As you may or may not have heard, Stephen King recently announced that he would be releasing a new short story collection (titled The Bazaar of Bad Dreams) in late 2015. This will be King's sixth collection of short stories (I'm choosing to not count books like Full Dark, No Stars that primarily collect novellas), and while we do not yet know what the contents will be, we do know a few facts:
- There will apparently be twenty stories included.
- None of the included tales will be King's recent collaborations with Joe Hill ("Throttle" and "In the Tall Grass") and Stewart O'Nan ("A Face in the Crowd"). That's a shame, from where I'm sitting, but evidently, them's the breaks.
Apart from that, we simply do not know.
We can, of course, engage in wild speculation, and that's exactly what I'm about to do.
First, however, this: it brings me near-physical pain to post a blog entry that has no images, so now -- in real time! -- I am going to Google the phrase "the bazaar of bad dreams," and post the five most interesting images from page one of the results. I have no idea what this will yield; for all I know, it could be nothing but genitals. I hope not, but we're all going to find out together.
|I . . . don't know. http://www.twocoatsofpaint.com/2012/07/soloway-bazaar-one-day-only.html|
|Well, hello.... http://ivywilde.net/2014/06/|
|You tell me: is that a portrait of a monkey? http://www.thebrokeassbride.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/the-bazaar-restaurant-dining-room-1109-lg-11565513.jpg|
|And finally, a wee cheat...|
|...but I couldn't bear to post only one side of the Breaking Bad "tread lightly" conversation, so I went with six images instead of the previously-stated five.|
Now, with that out of the way, let's get to the meat of this post: a story-by-story examination of all of King's uncollected short prose, along with prognostication from yours truly as to what the eventual contents of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams will be.
We'll proceed chronologically:
1967, "The Glass Floor" -- This was King's first-ever professional fiction sale, and it is damn-near to being juvenilia. It's just not that great a story. King did allow the magazine Cemetery Dance to reprint it in 2012, though, so maybe he's developed a soft spot for it. However, I suspect it will be omitted yet again, and that's a good decision: without a major rewrite, it would stand out like a goat in a box of cookies. (Bryant's prediction: odds are poor.)
1970, "Slade" -- A satirical piece published serially in King's college newspaper, this Western reads less like fiction than it does like King's audition for Mad -- and not a successful one. This would be even more out of place than "The Glass Floor." (Bryant's prediction: as close to being a sure bet for exclusion as I can imagine.)
1971, "The Blue Air Compressor" -- One of King's absolute worst pieces of fiction, this weird tale has the requisite gross-out factor, but that's about it. It isn't totally without merit, but King is really struggling to sound postmodern, and it doesn't suit him. (Bryant's prediction: very unlikely.)
1976, "Weeds" -- King fans may generally have never read this, but many of them will be familiar with the plot: it served as the basis for the "Jordy Verrill" segment of Creepshow. The original story is both better (a lot less jokey) and worse (a lot less jokey), and until recently had never been reprinted. But it appeared in a 2013 Cemetery Dance anthology, and is also going to be included in an upcoming e-book anthology. I suspect this means something. (Bryant's prediction: not a done deal, but I think it will happen.)
1978, "The Night of the Tiger" -- A definite obscurity, this is a very good little tale that deserves to be much more widely-read. King has had multiple chances to include it in his collections, though, and you've got to figure he's excluding it for a reason. In my opinion, it can't be poor quality; this is good stuff. (Bryant's prediction: it's worthy of inclusion, but will be left out yet again.)
1978, "The King Family and the Wicked Witch" -- Also known as "The King Family and the Farting Cookie," this was a jokey, quasi-autobiographical tale published only once, in an extremely obscure newspaper. I've actually read it, believe it or not. It's amusing, but VERY slight. (Bryant's prediction: uh, no.)
1978, "Man with a Belly" -- This rapey mobster story is by no means one of King's better uncollected works, and some of its content would play even worse in 2015 than it must have done in 1978. (Bryant's prediction: very unlikely.)
1979, "The Crate" -- Look, I'll just say it: the fact that this has never been included in one of King's collections is fucking insane. I'm sure there's a reason for it, but I have no clue what it would be. (Bryant's prediction: my brain says no, but my gut says the time has finally come. In this case, though, I think my brain is correct.)
1982, "Before the Play" -- Not a short story, per se, but instead an omitted prologue that once was the beginning of The Shining. It's pretty good, but not so good that I feel King was wrong to delete it from the novel. (Bryant's prediction: it could happen, given the rumblings about a Shining prequel movie based on "Before the Play." However, it feels like something that would be more natural as an inclusion in some sort of new edition of The Shining itself. So I say maybe, but probably not.)
1984, "The Revelations of 'becka Paulson" -- This short story was eventually folded into The Tommyknkockers, and while it has been reprinted a couple of times in its original format, I doubt King would include it in a collection. (Bryant's prediction: very unlikely.)
1988, "The Reploids" -- This short story appeared in the same anthology that served to introduce the world to "Sneakers" and "Dedication," but King apparently forgot about it come collection time. It's a solid little tale, one that evidently once belonged to a longer work King never completed. (Bryant's prediction: it's got a bad-dream sort of quality to it, which means it would fit with the title. I mostly feel like it's a no, but I'd love to be wrong.)
1970s/2000, "The Old Dude's Ticker" -- This pastiche of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" was written in the early seventies, but didn't see publication of any sort until it appeared in a convention program in 2000. It's not a great story; interesting, but an exercise more than anything else. (Bryant's prediction: unlikely.)
1970/2006, "Chapter 71 from Sword in the Darkness" -- King permitted Rocky Wood to reprint a single chapter from his never-published 1970 novel Sword in the Darkness in Wood's 2006 book Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished. The chapter is okay; I'd love to read the full novel someday, despite assurances from the few who have read it that it's not all that good. (Bryant's prediction: very unlikely. I suspect King gave Wood the limited rights only as a favor, and that he's not keen to give the novel more attention than it deserves.)
2009, "Ur" -- Now we reach the era where things ought to be easier to predict. "Ur" was published as a Kindle exclusive, and unless King feels it should only be read electronically -- which is a possibility -- then this one is a no-brainer. (Bryant's prediction: very likely.)
2009, "Morality" -- This one is an interesting case. It's technically already been collected: it appeared as a back-up story in the mass-market edition of Blockade Billy. Will that be enough to keep it out? (Bryant's prediction: yes, it will.)
2009, "Premium Harmony" -- I wouldn't call this top-flight King, but it's solid. (Bryant's prediction: very likely.)
2010, "Blockade Billy" -- I guess some people consider this to be a novella, but I'd say it's a short story, personally. But let's not forget that it was published as a hardback already, with "Morality" filling it out a bit. (Bryant's prediction: very unlikely, although if he wished, he could include both this and "Morality" and allow the Blockade Billy hardback to go out of print.)
2011, "Herman Wouk Is Still Alive" -- This is one of several recent short stories by King that have no supernatural elements at all. Unless he wants to exclude all of them, this one is in. (Bryant's prediction: almost certain to be included.)
2011, "Under the Weather" -- It's already appeared in a King book: the trade paperback edition of Full Dark, No Stars. Not sure about the mass-market edition. It was NOT in the hardback, though, so it's not technically a part of that collection; it was a bonus inclusion in the trade. (Bryant's prediction: this is a tough one for me to call. I'm inclined to say it won't appear.)
2011, "Mile 81" -- This one is close to being novella-length, and will likely feel like a bit of a centerpiece unless there are several other long tales. Is it good enough for King to want to use it as a centerpiece? I'm not sure it is; I didn't much care for it, myself. Also, it may be another one King prefers to keep as an e-book exclusive. Or not. (Bryant's prediction: likely.)
2011, "The Little Green God of Agony" -- King already allowed it to be adapted as a web-comic, so I suspect this is one he's proud of. (Bryant's prediction: a near-certainty.)
2011, "The Dune" -- (Bryant's prediction: if it isn't included, I'll punch myself in the face. It's such a no-brainer that I skipped the preamble!)
2012, "Batman and Robin Have an Altercation" -- One of King's best recent stories, for my money. (Bryant's prediction: another near-certainty.)
2013, "Afterlife" -- King first "published" this by way of reading it for a live audience, and then having the reading be part of a video released by the host of the event (UMass Lowell). It later appeared in print form in Tin House. (Bryant's prediction: very likely.)
2013, "The Rock and Roll Dead Zone" -- This short story appeared in the Rock Bottom Remainders e-book Hard Listening, as part of a blind contest for readers to choose which of several King-esque stories had actually been written by King. It's a slight, atypical work; it's not unamusing, but it would feel out of place in a proper King collection. (Bryant's prediction: very unlikely.)
2013, "Summer Thunder" -- A gloomy piece of work and no mistake. (Bryant's prediction: very likely. It'd be criminal not to include it. But then again, "The Crate"...)
2014, "Bad Little Kid" -- King published this story first in e-book editions in French and German, as a thank-you for some of his European fans. Very cool of him. He's already more or less confirmed the original version will appear in the next collection. (Bryant's prediction: guaranteed.)
2014, "That Bus Is Another World" -- As of this writing, it's his most recently-published short story. It certainly would fit the bill of the title. (Bryant's prediction: definitely.)
So, here's what I've come up with in the way of an official prediction:
#01 -- Weeds
#02 -- Ur
#03 -- Premium Harmony
#04 -- Herman Wouk Is Still Alive
#05 -- Mile 81
#06 -- The Little Green God of Agony
#07 -- The Dune
#08 -- Batman and Robin Have an Altercation
#09 -- Afterlife
#10 -- Summer Thunder
#11 -- Bad Little Kid
#12 -- That Bus Is Another World
My prediction: the remaining eight stories will be things King has never published before. If that's how it plays out, it'll be pretty dang exciting.
There is always the chance that we could get some of King's uncollected poems ("Tommy," "The Bone Church," or "Mostly Old Men," for example) or some essay-length nonfiction ("Guns"). I suppose there's even a theoretical chance that he could include some stuff which ended up (like "The Revelations of 'becka Paulson") being folded into other works, such as "Memory" (Duma Key), "Lisey and the Madman" (Lisey's Story), "The Tale of Gray Dick" (Wolves of the Calla) or even older stuff like "The Revenge of Lard-Ass Hogan" and "Stud City" (both of which ended up as part of "The Body").
Those seem very unlikely, though; and I think most King fans would consider them to be a bit of a ripoff.
So, my official list is those twelve, plus eight more as-yet-unknown tales.
Come this time next year, we'll know for sure!