A Partial List of Steven King’s Scariest Works

Needless to say, bookshelfbattle.com ‘s month long celebration of Halloweenish Literature would not be complete without adding Steven King, the Master of Modern Horror Fiction, into the mix.  In no particular order, here are five of what I believe to be the prolific author’s scariest works:

1)  The Shining - Am I wrong or can everyone agree that this is King’s central masterpiece?  The movie version, in which a stir-crazy Jack Nicholson shouts, “Here’s Johnny!” as he puts his face up to a hole in a door he just wacked open with an axe has to be one of the scariest scenes Hollywood has ever produced.  King recently came out with a sequel, Doctor Sleep.  I haven’t read it but reviews have been positive.  In conclusion – all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  Redrum!  Redrum!

2)  Misery – I put this one high up on the list for a reason.  Most of King’s works have a supernatural element.  Danny Torrance, the little boy from The Shining, for example, had special powers that saved the day when his father lost his marbles.  The plot of Misery on the other hand, has no otherworldly occurrences and though unlikely, could possibly happen.  A famous author drives has a car accident due to snowy road conditions.  “His number one fan,”  Annie the Nurse, finds him, drags him home, and nurses him back to health.  Sounds nice, right?  Wrong.  Turns out Annie’s psychotic and she holds the writer hostage, doing everything she can to keep him from leaving.  She drugs him, and at one point even hobbles him.  Forget every CGI fake special effects laden movie monster you have ever seen.  One of the scariest moments of movie history is when Kathy Bates (who plays Annie in the film version opposite James Caan who plays the writer) hobbles her “guest” by putting a wooden block between his ankles and striking his feet with a sledge hammer.  “Cock-a-doody-poopy!”

3) Carrie – Awkward girl abused by crazy mother gets made fun of one too many times.  When the cool kids dump a bucket of pigs’ blood on her at the prom, she loses all control of her eerie superpowers and unleashes them.  Yeah, I suppose everyone has experienced abuse at the hand of a bully at one point or another while growing up, but maybe Carrie could have just let them off easy and used her powers to give them all wedgies?  There have been two remakes as far as I recall but none beats the original film version starring Sissy Spacek.

4) Christine – Car gets possessed by a ghost.  Teenage car owner goes crazy.  Disturbing shenanigans ensue.  Moral of the story- always check the Carfax.

5) Cujo – Again, like Misery, I put this in King’s “scarier because it could potentially happen” column.  As scary as Christine may be, it is highly unlikely that your used car is possessed by a ghost.  It may be possessed by a million petrified french fries under the back seat, but not a malevolent spirit.  The plot of Cujo, on the other hand, is entirely possible – actually, more possible than Misery.  The whole story centers around a mechanic’s rabid dog, Cujo.  Donna Trenton and her son, Tad, go to the home of local mechanic Joe looking for some car repairs.  Cujo, once a mild-mannered St. Bernard, has developed a nasty case of rabies from a bat bite, and much to the Trentons’ chagrin, has killed Joe.  Cujo traps Donna and Tad in their car, which fails to start (it was there for repairs, after all!) and the majority of the novel centers around Donna protecting Tad while they are trapped in the car and essentially held hostage by a ravenous canine.  Say what you want, but rabid dogs do exist and to me, they’re a hundred times scarier than say, non-existent zombies that drag their feet and go, “Ergh!” and “Argh!”

Did I miss one of your favorite Steven King novels?  Feel free to post it below:

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The Walking Dead and Best Zombie Books

I love The Walking Dead.  If anything else, the show is a weekly one-hour series that gives us the mental challenge to consider how we could live in a world of nothing, scavenging up the basics of survival from the lost, forgotten world all around us.  If you think life sucks when your iPhone dies and there’s not a charger in sight, then you won’t last long in Sherriff Rick’s group.

I did worry that maybe it showed signs of “jumping the shark” last week when Carol covered herself with Zombie guts and walked amongst the zombies undetected.  I mean, honestly, if outfoxing the zombies is that easy then why hasn’t everyone just been walking around wearing zombie guts all the time?  (Besides the obvious hygienic reasons, of course).

The Zombie Genre has rivaled the Vampire Genre in recent years, and yet it has always been a bit problematic.  The main crticism of every zombie movie?  They are all pretty much the same.  Zombie outbreak occurs.  Group of survivors ban together.  Zombies walk around slowly and sluggishly, grunting “Errgh!” and “Argh!”  Survivors must brave their way to some location where they believe they will be safe.  Along the way, some member of the group is bitten by a zombie.  The bite victim’s close friend and/or relative faces the painful choice of either shooting the zombie bite victim, thus putting him out of his misery and saving the group from the bites that will be forthcoming if he turns, or letting the bite victim stay as is, in hopes that some type of cure is around the corner.

Thus, in a genre where it is all pretty much the same thing, it is impressive that a comic book series and a subsequent TV show has been able to catch the public’s interest for so long.  Yes, there is a lot of the “Erghs!” and “Arghs!” but there is also an attempt to look at what the world would become during a zombie outbreak:

1)  People Building Communities – There probably would be a lot of people like the Governor who would go from being an avergage schlump to starting his own civilization.  And undoubtedly, they would probably become power hungry and mad.

2)  Scavenging – Searching through abandoned homes and stores for leftovers would become the modern equivalent of foraging.  Only problem is once all the processed food runs out, people would have to do something crazy like – build a farm, raise crops, tend to farm animals, etc.

3) Bad People Would Take Advantage – Free from the constraints of the law and impending jail time for their misdeeds, there would be a lot of bad people to deal with, as the show illustrates sometimes in too graphic detail.

4)  People Will Become Shadows of their Former Selves – Just ask former domesticated Mom turned Samurai Warrior Michonne.

5)  Your Family Unit Becomes the People You Randomly Meet – You’ll meet people in need of assistance.  If they seem trustworthy, they’re yours.  You know have to drag those people around with you until the end of time.

In honor of The Walking Dead, here is a list, in no particular order, of Zombie Books:

1)  World War Z by Max Brooks – Probably the preminent zombie novel in recent years, it was turned into a pretty decent horror/action flick starring Brad Pitt.  It basically follows one man’s quest to stop a zombie outbreak.  Plenty of “Erghs!” and “Arghs!”

2) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith – Never read it, but my understanding is that it basically takes Austen’s original text and then adds in something like – “And then after Mr. Darcy drank his cup of tea, he was attacked by a ravenous zombie!!!”  You may know Seth Grahame-Smith from such works as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  My hat goes off to him as he has really managed to make a decent living off of taking historical figures and pitting them against supernatural forces.

3) The Zombie Survival Guide – by Max Brooks -Hilarious parody in which the author takes a fun and twisted look at the various ways one can prepare for a zombie apocalypse and use just about anything as a survival tool.

4)  I am Legend – by Richard Matheson – Published in 1954, this classic tale tells of one man’s fight against a world of bloodthirsty creatures.  Some may call it a vampire book, others might call it a zombie book.  However, Matheson deserves some credit for getting the whole “survive in a world of horrible creatures” genre of the ground.

5) Cell – by Steven King – Ok, so this is not a traditional zombie book, but reviewers rave about it.  It was published in 2006.  You remember the 2000’s right?  For those who have forgot, it was a time when society when from viewing cell phones as luxuries to necessities.  (Believe it or not, there was once an age when people would say, “Why the hell would I want to carry a phone with me when I’m out of the house?   I’m busy!  Whoever wants to talk to me can call me when I get home!)  So in other words, King took peoples’ newfound interest in phones and weaved a tale around it.  Basically, a computer virus infects cell phones and turns their users into zombie-eqsue rage monsters, not unlike what was seen in 28 Days Later.  Kind of a silly plot but the Master of Horror Fiction makes it work.

Did I miss any of your favorite zombie books?  Feel free to post them below.

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PC vs. Apple/Word vs. Pages – Which is the best for writers?

I’m a longtime PC guy thinking about switching it up to Mac.  Macs look nice and sleek but whenever I take a peak at one in the store and see all the ways its operating system is different from Windows I feel like I’m about to get dumped into the middle of downtown Mumbai without knowing anything about the local language or customs and being expected to find my way home.

On the other hand, there is something about Microsoft Word that bugs me.  It tries too hard to anticipate what it thinks I want to do that sometimes it keeps me from doing what I actually want to do.  Change a margin for effect on one paragraph on page 1 and it still wants to change it on page 50.  Do a numbered list and it tries to do a number list everytime you subsequently write a number.  Can Pages be any better?  But – doesn’t most of the civilized world already use Word and therefore my writing most be Word formatted to receive any kind of consideration?

THE QUESTION OF THE DAY:

Is an Apple or a PC a better computer for writers (and also -Word or Pages – which is better for writing?)

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Epic Rap Battles of History – King vs. Poe

Have you ever seen Epic Rap Battles of History?  Delightfully nerdy, it is a You Tube series that puts historical figures together and makes them rap at one another.

They made one where Steven King takes on Edgar Allan Poe.  Since bookshelfbattle.com is discussing Halloween lit all month long, I figure “King or Poe – Who’s the Master of Horror?” is a good question.  If you have any thoughts on this, please feel free to post below.

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Public Domain Horror Fiction – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Calm and content one moment, a ball of rage the next – hasn’t everyone felt this way at one time or another?  The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is a tale of conflicting emotions run amock.  It’s a story of how anger can boil under the surface of any otherwise seemingly reasonable man.

Not only that, but it is totally the precursor to The Incredible Hulk.

Enjoy this version brought to you by Project Gutenberg:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/42

“With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.” – Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Bookshelf Battlers, thank you for joining in the discussion.  The Public Domain Horror Fiction posts have really started a nice surge of viewer stats, so please feel free to share with friends.  And don’t forget my twitter hashtag – #tweettheraven where I’ll be posting Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven all month.  Follow @bookshelfbattle for more booktastic news.

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Public Domain Horror Fiction – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Green face.  Bolts in the neck.  Lumbering walk.  Says, “Grr!  Arrgh!” all the time.  No wonder that Frankenstein monsters did not take pop culture by storm in the way that vampires did.  While there are umpteen million stories about a heroine who must choose between a vampire or a werewolf, you’ll never see one where she has to choose between a vampire or a Frankenstein monster.

Still, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an epic tale of a) man’s desire to cheat death b) man’s awareness of his own mortality c) man’s futile attempts to control nature through science and well, if you learned any other lessons from reading it, feel free to post them below.

Published in 1818, Mary Shelley’s copyright over this work isn’t coming back to life, even if you strap it to a table and wait for a lightning bolt to zap it.  Thank you Mary for writing a work that has withstood the test of time.

And thank you Project Gutenberg for preserving it:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/41445

“How dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to be greater than his nature will allow.”

- Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

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Public Domain Horror Fiction – Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Vampires.  They sure do suck these days.  Pun intended.

You’ve got your Twilight vampires who are all glittery and filled to the brim with existential enui.  Then there’s the True Blood vampires who think their whole purpose in life is to act out a different Penthouse forum letter everyday.

Let’s get back to vampirism’s roots, with the bloodsucking fiend that started it all – Count Dracula.  I don’t know about you, but I prefer my vampires to wear capes and medallions, have slicked back hair, and go, “Bleah!  Bleah!” all the time.  Call me old fashioned.

Published in 1897, a stake was driven through the heart of Stoker’s copyright long ago, so you can check out Project Gutenberg’s Free E-book here:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/345

Happy Reading, Suckers!

“Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are; that some people see things that others cannot? But there are things old and new which must not be contemplate by men´s eyes, because they know -or think they know- some things which other men have told them. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain.” – Bram Stoker’s Dracula

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Public Doman Horror Fiction!

It’s Halloween time and while the dead rising from the grave is not unheard of at this time of year, rest assured – the copyrights of some of history’s greatest horror authors are as dead as a door nail.

To promote the great horror classics, I’ll be sharing excerpts from the likes of Poe, Shelley, Stoker and King.  Wait, wait my lawyer just called.  King’s still alive.  OK, no King!

Links will be to http://www.gutenberg.org – the home of Project Gutenberg, a wonderful ongoing effort to digitize and preserve the classics, making them free and available to everyone.  Please check their site out and if you can, donate.

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#tweettheraven

Through my twitter handle – @bookshelfbattle (which you should totally be following for tweets of a booktastic nature) – I have started a new thread – #tweettheraven

Yes, throughout October, I am going to tweet the text of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.

I’m doing this either a) to educate the masses about a beautiful work of poetry or b) I have no life.

I haven’t decided yet.

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Halloween Literature – The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe

Welcome to Boo! kshelf Battle.  Halloween is around the corner.  Time to discuss some spooky lit.  First up:  The Raven by quintessential Master of Horror Edgar Allen Poe.  I’ll post the poem today and come back later with some analysis.

THE RAVEN
BY:  EDGAR ALLEN POE
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more.”
    Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
    Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
    From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
            Nameless here for evermore.
    And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
    So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
    “’Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
            This it is and nothing more.”
    Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
    But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
    And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
            Darkness there and nothing more.
    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
    But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
    And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
            Merely this and nothing more.
    Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
    “Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
      Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
            ’Tis the wind and nothing more!”
    Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
    Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
    But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
            Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
    For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
    Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
            With such name as “Nevermore.”
    But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
    Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
    Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
            Then the bird said “Nevermore.”
    Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
    Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
    Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
            Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”
    But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
    Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
    Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
            Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”
    This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
    This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
    On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
            She shall press, ah, nevermore!
    Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
    “Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
    Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
    Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
    On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
    Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
    It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    “Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
    Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
    Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
            Shall be lifted—nevermore!
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