Stephen King: Not Just the King of Horror

Stephen King: Not Just the King of Horror

Cade Campbell, Writer

American culture has always revolved around entertainment. Whether that be sports, movies, books, or music, it’s always been the center of our culture. There has been one person that has influenced our culture since the early 70s, whether it be through his own work or work inspired by his. This person, this king, would be the Stephen King. His works have provided a large contribution to American culture, inspiring others and even starting this strengthened nostalgia for the last few decades of the 20th century. And, contrary to what most people believe, he doesn’t only influence horror.


Now first, let’s start with the art of the man himself. Stephen King has written over 70 books, including a large number of novels, a few collections of novellas, and a few short story collections. His works that you may be familiar with would be “The Shining”, “Pet Semetary”, “IT”, “Carrie”, “The Green Mile”, and “The Body” (which was made into the film “Stand By Me”). Now Stephen King has been known for his horror stories, but when compared to his total works, horror is actually less than 50 percent––at least in my honest opinion. He’s known for his ruthlessness, not backing down and not afraid to create the most taboo and terrifying situations. Even though most of his stories do tend to be dark, the genre itself can usually be described as thriller or science fiction, not specifically horror. 


He’s fantastic at blending genres, confusing the reader as to what to say when a friend asks what genre it is. One great example of this is “The Green Mile”. It’s a heartbreaking tale, that combines a kind of historical fiction (it’s based in the 1930s), with a dramatic tale that’s both dark and lighthearted, as well as––possibly––science fiction. And that’s a maybe. It’s just that hard to describe it. SO READ IT. 


Now here’s what our generation knows him for. The movie “IT”, which is based on his 1,100-page epic. We loved the 80’s coming-of-age horror movie, which featured a beloved star from “Stranger Things” and made us love all the rest of the children cast as well. 


What I find ironic though, is that we know it as a movie taking place in the 80s and the second one taking place in 2019. But, it wasn’t originally that way. Instead, it took place in the 1950s and ended in the 1980s. But to appeal to audiences like us (which it successfully did) they strategically changed it to what is now, hopping on the 80s nostalgia that’s popped up since “Stranger Things” premiered in 2016, and ended in the present, which relates to us because we’re living it.


Now here’s something else that’s funny. “Stranger Things” pretty much started or definitely strengthened the 80s nostalgia, which has influenced many more films and shows to follow it’s setting since then. But it is obvious, and the creators even said this, that the series is heavily inspired by Stephen King’s works. From a girl with telekinetic powers (“Carrie”) and running from the government (“Firestarter”) and finding a group of kids to be friends with and then fighting a monster from another dimension (“IT”) and as well as having other people with different powers out there (“Doctor Sleep”). See what I mean? Another ironic thing is that because of this strengthened 80s nostalgia that Stranger Things, which is due to the inspiration from Stephen King, influenced the decision for IT (which they wanted to direct, but got denied, so they came up with their own show) to take place in the 80s, which strengthened King’s grasp on pop culture. He didn’t influence horror, neither those ideas nor the show itself is considered horror. They’re all what-if type situations, and they can be held closely together and seen as having similar ideas and themes with none of that being horror.


Stephen King has been a huge influence on popular culture, bringing his darker themed tales into the world and somehow finding its way into culture and society, bringing people and ideas together in a way Edgar Alan Poe, who influenced King himself, and Mary Shelley had been unable too. With over 200 stories penned under his name and over 50 films or shows adapted from his works, his amount of influence in both the horror genre and simply storytelling itself has been built upon a grand scale and is just now being recognized for its expansion.


In other words, you can see a little bit of Stephen King in a lot of the things we watch or read, not just specifically horror. He’s been an inspiration to many, especially with his reach in the world simply being a relaxed form of storytelling many don’t even consider literature. You can do what you want and do it your way and still manage to succeed. All hail the King, right?