Few Authors have had the influence on literature like Stephen King has. He got international attention with his first book ‘Carrie’ in 1974 and has been writing novels and short stories ever since. King is often referred or compared to Edgar Allen Poe. Stephen King is a literary savant and a catalyst to science fiction and fantasy movies and novels. He started everything with his first book ‘Carrie” and science fiction took off.
King was born Stephen Edwin King in Portland, Maine on September 21, 1947.
His parents were Donald King, who was a merchant sailor and his mother Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. He also had an older brother named David. Stephen lived a somewhat comfortable life. His parents separated in 1949 due to his father just up and leaving them and his mother moved them around a lot until they settled in Durham, Maine in 1958. King attended high school there before going to the University of Maine at Orono and earned his BA in English in1970.
He was also very into the campus politics and was even a writer for the school newspaper. While attending the University he met Tabitha Spruce and married her in 1971. The kings struggled financially in the first few years of their marriage, as most young couples do sometimes. King worked multiple odd jobs to pay the bills while he worked on his fiction. His first published short story ‘The Glass Floor’ was accepted in 1967 and was followed by a number of other stories later on called ‘Night Shift’ (1976) King was really grateful for the checks that came from those short stories “The checks sometimes came just in time to avoid what the power companies euphemistically call an interruption of service.
” (King; Hamilton & Jones) King began teaching high school English at Hampden Academy in Hampden, Maine but that career was short lived. In 1973, after the profitable sales of ‘Carrie’ he gave up his teaching career in order to pursue his dream of becoming a writer full time. Even though he was a very successful writer, with stories ranging from ‘Carrie’ to ‘The Stand’ He had some demons that he was dealing with in his personal life. He was addicted to alcohol and cocaine. His wife gathered a group of his family and friends to have an intervention and that convinced him that he needed to change his lifestyle. He’s been sober and drug free since the late 1980’s. King was once asked where he got inspiration from for his work and he said “I have the heart of a young boy… in a jar, on my desk.” (King; Hamilton & Jones) this quote comes from a seminal influence: Robert Bloch. Kings fascination with horror genre began when he found a box of his dads old books that was filled with science fiction and horror stories. These included “Pick The Liter” an anthology of H.P. Lovecrafts stories. Though Lovecrafts weren’t his first horror stories that he encountered, it was the first set of stories that he met a writer who took their work as a horror writer seriously.
There have been over 90+ of kings works that have been published. 34 of his works have been made into movies. From Carrie in 1976 to 2017, where there are more than 2000 adaptations of his novels. He has more than 300 million copies of his novels in publication and they have been translated into 33 languages. Most of kings best known and highly regarded novels came out of his earlY period. For example, Salems lot (1975) it’s a modern take that was influenced by Dracula. The shining (1977) was about a family that was isolated in a haunted hotel. King has drawn material for his writings from almost every thing in his life. The mangler (1972) was inspired by a job at an industrial laundry after he graduated college. The Body was inspire by him seeing a friend get killed by a freight train when he was four years old. Kings childhood is a main part of what his main character is. The main character or the protagonist is always bullied children, down-on-their-luck adults who sometimes struggle with revenge or justice or social outcasts. King says “My mother Was a single parent… And she went through a lot of menial jobs. We were dragged from pillar to post and there was none of those equal opportunity stuff going on at the time… And I got a sense of who is being taken advantage of and who is lording it over other people. A lot of that sense of injustice stayed. It’s stuck with me, and it still in the books today“ (O’Hehir) King has never really cared about him being labeled as a “whore novelist“ but with him being labeled that was never been taken very serious as a writer. He refers to his writing sometimes as the literary equivalent of a “Big mac and fries” though he has said “I recognize terror as the finest emotion… and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify him/her, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, i’ll go for the gross out. I’m not proud.” (King) Even though King has written more than 90 books his best known novels include Cujo (1981), Christine (1983), Misery (1987), Delores Claiborne (1992), Bag of Bones (1998), The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1998), and the seven novel Dark Tower series (1982-2004). Most of his works made it to the big screen but the ones that are most critically acclaimed are Carrie, The Shinning, Stand By Me, and The Shawshank Redemption. He also has seven novels under the pseudonym Richard Backman.
There have been over 90 of King’s works that have been published. 34 of his works have been made into movies. From Carrie in 1976 to 2017, where there are more than two dozen adaptations of his novels. He has more than 300 million copies of his novels in publication and they have been translated into 33 different languages. Most of King’s best known novels come from his early period of writing, such as Salems Lot (1975) it’s a modern take influenced by Dracula. The Shining (1977) is about a family that was isolated in a haunted hotel. King has taken material from almost every aspect of his own life and put it into his writing. “The Mangler” (1972) was inspired by a job at an industrial laundry mat after he graduated college. “The Body” was inspired by him seeing a friend get killed by a freight train when he was just four years old. King’s childhood is a main part of what his main characters are. The main character or the protagonist is always either a bullied child, a down on their luck adult who sometimes struggles with justice or revenge or a social outcast. King says “my mother was a single parent… and she went through a lot of menial jobs. We were dragged from pilar to post and there was none of this equal opportunity stuff going on at the time… And I got a sense of who was being taken advantage of and who was lording it over other people. A lot of that sense of injustice stayed. It stuck with me, and it’s still in the books today.” (as qtd in Hamilton and Jones). King has never really cared about him being labeled as a “horror novelist” but being labeled that came with people not taking him or his work very serious. He is known to refer to his writing as a literary equivalent to a “Big Mac and Fries” though he has said “ I recognize terror as the finest emotion… and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find out that I cannot terrify him/her, I will try to horrify; and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross out, I’m not proud” (as qtd in Hamilton and Jones), Even though King has written over 90 novels, his best known ones are Cujo (1981), Christine(1983), Misery(1987), Delores Claiborne(1992), Bag of Bones(1998), The Girl Who Fell In Love With Tome Gordon(1999) and the seven novel Dark Tower series (1982-2004). Most of his works have made it to the big screen, but the ones that are the most critically acclaimed are Carrie, The Shining, Stand by Me, and The Shawshank Redemption. He also has published seven novels under the pseudonym Richard Backman.
King is known for talking directly to his reader or audience. He gets people reading his work that may not usually gravitate towards traditional literature. For example, in Carrie, its either supernatural or science fiction. But it depends whether the reader questions if she got her powers from poltergeists or psychokinesis. Though King never really answers this question. “King’s popularity results from his storytelling skills, his gift for creating memorable characters, and to some extent his timing” (as qtd in D’Ammassa). Some people are dismissive of him because he writes so much and has new books out all the time. “ The child protagonist in Firestarter (1980) can start fires just by thinking about them, and the chief horror comes from an insane but not supernatural government agent, a common device used in King’s fiction” (as qtd in D’Ammassa). There was a huge success of minor comparative novels of his in the early 90’s that proved King was still capable of writing well crafted, emotionally moving fiction. He has also written straightforward fantasy. An example of that, which is really not that big but still conventional is The Eyes Of The Dragon (1984), but more importantly, the Dark Tower series. “An idiosyncratic episodic quest story that introduced the Gunslinger in The Gunslinger(1982)” (as qtd in D’Ammassa). Though this is often filled with horrific images, it’s closer to fantasy than horror. King also appears as a character and there are also ties to other characters from many of his horror novels as well. Most of King’s work has started with science fiction but have moved into horror. This makes sense considering that many of his influences early on were from science fiction stories and movies that have inspired most of his work.
“Referred to variously as the master of horror or the king of terror, Stephen King is one of the most successful novelist in the world“ ( Hamilton and Jones). It’s rare to find anyone that has not come in contact with kings work, whether it be good or bad connections. He has received many awards for his novels. Who is short story “the man in the black suit“ was awarded the 1996 O. Henry award and he received the 2003 national book award for distinguished contribution to American letters. Though giving king this award, the national book foundation got some criticism from academic circles. Harold Bloom, a Yale professor and a literary scholar rowan article in the Boston Globe saying that “the choice was another low in the shocking process of dumbing down our cultural life” (Hamilton and Jones). Even King thought it was a little weird that the foundation chose him to receive the award, but he chose to look at the positive side and thought it was a step in the right direction for American literature. He even noted about it and his acceptance speech “took a huge risk and giving this award to a man of many people see as a rich hat. For far too long this so-called popular writers of this country and the so-called literary writers have stared at each other with animosity and a willful lack of understanding… But giving an award like this to a guy like me suggest that in the future things don’t have to be the way they’ve always been. Bridges can be built between this so called popular fiction and the so-called literary fiction“ ( Hamilton and Jones). King also helped bridge this gap with his novel Liseys Story (2006) which contains supernatural elements that king is known for, but its “about a widows nostalgic look at 25 years of marriage“ which received praise for its literary merit. The novel that made king instantly famous was Salems lot (1975) “the most important vampire novel since Dracula“ and his second novel the shining “Maintains an exceptionally high level of tension secured his popularity and his books have been best sellers ever cents” (as QTD in D’ a MMASSA). King has been stupendous in the impact of horror fiction and best selling fiction. He’s definitely the most successful writer of the 20th century. A person just has to walk into the horse section of the bookstore and immediately noticed that it is dominated by king. The only other writer that comes close is Dean R Koontz. “His ability to speak to a wide variety of readers and to engage them with his characters and stories is unrivaled“ (as qtd in D’Ammassa). Even though he has been a phenomenon in literature throughout his 40 year career, part of his worldwide fame is due to the many adaptations of his work through film and television. Though most of his work is either conceived or marketed as horror, there are many that fall within the science fiction genre. Kings novels genres consist of Gothic core, fantasy, and science fiction literature. They are also known for their cinematic style, which “King has been called the air to Edgar Allan Poe and has been compared with the likes of Ray Bradbury and H.P.Lovecraft“ (as qtd in Werlock). He also in Jack’s subtlety the “horror story questions about religion, science, and materialism”(as qtd in Werlock). King uses main a lot in his novels, where almost all of them are located because that’s where he grew up and most of the novels are based on his childhood memories. At one point in time, king had announced that he had the intention of retiring from writing fiction, but that never happened and he has published several works since then.