Tag Archives: Stephen King

Stephen King Makes My Brain Want To Puke

“I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud. ”

That is Stephen King classifying the different types of scares in his book Danse Macabre. I find it’s difficult for me to get a visceral, gross-out kind of reaction from reading. I typically need an aural or visual stimulus to generate those kinds of responses.

Uncle Steve rarely has to go that far down the totem pole with me.

King describes terror as the “finest emotion” and at its core, his brand of horror is real terror. This is also a reason that his works are sometimes problematic for film and television adaptations. Terror is such a cerebral emotion that it’s difficult to translate into an audiovisual medium. Books, as Carl Sagan said, are “an author […] speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you.” I’ve read many of King’s works, and there have been a handful that left me exceedingly freaked out. While I read these stories, King became equal parts telepath and mad surgeon, beaming into my brain and playing around with the gray matter.

The first story that filled me with a sense of lingering dread was The Boogeyman. It’s a story about a man relaying to his psychiatrist his experiences with the boogeyman coming out of his children’s closets and killing them. It sounds like such a inane premise, but King really dishes out the dread. It’s in the short story collection Night Shift, which was one of my earliest introductions to his work. I haven’t read it in years but my skin still crawls even thinking about it. I recently discovered there is a short film adaptation that was made in the 80s, so I’ll have to watch that. In like twenty years.

The other story that embedded itself in my reptilian hindbrain is The Road Virus Heads North. Again, I haven’t read this one in years, but I seem to recall it becoming very meta as the story progresses. It’s about a man on a road trip who buys a painting at a yard sale only to notice that its subject is changing as he proceeds on his journey. The changes coincide with grisly news alerts for locations the man – and the painting – has already visited. It’s a story I started late one night and couldn’t put down. I finished it as the sun was rising and I couldn’t bring myself to close my eyes after I was done, so it literally kept me up all night.

Most horror fans get asked this from time to time: “Why would anyone enjoy being scared?” Because we’re already scared. We have fears, anxieties, our very own boogeymen we deal with day to day. Sometimes those get overwhelming simply because they’re in response to abstracts. Stories, movies, games that engage us in a frightening way give us something to direct that nervous energy toward. We see the hero come out on top or we see the realization of worst-case scenario and we ourselves emerge from the story unscathed.

I mentioned before that I don’t usually get a visceral gross-out from reading, but my brain clearly does, because when those words travel from the page through my eyes, up my optic nerves and into my brain, I imagine the white-knuckle, nail-biting, sweaty palm, wide-eyed terror I feel is just my brain being grossed out and vomiting adrenaline all over the place.

What are some of your favorite scary stories? Movies? Games?

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2016: A Nowtrospective

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (which I’ve not read, btw), author Stephen R. Covey declares one of the titular habits thusly: Begin with the End in Mind.

Real original, dude. Begin your New Year’s post with a quote from a culture-saturating motivational book.

Hey, shut up. This is my post, and I’ll do what I want with it.

*ahem*

It’s with that idea in mind that I’m doing a New Year’s restrospective, not on the year that has just ended, but rather with the year that lies ahead.

You know this whole “New Year” thing is really a misnomer. It’s just another day. You can make changes at any second of any minute of any day of any month of any year. But hey, yaaaaaaaay inspiration! Tony Robbins, blahblahblah.

HermioneDeathLook

Sorry.

new_year_2016

In 2016, I:

  1. Did All the Things I Set Out to Do.

EndofListLemon

I’m going to admit that this list is not a complete one.  In a book that I actually read this year called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (lotta Ste(v/ph)ens in this game, apparently), one of the things he talked about was not sharing your goals with everyone. The idea behind that is if you share your goals, dreams, intentions, etc., with everyone, you get a false sense of accomplishment just by laying out that list. I had always thought that spelling out your goals for others to see would make them hold you responsible should you start to slip or pull some much-needed encouragement when things get rough.

The flaw with that plan, besides weighing everyone else down with the responsibility of keeping your divergent butt on track, you’re also surrendering the active ownership of your goals to other people.

Nobody is going to do the work I need to do for me. Nobody else can. I know several people that would love to, have asked how to help, and offered whatever they have in order to help me. The answer is simple.

I have to do the work.

I’ve never been good at doing the work. In school, once I learned how to do something, homework was useless to me because I didn’t see the point. That was from elementary school. It took me many years and thousands upon thousands of dollars in student loan debt to understand the value of doing the work and seeing it turn into good grades, opportunities, and eventually my first published academic paper.

In another book I read this year–

Why isn’t this just the list of books you read this year?

DeanRealization

–That’s not a bad idea. Maybe when I’m done waxing philosophical. On Writing by Stephen King. It’s an amazing read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. In this guide, the creepiest dude in Maine lays it out like this: “Amateurs wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

On Writing and The War of Art have had a great influence on me this year, and what I took away from both of them was that the most important thing is to do the work. Reading these books, I felt like Bart Simpson at the chalkboard scrawling out line after line of “I will do my work.”

“I will do my work” doesn’t just apply to writing, though. I have many goals that I want to see fulfilled so I can look back on 2016 and be satisfied that I did everything I could to make those goals become realities.

One goal I had from 2015 was to read more. Now that the year is over, I’ll share with you the list of books I read in 2015.

  • On Writing – Stephen King
  • The Shining – Stephen King
  • V for Vendetta – Alan Moore
  • The Last Days of Video – Jeremy Hawkins
  • Button, Button / Uncanny Stories – Richard Matheson
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  • Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
  • Ready Player One – Ernest Cline (previously read)
  • Ultimate Spider-Man TPBs vols. 1-22 – Brian Michael Bendis
  • Ultimate X-Men TPBs vols. 1-12 – Mark Millar, et al.
  • Tough Sh*t – Kevin Smith
  • Carrie – Stephen King
  • In the Blink of an Eye – Walter Murch
  • Deadpool Kills Deadpool – Cullen Bunn
  • TMNT/Ghostbusters – Erik Burnham & Tom Waltz
  • Gotham by Gaslight – Bryan Augustyn
  • Superior – Mark Millar & Leinil Yu
  • Tales From the Script – Peter Hanson & Paul Robert Herman
  • The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
  • Dancing Barefoot – Wil Wheaton
  • Jaws – Peter Benchley
  • Y: The Last Man Deluxe Books 1-3 – Brian K. Vaughn & Pia Guerra

Jeez, there are sure a lot of comic books–

You read through V for Vendetta and tell me it’s not a novel that happens to have pictures. But sure. Not counting comics, I still read 14 books this year. I started more than that, but I’ve only included the books I finished. I guess that could be a subheading for my one-item list up there:

In 2016, I:

  1. Finished What I Started.
It's too good to use just once.

It’s too good to use just once.

 

I’m off to a good start. I finished this post.

Happy New Year, everyone.

WE’VE SURPASSED THE FUTURE FROM BACK TO THE FUTURE AND NOW I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MY LIFE

Do the work.