Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Guided Tour of the Kingdom: A Chronological Walk Through the Career of Stephen King, Part 14 (2010-2013)

Let's see what's shaking as the sun dawns on the year 2010.  Big things happening on Europa, from what I understand.  
  
But hey, this ain't no Arthur C. Clarke blog, is it?!?  Nosir!  So let's get back on the road through the Kingdom.
 
 


We begin with a major new essay:
 

"What's Scary"
(essay)

  • published in two parts in Fangoria #289-290, January and February 2010
  • reprinted in the new Gallery Books trade paperback edition of Danse Macabre, February 23, 2010
  • uncollected





It is not clear to me whether "What's Scary" was originally earmarked for Fangoria and then later got commissioned to serve as the introduction to a new edition of Danse Macabre, or if it happened in reverse.
  
A third option exists: that King simply sits around sometimes writing essays and then figures out what to do with them later.  If so, that opens up the possibility that there could be who-knows-how-many unpublished essays lying around King's office, gathering dust.  Imagine!
  
Whatever its provenance, "What's Scary" is something of a sequel in miniature form to Danse Macabre, and certainly works well there.  Personally, I'd have made it an afterword rather than an introduction, but that's just me.
  

It certainly fits like a glove in Fangoria.  The topic is, basically, here's some of my thoughts on the genre as they apply to movies from the last decade or so.  It's pretty damn great.

Here's how it begins:

All my life I've been going to see scary movies, beginning with 1950s black-and-white monster-fests like The Black Scorpion and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (where the alien invaders look very much like the prawns in District 9), and although much has changed in my life since the days when it cost a quarter to get in and the butter on the popcorn was real, I find myself asking the same three questions.
     First, why, do so many so-called horror movies, even those with big budgets (maybe especially those with big budgets) not work?  Second, why do genre fans such as myself so often go in with high hopes and come out feeling unsatisfied...and, worse, unscared?  Third, and most important, why is it that others -- sometimes those most unheralded others, with teensy budgets and unknown, untried actors -- do work, surprising us with terror and amazement?
     Oh, and here's a bonus question: Why do I care?  What part of me feels driven to see another remake of The Hills Have Eyes (not very good) or The Last House on the Left (brilliant)?  I'm 63 and my hair is graying.  Shouldn't I have left all this childish crap behind?

For the answer to that, you'll have to read the essay.  I bet you can figure out the short answer, though.

Among the many pleasures here is King's full-throated defense of The Blair Witch Project, which he finds to be brilliant.  Me, too, Steve; me too!  It's one of my favorite movies within the genre, and maybe of all. 
 

The Dark Tower: The Battle of Jericho Hill
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published by Marvel Comics, February-June 2010
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Battle of Jericho Hill, September 1, 2010
  • written by Peter Davidand Robin Furth, art by Jae Lee & Richard Isanove






  
  
I am hereby using my deductive powers of reasoning to assert that the Dark Tower comics had stopped selling well.  My evidence: for the second consecutive arc, Marvel could not afford to have its letterers draw a "the" on the covers of the issues.
  
Like "The Fall of Gilead," this is a step in the wrong direction.  They got Jae Lee back, which is cool; but the story still feels like fanfiction.  In retrospect, it was a mistake for the comics to attempt to fill in some of the blanks King left in the timeline.  Not all readers will agree with me on that subject of course; I know these comics do have their fans, and perhaps you are one of them, or destined to become one.
  
For me, though, time has revealed that the comics have mostly only been worthwhile for the backup features and for the two arcs -- The Long Road Home and Treachery -- that managed to feel more or less like genuine extensions of King's story.
  
It's apt to seem even more like a missed opportunity if King ever gets around to writing that Jericho Hill novel he's mentioned occasionally.
 

Horns
(novel by Joe Hill)

a William Morrow hardcover, published February 9, 2010





It occurs to me that I do not actually have hardbacks of either Horns or Heart-Shaped Box, an oversight I need to correct.
  
Hill's second novel, Horns, is every bit as good as his first; maybe a little better, if anything.  It's about a guy who is suspected of having murdered his girlfriend.  He wakes up one morning with devil horns growing out of his head, which is weird enough, but he's also become imbued with some of the powers of the devil Himself.  For example, people can't help but tell the truth about their darkest feelings and beliefs and desires when they are around him.  Not an ability you'd want when you go to your parents' house, for one example.
  
What's great about Hill's work is that it can be both laugh-out-loud hilarious and brutally sad, sometimes on the same page.  But neither feels forced; the emotions always feel earned.  With Horns he does all the things he's always been good at, plus he adds a layer of chilly mysticism that somehow deepens it all.
  
Highly recommended.
 
 
"Tommy"
(poem)
 
  • published in the March 2010 issue of Playboy
  • collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015


    
  
At first glance, Playboy probably seems like an odd venue for a melancholy poem about a deceased hippie.  In practice, though, it's probably a very solid venue indeed.
  
"Tommy" is by no means great, but it's a solid enough effort, and it certainly has its heart in the right place (on its sleeve).
 
 
Black Ribbons
(album by Shooter Jennings)

a Black Country Rock album released March 2, 2010



  
  
King was essentially hired as a voice actor for this excellent country/rock album.  It's a concept album that imagines the final broadcast of a radio personality called Will O' The Wisp (played by King).  The backdrop is some sort of takeover of the nation by an unspecified extremist government; whoever they are, they don't seem to care much for free speech.
  
King's role is not at all unlike the radio personality Ray Flowers -- whoo-whee! I pulled that name of the air -- in The Stand.  King does relatively well with it; he's not great at emoting, but he's got the seen-it-all-and-lived-through-it-until-now vibe he needs, and if you like him in general, you'll probably like what he does here.  If not, well, you can't win 'em all.
  
King didn't write any of his material, and had no hand whatsoever in the music.  If you want a track-by-track breakdown, check out my review.
 

American Vampire #1-5
(comic book series)

  • published by Vertigo from May-September 2010
  • collected in American Vampire, Vol. 1, October 5, 2010
  • series created by Scott Snyder; written by Scott Snyder and Stephen King; art by Rafael Albuquerque






    
  
The story goes like this: Scott Snyder created a comic-book series, American Vampire, and -- presumably based on a pitch or something -- sold it to Vertigo.  In developing it, he reached out to Stephen King for a blurb.  (You know what a blurb is, right?  One of those quotes in praise of a work that appears at the top of a poster or advertisement or book cover or whatever.)
  
King said sure, he could do that.  Or, alternatively, he could write a couple of issues; you know, if Snyder was interested in that sort of thing.
  
Snyder was interested.
  
But wait!  How would a brand-new comics writer be able to reach out for a blurb to Stephen King?  
  
Well, it helps if King had already provided a blurb for your first book, I guess:
  
  

  
  
Voodoo Heart had come out in 2006, and King was sufficiently impressed that he provided a "blurb" lengthy enough to qualify as a mini-review.
  
But wait!  How the fuck did THAT happen?!?  I mean, people publish their first books all the damn time, and virtually none of them have paragraph-long blurbs from Stephen King on the back cover.  So had King simply loved the book at that level?
  
Seemingly so, but it might help that Snyder had been a classmate of Owen's at Columbia while the younger King was in the writing program there.  I have no evidence to back this up, but it seems like at least a remote possibility that Snyder and (Owen) King remained friends afterward, and that it was King who brought Voodoo Heart to his father's attention.
  
Snyder had also landed a spot in the younger King's superhero anthology Who Can Save Us Now?, with his story "The Thirteen Egg."  This evidently allowed Snyder to get his foot in the door of the comics industry, which brings us back to American Vampire.
  
What (Stephen) King responded to in Snyder's pitch was the character of Skinner Sweet, a sonofabitch who gets turned into a sonofabitch vampire.  Think Sawyer from Lost, but a bit more murderous.  
  
So what ended up happening in the first five issues of American Vampire is that each issue was split down the middle into two stories.  The first (written by Snyder) is about Pearl, a young woman in '20s Hollywood who begins running with the wrong crowd.  The second (written by King, though based at least in part upon Snyder's existing plans for the story) tells the story of how Skinner Sweet turned into the vampire of the title.
  
It's best to think of this as a Scott Snyder (and Rafael Albuquerque, who provides terrific art) comic book that King had fun playing around in for a while.  This is not to imply that King's contributions are minimal; you can feel his presence in the dialogue, which affords him occasional opportunities to go way over the top in the manner he enjoys doing from time to time.  It's a good fit, and it makes one wish King had experimented more in this field.
  
Snyder continued the series -- which was always planned as an ongoing title -- after the fifth issue, and by 2016 it had reached something like 58 issues all in all.  The story is not over, and Snyder and Albuquerque have both expressed plans to return to it eventually.  Snyder has gone on to be an influential voice in the comics industry, earning rave reviews for his work with Batman for DC; in fact, that's probably how he's best known these days.
  
Not bad!
 
 
Blockade Billy
(novella)

  • a limited-edition Cemetery Dance hardback, published April 21, 2010
  • a mass-market Simon & Schuster hardback was published May 25, 2010
  • collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015


  
  
In his latest gesture of appreciation for Cemetery Dance, King chose them to publish a standalone edition of his baseball-themed novella "Blockade Billy."  The run was something like 10,000 copies, which presumably sold the other 9999 to people who weren't me.
  
It's a cool move from King, whose generosity must do wonders for a small press like Cemetery Dance.
  
The novella itself is a lot of fun, though it might theoretically tax the patience of people who aren't familiar with baseball.  Or of people who are familiar with baseball but hate it, a description which fits me to a T.
  
But, no, I found it to be pretty good the first time I read it, and a notch or two better than that when I reread it years later.  It tells the story of a sensational new catcher who has a bit of a secret.  Spoiler alert: he's not a vampire or a werewolf or nothin' like that.  I think knowing that going in might help a bit.
 

Stephen King's N.
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published May-August 2010 by Marvel Comics
  • scripted by Marc Guggenheim, art by Alex Maleev
  • collected in Stephen King's N., October 20, 2010





  
  
This is, more or less, the print edition of the motion comic Marvel and CBS produced two summers previously.  Why it took so long for the print comic to get into the world is a mystery to me, but I'm glad it did; it's terrific, and expands (though not TOO much) on King's story more or less flawlessly.
  
If you are a fan of the story -- and why wouldn't you be? -- you should definitely check this out.
 

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- The Journey Begins
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published July-November 2010 by Marvel Comics
  • written by Peter David and Robin Furth; art by Sean Phillips & Richard Isanove
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- The Journey Begins, January 26, 2011






You want me to think THAT is supposed to be ROLAND?!?
 

The first strike for this new series: the fact that it has two subtitles.  The main title for the series is The Dark Tower, the the subtitle for this new book in that series is The Gunslinger, and the subtitle for the first arc of that book is The Journey Begins.  I guess we can at least be thankful that it's not Journey Begins, without the The.
  
This arc of five issues is essentially a prequel to the novel The Gunslinger, and not, for my money, as especially good one.  Roland doesn't behave all that much like Roland; which is made even worse by Sean Phillips' art, little of which works all that well for me.
  
But if you're easily pleased and just want to see somebody draw a line from the fall of Gilead to "The Little Sisters of Eluria," this story will grant your wishes.
 
 
Haven season 1
(television series)

broadcast on Syfy, July 9-October 8, 2010




I remember when I heard about this series the first time.  It was described as being an adaptation of The Colorado Kid involving an FBI agent's efforts to protect supernaturally gifted people in a town called Haven.  "Huh," I thought, "that sounds nothing like The Colorado Kid.  Is it also a sequel to The Tommyknockers, what with it being set in Haven?"
  
Here's the thing about that: no, it's not.  And in fact, the Haven this series is set in appears not to even be the same Haven as in The Tommyknockers.  My proof for that: the Haven of that novel is entirely landlocked, whereas the Haven of the television series is set on the coast.  I'm inclined to rip everyone involved in that apart for failing to know their Stephen King, but let's not be TOO hard on them; after all, King's story "Jerusalem's Lot" is set in a town of that name on the coast, whereas the town Jerusalem's Lot in the novel 'Salem's Lot is either not on the coast or contains no mentions of the coast or any activity that would fit with a coastal town.  So if King can be forgiven for fucking that up THAT badly, I guess we ought to cut the producers of Haven some slack.
  
Not too much, though, because the series itself is fairly mediocre.  Apart from there being two aging newspaper men and a person referred to as "the Colorado kid," the series has virtually nothing to do with that novel.  I classify it as an adapfaketion, personally.
  
It does have virtues, mainly in the casting of the three leads: Emily Rose, Lucas Bryant, and Eric Balfour, who are good individually and great together.

The first-season episodes:

  • 1.01 "Welcome to Haven" (July 9, 2010)
  • 1.02 "Butterfly" (July 16, 2010)
  • 1.03 "Harmony" (July 23, 2010)
  • 1.04 "Consumed" (July 30, 2010)
  • 1.05 "Ball and Chain" (August 6, 2010)
  • 1.06 "Fur" (August 13, 2010)
  • 1.07 "Sketchy" (August 20, 2010)
  • 1.08 "Ain't No Sunshine" (August 27, 2010)
  • 1.09 "As You Were" (September 10, 2010)
  • 1.10 "The Hand You're Dealt" (September 17, 2010)
  • 1.11 "The Trial of Audrey Parker" (September 24, 2010)
  • 1.12 "Resurfacing" (October 1, 2010)
  • 1.13 "Spiral" (October 8, 2010)
 
We'll be seeing this series for the next few years, so better get used to it.


The Stand: Hardcases
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published August 2010-January 2011 by Marvel Comics
  • scripted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, art by Mike Perkins
  • collected in The Stand: Hardcases, March 2, 2011









As you might have gleaned from the covers, this arc of The Stand is heavily focused on the story's villains.  Not exclusively; but they are the focus more often than not.
  
It's pretty good; the art by Mike Perkins is (if I remember correctly) a bit more hit-or-miss in some of these issues, but it doesn't kill the series by any means.
 

Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published August 2010-March 2011 by IDW
  • scripted by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez
  • collected in Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom, July 5, 2011







  
  
You're reading this blog when you COULD be reading Locke & Key?!?
  
Thanks, I guess, you fool!


Sons of Anarchy season 3 episode 3: "Caregiver"
(television episode)

broadcast on FX on September 21, 2010


    
 
On Kingmas!

I've never seen this; I settled for watching clips of King's scenes, which (I believe) number two.  He's playing a WinstonWolf-style fixer.
  
People tell me the series overall is good but nothing special, but I may yet give it a look one of these days.


The Secretary of Dreams, Volume Two
(illustrated collection)

  • a limited-edition Cemetery Dance hardback, published October 15, 2010
  • art by Glenn Chadbourne




The contents this time include: illustrated stories "The Monkey," "Strawberry Spring," and "In the Deathroom" and graphical adaptations "Gray Matter," "One for the Road," and "Nona."
  
I nearly bought a copy of this.  It didn't sell out anywhere near as quick as the first, so I thought about getting it.  But without Volume One sitting on my shelf I didn't want this quite enough to actually get it.  Plus the whole thing still makes me grumpy.


Full Dark, No Stars
(collection)

a Scribner hardback, published November 9, 2010


  
  
A collection of new material, most of it novella-length.  Here's what's inside:
  
  • "1922"

A terrific and oppressively gloomy novella about how shit sucked in the olden days.  The main thrust of the story is about a husband enlisting his son's help in murdering his wife, and the terrible consequences of taking that action.
  
It's one of my favorite short pieces by King.
  
  • "Big Driver"

A mystery writer is waylaid and raped after a speaking engagement, and sets out to get revenge.

A good novella that gets so dark in a few places -- fully dark, one might say -- that it made me a little anxious.

  • "Fair Extension"

I suppose you could call this a novella if you really wanted to, but I consider it to be a short story.  Whatever you call it, it's about a man's deal with the devil to improve his life.  Does somebody else's life have to suffer in order to make that happen?  Well, so what if it does?
  
Good stuff.
  
  • "A Good Marriage"

In this novella, a wife discovers that her husband is a serial killer and then...

Well, you'll see.

It's pretty great, and serves as an excellent conclusion to an excellent collection.  And to 2010!





We're now in 2011, which was just, like, a few years ago.  So we may well have reached a place where we could call this tour quits if we really wanted to.
  
But no!  Let's press on until we get current.
  
A quick note first: I first began blogging about King and his works in January of 2011.  The blog's initial title was Ramblings Of A Honk Mahfah, which apparently puzzled damn near everyone who saw it.  Look, man, if you don't know what a "honk mahfah" is, that's on you.  
  
But it's cool, I like The Truth Inside The Lie as a title way better anyways.
 

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- The Little Sisters of Eluria
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published February-June 2011 by Marvel Comics
  • written by Peter David and Robin Furth; art by Luke Ross and Richard Isanove
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- The Little Sisters of Eluria, June 22, 2011


The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #1

The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #2

The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #3

The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #4

The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #5


The Dark Tower comics were back on solid ground with The Little Sisters of Eluria, a straightforward adaptation of the same name.  The art is good this time, and the story proves to be well-suited to the medium.
  
Robin Furth provides a couple of interesting backup features in prose for these issues, reviews of which can be found here and here.
 

The Stand: No Man's Land
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published April-August 2011 by Marvel Comics
  • scripted by Robert Aguirre-Sacasa, art by Mike Perkins
  • collected in The Stand: No Man's Land, August 10, 2011







  
  
Some great covers in this arc.  I especially love the cover for #4, which is perhaps nothing special unless you remember exactly what is going on in that moment.
  
I dig it.

 
"Herman Wouk Is Still Alive"
(short story)

  • published in the May 2011 issue of The Atlantic
  • collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015





Tonally and in terms of the content, this story is similar to the pieces King has traditionally published in The New Yorker.  It's about a down-on-her-luck woman who wins a small amount of lottery money and decides to put it to what seems like good use.  Elsewhere, a couple of aging poets are on a road trip.
  
These two stories will interest, and how.
  
Good stuff.
 

"On Cooking"
(essay)

  • published in Man with a Pan (an Algonquin trade paperback edited by John Donohue), May 17, 2011
  • also includes a recipe by King, "Pretty Good Cake"
 
 


The only thing I ever think of when I think of this book is getting into an argument online with a guy who accused the book of having an insidious liberal bias.  And it may well, for all I know.  I just got into an argument with the guy for the sake of delivering a polite(ish) fuck-you to a representative of the sort of people who worry about things such as the insidious liberal-cookbook agenda.
  
Because seriously, suck my dick.
  
From what I remember, King's essay is a lot of fun.  Big surprise, that, right?
  
Say, it occurs to me that I haven't issued a Christmas-music update in a while.  Currently, the song is "Baby It's Cold Outside" by Ray Charles and Betty Carter (who sounds like Miss Piggy, and I don't mean that as an insult because I love me some Muppets). 
  
Something tells me that the many versions of this song are going to be played less frequently in 2017 than during holiday seasons past. 
 
 
"Under the Weather"
(short story)

published in the Gallery Books trade paperback of Full Dark, No Stars, May 24, 2011



  
  
The trade paperback edition of Full Dark, No Stars contained a bonus story: "Under the Weather," a fully dark story about an ad exec who has an unusual problem.
  
The review to which I linked above is very spoilery, and focuses in large part on the question of whether "Under the Weather" should be considered as part of Full Dark, No Stars or as an add-on.
  
It wraps up with a consideration of the breasts of Christina Hendricks, and one might well argue that naughty-boy shenanigans like that don't fly in late 2017.  In my defense, I'd argue that (A) a relatively tasteful appreciation of ANY abundantly attractive person's specific attractive attributes is a thing I'm never going to be okay with not being okay with and (B) sorry about that.  Do we need to talk about Chris Hemsworth's abs?
  
Because I will.  If that's what it takes, I sure the fuck will.
 

Locke & Key: Clockworks
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published June 2011-April 2012 by IDW
  • scripted by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez
  • collected in Locke & Key: Clockworks, July 11, 2012







  
  
I suggest examining the way those covers progress.  Pretty nifty; I love the fact that this series plays with the format of the medium, in addition to delivering a kickass story.
  


Haven season 2
(television series)

broadcast on Syfy, July 15-December 6, 2011




The episodes:

  • 2.01 "A Tale of Two Audreys" (July 15, 2011)
  • 2.02 "Fear & Loathing" (July 22, 2011)
  • 2.03 "Love Machine" (July 29, 2011)
  • 2.04 "Sparks and Recreation" (August 5, 2011)
  • 2.05 "Roots" (August 12, 2011)
  • 2.06 "Audrey Parker's Day Off" (August 19, 2011)
  • 2.07 "The Tides That Bind" (August 26, 2011)
  • 2.08 "Friend or Faux" (September 2, 2011)
  • 2.09 "Lockdown" (September 9, 2011)
  • 2.10 "Who, What, Where, Wendigo?" (September 16, 2011)
  • 2.11 "Business as Usual" (September 23, 2011)
  • 2.12 "Sins of the Fathers" (September 30, 2011)
  • 2.13 "Silent Night" (December 6, 2011)

If you liked the first season, you'll like the second.  It's not better, necessarily, but it's on the same level of quality.  So if what you want from your Stephen King "adaptations" is for the people making it to prove to you they saw It and The Shawshank Redemption and whatnot, and to fling a reference to something like at the screen once or twice per episode, then this is the series for you.
  
It's not awful -- the leads continue to carry it -- but it's a fairly low-rent affair.


The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- The Battle of Tull
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published August-December 2011 by Marvel Comics
  • written by Peter David and Robin Furth; art by Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudino, and Richard Isanove
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- The Battle of Tull, January 25, 2012






 
 
I be dag if I can remember a whole heck of a lot about this miniseries.  I mean, obviously it finds The Gunslinger finally adapting The Gunslinger, so it's got that in its favor.  But I can't remember much in the way of whether I approved of the adaptation and the art and whatnot.
  
I think I did, but it's not coming to me in any greater depth than that.
  
You might remember that I mentioned having read the comics based on The Stand twice: once as they came out on a monthly basis, and then again in a more concentrated manner (reading it all the way through the way I would have done the novel itself).
  
I look forward to doing that with all of these Dark Tower comics one of these days.  I look forward to a period of concentrated blogging about the books themselves, in fact, and while I cannot say when that will finally happen, I can say that it absolutely WILL happen.
  
Eventually.
  
As I type that, I'm hearing Ringo Starr do a perfectly credible version of "Blue Christmas."  It's not as good as the Elvis version (few things are) or the Johnny Cash version, but it's plenty fine on its own merits.
 

Children of the Corn: Genesis
(feature film)

  • a Dimension Extreme film, released on home video August 30, 2011
  • written and directed by Joel Soisson 



    
  
The most audacious Children of the Corn film yet in that it barely has either children or corn in it.
  
My understanding is that these movies only get made so the rights to make them don't revert to Stephen King.  This makes me hate them more AND love them more.
 
 
"Mile 81"
(short story)

  • published in e-book format on September 1, 2011
  • collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015





Another malicious-car story, this one reminds me of "The Raft," except it's not as good.
  
I should probably find something more to say than that, but I got nothing, other than pointing you toward the two reviews I wrote of the story.  They're not very wordy, either, alas; I just don't have much to say about this story.
 
 
"The Little Green God of Agony"
(short story)

  • published in A Book of Horrors (a Jo Fletcher hardback, edited by Stephen Jones), September 29, 2011
  • collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015





"The Little Green God of Agony" appeared in A Book of Horrors, and was the first King story to debut in an anthology (as opposed to a magazine or one of his own collections) since "Throttle" in 2009.
  
So not actually as far back as I thought when I began writing that sentence.  Why not revise it, you ask, and avoid looking like a dunderheaded galoot?  Because it amuses me to not.
  
Here are the contents of the book:
  
  • "The Little Green God of Agony" by Stephen King
  • "Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint" by Caitlin R. Kiernan
  • "Ghosts With Teeth" by Peter Crowther
  • "The Coffin-Maker's Daughter" by Angela Slatter
  • "Roots and All" by Brian Hodge
  • "Tell Me I'll See You Again" by Dennis Etchison
  • "The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer" by John Ajvide Lindqvist
  • "Getting It Wrong" by Ramsey Campbell
  • "Alice Through the Plastic Sheet" by Robert Shearman
  • "The Man in the Ditch" by Lisa Tuttle
  • "A Child's Problem" by Reggie Oliver
  • "Sad, Dark Thing" by Michael Marshall Smith
  • "Near Zennor" by Elizabeth Hand
  • "Last Words" by Richard Christian Matheson

Looks like it's probably a strong lineup.
  

Locke & Key: Guide to the Known Keys
(comic book)

  • published October 2011 by IDW
  • written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez
  • collected in Locke & Key: Heaven and Earth, 2017


  
  
I've not been listing every single Joe Hill comic book as part of this tour.  My modus operandi in deciding what to list and what to omit when it came to people who are not Stephen King was to basically just talk about the books, and not cover every short story.  One-shot comic books, in my mind, are roughly equivalent to short stories, so I've left a few things off.
  
No way I was leaving off this one, though.
  
Part of it consists of a guide to the various keys within Locke & Key, complete with their functions and journal entries about their histories.  It's good stuff.
  
The real reason to get this, though, is "Open the Moon," which is superb.  I'm not saying any more about it than that.  It's fucking superb, and you should read it.


The Stand: The Night Has Come
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published October 2011-March 2012 by Marvel Comics
  • scripted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, art by Mike Perkins
  • collected in The Stand: The Night Has Come, February 29, 2012








  
  
Marvel's adaptation of The Stand came to a conclusion after 31 issues.  
  
Let's take another moment to give both Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Mike Perkins a standing ovation for making it all the way through the book.  So did color artist Laura Martin, for that matter.  (I think; I didn't actually check that to be sure.)
  
That's a big deal, and the continuity of their contributions goes a LONG way toward making this adaptation feel like a thing that was truly worth the doing.  It's a monumental undertaking, and I think they pulled it off well.  The fact that they pulled it off at all is laudable; that they did it well deserves a standing-O.  So get on your feet for a second and give these folks some appreciation.
  
They bloody well earned it!
 
 
A Night at the Movies: The Horrors of Stephen King
(television documentary)

  • broadcast on Turner Classic Movies on October 3, 2011
  • written and directed by Laurent Bouzereau




Turner Classic Movies aired this hourlong documentary as part of its Halloween 2011 celebrations, and folks, let me tell you, if you've never seen it, you MUST.  It is fantastic.  An interview with King forms the backbone of it, with copious horror-movie clips supplementing his comments.
  
The program was available on DVD from the TCM store at one point in time; presumably it still is, but I'm not having any luck getting their site to work at the moment.  If I can remember to circle back to this, I'll leave a link when I find one.
 

"The Dune"
(short story)

  • published in Granta #117, Autumn 2011
  • collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015




The less said about this story, the better; not because it's bad, but because it's good.



11/22/63
(novel)

a Scribner hardback, published November 8, 2011

The Truth Inside the Lie review of 11/22/63 (part 1, part 2)
 

    
  
The first time I heard about 11/22/63, I was thrilled by the notion of Stephen King stepping outside of his comfort zone and writing a science fiction novel about a time-traveling do-gooder.  In the end, I'd argue that while it's technically science fiction, it's certainly not the hard sci-fi I'd imagined it to potentially be.
  
But I don't give a shit if you call this sci-fi, horror, fantasy, or a math textbook, it's awesome.  It was probably the best novel he'd written since Wizard and Glass in 1997 (although I think Duma Key is awfully good, too).
  
I think it's only gotten better with age, too.  I'd argue that this is all the proof you need to argue that King post-19?? (fill that in however you wish, or not at all; the people who insist his writing skill tapered off at some point don't seem to agree on when it happened, which makes sense because it never did happen, but I digress) retains the ability to produce a genuine classic.  I think this is 100% worthy of being placed alongside his list of best works, and a half-decade's passage has only proved me increasingly correct.
  
The book sold like crazy, too, and seemingly reached well beyond King's normal fanbase.
 
 
Bag of Bones
(television miniseries)

  • broadcast on A&E, December 11-12, 2011
  • directed by Mick Garris from a teleplay by Matt Venne

 

    
  
To bring 2011 to a close, somebody let Mick Garris take another shot at Stephen King's work.  This time, he butchers Bag of Bones, reducing a subtle and moving novel to an obvious and cringe-worthy mess.
  
It's not entirely Garris's fault; he didn't write this one.  So the butchering of the story must be laid at the smelly feet of Matt Venne, whoever that is.
  
In truth, Garris does some pretty good work.  He also manages NOT to do good work in a number of key scenes, dropping the ball so hard on at least three occasions I still remember that the ball fully deflated and had to be replaced mid-game by a surly-looking referee.
  
Will this be Garris's final work with King material?  Bless his heart, I hope so.
 
 


Carrie
(off-Broadway musical)

  • staged at the MCC Theatre in New York; previews began January 31, 2012 with shows beginning March 1
  • directed by Stafford Arima; music by Michael Gore, lyrics by Dean Pitchford, book by Lawrence D. Cohen



  
  
After years -- decades, really -- of attempts, a revival of Carrie the musical played off-Broadway in New York beginning in early January 2012.  It wasn't an overwhelming success, but it did indeed help to push the musical's reputation a bit further away from "abysmal" toward "respectable."
  
An album was recorded by the show's cast, marking the first time the musical was made available in any sort of physical-media format.  I keep hoping a Blu-ray will appear, but that is likely a fool's dream.
  
One interesting thing that happened as a result of this revival is that the show was made available for regional and local theatre groups to stage.  I don't have a list -- much less a comprehensive one -- of such productions, but I have been stockpiling articles, photos, and videos of them when they pop up in my Google alerts, and I count a minimum of 72 of them since 2013.
  
So in other words, this musical has been performed a great many times all around the country (and, indeed, the world) since it was relaunched.
  
For a "failure," that's not a bad result.
  
And who knows, maybe i'll even get to attend a performance one of these days!
 

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- The Way Station
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published February-June 2012 by Marvel Comics
  • written by Peter David and Robin Furth; art by Laurence Campbell and Richard Isanove
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- The Way Station, June 27, 2012








Like The Battle of Tull, my feelings about The Way Station seem to have become a bit obscure over time.
  
Let's assume it's okay and move on.
 

Road Rage
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published February-May 2012 by IDW
  • scripted by Chris Ryall; art by Nelson Daniel (issues 1-2) and Rafa Garres (issues 3-4)
  • collected in Road Rage, August 8, 2012








Adopting the same name as an audiobook that presented both "Throttle" and it inspiration, "Duel," this four-issue miniseries offers graphic adaptations of the same stories.  Both work pretty well in that format, though this miniseries feels a little uninspired for my tastes. 

But check out these sweet variants (which are quite hard to find, dammit) for the first two issues:





I've gotta get those one of these days.


The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole
(novel)

  • a limited-edition Donald M. Grant hardback, published February 21, 2012
  • a Scribner hardback (titled The Wind Through the Keyhole), published April 24, 2012

  
Dog Star Omnibus palaver (with The Truth Inside the Lie) on The Wind Through the Keyhole (part 1, part 2) 


   
  
Nearly a decade after the publication of the final novel in the Dark Tower series, King returned to Mid-World with a midquel novel that makes for a decent standalone experience, and can presumably serve as an entry point for new readers.
  
In terms of the series chronology, it takes place between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla.  Our friends, the ka-tet of Roland, Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and Oy, return, and King's writing of their individual and collective voices has not slipped one iota.  When I sat down and began reading this novel, I felt really quite moved by it based on the ease with which King had summoned all these people back into existence.  It genuinely felt like I was reconnecting with old friends, and that's a feeling I've gotten from fiction -- in any medium (prose, cinema, television, comics, you name it) -- only a handful of times.
  
I'll always love The Wind Through the Keyhole for that if for nothing else, but there's plenty else to love here, too.
  
One thing NOT to love is the fact the mass-market editions of the novel do not include the Jae Lee artwork that graces the Grant limited edition.  This is a crying shame, since hardcover and trade paperback editions of the previous Tower novels all contain art.  Why different this time out?  Makes no sense to me.
  
Regardless, the story is a tripartate construction: (1) Roland tells his ka-tet a story about (2) a tale from his youth post-Mejis about pursuing a skin man, during which he tells a troubled young boy (3) the story of Tim Ross, a young man who went on a quest to save his mother.  All three parts are great, each in different ways that somehow manage to feel the same.
  
Guys, I gotta be honest: this is a pretty fucking great novel.  Seems more so the more I think about it, actually.
  
The audiobook was read by King himself, the first Tower novel he'd narrated since The Waste Lands.  As always, he does a terrific job.  I'd love it if he'd take set aside some time to records books IV-VII (plus "Eluria") so there was a complete saga of King-narrated books.  It'll probably never happen, but I'd buy the mess out of that if it did.
  
The audiobook also included King's reading of Chapter One of the then-forthcoming Doctor Sleep, which revives young Danny Torrance (as well as Wendy Torrance and Dick Hallorann) just as effortlessly as Keyhole revives the ka-tet.  The merits of the novel are debatable, I suppose; but this first chapter is terrific.
  
Speaking of Doctor Sleep, in 2009 King had actually asked users of his website to vote on which novel he would write first: that or The Wind Through the KeyholeDoctor Sleep apparently won in a near-photo finish (5861 to 5812), and King did indeed write it first; but for various reasons, The Wind Through the Keyhole got published first, about a year and a half before the Shining sequel.
 
 
Ghost Brothers of Darkland County
(stage musical)

  • staged at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta April 4-May 13, 2012
  • directed by Susan V. Booth with musical direction by T-Bone Burnett; music and lyrics by John Mellencamp, libretto by Stephen King




Ghost Brothers of Darkland County had been in the works going at least as far back as 2002, and apparently at some point around 2010 a fully-produced "radio drama" version was recorded.  More on that a bit further on in our tour.
  
For now, let's talk merely about the first stage version to be produced.  It ran for several weeks in Atlanta, and starred at least one Tony winner (Shuler Hensley) and another nominee (Emily Skinner).
  
I actually had a ticket to a show, but had to skip going because I wasn't sure my car could survive the journey.  Probably a wise decision, although I still regret not finding a way to get there.
  
Ah, well; such is life!
 
 
"In the Tall Grass"
(short story by Stephen King and Joe Hill)

  • published in two parts in the June/July and August issues of Esquire
  • published as an audiobook on October 9, 2012
  • uncollected

The Truth Inside the Lie review of "In the Tall Grass" (part 1, part 2)
 




For their second collaboration, King and Hill pumped out a genuinely horrific story about a couple on a road trip who become trapped inside a field of human-height grass after hearing voices coming from inside it and trying to help the people they hear.
  
That turns out to have been a mistake.
  
Some reviewers have said that they feel King's and Hill's voices don't mix well, and even say that they believe part one to have been written wholly by one and part two wholly by the other.  I don't agree with any of that, and feel that the story reads like King's early-career mean streak being revitalized by his son pushing him to be gnarlier.  As for the prose, it's seamless.
 

Locke & Key: Grindhouse
(comic book)

  • published August 2012 by IDW
  • written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez
  • collected in Locke & Key: Heaven and Earth, 2017




This one-shot tells a tale from Keyhouse set a few decades prior to the rest of the series.  It's about a crew of criminals who wind up hiding out at Keyhouse after a heist.
  
That turns out to be a mistake.
  
Great, great stuff here, as is usually the case from Hill and Rodriguez.
 

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- The Man in Black
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published August through December 2012 by Marvel Comics
  • written by Peter David and Robin Furth; art by Alex Maleev and Richard Isnove
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- The Man in Black, January 15, 2013






  
  
The art is the problem in this miniseries.  It comes via Alex Maleev, a well-respected pro who had previously done fine work on N. and whom one of my best friends -- hi, Trey -- lauds for his work on Daredevil.
  
Whatever the cause, Maleev's art here is mediocre; at times, it's damn near incompetent, even.  
  
This seems like as good a time as any to mention that one of the serious problems with Marvel's take on The Gunslinger is that they used a different artist on every arc, seemingly with no effort put forth to reach for uniformity of design among the characters.  With the first book in the series, Jae Lee was replaced by Richard Isanove for a time, but Isanove had worked on the entire run and did at least try to bring a uniformity of design; he had a reasonable degree of success, too.  In this second book, though, Marvel had allowed a very scattershot approach to take hold.
  
For me, that's a problem even if the art is great in each arc; it isn't, which makes it even more of a problem.  I suspect that it will drive me nuts whenever I do sit down to read this stuff all the way through as I would a novel. 
 
 
"A Face in the Crowd"
(short story by Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan)

  • published as an e-book and audiobook on August 21, 2012
  • first print edition in Field of Fantasies: Baseball Stories of the Strange and Supernatural (a Night Shade trade paperback, edited by Rick Wilber), October 28, 2014
  • uncollected

 



King has only collaborated with a few authors over the years, and O'Nan joined the ranks with this short story.  (I'm not counting Faithful as a collaboration in the same way because the two authors' sections are distinct; it's a conversation moreso than a collaboration.)
  
I've never read any of O'Nan's fiction.  Another item for the to-do list!
  
 
"Batman and Robin Have an Altercation"
(short story)

  • published in the September 2012 issue of Harper's
  • collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015


    
  
This is a story about a man who is taking his dementia-stricken father out for a regular lunch.  They get involved in a road-rage incident, which does not involve the Penguin or the Riddle but does nevertheless call for a certain type of heroism.
  
I leave it to you to discover how -- and if -- the literal Batman and Robin come into play.  (Hint: they do not.)  It'll be your pleasure to do so; this is one of King's best stories in recent memory.
 
 
Haven season 3
(television series)

broadcast on Syfy, September 21, 2012-January 17, 2013


  
  
I would argue that the third season of this series is where it began to transform itself into a fairly decent hour of television.  Even at its best, it never rose far above mediocre, but for much of the latter two-thirds or so of its run, it settled into a comfortably entertaining groove that is, if nothing else, respectable.

The episodes:

  • 3.01 "301" (September 21, 2012 -- on Kingmas!)
  • 3.02 "Stay" (September 28, 2012)
  • 3.03 "The Farmer" (October 5, 2012)
  • 3.04 "Over My Head" (October 12, 2012)
  • 3.05 "Double Jeopardy" (October 19, 2012)
  • 3.06 "Real Estate" (October 26, 2012)
  • 3.07 "Magic Hour" (November 2, 2012)
  • 3.08 "Magic Hour: Part 2" (November 9, 2012)
  • 3.09 "Sarah" (November 16, 2012)
  • 3.10 "Burned" (November 30, 2012)
  • 3.11 "Last Goodbyes" (December 7, 2012)
  • 3.12 "Reunion" (January 17, 2013)
  • 3.13 "Thanks for the Memories" (January 17, 2013)


The final two episodes of the season were delayed at the last minute due to the fact that they contained scenes of violence inside a high-school.  Fair enough, but these would have been airing on the same day as the Sandy Hook massacre.  So Syfy decided to sit on the last two episode of the season until a couple of weeks into the new year.
  
  
"The Little Green God of Agony"
(webcomic)
  
  • published in daily installments October 14 through December 7, 2012
  • adapted by Dennis Calero
  




Soemehow, King was persuaded to give artist Dennis Calero the permission to adapt "The Little Green God of Agony" into a web-comic.  The end result is decent enough; not inspired, exactly, but effective more often than not.


Misery
(stage drama)

  • staged at the Bucks County Playhouse November 24-December 8, 2012
  • scripted by William Goldman, directed by Will Frears




Screenwriter William Goldman adapted his adaptation for a stage setting.  I don't have much to say about that, except that it seems like it'd probably be a good fit.

The Bucks County Playhouse is evidently well known as a venue where shows go to work out their kinks before going to Broadway.  And, sure enough, a production of this play would indeed end up on Broadway a few years hence.

More on that when we get to it.
 

Locke & Key: Omega
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published November 201-May 2013
  • written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez
  • collection in Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega, February 5, 2014






 
 
Depending on how you classify things, this was either the penultimate arc in the series, or it was the final arc and there were two issues of it that we're not covering here.

I lean toward the former, but this stance is complicated by virtue of the fact that both Omega AND Alpha were collected within the same volume, which is titled Alpha & Omega.

Look, dammit, this is MY tour bus and I'll drive it how I see fit!  STRAIGHT into 2013 if I need to!



 
Hey, sorry about that threatening-to-run-the-tour-bus-off-the-road thing.  Heh, I was only kidding.
  

  "Guns"
(essay)

  • published as an e-book on January 25, 2013
  • uncollected






You might recall me mentioning that the final two episodes of Haven's third season were delayed in deference to the Sandy Hook killings.

Well, Stephen King had some thoughts on some of the topics associated with that, and he presented them in the form of this essay, the profits of which went toward the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

King is in fine form here, and while I don't agree with everything he says or with all of his conclusions, I do in general find him to be persuasive on the topic.  Of course I do; I'm not a right-wing lunatic, or a left-wing one, for that matter.  I'm a lunatic for tacos and soda, is what I am.
   
Joking aside, this is obviously as serious a subject as subjects get.  King treats it that way, and is more than happy to discuss his own accountability in the matter.  He got ripped apart by some people for the essay, but I doubt it would be possible for Jesus Christ to return from the great beyond and not get ripped apart for writing his own essay on this particular subject.
 
 
Stephen King In His Own Words
(audiobook)
 
a BBC audiobook, released on iTunes February 13, 2013
 
 
  
 
This is a compilation -- released online online, so far as I know -- of four BBC Radio interviews conducted over the years:
 
  • BBC Radio 4 Bookshelf with Hunter Davies, November 10, 1984 (4:56)
  • BBC Radio 2 John Dunn, August 24, 1998 (12:52)
  • BBC Radio 4 Front Row with Mark Lawson, December 28, 1998 (25:31)
  • BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs with Kirsty Young, October 19, 2006 (25:29)
 
I can't remember many specifics about these, except having enjoyed them all.  It can still be purchased on iTunes, and possibly other places as well, for all I know.
 

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger --Sheemie's Tale
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published March-April 2013 by Marvel Comics
  • written by Robin Furth, art by Richard Isanove
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- Last Shots, October 8, 2013


The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #1

The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #2


This two-part tale gives us some background about Sheemie, and -- quite persuasively -- turns his story into something you'd almost describe as high fantasy.

The art by Richard Isanove is very strong here, and all in all this mini-miniseries marks a return to form for the Dark Tower comic.
 
 
Double Feature
(novel by Owen King)

a Scribner hardback, published March 19, 2013


  
 
 
  
  
That's a heck of a fine blurb to land on your first novel; Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show, and Terms of Endearment likes your novel, you done alright.
  
I'm no Larry McMurtry, but I thought Double Feature was pretty damn awesome, too.
  
It's a melancholic comedy about a film student, Sam Dolan, who wants to become the next Truffaut or Bergman or whatever, but whose movie gets hijacked -- and how! -- by his less-than-stable financier.  This is made more and less bearable by Sam's overbearing father, Booth Dolan, an affably over-the-top former maker of grade-Z genre films.
  
I laughed so hard reading this book at times that I damn near dropped it.
 

Room 237
(documentary)

  • an IFC film, released March 29, 2013
  • directed by Rodney Ascher




 

I'm listing this as a 2013 film, but it had actually premiered at Sundance on January 23, 2012.  The only reason I've opted not to list it there is that I'm not 100% sure that the Sundance cut and the first publicly-released cut are one and the same.  It's probably the same, but sometimes changes get made to a movie once it's played festivals and has been picked up for distribution; the music might change, the editing might change, additional scenes might be filmed.  Not always; not even often.  but it can and does happen, and since I'm not sure, I'm sticking with the wide release date.
  
Anyways, the bottom line on Room 237 is that it is awesome.  It's ostensibly about some of the out-there interpretations people have about Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, but that's just the surface content; beneath that, it's a movie about the way(s) in which we individually view and process art.  If you really want to focus on the allegations about faked moon landings, or on the spectre of paedophilic incest, or on the movie's condemnation of the Holocast and/or Native American genocide, you can; this movie's interviewees will happily indulge you in that desire.
  
That ain't what this movie is about.  Don't believe it is for a second.
 
 
The Dark Tower Companion
(by Bev Vincent)

a NAL trade paperback, published April 2, 2013

The Truth Inside the Lie review of The Dark Tower Companion  (part 1, part 2)




Another must-read book from Bev Vincent, who interviews King himself -- check out part two of my review for some of the specifics on that -- as well as people involved with the comic books, the then-upcoming movie, and so forth.  He also, as you'd imagine, has quite a bit to say about the books.
  
Not to be missed.
 

NOS4A2
(novel by Joe Hill)

a William Morrow hardback, published April 30, 2013





Joe Hill spent the first phase of his career literally trying to prevent people from knowing that he was the son of Stephen King, under the assumption that it would be good for his career if he did so.  I mean, sure, he probably could have sold a few novels on the strength of being the kid with the voodoo doll in Creepshow; but where was the honor in cashing in like that?
  
One senses that a tremendous amount of pride must have been at stake for Hill.
  
But one also senses that he was never not proud to be Stephen King Jr.  And in NOS4A2 he penned an epic horror novel that, among other things, leans fully into the King connection.  There are Easter eggs aplenty here for in-the-know people reading along; in that sense, the novel feels more than a bit like a love letter to his father and his work.
  
The story is about a kinda/sorta vampire named Charlie Manx, who kidnaps children and takes them to live in Christmasland so they will forever be happy.  This eventually brings him into contact with the novel's protagonist, Vic, a tough woman seemingly modeled somewhat on Sarah Connor from The Terminator.
  
She and Charlie will butt heads, let's say.
  
It's a blast of a novel, neither as good nor as disciplined as Heart-Shaped Box and Horns, but thoroughly entertaining.
  
They got a slightly different title for this one across the pond, by the way:
  
  
   
  
To account for the difference in accents, kennit?  
  
I was delighted by this sufficiently to buy a copy of this edition.  But apparently it confused and alienated some people -- under either title -- and I wonder if maybe the novel might not have been better-served to be titled Christmasland or something like that.
 

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- Evil Ground
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published June-July 2013 by Marvel Comics
  • written by Peter David and Robin Furth; art by Richard Isanove
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- Last Shots, October 8, 2013


The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #1

The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #2


This two-part tale is about Roland and his original ka-tet fighting a band of enemies after the fall of Gilead (but before Jericho Hill, obviously).
  
It's not very good at all; the art seems rushed, the characters behave out of, uh, character; and I never thought of a third thing, though if I read my brief reviews (linked to above) I bet I could.
 
 
Ghost Brothers of Darkland County
(soundtrack and libretto)

a Hear Music CD, released June 4, 2013





A soundtrack for Ghost Brothers of Darkland County was finally released in the late spring of 2013.  This was not a cast recording from the theatrical run in Atlanta, but was instead a single-disc condensation of the play in a sort of "radio drama" format.
  
It's difficult to get the sense of a musical from listening only to the music, which is why I do not recommend getting anything other than the "hardback" edition of this, which comes with a book -- a paperback book -- containing King's libretto.  Ignore (if you can) the fact that some fool thought it made sense to print it on black paper with white letters; that won't make the reading easy, but if you can fight through it, you'll find the entire story, which will put the music in the proper context.
  
It's a shame the entire play was not recorded.  I seem to remember reading something that indicated it HAD been fully recorded, and given that the cast includes people like Kris Kristofferson, Matthre Mcconaughey, Samantha Mathis, and Meg Ryan, I'd say the odds are pretty good that a substantially longer (and substantially better) version of this recording exists somewhere.
  
As for the as-is release, it's pretty good.  Mellencamp's songs are mostly excellent, and while King's libretto is by no means a career highlight, it's not bad.
 

Joyland
(novel)

a Hard Case Crime paperback, published June 4, 2013

The Truth Inside the Lie review of Joyland (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)


  
  
For his second Hard Case Crime novel, King did at least offer up a sort of a murder mystery, so Joyland was not greeted by the same howls of "I've been had!" that greeted The Colorado Kid from some readers.
  
The novel is pretty damn wonderful, and is about a college kid who, in an effort to stave off a broken heart, spends a summer working in an amusement park.
  
This is the work of an older man looking back upon youth and finding it to be unbelievably sweet.  If you can get with that aspect of it, you might well love this book; if you're not able to, then you may be considerably less impressed.
  
The novel was mildly controversial at the time of its release due to King's decision not to release it in e-book format.  He wanted to do something to drive people back to physical media.  I get that; I don't read books electronically unless I have no physical option.  But I've got to say, Big Steve: the ship has sailed on this one.  It's a nice thought in some ways, but mostly all you did was piss people off.
 

"Afterlife"
(short story)



  
  
I struggle a bit with whether to list "Afterlife" as a 2012 story or as a 2013 story.  In terms of print, it's a no-brainer: it made its initial print appearance in the Summer 2013 Tin House.  However, King DID read the story live, and that reading WAS made available on YouTube; so not only was it published in a non-print audio/video format, it was done so in a widely available format.  (The video has about 97,000 views as of the time I'm writing this.)
  
My inclination is to consider "Afterlife" to have first been published online in 2012, and to list it that way.  For now, I'm going to not do that, though; damned if I can say why, exactly.  One thing is certain: until Snake Plissken sets off the EMPs and takes us all back to the Stone Age (which he WILL eventually do), there are going to be more and more instances of stories/books/etc. making their initial "publication" in a tech format like this.  Probaby best to get used to it now.
  
"Afterlife" itself is a very good story about a guy who finds that even after one has died, there is bullshit to be dealt with.
 

Hard Listening
(by The Rock Bottom Remainders)

published as an e-book on June 18, 2013



  
  
The founder of the Rock Bottom Remainders, Kathi Kamen Goldmark, passed away in 2012; the proceeds from this e-book went toward defraying the medical bills she accumulated during her fight not to.  Ain't that some shit?  Even after you're dead, you got problems; well, in that sense Hard Listening echoes some of the themes of "Afterlife," I guess.
  
I thought Hard Listening itself was an absolute blast.  Assuming it is still available, I recommend the iBooks version, which has a few video clips and lots of photos.  It looks great on my iPad, and while I'd prefer to have an actual book to hold in my hands and put on my shelf, I'll take what I can get.
  
King himself makes two significant contributions:


"The Rock and Roll Dead Zone"
(short story, uncollected)

Technically, I just foisted a spoiler upon you without warning.  Allow me to explain: toward the end of the book, there is a presentation of four short stories, and the reader is invited to guess which one of them was written by Stephen King.  I got it correct, and also managed to guess who had written each of the other stories.  This was no plaudit-worth feat on my part; process of elimination told me which one was Dave Barry, and I'm familiar enough with King that that didn't challenge me at all.  So all I had to do was correctly guess which was Ridley Pearson and which was Greg Iles, and I was 4-for-4.
  
The best story in the bunch is Iles's, which is a fairly substantial piece of writing, whereas the others -- King included -- seem mostly to have tossed theirs off in an hour or so.  "The Rock and Roll Dead Zone" is as much a self-satirical comedic piece as anything else, and I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for this to show up in a future story collection; it would be badly out of place.
  
"Just a Little Talent"
(essay, uncollected) 

This essay is about the origins of King's love for playing music, and it's handily one of the most essential pieces of nonfiction of his entire career.  It plays reads almost as a prelude to Revival, and I think it's entirely possible that the process of writing this essay jarred loose some of the ideas he used in that novel.  Either that, or the writing of the novel jarred loose the ideas he used in the essay.  One or t'other, I'd damn near bet.

 
Under the Dome
(television series)
 
broadcast on CBS, June 24-September 16, 2013



    
  
It was a great idea: adapt King's lengthy novel Under the Dome as a ten-part miniseries for Showtime.  Lauded comics writer Brian K. Vaughan (who has also done some television work, including spending a bit of time on Lost) was going to be in charge of it all, and it was going to be produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment.
  
Didn't happen that way exactly.  Amblin and Vaughan stayed onboard, but the project shifted from Showtime to CBS -- the blandest and least offensive of all the major networks (bad sign) -- and transitioned from a miniseries into an approach that could accommodate additional seasons should the ratings warrant it.
  
The ratings warranted it.  The series debut attracted 13.53 million viewers -- pretty big for 2013 -- and the season finale had only dipped to 12.10 million.
  
The story really wasn't all that conducive to a multi-season approach, and even today you hear people talking about how it would have been better to just do a single season and call it quits.  I'd argue that expanding the story wasn't the problem; I'd argue that the cheesy approach to the story was the problem, and that that was always going to result in a mediocre product no matter what the length was.
  
If you want to know more about that, I reviewed every episode as the series was airing, so feel free to check those reviews out.  Before I pull the tour bus way from this stop, though, one more thing:
  
2013 seems like a lifetime ago, in many ways but certainly as regards the television landscape.  Under the Dome was produced by CBS in association with Amazon, who announced early on that after a few days, each new episode of the show would be available to its Prime members.  There were also deals struck around the globe for the series to air locally in those venues.  What all of this meant was that CBS would almost have to try to do so in order to lose money on the series; and, indeed, it did prove to be highly profitable.
  
And hey, did you notice that Under the Dome was part of the early rise of streaming television?  Netflix had debuted House of Cards a few months earlier, and that was truly the beginning of the rise of streaming.  But Under the Dome surely helped give Amazon a boost.  Amazon had begun its own original streaming content in 2013, but it took a while for it to break out.  Under the Dome didn't do that; but it did help keep their name out there as a source for content.
  
I just wish that, in this case, the content had been better.
 
The episodes:

  • 1.01 "Pilot" (June 24, 2013)  (review)
  • 1.02 "The Fire" (July 1, 2013)  (review)
  • 1.03 "Manhunt" (July 8, 2013)  (review)
  • 1.04 "Outbreak" (July 15, 2013)  (review)
  • 1.05 "Blue on Blue" (July 22, 2013)  (review)
  • 1.06 "The Endless Thirst" (July 29, 2013)  (review)
  • 1.07 "Imperfect Circles" (August 8, 2013)  (review)
  • 1.08 "Thicker Than Water" (August 12, 2013)  (review)
  • 1.09 "The Fourth Hand" (August 19, 2013)  (review)
  • 1.10 "Let the Games Begin" (August 26, 2013)  (review)
  • 1.11 "Speak of the Devil" (September 2, 2013)  (review)
  • 1.12 "Exigent Circumstances" (September 9, 2013)  (review)
  • 1.13 "Curtains" (September 16, 2013)  (review)

It continues to vex me that despite the fact that we are living in the era of Peak TV, a veritable golden age of quality, there hasn't been a genuinely great King series.  In a perfect world, Under the Dome could have been it.  Alas, no.


The Dark Man
(poem, illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne)

a Cemetery Dance hardback, published July 30, 2013




King's college-era poem "The Dark Man" received a solo printing from Cemetery Dance, complete with art by Glenn Chadbourne, who had previously done both volumes of The Secretary of Dreams.  The art is mostly good; the layout -- which destroys the flow and appearance of King's poem -- is horrid.
  
The poem itself is a complete mediocrity.  An interesting one in some ways, but let's not confused ourselves into thinking this is some sort of lost masterpiece.
 

Locke & Key: Alpha
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published August and October 2013 by IDW
  • written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez
  • collected in Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega, February 5, 2014



The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #2


Hill and Rodriguez brought Locke & Key to an end with the two-part Alpha, which was pretty great.
  
IDW took the occasion to issue what seemed like about 176 variant covers.  Don't know what variant covers are?  Aren't you the lucky one!  
  
They did so many of them, in fact, that they put them all out in a box set.
  
Did I buy that box set?  I did.  Am I a sucker?  I am.
 

Save Yourself
(novel by Kelly Braffet)

a Crown hardback, published August 6, 2013



  
  
Kelly Braffet's Save Yourself was the fourth book from the King family -- of which Braffet was officially a member by now, having married Owen at some point -- to be released in 2013.
  
Swept up in the mania of this awesomeness, and having enjoyed Braffet's contribution to Owen's anthology Who Can Save Us Now?, I decided to give her new novel a shot.
  
Good decision, that.  This is a strong novel that might actually have ended up being my favorite published by the King family that year.  And considering the competition included Double Feature and Joyland, that ain't no small feat.  For the record, I think I think Joyland is in fact my favorite in that trio, and Save Yourself my #2.  But you can fling them all in the air and rank them in terms of the order in which they land if you want to; they are close enough that it's nearly impossible for me to decide.
  
My point, though, is that that's how much I like Save Yourself.  Did I read it mostly out of curiosity?  Sure.  So what?  It's the reaction that matters.  
  
The story involves a family of quasi-deadbeats whose father has gone to jail thanks to drunkenly killing somebody with his car.  His sons -- especially Patrick, the novel's main character (although that distinction might be argued) -- have become pariahs of a sort of a result.  From there, stuff happens.  It's kind of a thriller, kind of a relationship drama, kind of a comedy at times, even.
  
It's not easily classifiable, unless "great" is a category.
  
Regretfully, Braffet has not published a fourth novel yet.  Evidently she has one in the works, though.  Bring it on, says I.
 

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- So Fell Lord Perth
(comic book)

  • published September 2013 by Marvel Comics
  • scripted by Peter David from a plot by Robin Furth; art by Richard Isanove
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- Last Shots, October 8, 2013



  
  
I (heh) can't remember if I've mentioned this recently, but my memory is not that great.  In retrospect, I think it's a big part of the reason why I became a blogger: I noticed I wasn't holding onto things the way I'd like to, and so I decided to borrow some of Blogger's internet and start keeping track of some of it that way.
  
This has proven to be useful to me on more than one occasion.
  
Such as right this very instant, when, challenged by himself to find something cogent to say about "So Fell Lord Perth," the final issue of The Gunslinger, I found that I remembered almost nothing about it.  Couldn't even remember whether I'd liked it or not; I suspected "not," but a guess is all that was.
  
Luckily, one day in August of 2013, I had some real strong thoughts about it, and I had the sense to type them all up and put them online for other goobers like me to read.
  
So if you want to know more about why the answer IS "not," click on that link above, where 2013 Bryant will tell us all about it.
 

Haven season 4
(television series)

broadcast on Syfy, September 13-December 13, 2013




The episodes:

  • 4.01 "Fallout" (September 13, 2013)
  • 4.02 "Survivors" (September 20, 2013)
  • 4.03 "Bad Blood" (September 27, 2013)
  • 4.04 "Lost and Found" (October 4, 2013)
  • 4.05 "The New Girl" (October 11, 2013)
  • 4.06 "Countdown" (October 18, 2013)
  • 4.07 "Lay Me Down" (October 25, 2013)
  • 4.08 "Crush" (November 1, 2013)
  • 4.09 "William" (November 8, 2013)
  • 4.10 "The Trouble with Troubles" (November 15, 2013)
  • 4.11 "Shot in the Dark" (November 22, 2013)
  • 4.12 "When the Bough Breaks" (December 6, 2013)
  • 4.13 "The Lighthouse" (December 13, 2013)
 
The fourth season of the series introduced at least one major new(ish) character, and got some decent mileage out of that wrinkle.
  
None of what's going on has jack squat to do with Stephen King or The Colorado Kid, of course, and the series had mercifully stopped trying to be so King-referential by this point.  
 

Dolores Claiborne
(opera)

  • staged by the San Francisco Opera September 18-October 4, 2013
  • composed by Tobias Picker, libretto by J.D. McClatchy


  
  
I know virtually nothing about opera, which may explain why my limited efforts at appreciating it have not gone swimmingly.  But I think it's very cool that Stephen King's reach is so pervasive that he's even had an opera adapted from his work.  (And, spoiler alert: he's actually had more than one.)
  
This opera is the product of Tobias Picker, a composer whose name I knew due to his having had a piece recorded by John Williams at one point in time.  Not exactly an expert, am I?
  
Sadly, I've had no real opportunity to check out Dolores Claiborne, even from afar; no commercial release on CD or Blu-ray or any other format seems to be available.
  
If you're curious, you can watch a six-minute highlight reel on YouTube.  It's ionteresting; I'd love to see the entire opera, or at least be able to hear it.
 

Doctor Sleep
(novel)

a Scribner hardback, published September 24, 2013

The Truth Inside the Lie review of Doctor Sleep (part 1, part 2)


  
  
You gotta have a pair of balls as big as churchbells to write a sequel to one of your most celebrated novels nearly four decades later.  [Say, what's the lady equivalent of hyperbole like that?  I don't feel qualified to even speculate.  But if there isn't one, there ought to be.]  This is simply not a task for the weak.
  
Many people will tell you that King proved not to be up to the challenge, but I think he pulled it off admirably, and I'll tell you why I think that: though Doctor Sleep plays directly with aspects of The Shining, it goes in its own direction, and therefore ends up feeling honest in a way that it might not have otherwise.  
  
What would the hackiest-hack version of this novel have been?  For one thing, it would have had the word "shining" in the title someplace.  Let's say it would have been called The Shining 2 and leave it there.  It would have involved the Overlook Hotel having been rebuilt, and Danny Torrance -- all grown up now (probably a bestselling author) and with a family of his own -- somehow taking the wife and kids (two twin girls, of course) to stay there.  Maybe he's the one who rebuilt the hotel, using the proceeds from his stupendous Hollywood success; so he's going back to stay there for a while so as to confront his "ghosts."  (Get it?)  Except the ghosts ... turn out to still be real.
  
Something like that, at least.
  
And hey, if King had written it, I'd have read it; he'd probably have done a decent job with it, at worst.  But that plot would fundamentally bankrupt creatively, I can almost guarantee it.
  
With Doctor Sleep, you really do get the feeling that Danny Torrance has been growing up ever since The Shining ended, right there inside the mind of Stephen King.  Whatever problems the novel may have, I think it claims this as a virtue, and a major one.
  
But I liked many of the aspects of the book that gave others fits, so maybe I'm just a King apologist.
 

Carrie
(feature film)

  • an MGM film, released October 18, 2013
  • directed by Kimberly Peirce from a screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

The Truth Inside the Lie review of Carrie (part 1, part 2, part 3)


  
  
There's no doubt that Brian DePalma's Carrie is a stone-cold classic, but I think it's a fair question to ask if modern audiences are still watching it.  And if so, then I think a remake was perfectly fair game.
  
I like this one pretty well, albeit with frustrations and complaints that pop up along the way.  The first of them is that it hews too closely to the DePalma film; an opportunity to get closer to King's novel was squandered here, and as a result comparisons were bound to be made.  It was always going to be difficult for an remake to survive those comparisons, and this one didn't.
  
But by no means is it horrible.  Chloe Grace Moretz is miscast in the title role, but still does relatively well; and Julianne Moore does very well as her mother.
  
  

Wraith
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published November 2013-May 2014 by IDW
  • written by Joe Hill, art by Charles Paul Wilson III
  • collected in Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland, July 30, 2014


The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #1

The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #2

The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #3

The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #4

The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #5

The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #6

The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #7


Serving as a prequel to NOS4A2 and requiring precisely zero familiarity with that novel for enjoyment, Wraith is a delightfully twisted piece of work.  I'd probably recommend reading the novel before the comic, but does it actually matter?  Not at all.
 
 
"Summer Thunder"
(short story)
 
  • published in Turn Down the Lights (a Cemetery Dance hardcover), December 2013
  • collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015





Our final stop for this post -- our penultimate post! -- is "Summer Thunder," a story by King that is so dark it makes me want to cry a little just thinking about it.  What's it about?  A man, a dog, a motorcycle, and the apocalypse.  More or less.
  
Great stuff; one of his classics, as far as I'm concerned.
  
And hey!  In a reversal of the normal state of affairs around here, I actually read the entirety of Turn Down the Lights.  As with most anthologies, there are some stories that aren't as good as others, but on the whole it is a very good gathering of stories indeed.  In addition to King, you get new stories from Peter Straub and Clive Barker, among others.
  
Full a full list and my brief thoughts on each, check out the review linked to above.
  
*****
  
And with that, we find our tour bus reaching the 2013 state line, with 2014 on the horizon.
  
See you there!

30 comments:

  1. (1) "if King ever gets around to writing that Jericho Hill novel he's mentioned occasionally." Hell to the yes on that. I seriously hope the man's got a few Dark Tower works still left in him, or at least half-finished in the trunk for Owen or Joe (or Peter Straub) to knock off.

    (2) You ever hear Ringo's "Sentimental Journey" album? It and "Goodnight Vienna" get some rather consistent airplay round these parts. Your "Blue Christmas" comment prompted this.

    (3) Still haven't read any Joe Hill other than 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS. Or any of the AMERICAN VAMPIRES neither. One of these days! Probably never going to look at any of those THE STAND or DARK TOWER comics, though. (Which makes me appreciate your reviews of them even more, as I get to at least glance through them over your shoulder.)

    (4) I really like both "In the Tall Grass" and "Face in the Crowd." The latter I think of every time the Red Sox play the Rays. I was listening to one of those games from this past season and got to daydreaming about how the story would work over the radio. (It wouldn't, I guess. But I enjoyed trying to find the way to make it so.)

    (5) Bucks County! (James Michener-land.)

    (6) I really have to read DOUBLE FEATURE again. I enjoyed it, but it lost me in spots and I don't remember it as well as I should.

    (7) Only one post left! Bring it on. Thanks for doing these.

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    1. (1) I'd read those books by any of those authors, but I'm hoping such things won't have to happen. Hopefully, whoever is left in control of the estate will exert a vice grip in keeping it locked down.

      (2) "Sentimental Journey" is marvelous. I can't remember if I've heard the other one; probably just once.

      (3) You're missing nothing with those comics, to be honest. Even "American Vampire," which I liked but which kind of ended up going nowhere.

      (7) My pleasure, for sure!

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    2. (2) For this time of year you really need Ringo's I Wanna Be Santa Clause album! oh and Bob Dylan's Christmas In My Heart (if only for the rewritten Must Be Santa! - its excellent!)

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    3. Oh and I did the Magical Mystery Tour in Liverpool a couple of times and we went to the pub from the cover of Sentimental Journey...we weren't able to get off the bus though as its a pretty sketchy area!

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    4. I dig Dylan's Christmas album. It's honestly great; the first couple of times I heard it, I thought I was enjoying it as kitsch, but no, it's just plain old good.

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    5. "I Want to Be Santa Claus" is classic! Really, Ringo's solo catalog has far more to it than is popularly known.

      I don't know if I've ever actually heard Dylan's Christmas album. I'll do that today, though. Years back my friend and I used to duet a Dylan-esque cover of "Silver Bells" as an occasional part of our set. ("Silver baaay-els... silver baaaay-els...")

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    6. (Few hours later)

      I love it. I agree that "Must Be Santa" is the odd man out - the traditionals are really good. I chuckled when I saw "Silver Bells" is actually on there. He didn't exaggerate the Dylan-drawl quite as much as my friend and I imagined he would back in the day.

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    7. No, he pretty much takes it seriously. His band is in fine form on that entire album.

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    8. Also loved his recent Sinatra covers albums...band in great form and he is in fine voice...although 5 discs worth is about enough for me...I really hope we get at least 1 more all originals album out of him.

      Oh..and it's Sir Ringo how...thank you very much! 😃

      Ringo's latest Give More Love is pretty decent too...I think his last few albums have all been pretty solid rockin' affairs!!

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    9. To my shame, I must confess that I have not heard that set of Sinatra covers.

      I love Bob Dylan and his music and always will, but I've fallen away from active Dylan fandom the past few years. It's just too expensive; those ultra-mega-completo sets he puts out are things that I feel like I have to have, but they're so fucking expensive that I can't afford them, and that really kind of peeves me. So it's kind of put me off listening to his stuff.

      I haven't heard Sir Ringo's latest, either. Nice to hear he's still steamrollin' ahead! Hard not to love that guy. It sucks that two of the Beatles are gone, but it's also awesome that two are still left!

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    10. Agreed re the Dylan uber sets...I stopped getting those bootleg series a while back, I really don't need 15 versions of like a rolling stone...great though it is. I only concentrate on his actually new albums these days.

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  2. (1) I knew that they made some DARK TOWER comics, but Lawd A'mighty, I didn't know that there were *so damn many* of them. I can't say that I'm bursting at the seams to read them.

    (2) "He's playing a WinstonWolf-style fixer."

    A Winston Wolf-style fixer named "Bachman." A bit cheesy? Yeah, but it still got a chuckle out of me.

    (3) "Under the Weather" is one of those stories where the twist becomes apparent to the reader almost immediately, but in the introduction that comes with it in THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS, King suggests (or outright states) that that was the idea, so it's all good. It's not one that I'd make a point of re-reading, but I liked it.

    (4) I recall being less than impressed with "Mile 81" as well. Too many characters, too many *POV* characters, odd characterizations of the kids... We even shift to a flashback at one point. It was jarring enough that I had to go back and verify that it was, in fact, a flashback and not the POV of a suddenly-able-to-shape-shift demon car-thing. The whole bit with the magnifying glass was a bit *eh* for me, too.

    I thought that it was a fairly weak opener for THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS. If I were the type to do so, I *might* have set the book down for a while after that one.

    (5) Not much to say about 11/22/63 except that based on what I've heard about it, I'm really looking forward to getting to that one.

    (6) I've mentioned before that I'm using your "The Essentials, Expanded Version" list as my guide as I work my way through the DARK TOWER series. One of my personal alterations to that list is that I'm going to read KEYHOLE after I finish the rest of the series. My rationale is that this is my first read-through of the series, and while I can't make myself experience the years-long waits between books (well, I *could*, but you know what I mean), I *can* experience them more or less in publication order. This means that KEYHOLE is moved to the end of the line.

    If I ever do a re-read down the road, though, I'll slot it in as Book 4.5.

    For the record, next on the list would be BLACK HOUSE, so I'm closing in!

    (7) "[Batman and Robin Have an Altercation"] is one of King's best stories in recent memory."

    Agreed wholeheartedly. This should be Exhibit A (or close to it) if one ever wants to make the point that King isn't "just" a writer of cheesy supernatural stuff. I could say similar of "Herman Wouk Is Still Alive."

    (8) ROOM 237 was on Netflix for a while, but I never watched it--I didn't feel like listening to yahoos talk about the moon landing. I regret passing on it. I'll have to keep an eye out for it to come back or see if one of the local library branches has a copy.

    (9) NOS4A2 had me intrigued ever since I heard the title (I love me some old-school NOSFERATU around Halloween). Another one I look forward to getting to one day.

    (10) I quite liked "Afterlife" as well. It's one of those I-wish-I-had-thought-of-its. Just a couple of characters interacting in one room. Good stuff. It reminded me a bit of Neil Gaiman's short BATMAN arc "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?"

    (11) My mom, who is not much of a reader, fell in love with the UNDER THE DOME adaptation--then promptly fell out of love with it; even so, she powered through and watched the whole thing. I picked up a copy of the novel for her at a library sale; she hasn't yet read it (intimidated by the length), but I might snatch it up and read it for myself one day.

    (12) Take what I said about "Mile 81" and flip it for "Summer Thunder." It's a gut-wrenching piece in all the best ways, and where I thought "Mile 81" was a weak start to that particular collection, "Summer Thunder" was the *perfect* story to end it.

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    1. 6) I always feel that a series should first be experienced in what I call "creation order"; i.e. the order in which the author (creator, director, main artist, etc.) brought the work into the world.* I just think that an author can't help but be influenced by what they've already written when they go back to write any type of prequel or "mid-quel." And I think this is especially true of someone like Stephen King, who is famous for not making notes and just following the story wherever it takes him. Re-readings can be done in chronological order, but first readings should be "creation order."

      *I say "creation order" and not "publication order" for those instances when the first written work is not the first to be published and released to the public.

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    2. @ Will --

      (1) They are very skippable. Some of them have great art, which might make them worth one's time. But many of them are mediocre even in that regard. Personally, I hope they're done making them; I don't want to have to keep buying them, but if they keep making them, I will!

      (4) Agreed regarding the magnifying glass. Something about that entire story seemed/seems off to me.

      (6) I endorse this wholeheartedly. I think placing it in the middle adds some interesting shades, but placing it at the end does, as well. Either way, you win!

      (8) Just don't take the movie as an endorsement of those blowhards' "theories" and you might enjoy it.

      (11) Bless her! I'd be curious to know at what point the series lost her. I could it happening as early as late first season, or as late as the third.

      (12) 100% agreed.

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    3. @ Joseph --

      All things considered, I agree with you. "The Wind Through the Keyhole" may be the only time I've ever deviated from following that, myself. I'd rather not watch the "Star Wars" films than not watch them in production order, for example.

      But I do think "The Wind Through the Keyhole" has virtues when treated as a 4.5 -- a few anachronisms notwithstanding.

      As I mentioned above, though, it also has virtues when treated as a sort of Book VIII.

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  3. I miss "Haven." I agree 100% that it's mid-grade TV at best (and that might even be a stretch), but dammit if I didn't have a great time watching it. I watched it during its initial run, usually DVRing each episode and watching it on Sunday afternoon-- which is probably the perfect way to watch this show: bit by bit on lazy Sunday afternoons when you just want a pleasant, lightweight diversion to help you unwind.

    A sidenote: I absolutely love the opening credits for this show. The visuals are pretty great, and the theme music is fantastic. Speaking of which, I remember being impressed by the music on this show quite a bit.

    Finally, if anyone out there does decide to watch this show, there is one production aspect that I think is worth keeping in mind: the production team never knew if the show was coming back for a new season. Syfy never renewed this show for more than a season at a time, and never until each "current" season had ended. So for the first four seasons, the makers of the show had to wrap up each season in a way that worked as a series finale if the show was cancelled, but also left room to continue the story if it was renewed. (The fifth season was planned from the outset to be the final season.) Personally, I think that knowing this information adds quite a bit to the charm of the show as you watch the overarching mythology get weirder and more complicated with each passing season. (It reminds me of telling a story to a kid who doesn't want to go to sleep, so each time you wrap up your tale he says, "And then what happened?" and you have to take off in a new direction.)

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    1. I enjoyed "Haven" to some degree, also. It definitely had its charms.

      That's interesting about the multiple "finales." I didn't know they had done that.

      That bedtime analogy is excellent. Many a television producer has probably felt like the world at large was their children.

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  4. 1) Boy, do I ever hear you about the need for a respectful appreciation of breasts, and all of the other feminine charms. American society is really going overboard on what's unacceptable. I'm heartened to see frequent comments from several women saying they don't want all accusations to be treated equally, nor for people to be ruined without due process. A great many women want to be desired, and even enjoy some appreciation from strangers. If we males can just filter ourselves from being disgusting, maybe this situation can change things in the right ways, while still allowing men and women to have some laughs together and enjoy flirting and even some mild to medium innuendo. From what I've seen of Christina Hendricks, she's a pretty classy dame, and seems to be thoughtful in her feminism. Hopefully she also knows that her jumblies are truly an inspiration.

    2) Hear, hear for tacos and soda lunacy. In the case of soda, I know it's killing me, but if they can ever make something nutritious that tastes like Dr. Pepper, sign me up.

    3) The Dark Man is by far the worst King-related item I've ever gotten acquainted with. As you say, the art is kinda cool, but I'd call "mediocrity" pretty charitable.

    4) If there's any justice in the world, 11/22/63 should be Exhibit 1 in proving that King can do amazing work in just about any category he chooses, and that writers can still be in top form late in their careers. For me, it's hard to see that one slipping out of the top five, even with almost half of the King library still yet to be read.

    5) I think I can appreciate what King was trying to do in keeping Joyland only in book form. I don't know his intent, but the seventies setting, and the pulpy throwback art, I imagine he thought of it as an appropriate one to have mostly in paperback, and if he pissed people off, well, they can either read it or not, but it's good enough that it would be a stupid choice not to. I bet Hard Case didn't fight him on it. I wouldn't fight against that one being placed in a top ten list, but I'm also a sucker for coming-of-age stories, the seventies, and amusement parks.

    6) Room 237 is a damn cool movie, and I've never even watched The Shining the whole way through. The naysayers all seem to be focused on the actual theories from crackpots, and they're missing out on some pretty interesting insights. What do you think of the Tom Cruise sequence? I felt that was maybe the most hypnotic part of the whole thing, and fit in beautifully.

    7) Variant covers. I know what they are, and I just don't get it. And yes, I do consider myself the lucky one, because I think trying to be that level of completist would drive me absolutely bonkers.

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    1. 1) This is all a VERY large topic, obviously, and one that I'm probably best-advised not to delve into here. It's also a very complicated topic, and there are lots of people on both sides of the equation who only want to discuss it in as uncomplicated a manner as possible. That way lies disaster, eventually.

      There's no doubt that some icky perverts have been taken down in this business, and while I'm always glad for that to happen, I really do worry about due process taking a pounding. I don't know that that's AS big a concern as some people are making it out to be, though. After all, it's always been an employer's right to fire an employee if they feel there are credible grounds to do so, and if other employers choose not to hire those same people for new jobs, that's also their right. Due process doesn't enter into it. There's also nothing preventing one of these fellows from suing their accusers for slander (and/or libel). If I were a wealthy person who got falsely accused, you'd better believe my lawyers would be very busy soon thereafter.

      That that mostly seems not to be happening is maybe indicative of there being fire to go along with most of this smoke.

      That said, if you think I'm going to never watch old movies made by Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Dustin Hoffman, or whoever (Mel Gibson, for example), you're nuts. (I refer to the hypothetical "you," of course, not YOU.) Art is a messy process; artists are often messy people. That shouldn't be tolerated or encouraged in order to bring art into the world, but once that art is there, it belongs to everyone. Sounds like maybe Matt Weiner was a bit of a jackass. Doesn't change the fact that "Mad Men" enriched my life when I watched it; doesn't make me complicit when I sit down to watch it again.

      Long-run, I do think it will be for the best. If it helps women -- both in general and specifically -- feel more empowered and more able to defend themselves against the predators of the world, then that's a net good. And if it helps new generations of boys and men grow up understanding that having a dick doesn't give them license to be awful, AND helps them understand how to walk that line, then that's also a net good.

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    2. 2) And let's be honest: doesn't that seem like an achievable goal? Delicious buffalo wings that are actually made out of carrots or whatever? I guess scientists probably have higher priorities, but dammit, that'd be a wonderful world.

      3) I can't argue with you there.

      4) It's an unqualified grand-slam, no doubt it. I've got zero issues with that being in a top-five; no problems with it being all the way at #1, for that matter. It's a masterpiece.

      5) You make a good point, although I'd argue that there being an audiobook edition nullifies that intent on his part. Paperback only, I could get with; paperback and audio but no e-book, I can't. Not that I really cared, since I bought the paperback! And a fine one it is, too.

      6) Oh, that's a fantastic scene, absolutely. Right at the beginning, if I remember correctly. I'd been expecting one thing from the movie -- which is pretty much what the average person you mention seems to expect -- but all of that stuff sort of made me sit up a bit straighter and say, "Hey, now, what is THIS...?" From there, I was utterly captivated, and have been on the three or four times I've rewatched it. That's a GREAT movie, in my opinion. So glad to hear it worked for you despite you not even having seen "The Shining"! That's very cool.

      7) I don't worry about being a completist in that regard, luckily. I do sometimes buy variants, but generally only if the art is cool enough that I don't mind the extra expenditure. I absolutely will not buy them simply for the sake of buying them, or because they are going to be scarce later on. Forced scarcity of that nature drives me up the wall; I think it's immoral.

      But even then I'll buy one if I can get it and the art is cool enough.

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    3. Speaking of variant covers (as nobody is -- I'm just making a note to myself here!), I finally tracked down an affordable copy of that Road Rage #2 variant. For less than $4, which is amazing. Very cool!

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    1. Merry Christmas! Boxing Day, now, technically, but still.

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  6. Of those (at least) 72 productions of the new-and-improved Carrie musical, I saw one a couple of years ago! I was long a fan of the bootleg audio recording of the original disastrous production.

    Unfortunately my takeaway was that the things that made the original a flop (too big, too epic, too weird) were 1) what made me love it so; and 2) what made it really feel like it had King DNA.

    The rewrites, in trying to make it more coherent and marketable (that have clearly succeeded, since it's getting done!), to me have taken the property from Big Weird Musical to something more run-of-the-mill. "Eve Was Weak" still rocks and terrifies, but other than that, meh.

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    1. I can believe that easily; I've seen bootlegs of the original and of some of the revivals, and the original does at least seem to be going for broke, whereas the later versions are apparently under the illusion that they are serious theatre.

      I'd still love to see a production one of these days, though.

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  7. 1. I think when future critics look back, it wouldn't surprise me if they singled out "11/22/63" as perhaps the best of King's later period work.

    2. Nope. Sorry. After all the time passing, I still haven't warmed to "Doctor Sleep". The only major change has been a curious discovery that "might" clarify why I don't like it.

    Warning: labyrinthine, circuitous thinking ahead, so bear with me.

    In "Danse Macabre", King mentioned an obscure Ingmar Bergman film called "The Hour of the Wolf". I was always curious about that citation in the book's appendix, however I never watched until like a year or two ago. Boy am I glad I did.

    First off, on its own merits, its a unjustly forgotten little envelope-pushing gem, and its a shame that it has been forgotten. Then again, considering all else Bergman went on to do, I can kind of see why it might be forgotten.

    Second of all, after giving it some thought, I realized, "Holy $?&T, it's "The Shining"! I don't recall if those were my exact words, yet it's definitely the conclusion I believe in today.

    To be continued.

    ChrisC.

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    1. Continued from above.

      Tell me if this plot synopsis sounds familiar.

      A brilliant, yet tortured artist (or a typical Bergman protagonist, in other words) rents out a secluded cottage with his pregnant wife, after suffering some kind of personal crisis.

      The artist hopes the seclusion will cure him of his troubles, and possibly get the old creative juices stirring. The problem is they are not alone.

      After a first half hour of typical melancholic Bergmanesque soul searching (one element of which possibly involves the murder of a child), a group of high society strangers descend upon the couple's cottage, and appear to have known that the Artist was holed up there the whole time.

      The group wines and dines the couple in typical late 60s elite social fashion, caviar and everything. The trouble is there's something off about this collection of high flying swingers. For instance, when one of them gets jealous, he is able to walk on walls.

      Also, they have a toy theater set, complete with actual human beings the size of toy figurines, who appear out of nowhere to dramatize a thematic play that reflects the Artist's inner torments. Then there is the old maid who removes her face to reveal something horrible underneath.

      In the end, the proceed to dress down and humiliate the Artist, until, with nothing left, he thanks this supernatural group of strangers. His one remaining question is just who is he underneath the mask?

      The last time the wife sees her husband, he is surrounded and devoured by the group, one of whom turns into a giant bird to finish the job.

      To be continued.

      ChrisC

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    2. Continued from above.

      While there are variations in terms of certain events, what perhaps can be admitted is that the basic setup is more or less the same as "The Shining".

      King claimed the idea for "TS" came from a dream, prompted by a stay in an empty Colorado hotel. I see no reason to doubt that the Stanley Hotel acted as a catalyst. My point is that a viewing of "Hour of the Wolf" convinces me the Bergman should be considered an unknowing (by King) unconscious co-conspirator.

      Does this mean I think King ripped off Bergman? Actually, no, not really. I say this for one reason, the book has generated enough positive audience response to be considered a modern classic of 20th century literature. I think it will go on to be cemented as part of the future Canon of Western Fic, in point of fact. It will have earned it.

      If I had to provide concrete evidence that Jung was right in saying that fiction depends on Archetypes, I'd have people view "Wolf" and then read "Shining", as I think both storytellers were telling inspired by pretty much the same archetype.

      To be concluded.

      ChrisC

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    3. Concluded from above.

      The problem sets in when you take this archetype into account while reading "Sleep". I realized after reading "DS" post "Wolf" that not only was King repeating himself, he'd done something a bit ironic, which sort of made it all the more painful to read, if I'm being honest.

      He wasn't revisiting Danny from "The Shining". He was retelling the "Shining" with events and characters mixed up and shuffled around. "Dan Torrance" is actually just Jack, while "Abra" is, in fact, Danny. The True Knot, meanwhile, are just the Overlook Ghosts (and Bergman's supernatural, Nordic Strangers) who have cashed in their hotel for mobile homes.

      I don't know how that reading sounds. For me, it just made "Doctor Sleep" more pathetic when I realized I could the original archetype trying to poke out from beneath the skeleton of King's attempt at a sequel.

      For me, the big takeaway now, with the book is, perhaps, sometimes you really can't go home again.

      3. I saw that TCM documentary and loved it. Good to know there's available copies out there.

      4. " For the record, I think I think Joyland is in fact my favorite in that trio, and Save Yourself my #2. But you can fling them all in the air and rank them in terms of the order in which they land if you want to; they are close enough that it's nearly impossible for me to decide."

      Funny, I'd say the same thing about how I rank any King book after both "It" and "The Shining".

      ChrisC

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    4. 1. I suspect you might be correct about that. It's probably the most recent of his true classics, and it seems better and better with each passing year.

      2. That movie sounds great! I've never seen any Bergman, but I think based on what I've heard that I would enjoy his work.

      As for the similarity to "The Shining," it's certainly got some. But the isolated-artist cliche has been a cliche for a LONG time, I think. And I can imagine that Jack himself would be the kind of guy who'd see a movie like "The Hour of the Wolf" and think, "Hey, that seems like an awesome idea!"

      Regarding "Doctor Sleep," I think time has proven you to be in the majority in disliking that one. I still like it, though; too much of it works for me not to. And I don't feel as if it cheapens "The Shining" in any way (except maybe for positing that Jack stepped out on Wendy at some point and fathered another child -- which doesn't seem like too big a stretch to me).

      3. It's required viewing for King fans, as far as I'm concerned.

      4. Fair enough! It gets pretty tough pretty quick, that's for sure.

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