Published
Digital Design by DH Digital Editions
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Uncollected, and The Unpublished
As of the end of 2010, King had published just under 200 works of fiction, many of those in a number of versions. Research indicates there are at least another 104 pieces of King’s fiction that have
been published. Of these, many unpublished works of King’s fiction may be accessed by researchers, either in King’s papers held at his alma mater, the University of Maine at Orono, or through other means.
Additionally, most King fans are unaware that some King fiction has been published, but not collected in a mainstream King volume such as
. There are 50 “uncollected” works, some of which were only discovered in recent years. For instance, research for this very book uncovered a previously unknown poem, published a full decade ago!
This book concentrates on these two categories – 54
works of fiction. These 104 novels, shorter works of fiction, screenplays and poems are combined in the 68 sub-chapters following the initial four major chapters, which cover King’s Realities, the Lost and Hidden Works, and the Variations and Versions in his fiction. A previously unpublished and lengthy chapter from a King novel, and a poem that has only appeared once before, are also included.
The general King readership can easily access around 150 individual works of fiction, in some 40 published novels
, with 109 shorter works compiled in his nine collections through the end of 2010
It is at that point that the average reader will find it much harder to access the next level of works – those published but
appearing in a King collection, many appearing in obscure magazines, limited editions or collections. With time (and often money) these items can also be found and read.
Next there are the three levels of
works. The first circulate within the King community in photocopied or electronic form. The second level includes those in the Stephen Edwin King Papers, which have been deposited at the Special Collections Unit of the Raymond H. Fogler Library of the University of Maine in Orono. The public may read most of these papers, including some unpublished works. However, the most important, including early novel length manuscripts, require written permission from Stephen King before the staff may provide access. King kindly provided that permission to the author of this book.
The third level of unpublished works cannot be accessed at all. Many of them are unknown in any detail outside King’s closest inner circle. For a detailed discussion of these, the most closeted of King’s works, see Chapter 3,
The Lost and Hidden Works
Among the works reviewed in this book are those well known to King fans (
The Glass Floor
) and those previously unknown (
). There are poems and screenplays. Some of the screenplays are original concepts (
), one adapts the work of another author (Bradbury’s
Something Wicked This Way Comes
) and others adapt King’s own work. Many have been produced for the screen.
A number of novels are also reviewed, including
Sword in the Darkness
. There are also quite a number of incomplete works, ranging from novels (
George D. X. McArdle
) to screenplays (one about a haunted radio station) to short stories (
Research for this book resulted in the “rediscovery” of two works previously unknown in the King community. One, a screenplay intended for
, was kindly provided to the author by a super-collector, Chris Cavalier and is reviewed in the chapter
. The second was a poem,
. Amazingly, this poem was published in an obscure university literary magazine in 1994 but had been missed by all King researchers before its appearance on eBay in March 2004. The story behind its rediscovery appears in
In many ways it was the very mass of King’s output that drove the need for this book. Starting from scratch it takes months just to compile an accurate list of all King’s fiction. Even working from such a list
it will take collectors and experts years to access a copy of each available work.
In total there are at least 268 separately identifiable King story-lines, including other fictional works such as poems and screenplays. When all the differing versions, variations and titles of these works are taken into account there are about 381 different variants!
King is famed (and sometimes brickbatted) for the sheer volume of words he produces. Many novels are in the high hundreds of pages, with three exceeding 900, epics in their own right. One mythology (
The Dark Tower
) is barely contained in seven novels, a novella, a raft of related tales and a series of
The volume, breadth and quality of King’s work, along with its exposure through screen presentations on film and television has created enormous interest in his fiction, from simple fans of his story telling to students reading entertaining stories as they learn the art of creative writing, to researchers and academics.
This review is not meant to be any form of biography or criticism. King’s background and life
central to his fiction, with many works being disguised autobiography, but the intention here is to provide information about King’s obscure works, not his life. There are a number of quality books and articles in the area of biography and literary criticism to which the reader may refer.
The key to understanding the King phenomenon however, is not the vast magnitude of his output, or even its quality but, in fact, the emotional impact he has upon his readers and viewers.
Describing the joy that Stephen King brings his “consumers” (King’s stories are consumed by the users of most major media, not just the written ones) is both simple and complex. At its core is a powerful or entertaining story, well written by a master craftsman. Surrounding the core is a series of layers that are either unique or are uniquely combined in the one entertainment phenomenon.
King is at once an innovator while being deeply grounded in the traditions of his chosen genres as well as literature in general. He is both a 20th century man and a self-confessed “hick,” living in a semi-rural backwater state (admittedly a delightful one), eschewing the normal “rewards” of celebrity, including the obligatory lifestyle in Hollywood or New York.
As an innovator, King was the first major author to release a significant story on the Internet (
Riding the Bullet
), the result of which was the near melting-down of servers worldwide. He was the also first major author to serialize a significant story on the Internet (
), even using a relatively successful “honor” system for payment. He also reinvented the serial novel (
The Green Mile
) and has both written original works and adapted his own for the screen.
He has an astounding ability to tell a tale, describe a scene in glorious detail and deliver a fully formed character. He takes us into the minds and motivations of characters (especially children). When he chose to do this with women (
) King proved the breadth of his skill. Even Cujo’s thought processes were laid out for the reader.
King’s work appeals to young and old, male and female and to people of very diverse cultural backgrounds, despite the very American nature of his writing. An adult King reader, perhaps wary of some themes, can ease a younger person into the body of work through such stories as
Eyes of the Dragon
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
. If horror gives you nightmares read his fantasy, if fantasy bores you there are many mainstream stories of power (
The New Yorker
Hearts in Atlantis
). If science fiction appeals to you King even offers a number of stories in that genre, although they are often not his strongest.
For, perhaps, reasons of snobbery, King’s prolific nature is used by some as a weapon of criticism against his overall body of work and his position in the literary firmament. Yet, one of the advantages of this great selection of tales is surely that it contains something for any reader, except perhaps those who proclaim only dense and unreadable works to be “worthy”.
Apart from creating his own mythologies, King has never been afraid to dive into the roots of horror and fantasy fiction to deliver vampires, werewolves, haunted houses and to otherwise add to the well-trodden themes of the genres. Equally, he has been willing to merge other mythologies into his work (Oz in
The Dark Tower
cycle, for example) or to add to those created by others. For instance, he has created Sherlock Holmes, Cthulhu Mythos and (unpublished) Wimsey stories.
King ranges easily from the unique story (
The Green Mile
) to the effective reworking of an older theme (
) and back to his own more original late 20th century technophobia (
). In fact, in October 2005 King said, “I just like telling stories. And if there’s one message that comes up again and again, it’s ‘Love conquers Fear.’ And if there’s one concern that comes up again and again, it’s ‘Don’t trust the technology – it may not be your friend.’”
Horror literature is replete with haunted houses but King gave us not only the world’s most famous haunted hotel, a haunted car, a haunted hospital and even a haunted laundry machine! Within hotels we have suffered haunted rooms (
) and even the most effective haunted bathtub imaginable.
Of course, King is vitally at home with F-E-A-R, both the real and the imaginary. The sheer brilliance of
Autopsy Room Four
is not that it could happen (and it
) but the terrible fear the reader has of imagining him or herself in that very situation. Could you retain
sanity looking at the deadlights? Would you want to be a young child home alone with Gramma? Certain scenes in
are among the most terrifying in fiction and Paul Sheldon’s realization in
that Annie Wilkes intends to hobble him is one of the scariest King has ever put to paper. On a simpler scale, little Tad Trenton’s all too familiar fear in
The Monster in the Closet
recalls our own childhood with intense accuracy. Another little boy was left catatonic as a result of his visit to Room 217 – many readers found the description of that encounter almost unbearable.
If there is a core theme in King’s Work, it is that of Good versus Evil, the Dark Side (or “the Red”) versus the White. Sometimes this is portrayed in religious terms (
) but often more simply as that of good men and women (Roland and his ka-tet)
against the powers of evil, often unsuccessfully. All too often, as in the “real” world, good men die, good women are beaten down and good causes lost. King does not resile from the truth of a story where it is clear that there is no happy ending.
King says this about the matter in
An Evening with Stephen King
Storm of the Century
… I tried to express the belief that sometimes good people do not win. Sometimes good people die. Sometimes good people are corrupted … Last but not least I have expressed in several books my belief in some insensate force – not necessarily God – I’m not sure I believe in that in a personal way, but in the sort of way that William Wordsworth talked about and then later in his prose, John Steinbeck, when they talked about an oversoul. In my books, I’ve called that “the coming of the white.