King, Stephen 1947-
(Full name Stephen Edwin King; has also written under the pseudonyms richard Bachman and John Swithen) American novelist, short story and novella writer, scriptwriter, director, critic, and nonfiction writer.
King is a prolific author of best-selling horror and suspense fiction. In his novels and stories, he blends elements of the traditional gothic tale with those of the detective story, the modern psychological thriller, and science fiction. His works feature colloquial language, clinical attention to settings, and an emphasis on contemporary problems, including marital infidelity and peer group acceptance, all of which lend credibility to the bizarre, often supernatural incidents that dominate his narratives.
King was born in Portland, Maine. His father, a merchant sailor, left the family when King was a year old, leaving King's mother to support him and his older brother. King began writing short stories as a child, and while a student at Lisbon Falls high school in Maine he won an essay contest sponsored by a scholastic magazine. King published short stories in various magazines and completed manuscripts for many of his later novels while attending the University of Maine at Orono, earning a B. A. in English in 1970. After graduating, King took a position as an English instructor at the Hampden Academy in Hampden, Maine, where he stayed for two years. From 1978 to 1979, King served as a writer-in-residence at the University of Maine, and was granted the university's Career Alumni Award in 1981.
Major Works of Short Fiction
King has published several collections of short fiction, including Night Shift and Skeleton Crew, which are comprised of detective stories, science fiction, and horror tales, and other collections, such as Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which focus primarily on the terrors of everyday existence. In "Gray Matter," which appeared in Night Shift, Richie Grenadine, "a big fat man with jowls like pork butts and ham-hock arms," gradually mutates into a glob of gray protoplasm after a work-related injury forces him to stay at home, where he drinks a case of beer nightly. The Body, a novella that appeared in Different Seasons, is narrated by Gordie lachance, a thirty-four-year-old writer modeled after King, and traces the narrator's coming-of-age experience when, as a ten year old, he and three friends set out to find the body of a young boy who had been hit by a train. The Body was adapted as a screenplay and was produced as the film Stand By Me in 1986. The library Policeman, which appeared in Four Past Midnight, expands on the childhood myth of policemen who are sent by the library to arrest children whose books are overdue. In "The Ten O'Clock People," collected in Nightmares and Dreamscapes, smokers who limit themselves to a few cigarettes a day are the only people who can see the hideous aliens intent upon taking over the planet because these smokers belong to a personality type that is not susceptible to the psychological disguise worn by the aliens.
Many critics fault King for unwieldy and lengthy narratives, one-dimensional characters, hackneyed subjects and use of cliches, excessively vulgar language, and frequent digressions, but credit King's ability to create scenarios in which eerie, supernatural events occur in everyday settings and involve ordinary characters, a combination that makes the situations more plausible and realistic, and consequently more frightening and compelling to the reader. Although some critics agree with Paul Gray, who referred to King as the "master of post-literate prose," many commentators have praised King's talent for writing stories that appeal to a broad audience and affect his readers on many levels. robert Cormier has commented: "King still writes like one possessed, with all the nervous energy of a young writer seeking his first big break. He never cheats the reader, always gives full measure. . . . He is often brilliant, and makes marvelous music, dark and sinister."