Stephen King is a modern literary master. His works have been so influential that 100 years from now, when our mortal coils are reduced to nothing but dust, our ancestors will continue to discuss and analyse his work. The Shining, The Dark Tower, The Stand, Misery, the list of classics he’s penned is endless. The effect of his works has been that significant that they’ve also permeated film and TV, leaving a considerable mark on popular culture as a whole.
King has given us some of the most enduring characters of all time, and his works have affected countless other writers. He’s the modern master of horror, and he re-wrote the handbook of the genre for the modern audience. However, it would be reductive to view him as simply a horror author. He’s so much more than that. King’s work is a potpourri of genres ranging from thriller to western and fantasy, giving his prose a deftness that many authors have tried and failed to imitate.
Given that he is so widely revered, King’s opinions are also valued. Be it on politics, music or otherwise, King is one of the most fascinating modern figures. A countercultural adherent at heart, the spirit of hippiedom bleeds through his novels. He’s a remarkably discerning fellow, whose opinions are essential. In 2016, King offered up his thoughts on another cultural phenomenon; the Game of Thrones book series. King’s revelations came during a discussion with the series’ author George R. R. Martin at The Kiva Auditorium, Albuquerque.
King wasted no time, explaining: “I had not read any of the Game of Thrones books. I had kind of, a thing, where I said to myself ‘You know, I probably don’t want to read these things because I tried to read Robert Jordan, and I couldn’t read any of those books’, and so I thought, probably ‘these are just terrible’”.
At this point, if you’re thinking that King’s very open par to Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series is indicative of how he felt about Game of Thrones, you might find yourself about to be proven wrong. King also proved himself very wrong, in fact.
He explained that during one particular summer while celebrating his wife’s 65th birthday, the couple visited friends in Sarasota, Florida. King started to have a cramp in his knee, but it quickly morphed into a more all-encompassing pain. It was sciatica. King was in a lot of pain, which greatly affected his sleep. They were also in Florida on business, as King was recording a book in Bradenton, but the pain increased while driving, particularly such a long journey. One night, annoyed and in pain, he thought, “I’ll try one of these fucking George Martin books and see if this thing is any good”. He clarified, “It just carried me away”.
King continued: “What I had not expected, the last thing I had expected from those books, is what page-turners they are. I just got lost. When I couldn’t sleep at night, I read the books, and then when I had to go and record this thing, I had the audio versions, and I’d plug in the CD’s in the car”.
If this level of praise is not surprising given how King opened up his account, the way he certainly concluded it is. He said in no uncertain terms to Martin: “They saved my life man, so thank you”.
Given just how well written the Game of Thrones series is, there’s no surprise that King was eventually drawn in by George R. R. Martin’s dense and convoluted world. However, we’d love for him to elucidate on why he dislikes America’s other favourite fantasy series, The Wheel of Time.