He is known as “the undisputed master of terror”. And no wonder: with 300 million copies sold worldwide, Stephen King is probably one of the most famous contemporary writers and that it had the most impact on popular culture in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
Influenced by classics of the genre such as Poe or Lovecraft, this successful author began his brilliant work in the early 1970s; and to this day, he doesn’t seem to intend to stop. While it is true that it would not be fair to try to do an in-depth analysis of all of his work in a few paragraphs, this article aims to expose the keys and singularities that allow us to understand what the reader will meet in the pages of the “king of the universe.
Stephen King and the Secrets of Terror
In over 50 books, including horror, fantasy and science fiction novels; short stories, a literary saga and non-fiction novels, Stephen King explores how the most primary fears, childhood traumas and obsessions penetrate the human psyche, leaving an incurable scar on its protagonists, poisoning their minds and conditioning its future existence.
As the writer rightly put it, “the key to terror is that it activates certain phobic pressure points common to all.” This is where his genius resides; and it is that Stephen King knows how to relate in one way or another the reader to what inspires him terror. After all, we all have a series of fears that shrink our hearts and make us sleepy: some are common in the collective unconscious (fear of death would be quite illustrative), others are more specific (fear of snakes, clowns, darkness …), while many were born from childhood experiences.
We must mention the importance that King gives to these, since in several of his most famous titles (as they could be, the mystery of the Lot of Salem or the hunter of dreams), one or more of the main subjects are watched by the dark memory of an event that occurred in their childhood and what they will face in order to overcome their personal demons.
Decisive autobiographical facts in his work
If Stephen King is characterized by anything, it is to color his stories with autobiographical connotations. It is not uncommon to find authors from various disciplines in the art world using their creations to benchmark in one way or another, and this case was not going to be any different.
A common denominator throughout his career has been the starring of famous novel writers (The Glow, The Mystery of Salem’s Lot, IT, Misery, or a sack of bone, among many others), presumably in wink eye or as a tribute to his career.
A hotel room to inspire
After his first bestseller (Carrie, 1974), King was already a well-known and famous author. Despite being an expert at instilling terror through his novels, he also had his own ghosts. Grieved by the so-called “writer’s blockade,” he tried to get away from the deafening noise of the city at a half-uninhabited hotel in the Rocky Mountains., In an attempt to regain lost inspiration.
Unbeknownst to him, it turned out that in the room where he was staying (217), the former owner of the hotel had died short-circuited in 1911. On the other hand, several customers had complained to the staff of the hotel. hotel that at night someone knocked on the door and when you opened it there was nothing but silence and the deserted hallway.
These and other phenomena that apparently took place formed the basis for the famous La Resplendor (1977), possibly one of his works in which he draws more parallels with his real life. So it’s no coincidence that the plot revolves around Jack Torrance, a father who moved with his wife and son to live in a hotel in the mountains of Colorado to take care of maintenance during the brutal winter, while waiting to be able to finish his last novel; nor that in this hotel all kinds of inexplicable events occur that have to do with a specific room: the 217.
The double cup of success and fame
Another of King’s fears was the fans, or rather how his work could influence audiences for better or for worse. On one occasion, during a book signing, a young man approached King with a copy to dedicate to him and said, “I’m his number one fan.” These words were decisive for one of his most famous titles: Misery (1987). In it, the novelist Paul Sheldon, following a car accident, finds himself lying on a bed in a cabin lost in the snow-capped mountains.
To her dismay, the nurse who saved her and takes care of her is also a fervent follower of the heroine who is the protagonist of her books; so it won’t take too well the way the writer decided to finish his last volume …
A third event that marked a turning point in his work occurred in 1999. While walking along the ditch of a county road, he was struck by a pickup truck and shot dead several meters from the location. Paradoxically, back when I was writing Buick 8, a perverted car, which after taking a few notes will be released in 2001.
This novel tells how the son of a sheriff who died in the act of service tries to uncover the mystery that surrounds an old car parked for years in a warehouse in custody; while trying to find out if his father’s death has any connection with the vehicle. Later novels are also based on this turning point in Stephen King’s life (Duma Key, 2008).
Anecdotes and curiosities
Many events have taken place during Stephen King’s writing career. Not in vain, the success harvested began in the seventies and has lasted to this day. Let’s see which were the most decisive and the most striking.
1. Papers in the trash
During Carrie’s writing process, Stephen King he was so unconvinced that he was going to succeed that he threw the project in the trash. His wife, when he was not at home, picked it up, read it in secret, and made him take it to her publisher. The rest, as they say, is history.
The young man who asked for an autograph and the words were the basis for Misery (1987), it was Mark David Chapman, infamous for murdering John Lennon.
3. The Glow and Stanley Kubrick
Many of his books have moved with varying degrees of success in the world of cinema. One of the most famous is Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Glow (1980). This enduring classic of the seventh art has never pleased Stephen King, however, because it is far from its written version.
4. Odi repressed
Rage (1977) is the title of an unpublished novel in his bibliography. The reason? He tells how a high school student kills several teachers and classmates because of the repressed hatred he feels. Unfortunately, it has some parallels with the massacres that took place later, such as those at St. Gabriel High School (California, 1988) or Jackson County High School (Kentucky, 1989). Stephen King himself had to demand the immediate removal of all copies and issued a press release apologizing.
5. Fear of clowns
Coulrophobia is the insurmountable fear of clowns. Several surveys have tried to find the origin of this phobia and have found that many cases date back to 1986, curiously the year of the publication of the computer bestseller. He reports that every 27 years, in a village in the state of Maine, several neighboring children are murdered. A small group of survivors must face the horror again if they want to end the evil that lives there, an evil that takes the form of a good clown …
6. Tracks that link his works
With the exception of the books in the Dark Tower collection, the rest of the stories are independent. However, Stephen King takes the opportunity to leave us clues that connect them.. In IT (1986) there are references to Christine (1983) and the Dark Tower saga; the latter also mentioned in The Dance of Death / Apocalypse (1979). If we read Tommyknockers (1988) or The Dream Hunter (2003), we will find allusions to computer science … what more nods to the informed reader has deposed Stephen King throughout his work?
7. Against the wind and the tide
After a winding start (a past marked by economic hardship, depression and alcohol abuse), Stephen King has managed to present himself as the great literary myth that he is today. In case you don’t have enough difficulty with your personal issues, he also had to face the critics of the time, Who considered horror novels to be second-rate.
Luckily for him, the audience was unanimous and, despite everything, he managed to fill a gap in the bestseller lists to position himself as world number one on several occasions.
There is no doubt that the task of a novelist deserves to be deepened.