Stephen King has been scaring us for the past four decades. It is impossible to overstate his influence on modern literature. He is the only author in history to have more than 30 books become No.1 bestsellers. He now has more than 70 published books, almost all of which are now cultural icons and his achievements extend so far beyond a single genre at this point, that it is impossible to limit him to one.
This is just a sampling born from a staggeringly prolific writing career that is well on its way to spanning five decades. King has effectively been translating America’s private, communal, and cultural fears and serving them up to us on grisly platters for half a century.
I remember the first time I picked up one of his books- it was back in 2016. I was at this book store with my best friend and I was a bit skeptical about buying it because I was certain that I would be scared to my very core. Nevertheless, I bought it and well, I have been a fan of his since then. Later, I had chance to collect number of books written by this “King” of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, crime, science-fiction, and fantasy novels.
If you are like me and if you like to read horror stories about vampires, psychopaths and scary clowns, then surely you’re a fan of Stephen King.
It is Stephen King’s birthday today, 21 September.
Stephen king quickly fell in love with reading as a boy. Without a TV at home, King read everything he could get his hands on, beginning his lifelong passion for the written word. King had started to write imitations of some of his favourite stories when he was around six or seven years old. It wasn’t long before his mom encouraged him to start writing stories of his own. His mother paid him a quarter for each of his stories. As he later remarked in his memoir, ‘On Writing’, these quarters represented his, “first buck in the business”.
King’s father left his family when King was an infant. His mother brought up Stephen and his elder brother all by herself. Like many other families, King’s family always seemed to have a financial crisis. His mother worked multiple minimum wage jobs.
When Stephen King was eleven, his family moved back to Maine, his birthplace. As a teenager, Stephen King begun writing and submitting stories for publication. He continued to do so while he was a student at the University of Maine. But alas, he got rejected more often than not. After enduring years of rejections, he sold his first story, the ‘Glass Floor’ to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967.
In 1971, Stephen King married the novelist Tabitha King (née Spruce). By 1972, they became a family of four. Their family had to live on his earnings as a worker at an industrial laundry. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men's magazines.
He became successful overnight when his fourth novel, ‘Carrie’, came out in 1974. In 1975, his famous story about vampirism, ‘Salem’s Lot’ came out. Later, in an interview, he stated, "The story seems sort of down-home to me. I have a special cold spot in my heart for it!”
Published in 1977, ‘The Shining’ is one of King’s most triumphant works ever. It is evident that the story has a lot of gothic influences, including “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe. The success of the book firmly established King as a preeminent author in the horror genre. It is considered as one of the most prominent works of horror.
His novels include deeply flawed yet sympathetic central characters surrounded by a group of equally flawed, each struggling to interact and wrestle with larger forces.
King’s tale of the horrific clown, ‘It’, was the bestselling novel in the US in 1986.
King has often said that his formula for writing well is: “Read and write four to six hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can't expect to become a good writer."
It is evident that King spends a great deal of his time on his characters’ interior lives, often jumping between different point of view characters throughout his novel. ‘Salem’s Lot’, and ‘It’ are great examples of this.
Every character description, even a minor one, is rich in detail.
His novels include deeply flawed yet sympathetic central characters surrounded by a group of equally flawed, each struggling to interact and wrestle with larger forces. By framing his stories in an interwoven web of narrative perspective and juxtaposed character experience, King is able to generate a feeling of interconnectivity.
From 1976 onwards, Stephen King has been recognised and given uncountable awards for his talent. In 2015, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama.
As of now, the King family boasts five novelists: Stephen King, Tabitha King, Joe Hill, Owen King and Kelly Braffet.
King is now a beloved cultural phenomenon. After all, without King, we wouldn’t have modern works like ‘Stranger Things’, whose adolescent ensemble directly channels the Loser’s Club, King’s ensemble of nerdy preteens from ‘It’.
Adrita Kibria is a student of class VIII at Playpen School, Dhaka