Last November, Stephen King released Under the Dome, a massive work hailed by many as a return to form. Since then, things have seemed pretty quiet from Mr. King—that is, if you’ve been listening for something making a Dome-sized splash. But there are at least a few smaller works from the King of Horror released so far this year that may have slipped under your radar, and rumors are beginning to fly about more to come.
The first King release of 2010 was the audiobook edition of UR, a novella about a technophobic professor whose newly purchased e-reader arrives with a few rather crucial differences from the standard specs. The story was actually published in 2009, but I mention it here because you may have missed it (I know I did) due to its delivery mechanism: the text was a Kindle exclusive, and it is still unavailable in a printed edition.
Then, announced out of the blue less than a month before its April 20 release date, was a novella about baseball, Blockade Billy. King is a well-known fan (he co-wrote Faithful, about the 2004 Red Sox World Series season, with novelist Stewart O’Nan), and Billy is the story of the titular star catcher, who harbored a secret so dark that once it was revealed, every mention of him was stripped from the records of the game. Billy was published in an illustrated limited first edition by small press Cemetery Dance (they boasted the smallest print run for a Stephen King first edition in decades), but the book has not yet been released to retailers—Simon and Schuster will publish a trade edition in late May. The text is also available electronically from various sites for around $7.99, which is a bargain compared to the $25.00 Cemetery Dance charged for the first edition, but still enough to get plenty of complaints from readers who felt they deserved more words for their money.
Which brings us to what appears to be King’s primary hardcover release for the year: Full Dark, No Stars, a collection of four new novellas, scheduled for November. This is a form King has published in previously, with Four Past Midnight and Different Seasons (Hearts in Atlantis was close, with two novellas and three short stories). The story titles and plot synopses for Full Dark were recently revealed on King’s official website, and while the themes may seem familiar—murderous husbands, shortcuts with dire consequences, deals with the devil, and the terrible secrets of those we love—it would be foolish to write the collection off prematurely; the previous novella collections included stories which became classic films like Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption (as well as not-so-classics Apt Pupil, Secret Window, and Hearts in Atlantis).
If that were all, it would be a productive year by most standards... but in addition to prose, King has also finished up a rock & roll musical with John Mellencamp, The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (opening September 2010), and has been lending a little oversight to Marvel Comics’ adaptations of The Dark Tower, The Stand, and N. PLUS he’s had his personal comics writing debut with an arc of American Vampire, a Vertigo comic set in the Wild West.
And that’s all without considering the tantalizing hints King has dropped regarding possible upcoming novels. A moderator at his official forums passed on this message from King in December 2009:
I mentioned two potential projects while I was on the road, one a new Mid-World book (not directly about Roland Deschain, but yes, he and his friend Cuthbert are in it, hunting a skin-man, which are what werewolves are called in that lost kingdom) and a sequel to The Shining called Doctor Sleep. Are you interested in reading either of these? If so, which one turns your dials more? Ms. Mod will be counting your votes (and of course it all means nothing if the muse doesn't speak).
The eventual tally ran to 5,861 for Doctor Sleep and 5,812 for the new Dark Tower, which is reportedly set between volumes four and five and entitled The Wind Through the Keyhole. However, neither camp should get their hopes too high, too soon; he’s also said that “people shouldn’t hold their breath” for Doctor Sleep, and that he’s working on something else at the moment and wouldn’t be able to start writing Keyhole until late 2010 at the earliest.
No matter how that shakes out, there’s plenty of material on the way from King (who, it’s hard to resist remembering, planned to retire back in 2002). So have you read any of his work published so far this year? What did you think? And what are your hopes for the stuff still to come?
Joshua Starr works for DAW Books, and is a Constant Reader.