Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Guided Tour of the Kingdom: A Chronological Walk Through the Career of Stephen King, Part 1 (1956-1966)

Today, I've got the beginning of a rather large project: a complete guide to the career of Stephen King.
A caveat is immediately necessary: with a career like King's, a guy like me uses the word "complete" at his own peril.  Can I completely list all of King's books?  Yeah; maybe even from memory, although I'd probably forget a few.  Can I list all the movies?  You bet, provided we agree on excluding Dollar Babies.  Short stories?  Absolutely, although whether some of them count or not is a matter for some debate.  (This is the point at which you might make a tentative sound of confusion in the front of your throat, and then relax and see where I'm going with all of this.)  Comic books?  I think so, yes.  Audiobooks?  Possible, but not a certainty.  Nonfiction?  Not a chance.  Interviews?  Give me a break.  Homages to King's work in the works of others?  You're out of your mind.
And so forth.
What I'm getting at is this: it is a daunting task merely to define what "the career of Stephen King" means, either as an idea or as a practical thing.  So rather than shoot for doing that in an objective sense, I'll specify that what I'm aiming to do is to define "the career of Stephen King" as I see it.  I think that lets me off the hook in terms of how complete "complete" is.
Since my personal interest in King's career are broad, I'm going to be as inclusive as I can be without jumping from the diving board of obsessiveness into the pool of insanity; I'll leave it to you to determine whether I managed to stay above water.  That'll be a judgment call for each of you.  The bottom line is, I'll be following my own interests and concerns here, which is why I'm calling this a guided tour.  Every guide may wish to point out different things, but on this tour, you're stuck with me.  Hopefully, I won't lead us off the path and accidentally get us all eaten by lions.
This first post -- published (quite intentionally) on the day of, and celebrating, King's seventieth birthday -- is  going to focus on the years leading up to King's first professional fiction sale.
By definition, most of this material is inaccessible to the average King reader (myself included), but I thought it would be worthwhile to touch on the stories from this era that are known to exist.  And, again, there may be a few ephemeral pieces that won't be included; for example, a story titled "Charlie" is known to (partially) exist, and seems to be a science fiction story King write around the age of twelve.  It's never been published, though, and the extant manuscript is not even complete.  So while you might see it referred to in a few places, I'm not counting it here, because it just doesn't seem to merit inclusion.  Again, that's my own judgment call; and since true comprehensivity is off the table, I think judgment calls like that are not only okay but damn near mandatory.
It is my goal to eventually -- and when I say "eventually," know that I mean at some point before I die, so not necessarily anytime soon (although continual progress is the goal) -- write analyses of every single thing I include on these tours.  Well, the stuff that's obtainable, at least.  When I do, I'll include links here.  So what you're going to see for a while is a lot of non-links.  We'll get there, though; oh yes we will.  The idea is for this series of posts to serve almost as a Table of Contents for my blog, and also as a touchstone for my own personal use.  I expect it to grow and change regularly, although the extent to which that will be apparent to people who aren't me is likely to be minimal.

Ideas and suggestions are more than welcome, so if you've got 'em, fire away.
Everything we'll be looking at in Part 1 is best classified as juvenilia.  And here's the thing about that: as such, it both does and doesn't merit literary analysis.  King himself would likely disagree with an assertion that it does, but the way I see it, King's is one of the most influential prose voices of his era; that being the case, almost literally everything he has ever written is of interest to those studying his work.  I gather from his work (Lisey's Story in particular) that he is, at best, uncomfortable with that idea; but that's just how it is, Uncle Steve.  I ain't sayin' your words are scripture or nothin' like that, but I am saying that it's of interest.

The flip side of the coin is that just because it is of interest does not inherently mean it has merit.  The scholar who gives juvenilia the same level of attention that they give mature works is making a serious mistake.  I'm not actually a scholar, mind you; I'm an amateur enthusiast, an annoying breed of would-be scholar.  I do have standards, though, and try to stick to them.

Know, then, that all of the stories mentioned here are interesting for the peeks they afford the reader at King in a somewhat embryonic state; but know also that comparing them to, say, "Graveyard Shift" or "The Mangler" really isn't a good idea.  It's unfair to both sides of the comparison.

And you won't get that here.

Alright, now that the big preamble is out of the way, let's get this tour bus rolling.  We'll be making frequent stops, so please keep your arms and legs inside the windows and silence your mobile devices at this time.  Our first stop takes us back in time some sixty years, to the far-flung era of:

 "Jhonathan and the Witchs"
(short story, written circa 1956)
published in First Words (edited by Paul Mandelbaum), 1993

p. 116

      The earliest known extant King story (so far as I am aware) is the charmingly misspelled "Jhonathan and the Witchs," which he wrote at age 9.  It's about a guy named Jhonathan, and some witchs witches he meets.  I bet you already guessed that.

      Tuesday, September 12, 2017

      It Wants to Divide Us: A Review of "It" (2017)

      I rarely -- if ever -- mention my job on my blogs.  It's just not a good idea to mix business and pleasure in that way, because if I were to be noticed talking about my job online, then all of a sudden I'd be obliged to conduct myself in a manner 100% befitting my professional requirements.  And, like, fuck that.  I'm at work, that's work time; I'm away from work, that's ME time.
      However, the odds of anybody noticing are rather minimal, and even if they did, I'm not likely to then also be recognized by a customer.  I got better odds of getting struck by lightning than I do of being recognized for my blogs.  What a silly thought!
      Anyways, I figure it makes sense to err on the side of caution, so I just don't bring it up.  This is not difficult to do; I have virtually no interest in talking about work when I'm not there.
      This week, though, I'm going to break my rule and divulge to you that I am a manager of a movie theatre.  Not the general manager, mind you; if my boss is Picard, I'm Riker, except with a lamer beard and even fatter.  So, yeah, I'm the Riker of a movie theatre.  
      I bring that up because I simply can't restrain myself from talking about how utterly cool it has been to be a massive Stephen King fan and to go to work all weekend and see people lining up by the hundreds to see a movie based on a Stephen King novel.  At my particular theatre, it did stronger business than most superhero movies; it did stronger business than Rogue One; it did stronger business than Pixar movies.  Shows were selling out hours in advance, and by the end of the night on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, AND Sunday (the latter unprecedented during September) people were still showing up by the dozens at the very end of the night, once there were literally no seats left to be sold for that movie on any of its several screens.
      I've seen that happen with Twilights and with Hunger Gameses and with Fifty Shades of Greys and with American Sniper and so forth, and until this weekend I never realized that in the back of my mind, the King fan in me was jealous of those other movies' successes.  Don't misunderstand; given that this is my profession, I'm always hopeful that EVERY movie will be that big a hit.  Few are, but trust me, I never mind when they are even if they are movies I personally would like to ignore.
      This weekend, though, I realized that It was scratching an itch I'd not even realized I had: an urge to see my Stephen King fandom validated in my own workplace.  No King film had been a hit during my management tenure since 1408, and that one was only a mild hit; people went to see it, but nobody cared about it, so far as I could tell.  With It, you could sense immediately -- show began on Thursday night and were busy from jump -- that this was a movie people were excited to see.  They weren't coming to the theatre out of a sense of obligation, or because it was the weekend and they had to go see something (those days appear to be over for 95% of the public, if not more).  They were acting like ... like ...
      Well, they were acting a bit like people in line for a roller coaster.  This was an experience, not a mere movie.  They came by the hundreds per hour, and they were of all colors, ages, sizes; they were evenly split in gender.  There were an untold number of kids not old enough to vault over the R rating, and some of them got older people to buy 'em tickets, and some of them -- most of them (possibly numbering in the thousands, and no, I'm not exaggerating that) -- failed.  They looked brokenhearted to be missing out on it; no, I'm not exaggerating that, either.
      I have seen a weekend's worth of audiences that was both larger and more excited; but not many.  This will rank as one of the most enthusiastic audiences I've personally ever been around in the movie business; they were laughing and excited on the way in, and they were laughing and excited on the way out.
      It was really, really cool.  It always is.  
      Add on top of that that they were there to see a movie based on one of my five favorite novels (one written by my absolute favorite author), and it translated to me having a much better weekend personally than I might otherwise have had.  A weekend's business like that can sometimes be sort of oppressive, like a grim march to a too-distant finish line.  Get me to Monday, get me to Monday, get me to Monday..., like that.  This can especially be true if a movie is a smash hit and you weren't expecting it to be.  Luckily, we were, so the effects we felt were minimal.  I would all but guarantee you that many of the nation's theatres got caught flat-footed by it, especially after the past few weeks have been so dreadful at the box office.
      But yeah, we saw it coming, and we were more or less prepared.  Even so, it was a show of It basically ever 45 minutes, so the lines were nonstop, from Thursday at 7pm to Sunday at 11pm, with respites while we closed and for maybe the first half-dozen shows of the day.  Otherwise?  Non-fuckin'-stop.
      Despite this, I was in a thoroughly cheerful mood.  I was wearing this:
      Nobody recognized it except one of my fellow managers, who just shook his head at me as if to indicate he was disappointed in what a nerd I was.  I am guilty as charged, and the fact that I was in a good mood while all around me swirled a sea of people who wanted tickets and/or popcorn without further delay indicates to me that it was a pretty good weekend to be the type of nerd I am.
      So yeah, that's where this review will be coming from.  From the guy who was happy to be swamped at work not merely because it was good for business, but because the hordes of customers were there to see something I really cared about.

      Monday, August 14, 2017

      A Review of "Studies in the Horror Film: Brian De Palma's Carrie"

      If I had the ability to do so, I'd spend about eighteen hours a day blogging about Stephen King.  Not every single day; I'd do that on about ten of the fourteen days of the week, and set aside the others for
      some of the other topics near and dear to my heart.  But yeah, for sure on ten of those days, I'd get out of bed, have a spot of breakfast, go exercise, read King books/stories (or view movies) for nine hours or so, have some food, go exercise some more, and then write a blog post of some sort for about nine hours.  Eat me some dinner, catch up on my shows, sleep for twelve hours, get up, and do it all over again.  Not sure how many hours the day'd need to be, but that's mere details.
      Yessir, that's the life for me.
      Unfortunately, I'm stuck with this one.  What that means, in terms of The Truth Inside The Lie, is that I'm perpetually backlogged with things I'd like to be writing about but can't find the time for.
      Among those: I've got a number of books about King's works (or about adaptations of that work) that I have not yet made time to read.  I hope to knock a bunch of those out before the end of the year, and it seems natural to review each of these as I go.
      In that regard, the first domino has fallen:

      Published in 2011 by Centipede Press, Joseph Aisenberg's Studies in the Horror Film: Brian De Palma's Carrie is a not-entirely-uncommon breed among books of film criticism: a book I enjoyed greatly despite frequently disagreeing with it.
      The book, I regret to inform you, is long out of print.  If you're a big fan of the movie, it might be worth your while to track one down.  Copies can be pricey, but Amazon has one in what seems to be good condition for $15.  It's certainly worth that if you're a fan of the movie; Aisenberg is very passionate on the subject, and devotes well over three hundred pages to analysis of its every nook and cranny.  His method is to match through the entire film, one scene at a time, talking about basically any aspect of it that seems worthwhile.  The emphasis is on the psychological content and on De Palma's masterful grasp of cinematic language, but Aisenberg also delves into behind-the-scenes issues of casting, filming, etc.  He's interested in it all, and it shows.

      Tuesday, August 8, 2017

      I Will Not Be Watching "Mr. Mercedes"... least, for now.
      Here's why.
      It's available only via DirecTV, their DirecTV Now streaming service, or AT&T U-Verse.  Of those options, I don't have the former or the latter.  Like millions of Americans, I don't have cable service because it's not cost-effective.  It's not that I think it isn't worth what it costs; it is.  I just can't find the time to watch more than a few hours of television a week lately.  So for me, it makes more sense to pay for things in a manner targeted to what I know I will be watching.
      Currently, that consists of two shows: Game of Thrones and The Mist.  I pay $15 per month for HBO Now, and consider it money very well spent; when Game of Thrones ends, I will likely cancel that service until HBO puts something else on that I feel is essential.  I had it for The Leftovers earlier this year, and will have it again when Westworld starts back up.  It makes no sense to me to have it and not use it; that's money that could be put to use buying old Stephen King paperbacks, ya kennit?
      With The Mist, I simply bought a season pass for that via Amazon Prime.  Cost me about $20, I think, so $2 per episode.  Worth it?  Not even vaguely.  But hey, I'm a King completist, so it had to be done, and it is worth $2 an episode from that perspective.
      This brings us to Mr. Mercedes.  I really want to watch it; it looks good, and there's the aforementioned King-completist angle to consider.  But it isn't available through Amazon, or through iTunes, for that matter.
      The only option left to me was to subscribe to DirecTV Now and stream it through my Amazon Fire Stick (or on my PC).  DirecTV Now is happy to offer me that option...
      ...for $35 per month after my one-week free trial is over.
      given that the series is $10 episodes, that's a minimum of three months that I'd have to pay for in order to watch it weekly.  Lemme do that math, so, okay, times three, hmm, that's ... $105.  Or, in other words, nearly $12 per episode (not counting the first episode during my free trial).
      Even if it turns out to be great, it's not worth that to me.  I wouldn't pay that for Game of Thrones.  I wouldn't pay that for Mad Men or Breaking Bad, guys.
      And yes, I get it: there's more to DirecTV Now than just one series.  But since one series is all I'd be using it for, it's all I'm getting out of it.
      Not worth it, even to me.
      It's very likely, of course, that the only reason Mr. Mercedes the series got made is so DirecTV could drive people toward its Now streaming service.  This sort of thing is becoming more common with every passing month.  And I'm not opposed to that; if you make a thing that I'd like to see, I'm interested in giving you money for it.  For that reason, beginning next month, CBS All Access will begin getting money from me on a monthly basis so that I can watch Star Trek: Discovery.
      They are only charging about six bucks a month for it, though.  Big difference.
      As this war of streaming services continues, with content deployed as the weaponry, it will become absolutely essential for a guy like me to pick and choose his battles.  I'm an Amazon Prime customer, so that one is year-round for me.  I pick Netflix up when they've got an original I want to see; so when The Defenders launches in a few weeks, I'll be onboard their train again.  I subscribed to Hulu when 11/22/63 aired, and Castle Rock will pull me back.
      But, again, those services are inexpensive enough that even if I end up using them only for a single specific show, I won't feel I've overspent.
      Nobody will be able to get $35 per month out of me for a service like that.
      And so, reluctantly, I'm going to have to bow out of the Mr. Mercedes experience until it comes out on Blu-ray or DVD.  And I'm only assuming it will; there's no guarantee in that regard.
      Anyways, in case anyone was wondering, that's my stance on this new series.  I am excited by its existence, and I am willing to pay to see it.
      Not at that price, though.  DirecTV might well win the war; but they've lost me.
      Now, here are some promotional photos I borrowed from their website:

      Sunday, August 6, 2017

      It's Really Not That Complicated...

      Time for an exercise.
      Before we begin, let me answer a question some of you might have: no, I will not be reviewing The Dark Tower.  Not, at least, for now; you can look for that review at some point in the future, though, for sure.  It might be as late as whenever the Blu-ray comes out, or as soon as whenever the movie exits cinemas; but for now, I won't be speaking to it here.  I won't be entertaining comments about it, either, which might seem frustrating to some of you; trust me, I get it.  There's a reason for it, though; it's got to do with my job (I'm a movie-theatre manager), and for the time being, I just don't think it's a good idea for me to talk about the movie.
      In lieu of that conversation, I'd like to offer a few thoughts as to why I don't think it was necessary for anybody to be afraid of actually adapting The Gunslinger (a thing the movie certainly does not do).  That novel gets criticized by King fans and by Dark Tower fans alike (albeit not all of them) for being too weird or too boring or too offensive or some combination of those qualities.  I try to keep myself in check anytime this issue comes up, and I'm mostly successful; I mean, yeah, sure, it baffles and aggravates me that some people look at The Gunslinger -- which is my favorite King novel of them all -- that way, but hey, whatever, you do fandom your way and I'll do it my way, and we'll all be okay in the end.
      So my aim today is to show you how a movie based on The Gunslinger could have played out.  Bear in mind -- as I would be well-advised to do (he said to himself, warningly) -- that I have never made a movie, have never even tried to make a movie.  I don't really know what I'm talking about, so take all of this for what it's worth.
      I've been watching movies my whole life, though.  And I've been reading books my whole life.  Specifically, I've been reading books like The Gunslinger (an epic combination of science fiction, fantasy, and horror), and I've been watching movies that aspire to be the kind of crowd-pleasing hits that a series of Dark Tower films ostensibly wanted/needed to be.  I'm a critical-minded thinker who understands that if one wishes to draw a line from books like that to movies like that with the aim of turning the story of one into the experience of the other, one cannot draw a straight line; it is necessary to curve the line, to loop it back on itself as needed to avoid the pitfalls that come with such an effort.  What matter is getting from point A to point B while bringing as much of the book with you as possible.
      If you don't have that intent, it means you were only ever interested in point B, in which case, why are you even bothering with point A?
      In order to conduct this exercise, I will be spoiling certain aspects of the series, including the very ending of Book VII.  So if you haven't read the books, I'd advise against reading this post.
      The main charge against The Gunslinger, as far as I can tell, is that it's boring.  I think that's ridiculous, but I've heard it from too many people to shrug it off.  That being the case, I'd be a fool not to take it into account when proposing this film version.
      Let that be lesson #1, then: divorce your ego from the project as much as possible in service of accomplishing the intended goal (i.e., to translate these books into a mass-audience-friendly cinematic context and thereby make billions of dollars).  Part of that means letting go of certain aspects of the novel in favor of making an enjoyable movie; but it also means keeping the end product recognizably similar to the novel.  

      Thursday, August 3, 2017

      An Interview With Paul Suntup of Suntup Editions

      I've got some exciting stuff to share with y'all today.  As you may know, I've got some real love for a lot of the cover art for Stephen King's books.  I've been saying for years that somebody ought to market posters of the art to those covers, and doggone if somebody hasn't come along and started doing exactly that.  Who has done the King-fan community that service?
      Suntup Editions, that's who.  They've got a lot more going for them than that, though; they also have a gorgeous portfolio of David Palladini's art for The Eyes of the Dragon available for sale.  The company's owner, Paul Suntup, was turned into a King fan by that very novel. 
      At age nineteen – 19!!! – Paul Suntup wandered into a bookstore and discovered The Eyes of the Dragon.  This led him to become a massive Stephen King fan, which in turn led him to become a dedicated collector of King books.  Suntup lived in South Africa, which made this a bit more difficult than it would have been for an American or British Constant Reader, but his persistence eventually paid off.

      He fell out of collecting King for a while, but had his love for it awoken around the time Doctor Sleep came out.  He eventually discovered that he had a desire to become a publisher, and this led him to an ambitious project: a custom-rebound edition of The Eyes of the Dragon.  It was a success, and led to an even more ambitious rebinding project that did wonderful things with Firestarter.
      This, in turn, led to a project on which Suntup collaborated with David Palladini, the illustrator of the original Viking edition of The Eyes of the Dragon: a portfolio showcasing Palladini's exquisite art for the novel.  (Suntup discussed this in episode #70 of The Stephen King Podcast in March, and I recommend giving that a listen; his enthusiasm shines through, and it's a lot of fun to hear how a project like that portfolio comes together.)
      The Lettered and Numbered editions with a 1st trade edition for perspective.  More images can be found at
      All of that is exciting, but Suntup's next venture was the one that got me excited: The Covers Collection, a series of fine-art prints (and posters) celebrating the cover art of King novels such as The Shining, Pet Sematary, and Misery.  There is a monthly subscription service that sounds wonderful, and single-print options are also available to customers.

      Tuesday, July 25, 2017

      My Friend vs. Cancer

      Today, I want to put an opportunity in front of you.  It's not a fortune-and-glory type of opportunity (he said, channeling Temple of Doom for some reason), but instead an opportunity to help somebody who needs some help.
      My friend Trey Sterling -- you see him in the comments under the name "Xann Black" every so often -- recently underwent surgery to remove a malignant melanoma.  The surgery was a success, and while there is still a course of treatment(s) waiting on him, Trey's progress seems to be quite good.  This is because he's a badass.  However, the illness and (more importantly) recovery time have caused him to have to face an extended period away from work.  And I don't care how big a badass you are, bills are badder if they've teamed up with cancer to stop you from going to work for an extended period of time.
      So here's the opportunity: to help.  If you're reading this and have a few bucks you don't think you'll need this week, kindly visit Trey's Go Fund Me page and donate to this worthy cause.
      Let me tell you a little bit about Trey.  I've known him since ... oh, 2003ish.  He was in high school, and got hired to work at the place where I was a manager.  We got to be friendly, as often happens when nerds meet each other; and have been friends ever since.  We've been on vacations together a few times over the years, have watched all manner of movies and TV shows together, and have had major influences on each others' reading habits. 
      With that in mind, if you've got the ability to send a few dollars, I'd like to ask you to consider sending them his way.  He's a good guy, and his parents are good people, and the rest of his family are good people, and their various dogs and cats are good animals.  They, none of 'em, ought to have to be going through any of this. 
      Now, for your amusement, here is a photo of Trey murdering a dinner roll at Disney World:
      Reuben (l): "God save that poor dinner roll."  Trey (m): "Die, dinner roll, die!"  Me (r): "Where MY dinner roll at?"
      Good times.

      Friday, July 14, 2017

      A Review of "Dollar Deal" (by Shawn S. Lealos)

      Today, I'll be reviewing the 2015 book Dollar Deal, which is a collection of interviews by author Shawn S. Lealos with various Dollar Baby filmmakers.
      What's a Dollar Baby? you might ask.  That's an easy enough question to answer.  See, Stephen King has had this program since at least the eighties in which he will grant aspiring filmmakers the rights to make a short film based on one of his stories for a single dollar.  There's more to it than that (e.g., the filmmakers are not allowed to profit off the films or show them outside of festivals), but that's the gist of the thing.
      I've always been reluctant to integrate fandom for the Dollar Baby films into my King-fandom regimen.  There are several reasons for this, including:
      1.  I don’t consider them to be professional films.
      2.  There are a LOT of them, and keeping track of them seems to be a near impossibility.
      3.  I have no access to more than a handful of them.
      4.  My perception of them is that the vast majority suck the root.  Not sayin’ that’s a stone-cold truism … just sayin’ that that’s my perception.
      All those things being the case, why bother?
      Well, that’s easy: because regardless of how I think or feel about them, and regardless of whether I have any ability to actually view them, these ARE King-sanctioned films.  In that way, an argument could be made that they are just as legitimate as, say, Cujo.  And I aim for comprehensivity in my King fandom, meaning that in a perfect world, I’d be able to collect every one of these things and give ‘em a look.

      Not being able to do so, it is my preference to turn something of a blind eye toward them.  Out of sight, out of mind, and if they are out of my thoughts, then I don’t have to worry about not being able to see them.

      Yeah, I get it; dude sounds nuts, you’re thinking.  Who told you to think that?!?  Was it the Tall Whites?!?  Er…  Anyways, don’t misunderstand me; I don’t lose sleep thinking about not being able to see Dollar Baby films.
      Bottom line is: I just don't care about these movies.
      So it’s a credit to Shawn S. Lealos (and the filmmakers profiled in his book) that while reading Dollar Deal, I did care.

      His book is not a definitive history of Dollar Babies – as I mentioned earlier, there doesn’t seem to be a way to actually compile a comprehensive list of them – but is instead a collection of interviews with seventeen filmmakers who have participated in the program (plus three essays).  During the course of reading these interviews, I became interested in the films under discussion, and in the filmmakers who worked on them.  By definition, these were films made out of a combination of sheer love and sheer determination, and the can-do attitudes that are the hallmark of a combination like that are, at times, infectious.  Many of these folks have gone on to have solid careers.  None are Frank Darabont, but few people in all of human history have been Frank Darabont, so let’s not hold that against them.  In several cases, they’ve become industry professionals, and that’s a solid outcome. 
      The book’s subjects are as follows:

      Sunday, July 9, 2017

      Collectioning (2017 Edition), Part 2: The Books Must Flow

      This two-part post (part one of which can be found here) began with a spate of reacquisitions of paperbacks I'd once owned; pure nostlagia-bait mid-life-crisis stuff.  But, as is often the case, I couldn't make myself stop there, and some other stuff ended up getting collectioned in the process.
      As such, this post must needs now transition into a relatively simple cataloguing of Shit I Just Bought.  Hopefully some of that will still be of interest!  I think there's some cool stuff here, so maybe you will, too.

      Before we get to that, I wanted to share a few photos from my apartment.  I mentioned last time that I'd decided to devote an entire bookcase to my mass-market King paperbacks.  I moved stuff around so as to make space for it, and here is the result:

      Ahhh, who needs those lightswitches anyways?  I can still kinda reach 'em.

      I really ought to have that Michael Whelan Gunslinger print in a frame, shouldn't I?  I keep saying I'm going to do that.


      It's one of my favorite pieces of King art, and I bought the print at Dragon*Con over a decade ago.  Or did I opt not to buy it there and end up ordering a copy from Whelan's website?  Might be the latter.  I think probably so.

      Anyways, it's been hanging on one spot in my apartment ever since, and I took it down to move it here so as to give this little section a theme.  As I moved it, I noticed something I'd failed to ever notice before, and it gave me a thrill:


      And I don't have it in a frame!  Saints preserve us.  Anyways, let's move on to the books.
      We'll continue to proceed in chronological order by edition, to the extent that is possible, beginning with:

      'salem's Lot (August 1976, Signet)

      This is more or less the original paperback of 'salem's Lot, which is pretty easy to find copies of.

      The scan doesn't show the cover off particularly well; the hair and facial features of the vampire are raised (you can see the indentations on the inside front cover), and catch the light in an interesting way; so while it looks in photos like a nearly-blank black image, it's actually quite a bit cooler than that, especially with that single drop of blood added in.

      Sunday, June 25, 2017

      Collectioning (2017 Edition), Part 1: An Excuse to Talk About the Old Days

      coll-ect-ion-ing  (kƏ lek' shƏn ing)    1.  the process of systematically adding to one's collection of a specific type or category of objects.  2.  a sign of low-grade obsessive-compulsive disorder.  3.  another reason for people in Third World countries to hate people like me.  4.  a made-up word invented by a lame blogger, who, in his defense, says "yes, but at least I didn't put a hashtag in front of it"  (See also)

      You know how it is: every so often, you feel an itch in that part of your mind that governs the rules of your collecting; an itch that can only be scratched by adding to the collection.

      While writing some of my recent posts, I was reminded anew of a mistake I made years ago: getting rid of my first copies of many of my King books.  See, when I first began buying King books, it was via used paperbacks; I was a haunter of used bookstores and thrift shops, and it is from those haunts -- mostly, though not exclusively, a used bookshop called The Book Rack -- that the majority of my initial collection was built.  Before high school was over, though, I'd joined the Stephen King Library, which sent me a hardback copy of a King novel once every month.  As those arrived, I traded in my old paperbacks.
      It didn't seem like a mistake at the time.  Why keep 'em?  I had just gotten better copies!  I got a hardback, whatta I need a bent-up old paperback for?
      What younger me wasn't counting on is that older me would grow nostalgic for those paperback editions.
      Younger me had no way of knowing that older me might feel the need to have those paperbacks on his shelf ... simply have them, to look at and occasionally take down, holding them wistfully while futilely pretending that he was still that fifteen-year-old boy who walked into The Book Rack and spent hours sorting through its musty old treasures.  Would the Bryant who is typing this spend money to go onto a holodeck recreation of that shop, complete with all the books that used to be there on a semi-permanent-yet-nevertheless-rotating basis?  Not just the Kings, but the stacks of movie novelizations, the romance-novel room he literally never even went inside, the Mack Bolans and Destroyers and Leon Urises and James Micheners he never bought but was always weirdly drawn to?
      You bet he would.

      Such a thing is not possible, of course.  The past is forever gone, never to reappear except in elaborate recreations, and not terribly often even then.  All the money in the universe will not truly buy you What Was.
      BUT ... if I still had all those original paperbacks, I could still have a tiny bit of What Was; a tiny bit of then.
      A tiny bit of me.
      I have been thinking about that sort of thing a lot lately, and recently decided to devote some funds toward reacquiring as many of those old paperbacks as I could find.  Not the literal copies themselves, of course, but the editions/covers that I first owned.  Convincing stand-ins for my starter copies, in other words.
      The good news for me was that, with only a couple of seeming exceptions, the specific copies I initially owned were published in huge quantities.  It's not exactly a challenge to obtain used copies, even in good condition; not only was it easy, but it was relatively cheap.
      So I thought what I'd do is turn this into a show-and-tell sort of post, including scans of these covers up and maybe a few reminiscences, if such should occur to me.  Is this self-indulgent?  Yes sir.  But if I know the things I think I know, then it's the sort of self-indulgence that makes sense to folks who love books.
      Oh, by the way: this saga of materialism also resulted in the purchase of quite a few editions that I did NOT have back in the day.  I tried to not go too far down that rabbit hole, and you can judge the success/failure of that attempt for yourself.  (Spoiler alert: I failed, fairly hardcore; so much so that I've ended up splitting the post in two.)
      To give these shenanigans a structure of some sort, I'm going to go in chronological order by edition, to the extent figuring out such a chronology is possible.  That can be tricky with paperbacks, which generally do not offer a year of publication apart from the year of the original mass-market edition.  But I think we'll be able to make do relatively well.

      Carrie (Signet, 15th printing, circa November 1976)

      Apologies for violating the thesis of this post right off the bat, but I've got a confession to make: I did not own this edition of Carrie when I was a teenager, or at any point since.  Regardless, this specific edition looms very large indeed in the history of my Stephen King fandom, so it seemed (A) like I ought to get a copy and (B) like a good place for this post to begin.