Friday, December 23, 2016

Something Happened: "Revival" Revisited, Part 2

Last post, I talked a bit about magic, and passed along an idea I got from Alan Moore: that writing ("spelling") IS magic, or, at least, can be.  It's an idea that probably made a few of you roll your eyes.  So might this idea (also from Moore): the greatest and most powerful magicians of the modern age are almost certainly advertisers.
  
Some people will tell you that perception is reality.  I don't agree; I think reality is reality, and perception is perception, and any attempt to convince you they are one and the same is a misuse of terminology.  It's a widely-known saying, though, and the mere fact that it's caught on to the extent it has is an indication that it's a powerful idea.  It might not be reality, but reality is partially driven by reaction, and reactions are in large part driven by perceptions ... so there is certainly a relationship between perception and reality.
  
As such, a marketing campaign can -- and frequently does -- work to actively shape/reshape reality.  So while the notion of this process being equivalent to magic might seem absurd in some ways, I think it has merit.  We think of magic as being Doctor Strange folding a building in half without any of the occupants knowing it; and, yeah, sure, that counts.  Is that actually more impressive than the course of American history being radically changed during an election campaign?  I'll let you know when I've seen the former; having seen the latter, I know its power (and fear I am going to be given many more examples).
  
One way to think about all of this is to simply decide that marketing is mere dishonesty, a willful form of obfuscation and inveigling designed to trick people into believing things they didn't believe before.  I think there's more to it than that.  Successful marketing works mostly due to the fact that the magician marketer is able to tap into ideas already present in the minds of the audience.  How do you effectively sell cheeseburgers?  You don't do it by walking into a room of vegetarians; you do it by walking into a room of meat-eaters and reminding them that they love cheeseburgers.  From there, it's an easy trick to convince people that you've invented some never-before-dreamed-of variant of a piece of ground beef that has been cooked, covered with a slice of cheese, and put between two pieces of bread.  
  
  
  
  
The marketing of Revival put forth the notion that it was a return to pure horror for Stephen King.  Thus begins an interview with King conducted by Goodreads in November of 2014:
  
Just when you think Stephen King's well of pitch-black, sleep-with-the-lights-on horror must surely be running dry, he finds new and possibly even darker ways to terrify us.  His latest novel, Revival, sees the author of more than 50 global bestsellers -- including The Shining, Pet Sematary, and It -- return to the "balls to the wall" (King's words) supernatural horror with which he made his name.  In a recent Twitter post about the book, King told readers, "If you're going to buy it, better tone up your nerves."  His publisher, Nan Graham, said that upon reading it, "I asked Steve whether it really had to be this dark, knowing before he answered that, yes, it does."
  
Five months earlier, well in advance of the novel's publication, King had said this about the novel, with which (he intimated) he had scared even himself: "It's too scary.  I don't even want to think about that book anymore.  It's a nasty, dark piece of work.  That's all I can tell you."  Several pre-release reviews by King-community luminaries such as Bev Vincent and Hans-Åke Lilja indicated that the book's final thirty-to-fifty pages were where things got really dark.  I seem to recall another such review that said that that final stretch was the scariest thing King had ever written; but I've been unable to remember who wrote that review, so maybe that's an invention of my memory.
  
I leave it to you to decide which aspects of all that (if any) count as "marketing" and which do not; all I know for sure is that these were ideas I encountered prior to the novel's release.  Having encountered them, I could only read Revival with those ideas laid like a filter across it.  Any ideas I had about the novel were required first to pass through that filter, for better or for worse.
  
It's not folding a building.  But it's not nothing, and if it's not nothing, then it's something.
  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

It's Fragile, Beauty: "Revival" Revisited, Part 1

Recently, I've been feeling the urge to get back in the swing of things when it comes to King-reading.  I've been slacking (for reasons discussed here) in that regard for the better part of 2016; actually, going back well into 2015.  This drought has gotten so bad that I've still not read his newest novel, End of Watch, which came out nearly six months ago.  Never have I waited this long to read a new King novel!  The itch to do so is finally getting pretty insistent, though, and I'm determined to scratch it before much longer...
  
...but a voice in the back of my head has been telling me that before I did that, I needed to revisit Revival.  I never felt like I'd given that novel a fair shake when it came out in 2014, and I've been promising myself ever since that I would return to it sooner rather than later.  I guess the boat sailed long ago in that regard, but still, there was that mental voice; and it was fairly insistent.  If this blogging that I do is art of any kind -- and I believe that it is (albeit very self-centered art that is important only to myself) -- then I suppose that was the voice of my muse.
  
I try to listen to her when she calls, so a few weeks ago, I sat down in my old, smelly blue armchair, grabbed my for-note-taking copy of Revival off the shelf, and got to work.
  
I'll go ahead and render my verdict now: I did indeed fall in love with this novel on the second read.  And yet, I had all the same complaints that I had the first time around.  The difference?  Expectations.  We'll talk more about that later; for now, let's say that, with a reread under my belt, I find that I love Revival for the things it does well.  It does them so well that my caveats became relatively unimportant.
  
Looking over my notes, I think the way to proceed is to tackle my reappraisal in three separate posts: the first covering the aspects of the novel that I love; the second covering the aspects which still don't entirely work for me; and the third covering everything I want to discuss which doesn't fit neatly into the first two.  All of these are going to contain spoilers, not merely for this novel but potentially for other King novels as well; they will be written assuming a familiarity with King's work in the broad sense.
  
  
Still not a fan of this cover.


If you've got an urge to read what I thought about the book upon its initial release, then here's a link.  I noted there that I loved the novel for roughly the first 370 pages or so, and I would say that that mostly held true this time, too.
  

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Suggested Reading Order for the Extended "Dark Tower" Series (Revised 2016 Edition)

I've been threatening promising to produce a revised version of this list for quite some time now, and here it is, at long last.  We're a bit less than nine months away from The Dark Tower debuting on movie screens worldwide, and despite that lengthy wait, in some ways the Tower is closer than ever.  What was at one point in time seen almost as a sidebar among King's work is increasingly thought of as his magnum opus.

With that in mind, I assume there is still a need for somebody out there to help newcomers to the series sift through all the noise to figure out what books they should and shouldn't read if they want to read the series.  I'm happy to provide that list for anyone who might find it useful.

I wrote the first version of this post way back in April of 2012, and I think it more or less got the job done.  However, in a bifurcated-thinking manner that Roland himself might recognize, I began to feel over time that my list was both too short and too long.  If that seems odd, then let me rephrase: what I was actually feeling was that there needed to be two (or more) different lists, each of which catered to readers with different levels of interest.

It seemed like a good idea, and I've decided to run with it.  So let's get started by looking at what books I deem to be truly essential to the series.  You could begin by simply reading the novels that comprise the actual series, but I don't think that gives you everything you actually need, so I've included a few other titles that cannot be ignored without severely limiting your understanding of the overall universe.

Oh, by the way: there will be no spoilers in this first list; there might be some very mild ones in the later lists, but nothing that should cross your eyes too much.  The comments will be a free zone for spoilers, though, so tread carefully there.
  

THE ESSENTIALS

  
The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger (revised edition) 
 




Newcomers to the series may not be aware of this, but there are three versions of The Gunslinger.

Version #1: the five stories that appeared from 1978-1981 in issues of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (sometimes referred to as F&SF).  These were: 
  • "The Gunslinger" (1978)
  • "The Way Station" (1980)
  • "The Oracle and the Mountains" (1981)
  • "The Slow Mutants" (1981)
  • "The Gunslinger and the Dark Man" (1981)
The only way that I know of to read these versions of the stories is to track down the individual issues of the magazines.  They tend to be fairly expensive in secondhand markets, although if you are diligent and get lucky, you can sometimes stumble across one at an affordable price.  I got incredibly lucky a while back and found a complete set for about a hundred bucks.  (And eventually, I plan to sit down with the magazines plus the 1982 and 2003 versions and compile a comprehensive list of the differences among the various editions.)
  
Version #2: the 1982 novel The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, which collected slightly revised versions of the five F&SF stories in a limited-edition hardback.  A trade edition came out several years later, when King finally got tired of fans pestering him for a more widely-obtainable edition.

Version #3: the revised edition pictured above, which came out in 2003.  It is substantively the same novel as the 1982 edition, but does make major additions and revisions that help to bring the novel in line with the rest of the series.

So, the question: what version should newcomers to the series read?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

You Shouldn't Like Things Because People Tell You You're Supposed To: A Consideration of "Stranger Things"

Unless you've been living under a rock that shielded you from American pop culture for most of this year, you're aware of the fact that a television series called Stranger Things made a big impact this summer.  Produced by and streaming exclusively on Netflix, it's the latest smash hit for the company, which has done much to reshape the way we think about television over the past several years.



  
American pop culture as a whole has been massively redefined during those years, and while Netflix has been an important component of that redefinition, let's have no misunderstandings: that process goes back years, and Netflix has been a beneficiary of it moreso than an instigator of it.
  
I'm not here to deliver a history lesson on all of this.  Even if I were, I'd be incapable of doing so, because my understanding of it is far too imprecise; I've been aware of it, but only dimly, and not to a keen enough degree to do anything more than pretend at being knowledgeable.  I can tell you that it's been around for the entirety of this millennium; I can say further that I suspect its roots extend back significantly further than that; I can speculate that what we are seeing is the technology-aided fruition of ideas that go back at least two or three decades.
  
I've seen this trend most clearly in the artistic realm.  (By this, I refer to "the arts" in a general sense: not merely painting or illustration or the visual arts, but also music and, to a lesser degree, fiction and cinema and television and video games, etc.)  The way I've always thought of it is as "mashup culture," and until writing this post I was unaware that I'm by no means alone in labeling it thus.  It's entirely possible that I stumbled across the term at some point and simply forgot that I'd seen it, but I'm not sure that's the case; I do want to leave some room permitting it to be the case, but I don't know that it is.  
  
Mashups as we know them seem to have begun with music, via people who edited together two different songs in an interesting way.  The first time I became aware of this was listening to an episode of the Rick Emerson Show half a decade or so ago.  The following song began playing:
   

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

No, I Don't Have A Turntable; Why Do You Ask?

Not gonna be much to this post: I just thought I'd toss up some hastily-taken photos of my Halloween present to myself, which came in the mail today.
  
  







  
  
If you're wondering why a grown man would spend over $35 on an LP he is unable to play due to not having a turntable of any kind, said grown man would respond thus:
  
  • If you're looking to me as an example of a "grown man," you are casting your line into a dry pond.
  • Fucking LOOK at it!  I literally bought it for the pictures.  Same reason I bought the Creepshow LP from the same label a while back.
  • You, too, can have one by visiting Waxwork Records.  Look at me, teacher!
  • I mean, I already had the soundtrack on CD, so it's not like I can't listen to it.  (In some universe, this makes sense as an argument for buying it, not against buying it, which now I realize must sound like a solid "con" to neutral observers.)
  • The art is by noted illustrator Francesco Francavilla.  Gorgeous.
  
What more reason would I need?

What more reason do you need?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Worst To Best: Stephen King Movies (and TV), 2016 Edition

It's overdue, and will need to be updated yet again a year from now (and probably the next year, and the one after that, and so forth), but here it is at last: an updated ranking of King-based movies and tv shows.
  
I've changed the way I'm ranking the television series this time around.  Previously, I ranked each season of each series separately.  That's a fair way of doing things, especially for a series like The Dead Zone, which varies wildly in quality from season to season.  However, it's not easy to figure out at all in the case of, say, Haven: it's a show that ranges from awful to mediocre to decent to good, sometimes within the span of a single season.  How do you rank such a thing?  I made a stab at it last time, but it never satisfied me.  So we'll try it this way and see how that works.
  
One exception: in the case of the anthology series Nightmares & Dreamscapes, I thought it made sense to rank the episodes separately.  They are completely distinct from one another, so that was no challenge.
  
Finally, I've left off the few Dollar Baby films that I included last time.  They're simply not playing on the same field as everything else.
  
I'll probably reuse a lot of the text from previous posts in this series.  I'm lazy that way.  Plus, I like some of that stuff; why pitch out the baby with the bathwater?  I've made significant revisions in some places, and have left other sections alone entirely.
  
I followed tradition by NOT consulting my old rankings prior to creating these new ones; I let my current way of thinking dictate the rankings.


Honorable Mention #1 -- Stranger Things (2016)




I know at least one reader of this blog -- and maybe two -- who will be put into a state of grumpiness by this series being included on my list.

I feel your pain, guys, and under many circumstances I would probably share it.

Let's no no mistakes about this: Stranger Things is not adapted from anything by Stephen King.  However, you can make a claim that a few other things on this list could be described the same way.  Should the fact that those are, legally-speaking, King adaptations be the only factor that sets them apart?

I honestly don't know the answer to that question.  With that in mind, let me announce now that at some point within the next howeverlong, I'm going to write a post reviewing all eight episodes of Stranger Things in an attempt to answer that question.  Because here is a list of things that I know:

  • Whether it does or doesn't have any legal ability to do so, Stranger Things does pull some significant and specific inspiration from (among other things) the works of Stephen King.  I can't ignore that.
  • Thanks to the massive popularity of the series, Stephen King's name got mentioned in the media press a LOT this summer.  I can't ignore that.
  • I loved Stranger Things.  It got overhyped for some people (including the two to whom I alluded a moment ago), but others took it to heart in a way that doesn't happen all that often.  Among those, one of my closest friends, who has actually requested that I write a post like that one is going to end up being.  I certainly can't ignore that!
  • The world is changing.  Mashup culture is here in full force, and shows no signs of going away.  If things continue down that road, then we could well get to a place where an unofficial inspired-by-the-works-of piece of storytelling like this one becomes considered by many to be just as genuine an adaptation as an actual remake of, say, Firestarter would be.  Part of me would LOVE to ignore that; but I can't.

So like I said, I'm going to, in the not-too-distant future, do some blogging and see if I can figure out where I truly stand on the issue.  For now, though, I think I'm honor-bound to at least give Stranger Things an official Honorable Mention.  Would I ever consider actually ranking it on a list like this one?

For now, that's a definite "no."

Things don't necessarily stay as they have been, however.  Time will tell.


Honorable Mention #2 -- Horns (2013)




Well, fuck it, why not?

Horns is not based on anything created by Stephen King, but it's based on a novel by Joe Hill, who, by virtue of being Stephen King's son, was himself partially created by Stephen King.  So there's that.  It'd be a flimsy rationale to use in putting Horns on this list as a ranked entrant, but I can make it work for an Honorable Mention status.

The movie had a tortured history in some ways; after a festival screening in 2013, it languished unreleased and unseen until October of the following year, when it was unceremoniously dumped onto iTunes and a few similar services.  I've got nothing against VOD, iTunes, etc.  However, I feel as if every movie needs to be sold differently based on its merits, and on the perceived potential size of the fanbase.  And to me, it feels like Horns was capable of more than what it got.  Horror had been on a hot-streak circa October of 2014, especially when it came to anything involving demons.  As an extra added bonus, the novel -- and, indeed, the movie -- works fairly well as a tragic romance, a quasi-fantasy, a satire, and a murder mystery.  In other words, there's isn't merely one potential audience for this film, there are several.
 
Add to that the fact that the movie stars Daniel Radcliffe, who is arguably one of the best-known movie stars in the entire world.  Granted, that's mostly on the basis of the Harry Potter movies; but his presence helped turn The Woman in Black into a hit, and it could have done the same for Horns.

So really, this ought to have been an easy-to-market film that had a gross of $50 million domestic at a bare minimum.  Find the exact right release date, and maybe you could get $75 mil.  Then, later, you can get all the money from ancillary markets like VOD, Blu-ray, etc.  That didn't happen, and that strikes me as a shame.
   
Such considerations are important, and they're of interest to me on any number of levels.  But really, now that the movie is out, they are irrelevant.

The question now becomes: is the movie good?

The answer: it's okay.  Overall, it's a film in search of a cohesive tone.  At times it is funny, at times romantic, tragic, weird, gross, whimsical, etc.  Hill's novel is like this as well, but Hill, via his strong prose and perspective, is able to make all of these things feel as if they co-exist naturally.  Director Alexandre Aja seemingly only has one mode in him at a time, however, so many of the individual scenes fail to coalesce into what you'd call a unified whole.

Despite this, I think the movie works fairly well.  Daniel Radcliffe is great.  He occasionally feels as if he's forcing things a bit in order to get past the fact that he's having to speak in an American accent.  However, he does so capably, and he does very well with the extreme range of emotions his character undergoes.  This is the first time I've seen him in anything outside of the Harry Potter films, and he's gotten so much better as an actor since then that he may as well not even be the same person anymore.  He's the real deal, folks.

The rest of the cast is good, too, ranging from Juno Temple as Merrin (Ig's dead girlfriend -- say, there's some Gone Girl overlap here, too, isn't there?) to Max Minghella as Lee; Joe Anderson as Terry; Kelli Garner as Glenna; James Remar and Kathleen Quinlan, who are Ig's parents and each of whom has a dynamite scene with Radcliffe; Heather Graham as a (pardon the pun) self-serving waitress; and David Morse, who is excellent as Merrin's father.  Morse has appeared in several Stephen King movies, so it's especially welcome to see him now appearing in a Joe Hill movie.

Of which I hope there will be more to come.

By the way, in case you're wondering where I'd rank this if indeed I did rank it on this list?

Somewhere around #29 or #30, I'd say.  So all in all, not too shabby.


Dishonorable Mention -- You Can't Kill Stephen King (2014)




I'm not entirely sure how this garbage exists.  If I were Stephen King, I'd have my lawyers all over it.  Maybe it's classified as satire, and is therefore protected; or maybe King has given it permission to exist due to the fact that it was filmed in Maine.

All I know is that it's awful.  It's got a trio of hot women in it, none of whom get naked.  Now, look, before you accuse me of being a Trump sexist pig, let me say that I don't have any sort of expectation that attractive women get naked in movies, even horror movies, even low-budget horror movies, even low-budget exploitation-horror movies.  However, if you're going to sexualize them to the degree they are sexualized here, you may as well go ahead and get 'em naked.  You're patently expecting every straight man and gay woman in the audience to feel like wanking while watching it, so why not go ahead and be honest about it and provide the goods?  My way is more honest, and everyone knows it.  Failing that, just don't sexualize your actresses; don't try to have it both ways.

The Stephen King homages in this movie are fairly negligible, presumably because everyone was unclear whether King actually WAS going to sue or not; they seemingly didn't want to do anything that might also encourage various Hollywood studios to sue.  As a result, the entire project is half-baked at best; at when I say "at-best," please know that the movie spends the vast majority of its runtime running at significantly below an "at-best" level.  Mostly, it's an at-worst state of affairs, and that involves ill-conceived racial humor, ill-conceived war-in-Iraq references, ill-conceived implications that Stephen King nerds are perverts, and so forth.  I would point your attention to the DVD cover art, and point out to you that not only is there no real "hot girl-on-girl action" to speak of apart from one relatively chaste kiss, there are also no creepy twins except for in one brief moment.  And there's definitely no sense of humor, unless it's a lame one.

This is a genuinely awful movie.  No Stephen King fan should see it unless they are gluttons for punishment.  And yet, it's actually a better movie than the next one we'll be looking at.  Without further ado, I give you:
  
  
#96 -- Creepshow III (2007)
  
  
  
  
We begin our list proper with a piece of SKINO (Stephen King In Name Only) dung, the odious Creepshow III, which has literally nothing to do with Stephen King, George Romero, or either of the actual Creepshow movies.  This was produced by a pair of untalented opportunists who bought the rights to sequelize Creepshow in what one assumes must have been the Hollywood equivalent of a fire sale.
  
Nothing in this movie works.  Once upon a time, I amused myself greatly by writing a review of it; if you want to know more, here you go.  But trust when I tell you that you don't need to know a damn thing else: this movie is shit.  Turds turn their nose up at it.
  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Review of "Crush" (edited by Cathy Alter and Dave Singleton)

A quick review of a book I just finished reading:
  
  

 
 
I'm sure you've figured out by looking at the front cover that I bought Crush because Stephen King contributed an essay to it.
  
Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that King's contribution consisted of a mere three paragraphs.  Nevertheless, I recently dusted it off my shelf and sat down to read the meager half-page, and once I'd finished I remembered a vow I made once upon a time: when I buy these anthologies in which King's work appears, I'd resolved to read the whole book and not merely the story or essay by the person(s) whose name(s) induced me to spend a few bucks.  I recently broke that vow when I read and reviewed the short stories of Cooper O'Connor, and felt a little bad about it.
  
This, then, was my chance to get back in the saddle a bit.
  
I'm glad I did, because Crush turned out to be a highly enjoyable book.
  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Stephen King Cast (and Cooper O'Connor)

There are a lot of books about Stephen King's work; I don't have an exact list, but at one point in time there were more books by far about King than by King.  That's an impressive fact, but it's worth asking how many of those books measure up.  How many of them are truly worthwhile in terms of what they add to the study of King's work?
  
Your mileage may vary, but my list of worthy King scholars would include Douglas E. Winter, Kevin Quigley, Bev Vincent, Rocky Wood, Tony Magistrale, and George Beahm, to name a few.
  
Here's a new name to add to that list: Cooper O'Connor.  If you've never heard of him, don't worry; you probably will.  O'Connor -- under the moniker "Constant Reader" -- is the host of the podcast Stephen King Cast (or, as it's known on Facebook, Stephen Kingcast).  Constant Reader began the podcast in August of 2014 with a simple goal: a chronological exploration of the books of Stephen King.  In early 2016, he completed that monumental task.
  
And what I'll say about that is this: I'm barely finding time to reread one King book a year.  This guy not only reread them all in about a year and a half, he produced well over a hundred podcasts analyzing them.  That's an achievement, and would be even if the resultant episodes sucked.
  
They don't suck.  They are very, very good; not merely as analysis of King's work, but also as aural entertainment.  I'm humbled by what O'Connor achieved, and by my reckoning, he has leaped into the upper echelons of King scholars.  He's also a published fiction writer in his own regard.  We're going to talk about that in more detail toward the end of this post, but first, let's talk about the podcast.
  
  
  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Children Had Been Different In Her Day: A Review of "Suffer the Little Children"

Published in the February 1972 issue of Cavalier, "Suffer the Little Children" was the third story the magazine had bought from him.  1972 marked something of a leap forward for King professionally: including this one, he'd have four stories published, all in Cavalier.  He had the same number published the following year, and his first published novel came out in 1974.  This means that 1971 was the final year for quite some time in which King did not have a significant amount of work published professionally.
  
In other words, 1972 is kind of where it all really began.
  
  
image stolen from http://www.akyle.f2s.com/pre_carrie.html
  
"Suffer the Little Children" did not make the cut when King collected his first book of stories (Night Shift), nor when he collected his second (Skeleton Crew).  This means that most of his fans did not have an opportunity to read it for over twenty years: with the story's inclusion in 1993's Nightmares & Dreamscapes.
  
You might logically conclude that the story's omission from the first two collections indicates that King feels a bit unenthusiastic about it.  This turns out not to be the case, however.  Let's see what King had to say about the story in the "Notes" section of Nightmares & Dreamscapes:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Let's Have A Look At Roland Deschain

Howdy-ho!
  
The Dark Tower has been filming in New York City lately, and a goodish number of images from the set have popped up in various places around the Internet.
  
Let's have a look at how Idris Elba is faring as Roland, son of Steven, the last Gunslinger:
  
  
Walking away from what one assumes is a freshly-murdered corpse.  Yes sir.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Why I Spent Time Watching "Cell" When I Have Not Yet Started Reading "End of Watch"

"So Bryant, where the hell is your review of End of Watch?" I can theoretically imagine someone asking.  "It came out last week, so surely you've finished it by now...?!?"
  
And the answer to that is no, no I have not.  I haven't even begun it, in fact.  Nor have I read Joe Hill's The Fireman yet, and that came out in mid-May.  For that matter, I have yet to crack open Owen King's Intro to Alien Invasion, which came out in the unbelievably-distant past of September 2015.  The casual observer -- or even the intent one, for that matter -- would be forgiven for assuming that my Stephen King (and King-family) fandom has waned significantly over the past year.
  
That's not the case, though.  I got my copies of Intro to Alien Invasion, The Fireman, and End of Watch on their release dates.  In the case of the Owen King book, its release fell during the time when I'd decided to dedicate some time to reading my way through H.P. Lovecraft's bibliography.  I'd planned to read Intro to Alien Invasion immediately thereafter, but it ended up not happening.  In fact, I've only read one book in the entire time since finishing that Lovecraft project last fall.  The casual/intent observer would be forgiven for assuming that H.P. Lovecraft broke me of my love for reading.
  
That's not the case, either.  I'll tell you this, though (and I spoke about this to some extent in my posts about Lovecraft's fiction): I've driven into some sort of cul-de-sac in which my love of reading still exists as a hypothetical thing, but in which I am not currently interested in -- or good at -- actually sitting down and reading a book.  During my Lovecraft exploration, I branded this phenomenon as reader's block.  Does such a thing exist in a commonly-accepted sense?  Beats me, but I've got it, so as far as I'm concerned it exists.  
  
You don't care about any of this.  Why would you?  I get that.  The temptation to be self-indulgent in these posts is always present, and I'm going to try and rein back on that horse a bit now.  The particulars don't matter much, the end result is the same.  This book...?
  
  
  
  
It shows no signs of being read any time soon.  I apologize for that, because it means that there's going to be no review of it here any time soon; and that arguably makes this blog a place where the readers can no longer count on me for timely discussion of the wide world of Stephen King.  That's a bummer.  Timeliness has never been my goal, but a decent amount of it happened nevertheless, and I don't like the extent to which it's fallen away.
  
Sadly, it's nothing new.  Over a year later, and I've not reviewed Finders Keepers, so visitors here may already have squinted at me a bit in disapproval.  I did read that novel, though, and I even began writing a review of it.
  
I shall now present to you what exists of that review:

Thursday, April 7, 2016

"11.22.63" Episode 8: The Day In Question

A few months ago, I sat down with the intent of writing -- for You Only Blog Twice, my other blog -- a review of Spectre, the new James Bond movie.  I detested that movie, and what came pouring forth from my keyboard was a vitriolic mess.  I abandoned the review after working on it for an hour or so, disgusted with myself for not managing to keep better control of myself.  I wasn't wrong about what I was writing; I wasn't lying about how I felt.  But I always hope for at least some measure of restraint in such situations, and my inability to find it disappointed me.
 
That review remains unwritten.  At the time, I said that I was going to wait for the Blu-ray, to give the movie time to settle in my gut in the hopes that a reappraisal might find me more generously disposed.  I'll get to it eventually, too; but I can still feel that hate boiling under the surface, and I'm in no rush to stir it up again.
 
All of that is a way of warning you that there is almost sure to be a certain amount of vitriol in this review, too.  Not as much: in the end, I didn't hate 11.22.63 very much, if at all.  My disdain for aspects of it are of the lamentation-for-what-could-have-been variety, and not (as they were with Spectre) of the how-dare-you-fuckfaces-do-this variety.
 
But there is some disdain, let's have no doubts about it.  I can feel that disdain itching to get out of my brain and play on the keyboard for a while, and I'm inclined to indulge it.  Hopefully, I'll be able to keep the leash on it, but if it runs free and shits in your yard while I'm not looking, sorry 'bout that.
 
Much of my ranting is going to be of the big-picture variety, and is probably thus best saved for the end of this post, as a sort of summing-up-the-miniseries thing.  So first, let's get to a review of this specific episode.
 
I thought it was okay.  I would say I liked it at about a C+ level.  You can graduate from college with a C+, so that's not entirely awful as far as grades go.  I'd have given the previous couple of episodes something more like a C-, or maybe even a D+.  I think you can even graduate from college with a C-; maybe even a D+, for all I know.  Does that matter?  It does not.  My point is, I disliked the previous two episodes; this one was mildly better, enough so that I would say I liked it.
 
I was surprised by how emotionally unengaged I was during it, however.  We will talk about that more later, but if you wanted a capsule review up front, there it is: it was okay, but overall it sort of left me cold.
 
I took some notes and screencaps, so I think we'll just sort of follow those for a while, starting with this:
 
 
 
 
The episode begins with a car-speeding-down-the-road sequence that makes me think the second-unit director was trying to earn a bonus.  It's executed well, especially for a television series; but it's a little too vigorous, and feels out of place.  The series has had a lot of talk about "the past pushing back," and there's a good bit of that in this episode, too.  So do you expect me to believe that Jake Epping Amberson (who seems like the last guy who would be capable of Vin Dieselesque driving) can take a stolen car speeding wildly down a major road in a very large American city during the middle of the day and not have there be a serious problem?  I don't buy it.  I don't buy that Jake would be a good enough driver to make this possible.  The past seems to have fallen asleep during this sequence; it misses some major opportunities to push back.  Perhaps it was so slack-jawed with disbelief that Jake was bold enough to try this sort of gambit that it simply forgot to do anything for a while.
 
I'm not buying that, either.  Bottom line is that this scene is incongruous with the rest of the series.  On its own, it's fine.  In context, it's kind of awful.
 
By the way, I'm almost positive that Sadie is played by a stuntman in a blonde wig and lipstick.  Check that screencap and see if you agree with me.
 
This sequence also contained a number of examples of a type of cinematic storytelling that, once you are aware of it, you can never forget.  I say that as a way of warning you that you might not want to read the next bit.  It might ruin movies and tv for you in some ways.  If that seems like a thing you'd like to avoid, skip down to Josh Duhamel's face.
 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"11.22.63" Episode 7: Soldier Boy

This episode makes two in a row that I didn't particularly like.
  
You know what else I don't like?  Reviewing a television series on a weekly basis.  It's antithetical to the way I normally watch tv shows (i.e., for the fun of it), and I think it makes me both overly judgmental and aggressively aware.  There's nothing wrong with being aware, of course; awareness is a rather important factor in critical thinking/writing.
  
However, I've accustomed myself over the past decade or so to watching serialized television shows in a more passive way than this.  That's not to say that I've been accustomed to watching tv shows with my brain turned off; I haven't done that at all.  However, with the best series of the past decade -- Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights, and so forth -- I have never enjoyed speculating about what is going to happen in upcoming episodes.  My mind occasionally went there with some of those shows, but it often recoiled away from that sort of thinking as soon as it had begun.  None of this was a conscious process; it's simply how my brain reflexively wants to ingest serialized storytelling.  
  
I didn't engage in much speculation as regards The Dark Tower, either (apart from having a vague set of expectations about certain characters showing up to join the ka-tet); same goes for The Green Mile.  Currently, my mind is mostly disinterested in trying to figure out what is going to happen in the next few Star Wars movies, although I can't help but field a few theories about Rey's backstory.  
  
But generally speaking, I'm not merely willing to sit back and allow a story to be told to me, I'm sort of insistent on it.  If you have to get up and leave in the middle of the story, and you can't make it back for a week, or a year, or seven years, then I'd really kind of prefer to not try and fill in the blanks for you.  
  
Reviewing 11.22.63 on a weekly basis, though, I find my brain insisting on doing things a different way.  I'm actively trying to figure out the answers to certain questions posed by the series.  I'm watching this series in a completely different mental manner than I am other shows, and I think I've done myself a disservice in that way.
  
I can't help but wonder if some of what bothered me both last week and this week would have bothered me if I were watching this show in a more passive way, the way I'm watching other shows currently.  I'm working my way through season one of The Wire, for example, and I'm not focused on trying to analyze and critique what I'm seeing.  Some of that happens regardless, but it isn't my focus; my focus is the enjoyment of the dialogue, acting, point of view, etc.  I'm also catching up on the first seasons of several shows that I missed out on recently (Dark Matter, The Expanse, Killjoys, Jessica Jones, The Magicians, FargoColony, Humans, and Mr. Robot), plus getting caught up on the current or most recent seasons of a few existing shows (Haven, Doctor Who, Agents of SHIELD, and Agent Carter), as well as staying current on several show airing right now (The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul, Vinyl, and, believe it or not, Girls).
  
I'm enjoying all of those to a greater or lesser extent (although The Walking Dead is seriously trying my patience right now, and Killjoys has yet to really hook me in anything other than a trashy I-like-sci-fi-anyway-I-can-get-it way), and a few of those shows are good enough that they are both worthy of analysis and would probably grow in stature as a result of it.  But that's not why I'm watching them; I'm watching them because I enjoy them.
  
I'd be watching 11.22.63 for the same reason, of course, probably even minus the Stephen King connection, and I think it was a mistake to deprive myself of the process of watching it the same way I've been watching, say, The Expanse.
  
We're pot-committed at this point, though, so let's trudge -- grimly, determinedly -- through these final two weeks and agree that we're never, ever, ever going to do it this way again.
  
  


Because I'm in a surly and uncooperative mood, this week's review is going to mostly consist of notes.  Here they come:
  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

"11.22.63" Episode 6: Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald

Y'all...!
  
Y'all...!
  
I did not like this episode.  I mean, don't get me wrong; I've seen many, many worse things than this in the course of my Stephen King fandom.  For example, it was announced this week that a new Children of the Corn fauxquel was filming, and I'm sure that will be vastly more dookie-ish than this episode of 11.22.63 was.
  
But still, y'all; I did not like this episode much at all.  In fact, I'm somewhat loath to watch it again for notetaking and screencapping purposes.  I'd feel like a bit of a cheat if I skipped the second viewing, though, so I guess I'd better get to it.  The time it takes me will be imperceptible to your senses; it shall happen between sentences, like magic (or time-travel).
  
See?  I'm back.  And I guess I liked it a little bit better the second time, but only a little.  There are are a few things here that just don't work for me very well, and they are preventing me from enjoying the aspects that the show handles capably.
  
First, off, let's talk about Bill Turcotte.  I've enjoyed the way the show has added him as a foil and aide for Jake, but this episode reveals that that has all gone sour in the past four months (which elapse off-screen between episodes).  Bill has now turned into so reckless a guy that he's literally taking part in a surprise birthday party for his new best bud Lee.  He's apparently having an affair of some sort with Marina, too, and if the former plot point weren't a bridge too far then the latter one certainly is.
  
I can't get with any of this.  I do enjoy aspects of where it goes, though.  I like the mercenary way in which Jake has Bill committed so as to take him off the chess board.  I have to confess, though, that I am a bit befuddled by the fact that the series has taken this turn.  Why go there?  It seems to be a way of getting Bill out of the way of the plot, but is that weird when the only reason Bill was in the way of the plot at all was because the plot needed him there?  
  
Also, maybe I'm crazy, but it seemed to me that the show was setting up the idea that Bill was the one who was going to get in trouble on account of the gambling.  I fully expected that what would happen was something like this: Jake and Bill are getting ready to go prevent the assassination when Bill is attacked (and maybe killed) by gangsters as retribution for his "stealing" money from them.  Sadie then has to take Bill's place, setting up the rest of the plot.  That would have been a good way to bypass the moderately silly amnesia plotline of the novel, which now seems to fully be back on the table.
  
To me, a more fleshed-out version of that scenario seems vastly preferable to what they've done here.  My way, you get to keep Bill as a sympathetic figure, one who Jake can feel bad about having led into harm's way.  Bill has been a sympathetic figure for pretty much his entire screen time; having that go in a different direction now not only seems like a poor use of Bill, I think it may retroactively weaken the previous episodes.  I don't want to commit to that idea until the whole series has finished, but for now, I feel like Bill has in one fell swoop gone from secret weapon to crap.
  
  
Read in the voice of Eric Cartman.
  
  
I also have a major issue with the Yellow Card Man.
  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

"11.22.63" Episode 5: The Truth

My review of this week's episode is going to be a lot briefer than the other ones have been.  I just don't quite have the time for it this week, y'all; sorry about that!
 
It was another good episode, and I don't have much of anything negative to say about it.  It came to my attention this week that some fans are upset with the degree to which Jake and Sadie's relationship was been relegated to shorthand and suggestion, rather than to fully-dramatized exploration.
 
I can sympathize with that.  It hadn't occurred to me while watching the episodes, but it's a fair point.  I wish the miniseries was ten or thirteen episodes instead of eight; that would have created room for a lot more exploration.  But maybe Hulu couldn't afford to be that expansive.  In any case, I think the filmmakers have done a good job of changing the story so that their abbreviations of the plot have maximum impact.  Is it perfect?  No.  But it's very good, and so you won't hear many complaints from me.
 
I will say, though, that this reinforces my gut feeling that when it comes to episodic television, it's often better to go expansive rather than to go brief.  I've had a few mild disagreements with other fans on the subject of a hypothetical Netflix version of The Stand; their assertion is that you could do the whole thing in a single season, and my assertion is that uh-uh, no you couldn't, not without leaving out all sorts of tasty stuff.  Conventional wisdom says you don't need it all, of course, and 11.22.63 on Hulu proves that.  But it also proves that if you leave out some things, some people will miss it.  If you had the option -- budgetarily, etc. -- to leave ALL the good stuff in, you'd be crazy not to, and to also expand on things where you had the ability to do so.  Why have a snack when you can have a meal, y'all?
 
 


Anyways, here's some thoughts of mine on this episode:
 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

"11.22.63" Episode 4: The Eyes of Texas

Apologies for the tardiness of this week's episode review, y'all!  I attended a wedding in Orlando, so everything else -- quite rightly -- took a backseat for several days.
  
Here we are now, though, talking about "The Eyes of Texas," the fourth episode the series.  It's another good one, and much of it is focused on deepening the relationship between Jake and Sadie.
  
The first time we see them in this episode, it is during a moment in which Jake walks into a room at school and observes Sadie playing the piano.
  
  
  
  
She's playing:
  
  


I know of only maybe one or two more beautiful and haunting pieces of music in all of human arts; it's a devastatingly lovely composition, and the way Sadie plays Satie -- tentatively, yearningly -- somehow enhances its appeal.  This slayed me, man.  Music is one of the most powerful tools a filmmaker has for building emotion, and if I was not already a believer in the romance between Jake and Sadie, I certainly would have been after this.
  

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"11.22.63" Episode 3: Other Voices, Other Rooms

The third episode of 11.22.63 picks up where the second left off: with Bill Turcotte having discovered that Jake was telling the truth about being from the future.  A sizable chunk of the episode is devoted to establishing the notion that Bill becomes Jake's partner/assistant.
  
  
  
  
This is a massive change from the novel, and I wouldn't be surprised if some fans of King's book throw their hands up in disgust at this alteration.  It didn't bother me in the least, though, and I'll tell you why: it's a great example of the adaptation process.  It's always worth pointing out that what works in a novel will not necessarily work in film-narrative form, and given how much of the novel 11/22/63 is spent with one character -- Jake -- doing things completely by himself, it's really no surprise at all that the miniseries 11.22.63 decided to give him somebody to talk to.
  
This surprised me, but it shouldn't have; if you think about it, it's really quite an obvious move for the filmmakers to make.
  

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"11.22.63" Episode 2: The Kill Floor

Stephen King fandom was moderately rattled this week by the news that the first Dark Tower movie is going to include a lead female role for a character named Tirana.  What followed -- including from yours truly -- were a rather loud chorus of "huh"s and "WTF"s and "they're ruining my Dark Tower"s.
  
Meanwhile, Hulu released the second episode of 11.22.63 into the world on Monday.  "The Kill Floor," it's called, and it deviates from King's novel in several significant ways.
  
So why am I not as angry about this as I am about The Dark Tower?
  
I'm not entirely sure, so let's try to find out.  I've lined up an interviewee who will help me try and figure it out: Bryant Burnette, author of the blog The Truth Inside The Lie (which I hear is both a hoot AND a holler).
  
*****
  
Q:  Bryant, when was the last time one of us interviewed the other?
  
A:  I dunno, Bryant.  It's been a while,  How you been?
  
Q:  As always, I'll ask the questions.
  
A:  Right.  Forgot.
  
Q:  So, you liked the first episode of 11.22.63?
  
A:  I did.  I assume you did, too.
  
Q:  Nicely phrased to avoid that being a question.  I'll answer anyways: yeah, I liked it a lot.  Did you like this one?
  

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Review of Joe Hill's "The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015"

Before we proceed, let me briefly issue a plan of attack for the next few months' worth of activity on this blog.  There are two novels that I'm very anxious to write about: Revival and Finders Keepers (the former because I feel as if I didn't give the novel a fair assessment when I read/reviewed it upon its release, and the latter because I have not yet written a review of any kind on it here and would like to do so in an attempt to not have the blog continue to feel unbalanced in some self-centered way).  Ideally, I'd like to cross both of those off the list before May, when the new Joe Hill novel (The Fireman) is published.  June will bring King's new novel, End of Watch, so I'd like to be back on track by then, and afterward be in good position to return to a semi-regular rotation of exploring King novels, stories, and movies.
  
Good plan!  Let's see if I can stick to it.  I'm not always great at that.  But it's always worth having a target: not having one removes the possibility of missing, but it also removes the possibility of hitting, and I'd like to hit.
  
I've got some other stuff I'd like to polish off prior to getting back to Revival, however: a couple of posts on Joe Hill and Owen King, who have both published things that I've missed in the past twelve months or so.  I'm a fan of both writers, and the fact that I've had some of their stuff sitting to the side for a while is unacceptable to me.  Therefore, in addition to this post, you can look for one covering Owen King's Intro to Alien Invasion (as well as a few other bits 'n' bobs) soon.
  
In any case, let's get that target officially pinned to the wall, and start taking a few shots at it, beginning with:
  
  
  
  
Houghton Mifflin introduced a new spinoff to their Best American Short Stories line last year with the first-ever edition of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy.  My knee-jerk reaction was to be a bit grumpy about the fact that the two genres have been mixed for the purposes of this anthology, but series editor John Joseph Adams has anticipated the reaction of kids like me who prefer that their corn and their potatoes not touch: his introduction makes a compelling argument for mixing the two.  By that I mean science fiction and fantasy, not corn and potatoes.  Nobody will ever be able to sway me on that topic, because nothing should contain even trace amounts of corn juice except for corn.  No offense to corn or the juices produced by cooking it; I feel the same about all cooked vegetables and their various moistures.  Keep that shit away from my other foods, please.  
  
John Joseph Adams would powerless to convince me I am wrong about this, but on the subject of mixing sci-fi and fantasy in an anthology, he's much more successful.  He refers to the combination of the two as SF / F, and for the purposes of this review, so shall we.
  
Adams read several thousand SF / F stories during the preparation for this project, and whittled it down to a list of eighty tales that he then passed along to the year's guest editor, Joe Hill.  He gave Hill the eighty stories in a blind-ballot manner, meaning that Hill read the stories without the benefit of knowing who had written them.  Hill then selected the twenty he felt rose the farthest to the top, and voila, Houghton Mifflin (under their Mariner imprint) had themselves an anthology.
  
I'm going to read and briefly discuss each story in turn, but first, a few words about Hill's introduction, "Launching Rockets."  It's a mere five pages, but those five pages are superb.  Stephen King fans will probably know that King is very good at writing introductions to other people's works.  Not all traits and talents pass from father to son, but this one seems to have done so, because Hill is just as good at it as his daddy.  Maybe even better.
 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Uh-oh...

Deadline is reporting that Abbey Lee is in talks to join the cast of The Dark Tower as the female lead alongside Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey.  Lee is best known for her role in Mad Max: Fury Road.  She looks like this:
  
  

  
  
Deadline reports that Lee will be playing Tirana.
  
Uh-oh...
  
Who the fuck is Tirana?
  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"11.22.63" Episode 1: The Rabbit Hole

I've been onboard for Hulu's miniseries adaptation of 11/22/63 ever since it was announced, and on Monday night, the first episode finally arrived.  I'm going to offer up a thoroughly spoiler-filled review beginning in a few paragraphs, but first, let me explain why this particular adaptation is so welcome inside the offices of The Truth Inside The Lie.
  
Simple: television is where King adaptations belong.  Maybe not all of them; an occasional novella-length story like The Mist or whatever fits on the big screen just fine.  Most King stories operate at a much more expansive length, however, and those have no dadgum business being in cinemas.  Right now, during what is almost certainly going to be considered a golden age Golden Age of narrative television, King belongs on the small screen.  Which, depending on your home setup, ain't necessarily a particularly small screen.
  
Our pop culture is practically drowning in outlets that are conducive to top-notch television productions.  HBO, Netflix, AMC, Showtime, USA, Sundance, Amazon, Hulu, the various actual broadcast networks, Syfy, FX, Starz, Cinemax, the BBC, and who knows who else: all creating content that is eminently worth my time and your time alike.  I can't keep up!  Odds are that you can't either.  Critics I follow are practically wailing at the wall in despair over the sheer amount of programming they have to keep up with.
  
On the one hand, I guess I'm thankful that Hollywood hasn't quite figured out yet how ginormous a cash cow Stephen King could be within that system.  After all, if there were a King show on every channel -- and lord knows that there is enough source material extant to make that a reality -- I would feel the need to watch every second of it.  But so far, Hollywood mostly seems to be focused on turning obviously-tv-ready properties like The Stand and It into big-budget (or, in some cases, slashed-budget) features.  Hollywood loves to prove that it has no actual fucking clue what it is doing, and it keeps doing it with those two novels in particular.
  
I wonder, though...
  
I wonder if that might not be about to change.  I suspect 11.22.63 is going to do quite well for Hulu, and if it does, then you've got to figure that they are going to want to stay in the Stephen King business.  Imagine a world in which Hulu pumps one of these puppies out every year or two.  We could get top-notch miniseries based on stuff like The Talisman or Insomnia or Duma Key; or something older, like Firestarter.
  
If that were to happen, it might be that whoever owns the rights to, say, It might decide that there was an easy two or three seasons of that sucker waiting to bring in the subscribers to a Netflix or an Amazon Prime.
  
Based on the quality level of the first episode of 11.22.63, that's a possibility to savor, and one to try to influence into being.
  
  
Note that the opening credits officially name the series 11.22.63, instead of the novel's title of 11/22/63.  A minor distinction, but a helpful one, as it allows us to clearly delineate between book and series here.
  
  
I'd like to establish right up front that 11.22.63 appears to be a much classier and more effective affair than the previous King novel adapted to television, Under the Dome.  CBS took a perfectly good novel and performed lewd acts upon its prostrate form, and their take on Under the Dome is almost certainly one of the very worst King adaptations of them all.  This is taking stuff like Thinner and Graveyard Shift and Children of the Corn into account, too; it's dreadful in almost every way (with only occasional good performances from the mostly-just-fine cast to offer brief moments of respite).
  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Review of Joseph J. Christiano's "Old Ghosts"

Howdy, readers!  I have a question: will you permit me another excursion outside the bounds of Stephen King's work?  It'll be a quick one, but I've got a book review that I felt like I needed to let you know about.
  
The author Joseph J. Christiano and I share a mutual friend, and Joe has occasionally commented on my posts (especially over at my James Bond blog, You Only Blog Twice).  Last year, he sent me an inscribed copy of one of his books: Old Ghosts, a collection of horror stories.


  
Because I suck at reading these days, it's been sitting on my up-next shelf glaring at me ever since.  Its company there includes at least two anthologies in which various members of the King family have stories, as well as Owen King's Intro to Alien Invasion, a book about Dollar Babies, a sci-fi trilogy I bought myself for Christmas, and various other recent, semi-recent, and distant-past acquisitions.  Also: The Man in the High Castle (never read it, but I want to after finishing the superb first season of the television adaptation), a bunch of Lovecraft-centric books, Childhood's End (which I want to reread after watching the not-bad Syfy miniseries), and so forth.  That shelf is always loaded.

However, at long last, I finally grabbed Old Ghosts off the shelf and cracked it open.  I'm glad I did: it's a fun read, and Christiano's approach to horror is one that reminds me more than a bit of several Joe Hill stories.  I feel certain that most King fans (and Hill fans, obviously) would enjoy what he's done here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Review of "Cujo" (2016 Intrada release of the Charles Bernstein score)

Heads up, King fans who double as film-score fans: Intrada recently released Charles Bernstein's score for the 1983 film adaptation of Cujo.
  
  
  
  
It's the first time Bernstein's score has ever been released commercially (excluding a promotional CD that paired Cujo with The Covenant that occasionally pops up on eBay for outrageous prices despite not being licensed for sale).  EVER.  It took 33 years, y'all.
  
Bernstein's score clocked in at #16 on my Worst To Best list of King-film scores a couple of years ago, which is a respectable placement considering the fact that King's movies have actually had a fairly decent history of film music.  One could probably make the argument that none of the movies based on his works have yielded an A-#1 all-time classic score (in the sense of classics like Star Wars or Psycho or Out of Africa or stuff like that); but one could just as easily make the argument that while there may not be any A++ scores in the King canon, there are a whole bunch of scores that fall somewhere in the A- or B+ range, and quite a few more in the B or B- range.  In other words, there are plenty of bad King movies with good scores, and (I would argue) no good King movies with bad scores.
  
Overall, it's a very strong body of work that comes from the combined efforts of a remarkably talented group of composers.  It's an aspect of the Wide World Of Stephen King that isn't acknowledged very often.  I'd like to do my part to try and change at least a handful of minds about that; I've written a few other soundtracks reviews, so this isn't exactly a first step, but I think it might be the first time I've been conscious of the need to carve out that territory.
  
In any case, Cujo is finally on disc thanks to the good folks at Intrada.  If you've got a $20 bill lying around that you're not sure how to spend, you could do worse than to go give them a bit of custom.
  

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Review of the 2015 Edition of George Beahm's "The Stephen King Companion"

I had the good luck recently to win a copy of George Beahm's The Stephen King Companion from the author himself, as part of a contest hosted by Lilja's Library.  Beahm appeared with Hans and Lou on the podcast, and if you haven't heard that episode, you should go give it a listen.
  
Beahm's books about King and his work played a massive role in helping to develop my King fandom; I've written about that several times, so apologies if I repeat myself a bit, but it can't be overstated how big a deal a book like the ones Beahm wrote was to a budding young fan in the pre-Internet days.  Remember, kids, you used to have your work cut out for you before Google and Wikipedia: if you wanted to know something, you might actually have to work for it.  So if you'd just gotten into Stephen King and wanted to know more about him and his work, you were sort of dependent on what was close at hand.  A visit to a library might help; fannish magazines like Starlog and Fangoria and Cinefantastique might help; a friendly bookstore clerk might help.  Emphasis, in all cases, on "might."

Finding a treasure like George Beahm's The Stephen King Companion was almost too good to be true.  And yet, there it was!  It was like Beahm had read my mind, agreed with the justness of my quest for knowledge, and decided to help me out.  He wasn't the only writer doing work of that kind, of course; but he was the one whose work helped me the most at that time, and I'm forever grateful for that.

So needless to say, winning an autographed copy of his new book was a thrill for me, and having him answer a question from me on the podcast was, too.
  
  
  
  
This 2015 update of The Stephen King Companion is the book's third edition, and if any of you who are on the fence about getting it are on that fence because you've got one of the previous editions, let me assure you that this is a must-buy.  It's nearly six hundred pages long, has copious photos, a large number of Glenn Chadbourne illustrations, and covers twenty years plus of writing from King that didn't exist when the book's second edition was issued.  And that's just for starters.
  
Before we move on, let me take a moment to be an ungracious winner by crowing over two bonuses Beahm included when he sent me the book:
  
  
  
  
This is a print of a King photo that was secured into place above the personalized Beahm autograph on the first page.  How cool is that?
  
And then there's this:
  
  
  
  
That's a scan of the 8.5x11 print of Glenn Chadbourne art that came with my copy of the book.  Beahm had mentioned on the podcast that he was going to include some bonuses like that when he shipped the winners their books, but I'd forgotten he'd said it; so these were both very nice surprises.