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Forum Discussion: Steven King: genius or hack? (Read 1618 times)
Gary A. Markette
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Forum Discussion: Steven King: genius or hack?
Feb 07th, 2012, 3:51am
 
A recent post about our current front page story suggested this topic. Steven King is one of the top selling writers of all time and his works are legendary in the fields of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. If you're like me, you've loved many of his works and been disappointed by others. Let's look at a few of those works based on my take to start. Your comments are welcome. I'll list two of King's works: one that I enjoyed; one not so much. Weigh in on these or any others. Maybe the big guy himself will visit. One can only hope. I'll begin with two older ones:

Salem's Lot: This twist on the classic Vampire novel was King's second success (after Carrie). I liked it a lot--mostly because of its homage to Dracula and its flawed, believable characters. King's later inclusion of this yarn in his Dark Tower pantheon and his clever re-use of Callahan show the resourcefulness and imagination that mark Salem's Lot as a work of genius.

The Tommyknockers: A bust for me, this one precurses other failed excursions from fantasy (King's metier) into sci-fi (not his best sub-genre). I don't like much about this book--not the characters, not the premise. About all that works is the writing; the man can turn a phrase--albeit a reallllly long phrase. Not quite a hack job, Tommyknockers may be King's worst book. Not surprisingly--according to some interviews--it's one of his favorites. Go figure.

There. That should get things started. I wait your feedback, 'realmers. Let's rock this topic!
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Webbie
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Re: Forum Discussion: Steven King: genius or hack?
Reply #1 - Feb 7th, 2012, 1:13pm
 
I have to agree about Tommyknockers
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Gary A. Markette
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Re: Forum Discussion: Steven King: genius or hack?
Reply #2 - Feb 10th, 2012, 9:58am
 
OK. A one sentence reply from Webbie. Hmmm, maybe the topic isn't as ineteresting as I thought. I'll give it one more try with two other Steven King works:

Dreamcatcher: Another sci-fi try by the master and, in my estimation, another dismal failure. I struggled through this alien-invasion tome rarely entertained and often revolted. If Mr. King's object was to disgust this reader, he succeeded admirably. I have trouble deciding whether this one is worse than Tommyknockers. I give it a slight edge because it's more recent, should benefit from experience, and doesn't.

Needful Things: This one's a tour-de-force that spans several arcs within King's imaginary worlds. It echos through the Castle Rock canon, the Dark Tower stories, The Stand, and others. I love this one and have read it several times. I hope, someday, they re-record it with a professional narrating the text. King does the current audio book and, while his rendition doesn't harm the work (litttle could), he is not a performance artist.

Your thoughts, ARers?
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Re: Forum Discussion: Steven King: genius or hack?
Reply #3 - Feb 10th, 2012, 10:39pm
 
Gary A. Markette wrote on Feb 7th, 2012, 3:51am:
A recent post about our current front page story suggested this topic. Steven King is one of the top selling writers of all time and his works are legendary in the fields of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. If you're like me, you've loved many of his works and been disappointed by others. Let's look at a few of those works based on my take to start. Your comments are welcome. I'll list two of King's works: one that I enjoyed; one not so much. Weigh in on these or any others. Maybe the big guy himself will visit. One can only hope. I'll begin with two older ones:

Salem's Lot: This twist on the classic Vampire novel was King's second success (after Carrie). I liked it a lot--mostly because of its homage to Dracula and its flawed, believable characters. King's later inclusion of this yarn in his Dark Tower pantheon and his clever re-use of Callahan show the resourcefulness and imagination that mark Salem's Lot as a work of genius.

The Tommyknockers: A bust for me, this one precurses other failed excursions from fantasy (King's metier) into sci-fi (not his best sub-genre). I don't like much about this book--not the characters, not the premise. About all that works is the writing; the man can turn a phrase--albeit a reallllly long phrase. Not quite a hack job, Tommyknockers may be King's worst book. Not surprisingly--according to some interviews--it's one of his favorites. Go figure.

There. That should get things started. I wait your feedback, 'realmers. Let's rock this topic!

I agree with Salem's Lot, and you said a lot about it, but Tommyknockers, the story you didn't like, you didn't really say why. Was it because there was no explanation of why things worked? They just did? I probably liked Tommyknockers for all the reasons you didn't. But i don't want to talk too much and take over the topic, but i have alot to say about this topic; some good, some bad.
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Webbie
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Re: Forum Discussion: Steven King: genius or hack?
Reply #4 - Feb 12th, 2012, 7:27am
 
monsoonster wrote on Feb 10th, 2012, 10:39pm:
Gary A. Markette wrote on Feb 7th, 2012, 3:51am:
A recent post about our current front page story suggested this topic. Steven King is one of the top selling writers of all time and his works are legendary in the fields of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. If you're like me, you've loved many of his works and been disappointed by others. Let's look at a few of those works based on my take to start. Your comments are welcome. I'll list two of King's works: one that I enjoyed; one not so much. Weigh in on these or any others. Maybe the big guy himself will visit. One can only hope. I'll begin with two older ones:

Salem's Lot: This twist on the classic Vampire novel was King's second success (after Carrie). I liked it a lot--mostly because of its homage to Dracula and its flawed, believable characters. King's later inclusion of this yarn in his Dark Tower pantheon and his clever re-use of Callahan show the resourcefulness and imagination that mark Salem's Lot as a work of genius.

The Tommyknockers: A bust for me, this one precurses other failed excursions from fantasy (King's metier) into sci-fi (not his best sub-genre). I don't like much about this book--not the characters, not the premise. About all that works is the writing; the man can turn a phrase--albeit a reallllly long phrase. Not quite a hack job, Tommyknockers may be King's worst book. Not surprisingly--according to some interviews--it's one of his favorites. Go figure.

There. That should get things started. I wait your feedback, 'realmers. Let's rock this topic!

I agree with Salem's Lot, and you said a lot about it, but Tommyknockers, the story you didn't like, you didn't really say why. Was it because there was no explanation of why things worked? They just did? I probably liked Tommyknockers for all the reasons you didn't. But i don't want to talk too much and take over the topic, but i have alot to say about this topic; some good, some bad.


The reason I didn't like it was it seemed pointless, wandering and it seemed to lack the three basic thing I have harped on forever about.

1) A beginning.
2) A middle.
And most important of all.
3) An Ending!

A very long movie that left me with the question, "what happened next?" Not in an intriguing way either. I literally though the story would wind up after the next commercial. But it was over.

King puts a lot of words on paper every year. Doesn't make them all good words.

To be sure there are some of his works I do like, just not all of them.

So, genius or hack?
I'm thinking he's like every other writer, a little of both.
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Re: Forum Discussion: Steven King: genius or hack?
Reply #5 - Feb 12th, 2012, 11:17am
 
Webbie wrote on Feb 12th, 2012, 7:27am:
monsoonster wrote on Feb 10th, 2012, 10:39pm:
Gary A. Markette wrote on Feb 7th, 2012, 3:51am:

I agree with Salem's Lot, and you said a lot about it, but Tommyknockers, the story you didn't like, you didn't really say why. Was it because there was no explanation of why things worked? They just did? I probably liked Tommyknockers for all the reasons you didn't. But i don't want to talk too much and take over the topic, but i have alot to say about this topic; some good, some bad.


The reason I didn't like it was it seemed pointless, wandering and it seemed to lack the three basic thing I have harped on forever about.

1) A beginning.
2) A middle.
And most important of all.
3) An Ending!

A very long movie that left me with the question, "what happened next?" Not in an intriguing way either. I literally though the story would wind up after the next commercial. But it was over.

King puts a lot of words on paper every year. Doesn't make them all good words.

To be sure there are some of his works I do like, just not all of them.

So, genius or hack?
I'm thinking he's like every other writer, a little of both.

Well, not quite what I expected. I guess I was expecting more discussion of the story itself, not signposts of what makes a good story; because this had a beginning, middle, and end. Keep in mind that it has been many years since I read this story:

It begins with an author (King's forever trope) who  is having trouble writing (like a large number of his stories) and who has a long "lost" friend who is an alcoholic (another forever trope of King's) who finally comes to her for help, only to discover, after a while, that she has discovered something under the ground in the woods. Something that changes not only her, her dog, and the friend (not directly, because he is an alcoholic), but also the entire town. On one level, it's a haunting of an entire unknown culture; on another level, it is an allegory of what happens when toys of a civilization are left lying around and our civilization picks them up and begins playing with them, but don't know or understand the far-reaching implications of what happens once you turn something on; which is how our civilization is constructed. (In my experience, there are men and women who don't know the basics of how to maintain a car. When younger I worked for a oil change place and this guy once came in wanting a oil change and when I asked him what kind of car he had, he said a white one. And he was totally serious. I asked him again, and he just said the white one, right out there. By the key, I could tell it was a Ford, but that was it. There were fifteen people in the waiting room who heard this exchange and began laughing at him and to lessen the embarrassment, I told him we'd go out and take a look. It was a Ford Taurus)  Our civilization is a turn-key, push-button, throw-away culture; I don't know how it works, I just push a button or turn a key and it works. Anyway, back to the novel, things begin happening in the town -- kid plays magic trick, sends a friend to altarius 4 (or something like that), a woman's doll collection comes to life and destroys the town clock (about 200 pages worth) which causes the town to create a projection showing the clock undamaged, the writer creates a typewriter that writes by thought and she creates some kind of earth mover to dig the space ship from the ground, etc -- and the alcoholic, who understands that his thoughts cannot be read and that he cannot be "turned", plans to destroy the thing that is eating up the town like a cancer (another forever trope of King's) and through some daring-do, does just that; because, by his reasoning, if the ship escapes and goes back to wherever and comes back, they could conceivably enslave the planet.

So, for me, there was a beginning, a LONG middle, and an end. I like stories that don't explain every nuance of every little thing in the story, but does offer clues along the way so that I may use my imagination. Some people, for whatever reason,  sometimes fixate on what the story is NOT about and are disappointed when their fascination isn't put to bed properly; which sometimes isn't what the story is about at all. I'll give you two examples below of what I mean:

1. When I first read The Dead Zone, almost 30 years ago (28, if you're keeping count), I was deeply, deeply disappointed. I was like, so that's it? That's what THE DEAD ZONE is? The guy can't remember certain things? See, I was expecting dead things in the story; ghosts or vampires or zombies or ghouls or something, NOT words I can no longer remember or holes where memories once made their home. Where's the dead people, right? Well, I read it again about 6 years ago, was packing books away, and thought, let me give this another try. And I got it. When younger, my imagination had constructed a whole other story than what the actual story was about and I couldn't rectify the gulf between the two. Upon reading it the second time, it was lifted from my "one of King's worst" category.

2 I don't watch TV, but I do watch stuff through Netflix. There was this one, called "The Lost Room", which I thought sounded pretty good. So I watched the first disc and decided to see what the reviews said about the show. I figured the reviews would be saying nothing but good to excellent things about the story. I was wrong. Most didn't like it. Why? Because the reviewers were fixated on what the story wasn't about. It wasn't about two fighting factions, it wasn't about God, it wasn't about getting all the objects of the room or knowing what all the objects of the room were about; it was about a guy (who played Nathan in Six Feet Under) who loses his little girl in a room that doesn't exist and he moves heaven and earth to get her back. That's all the story was about. Simple.

3 And as an added-extra aside, I have yet to read that someone actually knew what "Full Metal Jacket" was about. What it was about is only one sentence long. One sentence and people would understand what the whole movie was about.

Oh. I have Much, much, much more to write about. My worst ( a King book that took me 10 years to read. T-E-N years) and best; and why.

Gary: I bet you're sorry you opened this Pandora's Box now, huh? lol
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Re: Forum Discussion: Steven King: genius or hack?
Reply #6 - Feb 12th, 2012, 9:34pm
 
For  Gary A. Markette:

Quote:
Salem's Lot: This twist on the classic Vampire novel was King's second success (after Carrie). I liked it a lot


me  too, indeed...it was very good, even  though  it could be  a bit old  nowadays... Smiley

Anyway, the great  The Shining and the  more recent  Secret Window and Dreamcatcher  were  wonderful, too, in my opinion...eh,eh
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Gary A. Markette
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Re: Forum Discussion: Steven King: genius or hack?
Reply #7 - Feb 13th, 2012, 3:42am
 
Feedback! Feedback! I love it! Thanks to moonster, webbie, and ente. King's work promotes disagreement; that's clear. Tommyknockers didn't work for me or webbie, but it worked for moonster. Dreamcatcher left me cold, but it rang the (Todash) chimes for ente. And I liked The Shining as a book, but am, at most, indifferent toward the two movie interpretations. No mention, so far, of Needful Things; interesting. Let's try a couple more:

The Drawing of the Three: The best of the Dark Tower series, this is King at his best. Many think of him as a horror writer. I think that a shallow assessment. King's true strength is action/adventure and Drawing shows it. Suspense, excitement, conflict, all these and more make this a book I found impossible to put down. And the characters are as dear to me as those in Lord of the Rings. I never wanted this one to end and, when it did with Book VII, The Dark Tower, I wanted to set out with Roland once more.

"The Library Policeman": Since ente brought up "Secret Window, Secret Garden"--a novella that leaves me indifferent--I feel justified in mentioning "Library"--my absolute favorite King novella. I'm stepping away from my "one liked; one not liked" format, here, because I love this work so much. It has actually inspired and moved me on more than an entertainment level--something rare for a modern writer's work. If you haven't read this, do so. Better, listen to the unabridged audio presentation. If they ever make this one a movie or a TV special, I pray they use the same folks who did Shawshank or Green Mile, rather than those who did The Stand. It deserves the best.

No, moonster, I'm not a bit sorry about opening this Pandora's box. Let's keep it wide, wide. Say thank ya!
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Re: Forum Discussion: Steven King: genius or hack?
Reply #8 - Feb 13th, 2012, 11:39pm
 
Granted, of course...probably  Green Mile  was the best  work  of  S. King  transposed into a movie  so far...eh,eh Smiley
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Re: Forum Discussion: Steven King: genius or hack?
Reply #9 - Feb 15th, 2012, 6:43pm
 
I always thought that Stephen King had it in him to write the Great American Novel. I mean THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL.  You know the book that everyone thinks of when they think of American novels. Some of his earlier fiction (Sorry, I can't recall the titles now) were truly inspired. But I think he got so popular so quick that he kind of lost his spark. So, yes, I think he is both a genius and a hack. He is a genius that needs to find his muse again.
I think the reason you all finish the books and keep looking for the ending is because he's just writing the books to finish a job. He doesn't really have anything inspired that he is trying to say. He is behaving like a hack.
But if he finds something he cares about- if there's something he really wants to say- I think we may yet see that great book that I think he still has left to write.
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Re: Forum Discussion: Steven King: genius or hack?
Reply #10 - Feb 17th, 2012, 1:23am
 
ente per ente wrote on Feb 13th, 2012, 11:39pm:
Granted, of course...probably  Green Mile  was the best  work  of  S. King  transposed into a movie  so far...eh,eh Smiley

I would have to respectfully disagree. Green Mile doesn't come close to: Misery, Stand By Me, Shawshank Redemption, or Delores Claiborne; Which, ironically enough, is the first movie that comes to my mind that was much, much better than the book. Green Mile belongs on the second tier, with: The Mist, The Langoliers, Apt Pupil, Needful Things, The Shining (Kubrick).

There are a few I haven't seen, and only a few, but what isn't on my list is not worth watching, not even if you want to compare which is the most unwatchable; those unlisted King movies or paint drying.
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Re: Forum Discussion: Steven King: genius or hack?
Reply #11 - Feb 17th, 2012, 1:29am
 
Gary A. Markette wrote on Feb 13th, 2012, 3:42am:
I pray they use the same folks who did Shawshank or Green Mile, rather than those who did The Stand. It deserves the best.

Frank Darabont: Shawshank Redemption, The Mist, and Green Mile: and as added Bonus, he did The Walking Dead.

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Re: Forum Discussion: Steven King: genius or hack?
Reply #12 - Mar 21st, 2012, 4:27pm
 
Dreamcatcher was pretty much crap for only one reason - it was his first book after being hit by the minivan, and the entire book, (to me) felt like it was developed as just an excuse to write the one scene where the character got hit by a car and get it out of his system. Theraputic for him, maybe, but painful for me to read.

Oddly enough, that's the only one other than "Buick 8" and to a smaller degree "Cell" that I walked away from feeling like I'd wasted my time.

Nutshell - no matter what else you think of him, the man is a pureblood WRITER. He's got the amazing ability to be utterly readable, no matter how good/bad the concept.

He also does something else that no other writer that I can think of does, (and which maybe I'm the only person who has ever noticed)... he presents his stories not just as writing, but with the words themselves on the page arranged artistically to make not just an internal impact when being read but a sub-conscious visual impact when being viewed. Go back through any of his books, particularly the earlier ones, and just look at the arrangement of the words and phrases on the pages. You'll see it. It's always amazed me that he not only writes but draws the story as well.

So insanely prolific, scary talented, and the only person alive who writes in multiple dimensions. That equals genius, not hack.

Oh yeah, and he lives just up the road from me so he's my "homie," lol.  ;D
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Re: Forum Discussion: Steven King: genius or hack?
Reply #13 - Apr 1st, 2012, 11:47pm
 
C.N.Pitts wrote on Mar 21st, 2012, 4:27pm:
Oh yeah, and he lives just up the road from me so he's my "homie," lol.  ;D

I just want to take the time here to thank you, CN Pitts (because it seems no one else is going to do it), for taking the time off of your busy and tireless writing schedule to come back to your origins and show people how things work here. It's so marvelous for an established author who takes that all important time to show the new people what to look for in their writing. That's wonderful. Maybe you can also help out those established writers here to "break-inna-biz", as someone once said.

And you and Steve-o are buds? That ROCKS, dude!!!!!! That seriously rocks! Do you go over and drink beers and discuss stories and themes and stuff? Next time you see him, tell him I liked his guest starring role in Sons Of Anarchy. Too cool. Man.... must be something in the water up there, is all I can say. And cold water, too, since it's Maine. lol
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