King's Highway pt 8: King's Short Fiction pt. 1

King’s short fiction collections (not including novellas) are Night Shift, Skeleton Crew, Everything’s Eventual, Nightmares and Dreamscapes, and Just After Sunset. Technically, there are three short stories in Hearts of Atlantis as well, but I’ll cover those (and the ones which were filmed for Nightmares and Dreamscapes) later in the series. I think Hearts and Nightmares deserve their own blogs, don’t you? Of course you do.

And since there are so many of them, and I don’t want to get bogged down (blogged down?) I’ll only cover those short stories which have been made into films and/or anthology-tv-episodes, for this one. This leaves out some of my favorites (from Skeleton Crew: ‘Beachworld,’ ‘Survivor Type,’ ‘Uncle Otto’s Truck;’ from Everything’s Eventual: all of them – this is a very, very strong collection; from Just After Sunset: ‘Willa,’ ‘The Gingerbread Girl,’ (tho I don’t particularly like those titles for these stories) ‘N,’ The New York Times at Special Discount Rates,’ and ‘In a Tight Place;’) but there’s only so much time in the day!

Overall, how does he rank against the American short story writers of his age? Pretty damn well. There are some clunkers here and there  - how could there not be? Unless you’re William Shatner, not everything you do will be a home run, or even a single. That said, and continuing the metaphor, King doesn’t strike out all that much. If his writing career had a batting average, it’d be pretty embarrassingly high. Short story writing is a very particular art, and to each his own, but I’d put some of these up against anything by his contemporaries: JD Salinger, Mary Gaitskill, Dan Chaon, Sam Lipsyte, or even Raymond Carver. Different styles/ themes/ strokes? You betcha'.

Madness? Read them and see for yourself.

Some other exceptions: 1) I will cover the Dark Tower story from Everything’s Eventual when I get to the Dark Tower series. 2) I plan on doing a Creepshow/ Creepshow 2 blog, so I won’t cover “The Raft” here. But, enough coming attractions… and 3) since I already covered Night Shift here, that further narrows it down. Still, even with all that, this is a bit too lengthy for one post, so I’ll break it into 2. Onward.

Another one greatly associated with study halls at NS Jr-Sr HS circa 86-88
“The Word Processor of the Gods” and “Gramma.” (Filmed for Tales from the Darkside and The New Twilight Zone, respectively.) Neither of these stories really floored me. “Word Processor” feels like the beginning of a great story; it ends right when it gets interesting/ complicated. (I could say the same thing for the title story of Everything's Eventual, actually; tantalizing questions and possibilities are raised that are left dangling.) These episodes aren’t bad, but they suffer from the production value of either series. Tales from the Darkside in particular always looks like it was filmed in someone’s basement. It hasn’t aged well... 

Still the coolest credits going, though! 

(or, if you prefer, in G major.)

It and Friday the 13th: the Series (not to mention, of course, The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits and Night Gallery) have such kick-ass credit sequences. Contrast to, say, Freddy's Nightmares, the Masters of Horror intro, which is just ridiculous. There’s a freaking Ally McBeal baby in it, for Crissakes. That reminds me - add the movie Inside to the list of illogical-horror-movies-that-get-in-their-own way, mentioned in my take on "1408," coming up; it, too, made the curious mistake of thinking the audience could get over a CGI Ally McBeal baby playing any part in the proceedings. Why are horror films so committed to style over substance these days? I suppose it's nothing new. (And who on Earth would mistake an Ally McBeal baby with "style?" Oh, those French...)

Contrary to popular belief, the George A. Romero movie Monkey Shines is NOT based on “The Monkey,” but on a book by Michael Stewart.

Pretty much everyone my age-ish remembers this film, though it was never a huge hit.

(Shouldn't I save this for a post on novellas? Meh. Probably.)

I remember kind of liking this when I read it in the 80s, then flashing back to it when I had to read Updike’s “A and P” for a college short fiction class, years later. I didn’t think about it again until they made the movie, and I didn’t see the movie until 2009. Dawn and I watched it on the eve of a huge snowstorm up in North Conway. My memory of the movie was Not bad. I prefer the ending in the story, though, which ends on a note (literally) of “Hope.” Not so in the film. 

This makes three King adaptations for Frank Darabont and two SK characters for Thomas Jane
Dawn and I had polarized reactions to the movie, by the way. I kind of enjoyed the tentacles and monster stuff and cryptic allusions to “The Arrowhead Project.” Whereas she didn’t like any of that stuff  but enjoyed the ending, where (spoilers, but that’s always going to be the case, here, at this blog, so I usually don’t give warning) David Drayton “saves” his family (not to mention Cliff Claven’s mother) by shooting them all. Before he can shoot himself, he sees the mist momentarily clear, and in comes the military. Oh no! True tragedy. I thought it was kind of uneven in tone from the rest of the film, myself, but afterwards when we were talking about it, she said “That was the only part I liked!”

Anyway, this one’s got a fun mystery feel. I prefer the story to the movie, but both have their unique merits. Just the concept of “the mist” really gets my imagination going, as I’m sure was anticipated by the man himself.


  1. "Unless you’re William Shatner, not everything you do will be a home run, or even a single."

    You'd better hope Chuck Norris never reads that...

    1. I re-read "Nona" over the weekend and quite enjoyed it. (I've been feeling an itch to revisit some of these King posts/ stories again. I need to resist this itch, though, as one does not simply walk onto the King's Highway...) I so wish some well-connected billionaire would buy all the rights to King's short fiction in one fell swoop and then give it all to a bunch of filmmakers for an anthology show. It's just such a damn shame that this hasn't happened, nor is it likely to be. What a waste! Anyway - "Nona" would be a great episode of this sort of show.