Do you think of King as horror?

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kiseruyoru

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Jun 1, 2016
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I've been reading King since I was like. . . 12? Anyway, something has always stuck with me. King is not in the least bit scary. Ever. Why in the heck is he called a horror writer? What makes a horror writer?

King has a lot of magical realism, and a few Lovecraftian turns -- but he actually uses Lovecraft to explain exactly why his stuff isn't horror sometimes (The Mist), or he makes the thing about something entirely different than some vague inherent dread to/of living (all the Dark Tower novels are, categorically, Westerns mashed to a Fantasy cloth).

I really don't know how to say it, because I guess I really don't know what horror is, because if it is only something that scares you -- then I'm not sure it is even possible in a book.

The only two that came remotely close, for me, were It, back when I was 12 or whatever -- right up until the end, where the (demi)god turned out to be kill-able . . . which has always bothered me, but I honestly just kinda hate happy endings. I don't believe (in) them. And then Lisey's story, which I'm about to re-read because I can barely remember it, but I know I loved it the first two times.

But, does having supernatural elements just automatically make something horror?
 

Mr Nobody

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Jul 9, 2008
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Interesting question(s). I can't say I've ever been seriously scared by anything SK has written - disquieted, certainly, but not scared in the truest sense. Off the top of my head, I'd say the closest he came was in Pet Sematary.
Does that mean he's failed in his 'quest'? Not at all, because I'm pretty damn hard to scare anyway and his stories have touched me in other ways. (I agree on the point re: is it even possible to scare someone with a book. You can certainly create tension or even unease, but genuine horror, fright? I have my doubts.)
Is he a horror writer, though? Well, yes, in the sense that much of his work wears the robes and follows the tropes of horror (though not always too closely!)...but that's not all he is. There's often a literary quality about his work that some writers of literary fiction (which is, after all, really just another genre) would kill for a tenth part of.
For me, SK is primarily a writer who captures ordinary people wrapped up in extraordinary events. As such, he gets to one or several essential truths, and his worst 'bad guys' are usually human (arguably the worst 'bad guy' being a woman), and so to a greater or lesser extent his work sits outside of the mainstreams of genre.
If you like, his stories bend genre(s) to their (or his) will rather than allowing themselves to be bent by the rules and restrictions of genre, and it's for that reason that I think SK will go down as one of the great American writers - and a key figure in the English (language) literary canon. (Where 'literary' is used in the broad sense of 'all literature', rather than the more narrow one of 'writer of literary fiction' - if there really is such a beast. Even Austen was basically a writer of romance. ;))
 

AchtungBaby

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Dec 5, 2011
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Interesting question(s). I can't say I've ever been seriously scared by anything SK has written - disquieted, certainly, but not scared in the truest sense. Off the top of my head, I'd say the closest he came was in Pet Sematary.
Does that mean he's failed in his 'quest'? Not at all, because I'm pretty damn hard to scare anyway and his stories have touched me in other ways. (I agree on the point re: is it even possible to scare someone with a book. You can certainly create tension or even unease, but genuine horror, fright? I have my doubts.)
Is he a horror writer, though? Well, yes, in the sense that much of his work wears the robes and follows the tropes of horror (though not always too closely!)...but that's not all he is. There's often a literary quality about his work that some writers of literary fiction (which is, after all, really just another genre) would kill for a tenth part of.
For me, SK is primarily a writer who captures ordinary people wrapped up in extraordinary events. As such, he gets to one or several essential truths, and his worst 'bad guys' are usually human (arguably the worst 'bad guy' being a woman), and so to a greater or lesser extent his work sits outside of the mainstreams of genre.
If you like, his stories bend genre(s) to their (or his) will rather than allowing themselves to be bent by the rules and restrictions of genre, and it's for that reason that I think SK will go down as one of the great American writers - and a key figure in the English (language) literary canon. (Where 'literary' is used in the broad sense of 'all literature', rather than the more narrow one of 'writer of literary fiction' - if there really is such a beast. Even Austen was basically a writer of romance. ;))
You worded it really well!

Also, OP, to answer your question... A story doesn't have to be supernatural for me to consider it scary. :) Misery and Cujo were frightening to me, precisely because those things could happen in real life. Losing a spouse, as seen in Bag Of Bones and Lisey's Story. The ruminations on aging as seen in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams and End of Watch. The implication that life doesn't always work out (even after the 'horror' in life has gone away) as seen at the end of The Dark Half. All of these (and so many more) tales, and their implications frightened me or at least gave me pause.
 

Mr Nobody

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Jul 9, 2008
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You worded it really well!

Also, OP, to answer your question... A story doesn't have to be supernatural for me to consider it scary. :) Misery and Cujo were frightening to me, precisely because those things could happen in real life. Losing a spouse, as seen in Bag Of Bones and Lisey's Story. The ruminations on aging as seen in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams and End of Watch. The implication that life doesn't always work out (even after the 'horror' in life has gone away) as seen at the end of The Dark Half. All of these (and so many more) tales, and their implications frightened me or at least gave me pause.
There's something I missed. SK's ability to inspire empathy. In the case of Cujo it wasn't only for the 'victims', but for Cujo himself. Even so, the story didn't scare me, even though if I were in that position in real life I'd be terrified.
 

kiseruyoru

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Jun 1, 2016
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"For me, SK is primarily a writer who captures ordinary people wrapped up in extraordinary events. As such, he gets to one or several essential truths" I agree with this.

King's work includes a whole lot of ruminations on post-Vietnam America and the human condition -- and the most common emotion I feel where, I should think, I would be scared if I were to consider it real horror, is anger. I feel anger, lots of it, quite frequently when reading King. Anger at the 'villain' that is often humanity's worse qualities masquerading as a monster -- the Shining possibly being the best example of this -- the story very much feels like it is only really about alcoholism.

But I have a hard time pinpointing what it is I really want to even talk about here -- I guess what I'm after resides much in the Bachman books. Take out the supernatural elements and King writes American Literary Fiction. Well, Bachman does anyway. He's not the best, even a little derivative, but it is definitely good, and the Long Walk I think is probably a true Great American Novel -- and I hope to heck it gets that recognition in 50 or 100 years.

I really can't get a grasp on what I mean tho --and I've been typing at this message with no success at hitting my point for a while now so I kinda give up. I should have thought this thread thru more before starting it. . .Except I've been thinking about this for years and I still don't get it. King is magical realism, King is American Literature, King creates characters and situations that give me perfect targets for my hatred of one side or another of our delightful species, King reminds me of that painting of the farmer and his wife that stands for the entire American Gothic movement, and King. . .before I finished the Dark Tower and got way closer to the core of things than I would ever have liked -- The Turtle and It . . . galaxies in toenails. "There are more worlds than these" and so on. King brings something of Lovecraft to life without that writing style I just can't stand to listen to -- King is conversational and direct. King feels realistic in a way almost no fiction does. Heck, in a way almost non-fiction does. But King has never scared me.

I dunno, I get the feeling, nobody wants the world to be the magic-less, painfully boring and barbaric, but mostly boring and kinda slightly mean, craven and just. . .low, thing that I view it as. King paints the world as we imagine it even as we are living it. Nevermind that I don't believe in ghosts, ESP, time travel, aliens among us, God, magic, or even Ka -- I want to, I think we all want to.

King is kind of the ultimate realism to me.

If that makes any sense at all.
 

Dana Jean

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...King writes life, with the occasional boogeyman thrown in...,oh yeah, and slobbering St. Bernard's...
Exactly my thoughts. He writes life, and then throws in some elements that twist things up.

Stephen is so much more than horror. Although, he will forever have that tag. His books have elements of every genre. Romance, historical fiction, suspense, mystery, fantasy, how-to (yes, even his fiction has how-to's), social commentary, women studies, religion, business -- everything!
 
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Walter Oobleck

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Maybe the horror label evolved not just for King but for everything in the horror aisle because one of our greatest fears is such that putting the ultimately innocuous label of horror on it helps us hide from that which pursues us. Does it matter that if we acknowledge there is such a thing as evil in the world, Big E, Little E, then we also need to acknowledge the possibility of an ultimate good. The White. Another label. I dunno. You? I wonder if one could change the label and call it Pursuit? From the bogeyman in the closet, the thing under the bed, the thing in house on Neibolt Street, slow mutants or that thing in cave/tunnel where out hero is running with another on his back, to Booya Moon where even there there is something that pursue, the devil or a vengeful God, the jittering Hand of God and the realization that maybe we're nothing more than pawns who hope to be Bishops, a Queen who can move anywhere, or King, limited to one move. I dunno. I dunno what to make of the situation.
 

Walter Oobleck

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How did the horror aisle evolve? Adventure. Westerns. Drama. Crime. We need signposts to map our territory. And why does the horror label signify that one should be afraid or that that is the goal of horror? Comedy. Tragedy. All those long-dead holy guys who made the Major Statements had two labels. Life was simpler then. Know thyself and nothing in excess. Today we don't have a clue about ourselves and anything goes. But death and taxes are still inevitable...and well, Hillary. She's inevitable. Yeah, go look in the Death Aisle. Little too close to home there. Taxes. That's probably all the heavy hitters out there on the Big Lake worried if there's mud on the tires. Same thing either way. Like we know that ultimately we owe someone or some thing something.
Eggs are boiling...lost track of time. Has it been five minutes? Or only three?
 

Bardo

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Nov 19, 2011
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san diego
Well I dont read him for the "Horror"
The label Horror on him is what kept me away from him so long, Did not read my first SK till I was 40,
Stories/ movies do not seem to scare me, Reality does enough for that for me.
I basically enjoying just hearing him talk(in my head) and fall into his worlds.
Its his character development that draws me back,again and again!
 

doowopgirl

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Aug 7, 2009
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I think the horror label got put on with Carrie and Salems Lot. The subject matter falls into that category IMO. Along with Firestarter, Needful Things, The Dark Half, again IMO. But, within those stories lie the everyman/woman who deals with those extraordinary strategies in ways most of us can identify with. After that the horror label needs to get thrown out the window. Fantasy yes, but again with those every person touches that no one else does so well. I could put up a list, but you all know what I'm talking about. People who don't know past that really need to crawl out from your cave.
 

Lee9900

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Jun 29, 2016
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I don't think so.

Firestarter is paranormal/supernatural and it's not really a scary movie.In fact in some ways it is more like a superhero movie than a horror movie.

Some movies can also be scary without any supernatural/paranormal elements in them as well. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, those were just human beings without any real supernatural or paranormal abilities. The very first Friday The 13th movie was just a crazed woman trying to kill people. There was nothing supernatural ir paranormal about that movie.

Night of The Living Dead is a creepy movie, but only because of the black and white. It's primarily a situation of survival rather than horror.

Then there's movies like Young Frankenstein, which have supernatural and paranormal elements of it, but are primarily comedies.
 
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carrie's younger brother

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When I first started reading SK in 1975, he was a horror writer. I read him because I liked the genre. He has obviously evolved since then and can no longer be deemed just a "horror writer." But that is one hat he wore for a while and I doubt he would deny it. There's no reason he should. He was damn good at it. Carrie, Salems Lot, Skeleton Crew, etc.; to me, that is out & out horror and I love it!
 

Owenk

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I would never classify him as a horror writer as it is a genre I don't generally enjoy.

I agree with what has been posted above I have never been scared by his writing but have rather been "disquieted." This is because what he does for me is to write about human beings using a fantastical setting and story to look at what people are capable of doing to each otehr and how they are capable of treating each otehr both for good and bad.

As has also been said above what put me off reading him until my fifties was his classification as a horrow writer - that's simply not what he's about for me.
 
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Lee9900

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Also, he is a very versatile write who doesn't write just horror fiction. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption has NO supernatural or horror elements within it. I personally consider that story one of his best.

I can remember a time early in his career when somebody once criticized him saying he only writes about children with psychic powers. Even at that time, I thought that person really didn't know about Salem's Lot.

Well, I think e need to have a specific definition of what horror is here to go on. I think the threat of rape by subhuman monsters is a very scary and traumatizing thing, but I'm not sure if it can classify as horror.

So what do you guys think?
 

Cheffie1983

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besides stories like "cycle of the werewolf" and pet cemetery, King writes of TRUE terror...things that COULD happen.

Imagine The Superflu from The Stand...imagine a crazy super stalker Dan like in Misery...a rabid St. Bernard... TRUE TERROR. What if the world were to become something out of The Dark Tower? Lots of references to current and past events.

It does not have to be zombies eating your brain or blood and guts EVERYWHERE...it just has to give you the willies. And King is the MASTER of doing this.

Needful things and The Regulators does this to me...
 
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