I’m going to preface this by saying that of course people have different tastes in movies and books. While I do sometimes feel judgy toward people that defend literary or live-action garbage, I recognize that this is a shitty trait I should continue trying to shake. People are allowed to like whatever the hell they want. That’s not the point I’m making here. With that out of the way…
What do horror writers and fans think they’re accomplishing by talking shit about Stephen King? What is achieved by insulting the work that inspired so many people to pursue the genre, and writing in general? Even if you weren’t personally influenced by King, someone you were influenced by was.
Do you think you’re being edgy or outside-the-box by pretending that Carrie isn’t a good novel? Or that you felt nothing when reading Pet Sematary? Or that The Shining didn’t scare you ever, at any point? I’m not saying people are wrong for not having King on their top-ten lists or whatever. But this bland “I don’t see what the big deal is about Stephen King” bullshit has to stop. When you say that, you’re revealing your own ignorance far more than you’re making a statement about King and his work. Besides, it’s not possible to dislike everything he’s written–unless you haven’t read enough.
Until Daniel Craig happened, I did not give half a rat’s ass about James Bond. He’s basically what a 12-year-old boy thinks it’s like to be a spy. I’ve not read the books, but the movies are silly and campy and don’t seem to realize that they are. But I understand that it’s a wildly popular series and that people have strong love feelings for it. I can also tell the difference between something being objectively bad, or simply not being to my taste. Bond films are simply not what I’m looking for in a film.
Stephen King is like The Beatles. You can’t possibly dislike all of it. There’s too damn much. And it’s all so different. I Wanna Hold Your Hand and The White Album are worlds apart. Come to think of it, I haven’t even read all of King. I haven’t touched any of the Dark Tower stuff (no pinkie wags please), and never got around to the JFK thing. The point is that there’s so much King work, much of which is not even horror. Don’t believe me, read Eyes of the Dragon to your (older than toddler) kids.
King’s work isn’t perfect. I’m not here to say that it is. He’s got that “magical negro” problem. Most of his sex scenes are basically the same. He’s got a clear bias against fat people. One could argue that he has a definite formula, but must also admit that he changed it up after a time. His wife characters are often interchangeable.
Admittedly, I’m one of those people who came to love and understand horror because of Stephen King. I was a kid when Salem’s Lot and The Shining and Carrie came out. One might argue that 9 was too young to read such things. But fuck that. Letting me read whatever the hell I wanted is one of a very small number of things my mother got totally right. We also watched almost whatever we wanted, horror wise. That’s how I got to see Alien and Fulci’s Zombi at the drive-in. But I digress.
Rage. I get why he wants it out of print, because actual school shooters had actual copies nearby when they actually killed people. But dammit. If we’re really gonna ban every book people use to excuse horrible deeds, the Christian Bible should be ripped off shelves tomorrow. If I was ever gonna direct a short based on a King story, Rage would definitely be the one. And yes, I know it’s technically a Bachman.
Those early collections of King’s shorts are practically a class in how to tell stories. How to reveal information to the reader for the most impact. How to let readers identify with someone in a very short amount of time. When to use 1st person POV versus 3rd. Stuff like Strawberry Spring and I Know What You Need and The Man Who Loved Flowers inspired me in ways I didn’t even notice until I started publishing my own horror stories.
They don’t call him the Master of Horror solely because he sells a lot of books. There’s more to it than that. Read Danse Macabre, or On Writing (easily the best book ever on the craft, regardless of your genre) and then tell me he hasn’t earned his place in both horror history and literary history in general. How can you know anything about horror at all and not know that?!?
Ya wanna fight about it?
Let’s Get It On.