Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stephen King: Idea Consolidator

I’ve said before that I no longer have any respect for Stephen King. When he was young, he wrote a couple great horror stories. But then he got lazy or lost that creative spark or just became full of himself. And for the past couple decades, all he's done is steal ideas. He’s more like an idea consolidator now than an author, and I’ve never once heard him credit anything he’s stolen.

It’s even worse with his miniseries and his movies. I can literally go through Rose Red or The Mist or Dreamcatcher or Desperation and tell you scene by scene what he stole from other films and which movies they came from. It’s like his new method for writing involves renting all the films in a particular genre, writing down the parts he likes from each, adding a retarded kid with superpowers to some of the scenes, and then calling his publisher. . . puff! Another masterpiece.

And I’m not even going to get into what for an ass the man is. Not only is he a nasty liberal who has attacked Republicans and called our military illiterate morons, but he fills his stories with vile slanders aimed at the military and religious people. He’s also taken unprovoked cheap shots at other authors (like the author of Twilight). . . I guess she had nothing he could steal?

But I digress.

So why am I writing this? Apparently, King has a new project. This one will appear on Showtime. It’s called Under the Dome and is based on “his” 2009 novel of the same name. What’s it about? Tell me if this sounds familiar. . . “locals at a Maine vacation spot battle one another when a force field suddenly surrounds their town and cuts them off from the rest of the world.” Hmmm. Where have I heard that before? What could King possibly have been watching when this brilliant, “original” idea just popped into his head? Hmmm.

As a complete unrelated aside, have I ever mentioned that I enjoyed the Simpson’s movie? You know the one. . . where the locals battle one another when a dome suddenly surrounds Springfield and cuts them off from the rest of the world.

Anyhoo, back to the topic at hand, King’s ultra-original and unique idea will be produced by the only man in Hollywood who is a bigger jerk than King: Steven Spielberg. Yep, it will be a battle royal of cliché characters! I’m envisioning a race to save the population. On one team you’ll have the asthmatic kid, the fat kid who can’t stop eating and the Asian kid who builds gadgets. On the other team you’ll have the alcoholic writer and the retarded kid with superpowers. And they will struggle against aliens called the Evilrepublicans, whose leaders are Sarapalin and Rikperry, who want to kill all the residents so they can pump oil out of the ground and bathe in it. I can’t wait to see who they cast for each character. . . I’m betting Clive Owen plays a character named “Moe Szyslaker,” a club owner.

In all seriousness, guys like King depress me. He’s got more money than he will ever need. And you would think that after reaching that point, he would get more interested in writing higher quality stories, i.e. doing it for the love instead of the all mighty dollar. Apparently, you would be wrong. Am I missing something here?


Jules said...

SK jumped the shark for me with Under the Dome. In my college days I bought all the later gunslinger books. Then I figured he was going away until he blew me away with Duma Key (even that was lifted lovecraftian stuff) and Cell (techno-zombies).
He explicitly stated that the drug dealer character is supposed to represent Bush and Cheney. With under the dome I realized this guy had nothing to offer his readers anymore.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, you know what I dislike King for? "It." Not because I didn't like the movie--I haven't watched it, and I have no intention to, because it would probably scare me. But it makes me mad, because everyone I know who has watched the movie (and a lot of people have watched it) has ever since had a fear of clowns bordering on the delusional. I feel terrible for the clowns whenever I think about that. Here they are, working their butts off to make people laugh, and nearly everyone's scared to death of them instead. I bet a lot of them are out of jobs now, thanks to this jerk.

That's all. Kind of a weird nit to pick, I know, but I resent him for that. And no, I don't know any clowns, but I feel sorry for them for having their reputations ruined.

AndrewPrice said...

Jules, I hadn't heard that about the drug dealer representing Bush/Cheney, but it doesn't surprise me. He became political somewhere along the way and seems very angry about it. And truthfully, there just isn't room in the types of stories he writes for political statements.

I think that at one time, King had some good stuff in him. But for me, it's just been a long slow collapse into the land of "borrowed" ideas and cliches.

And like I say, what amazes me about this is that he should be at a point where he can really write for the love it rather than just churning out books for money, but his books strike me as less and less thoughtful. I just don't get it.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I'm glad you said you don't know any clowns or I would think perhaps you were born into a circus family? ;-)

In truth, I've never been a fan of clowns because I just don't find them all that funny. They don't creep me out or anything, but apparently a lot of kids are scared of clowns. I don't know if King contributed to that or not. . . I'd have to ask some clown what they think? (Which is a sentence I never thought I would write.)

In terms of stories though, I thought It was pretty good. I can start to see elements of what would later become his cliches creepy into the story, but it didn't feel like a cliche yet at that time.

Unknown said...

King lost me at The Stand. I liked The Dead Zone and Firestarter, even though the latter somehow depressed me. Salem's Lot was kind kicky (book and TV version. That's about it for Stephen King and me.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I'm amazed how many conservatives think The Stand is a conservative book when it's really anti-American, anti-military, anti-capitalism, anti-Christian, pro-mysticism, and pro-Boulder Colorado.

To me, his best book is still The Shining which is actually better than the movie -- though that's hard to believe. Pet Cemetery was an excellent book too -- though a horrid movie.

Ed said...

Andrew, Lol! You sure don't mind people hunting you down do you? No doubt, right now King has an army of cliche monsters coming after you! :D

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, King doesn't scare me! (pun intended!)

Seriously, if you can't take a few wolfmen showing up on your doorstep to wreak unholy revenge, then you shouldn't be running a blog. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

FYI, my next BH article is now scheduled for tomorrow morning.

Tennessee Jed said...

I have to be very honest here. The Shining is the only Stephen King book I've ever read. I liked the book and I kind of liked the movie, I think, since it was soooo long ago I had seen it. I'm sure I've seen a few films based on his books like the Johnny Depp film or the one where what's her name kidnaps James Caan and breaks his legs.

Some call him a genius; others whose opinions I tend to usually track with say he's not all that. There are too many things I want to read other than Stephen King. There are too many films other than Stephen King stories I want to watch, so I don't see the situation changing.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I don't find them funny either, really, but some people do--or did until "It" came along. I really think that's responsible for a lot of it. I just feel sorry for them.

Since I haven't actually seen the movie, I can't comment on its quality, so I won't. And no, I do not know any clowns ;-)

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I do NOT put him in the genius category, but I do credit his success.

He is good at coming up with plots (at least he used to be) and he's a decent story teller.

But he is a creature of plot only. His writing is decidedly average and uninspired -- you won't find anything great or quotable or anything that sticks with you or makes you wish "wow, I wish I'd said that!" Indeed, I would describe his style as "generic" and is largely what you find throughout the modern writing world -- kind of a knock off of Hemingway's style, but without the incredible grasp of the language.

The whole combination works well enough for King. It's easy reading and the stories are interesting, which has allowed him to sell millions of copies of his works. But I honestly doubt that history will remember him because his books are really "light."

That's my opinion on him.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, The movie (miniseries) is actually ok, but that's because I have a lot of goodwill toward the actors -- John Ritter, the Walton boy, and Venus Flytrap. :-)

Not to get labeled as Eurotrash or anything, but the only clowns I've ever really liked were the clown in Cirque du Soliel, who were more story tellers and very talented gymnasts in their own right.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Let me add, by comparison, the horror stories that we do remember are stories like Dracula and Frankenstein. And what made those book memorable wasn't just the fact they were "scary" books, indeed they weren't all that scary. What made them memorable was the moral issues that are interwoven in the stories. That makes them deep books and leaves you with lots of things to think about. I've never felt that from a single horror story from King. Even the stories I liked were completely "light," i.e. without any depth.

Outlaw13 said...

M, O, O, N that spells an author I can't stand, moon.

"What a douche." Hitgirl

AndrewPrice said...

LOL! Nicely put!

Mike K. said...

The Shining, Salem's Lot, Misery, his Richard Bachman stuff, and quite a few of his short stories are good. I never read "The Green Mile," but I thought the movie was fantastic. I was a big fan of King until "Dreamcatcher," which I can't believe I finished but I kept thinking, 'it can't stay this bad.' It could.

I tried to read "Cell" but I stopped when I got to the first instance of his 'stupid/evil Christian' nonsense. It's funny how members of the enlightened class flaunt their bigotry when the target is fashionable.

He was a talented storyteller, who's now just a nasty piece of work. Like Harlan Ellison, except Ellison has the respect of his peers.

AndrewPrice said...

Mike, That's exactly how I feel. He was a talented storyteller, who just became a nasty piece of work. And you're right that he has no respect for his peers. I've seen dozens of interviews with him over the years and he has never once had a good thing to say about any other person. It's really pretty startling after a while when you realize just how nasty he seems year and year and how it seems to be getting worse.

The worst/most bigoted moment in my opinion came in The Mist, where the conservative, fundamentalist Christian woman suddenly decides that it's God's will that people she doesn't like be sacrificed to the fog.

I'm not even a fundamentalist, but this offended me enough that I almost turned the film off, it was that outrageous.

Ed said...

My favorite King story was "Silver Bullet" and I liked a lot of his short stories. I haven't liked much of what he's written in years though.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I liked most of his early stuff, but the ones I really liked a lot were The Shining, Pet Cemetary, It and The Dead Zone. There may be more, I can't recall. I didn't care for Tommyknockers and his later stuff got really weak... and often way too long.

rlaWTX said...

I'll leave the plagiarism to you to ferret out... I went through about half dozen of his books in a row in college. The only one I remember well is Needful Things. That one was interesting and freaked me out... I have see the Gondoliers movie (that's his, right?) and it was interesting and creepy. The rest (It, Stand, & can't remember what else) kinda run together... That probably says something right there.

Right now on SyFy (until they cancel another good show) is a show that is supposed to be based on a story of his (Who Killed the Colorado Kid, I think). I really like the show. I have no idea how it goes with his story. Don't wanna know.

These days I just avoid his stuff.

And my revulsion of clowns is more tied to Poltergeist - which scared the pea-wadden out of me when I saw it - and still thoroughly creeps me when I watch it. Also don't like lights on in closed closets, shining out around the edges. I woke up one time in the middle of light and was scared half to death. At first I couldn't figure out what scared me so badly - then I realized that the light was on in the closet...

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, It's "Langoliers" and I like that one too because I like the actors.

I haven't read "Colorado Kid" so I can't say how close it is to "Haven" on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Yeah, "Poltergeist" probably did a lot to add to the fear of clowns index! Now that was a creepy film!

P said...

I agree with these comments. Part of the problem with King is that as he became more popular, he stopped listening to his editors. I really enjoyed reading The Stand when it first came out. The "uncut" version which was published ten years later was almost unreadable. His anti-American comments are juvenile and disgusting - he once suggested waterboarding Bush's daughters. I have not heard much from him lately about the repressive American national security state - not much of a suprise since Obama is in power.

AndrewPrice said...

P, Welcome!

That seems to be an issue for writers and filmmakers -- like King and George Lucas. As they get more power, they stop listening to the people whose job it is to tell them that something is wrong.

I agree with you about the long version of The Stand. I tried reading that and somewhere around 500 pages it just hit me that almost everything up to that point could have been told in 100 pages. I understand that "Inside the Dome" is over 1000 pages, which makes me wonder how much of that is pure fluff?

I also agree about his politics. He's not just liberal, he's a nasty liberal who says very nasty things.

kishke said...

King has written a lot of good stuff. Firestarter, It, The Stand, Bag of Bones, and more. But he's also written a lot of junk, and in the last few years, that's all there's been. (Someone above mentioned Duma Key as a great book; it's not.)

The anti-religious, anti-conservative, anti-Bush nonsense annoys me, but I can usually ignore it for the sake of the read. But if the read stinks, then fuhgeddaboutit.

kishke said...

I understand that "Inside the Dome" is over 1000 pages, which makes me wonder how much of that is pure fluff?

Lots and lots of it. A lot of retread material from other books in terms of characterization. Just all over a dull book, although not as terrible as some of his recent work, such as Cell and Buick 8. Cell in particular was a joke of a book. It would have made a decent short (very short) story, nothing more.

AndrewPrice said...

kishke, I agree -- he has written some great stuff, but not lately. And the word "retread" is the right word: so much of what he writes these days feels like he's just taking old ideas and old characters and just repeating them.

I find that a little depressing actually because I suspect he could do a lot better. But he really doesn't seem to care anymore.

And you're right that he's really gone off the liberal deepend. His books are crawling with anti-religious, anti-conservative and anti-Bush material. I don't know if he thinks that will make him more important or what? But it stinks.

kishke said...

I find that a little depressing actually because I suspect he could do a lot better.

Maybe not. He writes in his quasi-memoir that much of the work he did in his early and middle periods was accomplished in a haze of drink and drugs. He would sometimes finish a book and not remember quite how it went.

Since he sobered up (and after his accident), his work has gone downhill, with Bag of Bones a shining exception.

kishke said...

I would describe his style as "generic" and is largely what you find throughout the modern writing world

I don't agree. It's not for everyone, but King at his best has a unique style. Very wordy, but energetic and fun, and he can make the images pop. He's not just some run-of-the-mill guy. There was something special there.

AndrewPrice said...

kishke, I've actually heard some other artists say that -- that they couldn't work once they sobered up. So it's possible that his creativity has suffered as a result?

On his style, I'm not saying it's a bad style, I just think it's nondescript. When you think about the great authors, many had very distinct styles that you could recognize even without knowing who wrote the piece you are looking at. I don't think King's style falls into that category. To me, his writing style isn't any different than anything else being produced today in most best sellers. I'm not saying that's a bad thing -- it's very readable, but it just doesn't stand out as anything unique to me.

kishke said...

I don't know about the great authors, but among modern, popular writers, King's work is definitely recognizable, at least to me. I tried to read his imitators back in the day, but they simply couldn't hack it, and I'm not talking plot, I'm talking quality of prose. King at his best mastered the art of descriptiveness that avoided banality, which would build up to a manic flow of words and images, all emanating from a really unique (and probably well-lubricated) imagination. His imitators mostly sounded like King sometimes sounds these days, only worse.

Are you really able to look at a piece of prose and say who wrote it? I can recognize the tropes of an author I'm reading, but I don't think I'd be too great at figuring out the author of a given piece that I had never seen before.

AndrewPrice said...

kiske, You may be right, I just never noticed anything unique about his style, i.e. anything that stands out to me as "wow, that's Stephen King!" He's definitely good at coming up with the images and in that his style zips along, but I've just never seen anything that I would say is characteristic of King. But you may know his work better than I do, so I'll defer to you on that point.

In terms of recognizing the styles of the authors, I'm a little out of practice, but there are some that definitely stand out. Dickens, Oscar Wilde, and Shakespeare come to mind immediately as their work tends to be easy to spot. I could spot Melville -- because I hate his style... endless meandering melodramatic garbage.

There are others I think I could probably spot if the selection was big enough to get a feel for it -- Dumas, Hemmingway and probably Twain. There are a few others too, maybe Doyle and Kipling.

Each of these guys had something about their style that really stood out in the crowd and sometimes even became the basis for the next generation. I think, for example, that most modern authors are copying Hemmingway's style, even if they don't realize it -- minimalist and clean.

Some authors I know I could never spot, even though I love their work. For example, I know I could never spot Tolkien because while I love his work, his writing style is rather generic. It's beautiful, but there's nothing in it that stands out as unique, i.e. he doesn't do anything that no one else has done.

I would also have a problem with modern authors because most of them I think are using the same style.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. I used to read a lot and I worked my way through the classics, which is why I'm familiar with all of these guys. It was pretty interesting to read so many of the great books from different eras because it really does give you an appreciation of how styles have changed and how the truly great ones really had an appreciation for the words, not just the sentences.

And it also shocks you how some of this stuff became classic. Blech.

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