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On Stephen King and His Work
I have always had a lot to say about Stephen King. If you let me, I would talk your ear off about him for hours, much of it hapless bitching about this and that. But, let me start positive. There is zero doubt that Stephen King is a remarkable writer. No other genre is so synonymous with a single person. His prose flows beautifully, and his ideas are phenomenal. Having said that, the man is very repetitive, and can’t end a book well to save his life.
The biggest argument I hear when stating my opinions on his works, is that I am missing the point. That his novels are not just about silly scares, but about the characters and everything they go through. To that, I say, you ‘re wrong. I absolutely understand what he is doing, and in theory it is wonderful. He loses me when he repeats those character building moments, over and over again. Case in point: In IT, Eddie has an incredibly overbearing mother that has convinced him that he is weak and sickly. He then marries a woman that is exactly the same. This is great stuff. The first chapter with Eddie and his wife, with him leaving her behind to go back to Derry, and his history explained – that chapter is fantastic, and makes Eddie a fully pronounced character. Unfortunately, this same stuff is repeated multiple times throughout the novel; each scene the same as the ones before it. Overbearing mother, yada, yada. By the time Eddie stands up to his mom, we’ve already read about 30 more pages of his plot line than we needed to understand him fully. When you apply this to every other character (and some that don’t matter at all) there are hundreds of pages of unnecessary words. It is very important to me that an author respect my time, and Stephen King is one of the biggest abusers of that privilege.
Luckily, the miniseries and new movie, don’t suffer from these things. There just isn’t enough screen time to overexplain anything. In fact, far more has to get cut completely.
My other main gripe with the content of the novel, is those things that are completely unnecessary. For an example of this, I am going to talk about Mike’s father. In the novel, and this is virtually left out of either movie, Derry is a remarkably racist community. Mike has to deal with some of that, and it adds to his character and the situation that the losers find themselves. However, we are treated to an insanely long series of chapters devoted to the racist things that Mike’s father went through, all of which adds nothing to the plot. It is decent storytelling on its own, but has no place in the book.
On the 1990 Miniseries
The miniseries was a lot of fun when I watched on TV in 1990. I was ten or eleven, and it was spooky. I still have a fondness for Tim Curry’s performance, but I had to long ago face the fact that the movie itself is very bad. A few scenes still entertain, but it didn’t age well at all. The miniseries, worse that the new movie and book, highlights the major shortcoming of the story – that being the “win because we believe” aspect of it. I have never been a fan of this trope, just as I have never liked the idea of “love conquers evil”. I get that IT preys on fear, and that is just fine; good even. I am still ok with IT losing power when the kids face their fear and stand up to it. The story loses me when it goes beyond that, and actually has magic go into rocks, and one object becoming another. I can suspend a lot of disbelief, but I can’t see how a child could suddenly, truly believe that his inhaler is battery acid, so that it becomes such. Etc.
On the New Film
Let me begin by saying that I don’t hate the new movie, I just don’t like it. It is a prime example of the middle of the road. I think many people have nostalgia colored glasses when it comes to this movie, and that in turn built a hype that I personally don’t believe it deserves.
This is getting long, so I am just going to leave a bunch of rhetorical questions right here that sum up a lot of what I think of the film.
What year is this? They say it’s the 80’s but they ride bikes from the 50’s in a town that looks straight out of the same decade. Where are the parents? Other than a handful of times, there are none. If my kid came home with a letter carved on his gut, I would notice and investigate. Even without the gangbang scene from the book, this movie still feels a bit pedophilic. Why would they swim in their underwear? They planned to go swimming, why not wear swim shorts? At 11 years old, or now, I wouldn’t ever go swimming in my underwear if I had a choice. What the hell is with that walking away one at a time scene at the end? Terrible. Where are the magic rocks and slingshot? Why is it that these kids ever thought they could do something about the evil clown in the first place?
A few things I liked: IT’s domain was pretty sweet, as were the floating people. I like that all the racist stuff was left out. I also liked that, even though the “believe and it will happen” stuff is still there, it was minimized. Richie was actually funny. I don’t think there is actually a moment in the book where he makes me laugh, but several in the movie.....Yeah, I guess that's it.
GHOST HUNTS: BELIEVE IN FEAR
by K.N. Johnson
“All a skeptic is, is someone who hasn’t had an experience yet.” — Jason Hawes, founder of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS)
It sometimes baffles people when I tell them I’m a skeptic. Why would a skeptic travel to other states, stay up night after night, participating in ghost investigations? If you’re a horror fan, though, you get it. Frights and jump scares can be fun. It’s the adrenaline, the dread, that moment when exhaustion crosses your brain wires… and you start to believe anything’s possible.
For a successful ghost investigation team, it helps to have members with a range of belief. Skeptics need to respect the true believers and vice versa. It’s like a good horror film – you’ve gotta have someone who insists they shouldn’t go or someone getting a real bad feeling about a place. And then you pack gear, link arms, and go anyway!
GATES OF HELL
By the time we arrived, I’d read all about the cemetery’s 300-year sad history. Once the favored burial hill for locals, the site is now overgrown and littered with visitors’ melted candles and cult items. Seriously, folks, pick up your trash. Dappled sunlight streamed through the tall oak trees. For these trips, I take photos and use a phone app like Ghost Radar Legacy. I’m not going to discuss its scientific merits – I insist it adds to the experience.
On the radar screen, you’re the center point. So, dots of energy – yellow, green or red – appear on the screen in a quadrant where, supposedly, an energy force is detected. One-word messages also pop up.
My radar flashed green in the top left quadrant, so I stepped that way. I shuffled through a blanket of dead leaves. Yellow dot and the message HERE. Really old graves had sunk - some were a pit of leaves up to my knees. Red dot and the message GO. And to my left, the leaves moved. I tried to whisper-yell for my husband. The leaves moved again. And just as I moved in closer with my camera, a huge black snake slid from the pile. I almost pissed my pants. A message popped up: LAUGHING.
FOX HOLLOW FARM
In our exhaustion, we goaded the ghosts. One gal called out, “If you want to communicate with us, please move the chandelier.” Someone else muttered, “Or flicker the lights.” But I always look for something that will convince me. Something a breeze or heavy footfall can’t do. I got specific. “Move that bug spray can on the pool table.”
These are the stories I’m writing about in my next book. If you’d like to know when it’s finally finished, sign up for my newsletter on my Facebook page – you’ll be the first to know when it’s done!
Thanks for joining me today Nina. I guess I’ll start by asking why. Why do you write what you write?
As a child, I had vivid nightmares – the kind where I’d fall out of bed terrified. I also had an active imagination, so I’d see things. This combination filled my head with eerie stories I sometimes wished were true.
I was the oldest child in my family, but I had a dream where a young woman visited me at night and told me she was my big sister. She would sneak me from the house and we would fly through the night on vigilante adventures. As a Catholic second-grader, I’d share this story to an attentive group of friends on the playground. Eventually, the nuns took me aside to verify if these stories were true. “The other children are afraid these are real. Maybe you should just write your stories down.” It was a thrill to keep their attention, to seize their imaginations, and to give them a little scare.
Tell me about your story Frigid, it won an award, right?
Yes, Frigid won first place in Mythraeum’s Pygmalion contest. Mythraeum runs about four short story competitions a year. Each theme centers on a mythological figure and writers are encouraged to really run with it, to morph the traditional idea. So, of course, I went dark with it!
There’s a cash prize for first place and then your story is in the running with the rest of that year’s first place winners for short film development.
Frigid won! Filming begins in January 2018 with Loste Films in Colorado. Their last project Turn Around (2016) was an award-winning horror short. I’m excited to see the story come to life on screens at indy film festivals.
A movie? Wow! What about your other work? I know you have appeared in some anthologies. You even work in field, correct?
My stories appear in a number of anthologies. Horror readers might be most interested in the Polterguests and A Haunting of Words anthologies. My dark science fiction story “Regolith” is coming out in the Terra Nullius anthology fall 2017.
I’m in a ghost investigation group founded by members of Unseen Press.com. We’ve investigated historical buildings such as the Athenaeum in Indianapolis and the serial killer Herb Baumeister’s house. My husband and I love to visit small towns and will often legend trip on our own. We’ve expanded some of our equipment, but my favorite is taking notes and tons of photographs – the pure experience of it.
What are you working on now?
I’m in final edits for my story The Clearing appearing in the Transmundane Press anthology On Fire later in 2017.
But I’m most excited about a new project inspired by fans at local paranormal conventions. I love sharing stories about the ghost investigations I’ve participated in and everyone keeps asking if I’ve put them in a book. So, that’s my current project. I’m compiling field notes and data plus, of course, my recollections, on several locations into a volume. I have a feeling it will turn into a series.
I'd love to hear more about what it is to be a ghost hunter. Is it like what they show on television? Mind telling me about one of your hunts?
Oh, I warn newcomers it’s nothing like the shows! You definitely need patience. It’s like fishing. You keep quiet most of the time, setting your lures, casting your line, and eventually there’s a bite and a sudden flash of activity. And sometimes you catch it – sometimes you don’t!
At Herb Baumeister’s former residence, we’d been investigating for several hours. We were all quite tired after roaming the house, the woods, the acreage. We waited in the warmth of the lower level for the last of our group to return. We sat in the game room, next to the infamous indoor pool, and packed up most of our equipment. And that’s when something happened. Our group leader was so disappointed, kept lamenting how he’d shut off the video camera. I so wished I’d been taking some random photos at that moment! But, that’s how it often works out. It’s an intriguing experience.
I am definitely going to get you to do a guest post and tell us a lot more about that! Thanks so much again for being here, and I look forward to speaking with you again.
For more info on K.N. Johnson, her work, and ghost hunting, click on any of the images and links below. Happy hunting!
My Facebook page serves as my website for now & includes a Shop with links to the publishers’ online bookstores:
Here’s Loste Films’ award-winning horror short Turn Around (2016):
Here’s my Amazon author page: