Come on, it's Halloween, this guy's practically mandatory.
To be fair, people have to be pretty much living under rocks not to have heard of Stephen King. (No offence to any rock-dwelling people, you guys are awesome.) But Stephen King is basically one of the Gods of Horror-Writing. If there was an official kingdom of Gods of Horror-Writing, he'd be the one with the trident and the big beard, who could call up storms of screaming children and whole pages of blood-scribbled madness mantras to drive you insane at will.
I had heard of Stephen King for years but I didn't actually start reading him until last year. (In my defence, I originally got him mixed up with the guy who wrote the Da Vinci Code. OK, maybe it's not just the rock-dwellers.) But then I read Carrie.
It's weird that the book Stephen King himself has described as one of his least favourites is probably my favourite of his so far. Maybe it's because it's one of the ones that's more relatable to me because it's about teenage girls and that species label could currently, conceivably, in some ways describe me. But maybe it's because the writing in that book creepily conveys the politics of teenage girls so vividly despite the author himself never having been one. I found the scenes in the girls showers and the hysterical abuse from Carrie's mother far scarier than any of the hints of telekinesis and even than the climactic gym scene (which is still a punch in the chest and a mind-screw as to who is the villain, as if a hand has crept inside your chest and rearranged your ribs when you weren't looking.)
But anyway, my love for Carrie inspired me to seek out more about Stephen King. It was then that I realised I actually owned his novella The Body, after watching Stand By Me (watch it if you haven't, but don't blame me when you end up dead of dehydration or drowning, found in a puddle of your own tears) and have promptly put it on my To Be Read list. But Stephen King himself is actually pretty interesting.
Stephen King describes his "inner dowsing rod" reacting when he found an H. P. Lovecraft novel as a kid and knew that he'd found "home." That made me love the guy straight away. From then on, he reportedly knew he wanted to be a writer and he wanted to write horror stories.
The sheer amount of books Stephen King has written is actually pretty hard to believe. (Please don't ask me to count them.) He's had a four-decade long career. For someone who hasn't even been alive for two, it's pretty darn difficult to imagine. And these aren't just any books; he's written some of the most defining horror books, like The Shining, Misery, Carrie-and yes, The Shining might be more famous to some people as the Kubrick film, which is also a pretty good Halloween watch.
|If this guy knocks on your door, hand over the candy without a fight.|
But Stephen King also has the whole he-didn't-give-up thing going on. He and his family were in such debt before he sold Carrie that he actually disconnected the phone to save money. And then Carrie lifted them out of it overnight. But he's also spoken pretty publicly about his battles with alcoholism and drug addiction and his battle to become sober-not to mention, the effects it's had on his family. (In fact, his addictions have even been reflected in some of his novels.) He was then nearly killed (no, seriously) in 1999 when he was hit by a car when doing nothing more unusual than walking down a road. (For the guy who writes telekinetic schoolgirls, alive-with-ghosts hotels and thumb-cutting nurses, walking down a road would probably have been a surprisingly mundane way to go.) But he's kept on going through all of this, and is still writing books now (I need to read Doctor Sleep, because it's Danny from The Shining grown up and who wouldn't want to read that and he's an alcoholic and that hurts and hurts.)
(Interesting tidbit; Stephen King's daughter-in-law happens to be Kelly Braffet, another of my favourite authors-she's married to his son, author Owen King. She was a teenage fangirl of Stephen King's books, apparently, and her books are other things you should definitely read as soon as humanly possible.)
But the thing that makes Stephen King really cool to me, is the fact that the guy just sort of-does what he does. He doesn't really make a whole load of fanfare about it, he just writes these amazing books and doesn't even seem to realise how cool and different they actually are. And when I say "just writes", I mean, "just writes." He apparently often does his writing without even any idea of where the story will end-he just starts out with the "what-if" question and some characters and sees where it goes. To someone like me, who actually used to list out what films I needed to watch to properly enjoy summer-no, really-this sounds simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying, like the moment you really want to jump off a cliff, but also have every thought screaming that you'll die, though you know the moment you fall will be like flying.
So, this Halloween, read some Stephen King. Trust me, there's a lot to choose from. Just don't go blaming him for your nightmares. (Enough people do that already.)
Oh, and one other thing? He appeared as himself in a voice-over role in Stuck In Love. There are no words to describe how much I love Stuck In Love. He's that cool.