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Arts & Culture > Poetry & Prose > Saturday Stuff

Saturday Stuff

Easy Books
I like to find possible origins of recent science fiction stories, and Stephen King in particular is a favorite of mine, although sometimes I get contentious about what he’s doing. For one thing, he does not classify his work as science fiction even if it basically seems to be. It must be all about marketing needs. And he makes it as a horror writer.

The Tommyknockers, his creepy novel that starts with a woman walking on her wooded property and tripping over a piece of metal sticking out of the ground, is very like the setup of a Hugo-winning story by Clifford Simak from 1958 -- “The Big Front Yard.” In that story, a man trips over a bit of metal sticking out of the ground in the woods near his house. Both this man, and the woman in the King novel, have a dog with them. They both start digging up the metal, and find it is the top part of a space ship.

Digging up the space ship causes the long-dead creatures who built it to sort of join telepathically to the human in each case. The aliens begin making changes to the human’s house — and world. (Also, both tales seem linked with the British TV series Quatermaas and The Pit, in which a space ship is dug up in the middle of London. Also involves a telepathic connection to an alien race whose corpses are in the ship. Great series.)

"The Langoliers," a King story about a race of black sphere-beings who zip around and eat up the past, are really similar to the creatures in another Clifford Simak novel, They Walked Like Men. Black, small, perfectly round, and menacing. Yet more science fiction.

In other stories Stephen King evokes H.P. Lovecraft — so it’s clearly horror. And you could say that The Tommyknockers shows a world deteriorating in a post-nuclear way, similar to the degrading of the countryside in Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out Of Space.”

And then there are some stories that aren’t SF but don’t even seem to qualify as horror, either. Take Cujo: I consider this a tragic story about a luckless dog who had lousy owners who never got him his rabies shots. Of course the poor thing got sick and went wild.

Same with The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: a story about a luckless but smart little girl who got lost on the Appalachian Trail, nearly died from exposure and starvation, but survived by thinking about her favorite baseball player (and recalling her own considerable knowledge of the outdoors). Not what I would think of as horror.

Both of those novels, however, seem to circle around the horror of finding no one at all to help when you are at extremes. No one arrives to chase away the rabid dog threatening a mother and son stuck in a car, and no one shows up magically to find the little girl on the Trail. Each confronts solitary deaths, but survives — in each case, saving her own life. I guess I could put it in the realm of horror. I really admire these two stories.

Saturday still

I hardly go anywhere, but when I do it is quite depressing to see how laxly people follow the state mask regulation. In the car dealership where I just dropped my sister off, all the staff had masks — falling loose around their necks, or pushed below their chins, or hanging on an ear. None actually over their faces.

At the car rental place, none of the staff behind the desk were wearing any. They were behind a plastic piece of screen, but the three staffpeople were all jammed together there.

A friend tells me that at Walmart, there are signs posted outside saying masks MUST be worn — but the staffer at the door just asks if you “have a medical condition” if you aren’t wearing one, and if you don’t answer, they don’t do anything about it. They have apparently been told not to confront customers. He says almost no one wears masks inside at the Walmart near him.

Still Saturday

Sometimes it’s helpful that we get into disagreements, if it clarifies what’s important. My sister and I are both opinionated and hotheaded, so we clash frequently. But these days our struggles are happening too often in a void of friends, and things are harder. Each of us is much more alone than we used to be. So I’m finding it easier to put aside and forget what I was mad about.

posted on Sept 12, 2020 2:05 PM ()


Mr. TBend has a vast collection of Sci-Fi vintage paperbacks - from that part of the used bookstores. He said he considers Lovecraft to be fantasy verging on horror, and that really fantasy IS horror when he thinks about it. When we were actively acquiring books, he collected by book number per publisher. Do you know what I mean? Each paperback edition has a little number, starting at 1 or something, (not the ISBN). They are stored in about 50 or more Xerox paper boxes in the Las Vegas garage. If I was there, and you wanted some books, I would sneak some out and mail them to you. I would say 'he won't even miss them' but come to think of it, he might be fully aware of what he's got, and really care. Even though he doesn't act like it based on never looking at them. And don't get me started on the 10 or boxes of Hot Wheels and Barbies from McDonalds Happy Meals.
comment by traveltales on Sept 13, 2020 6:47 PM ()
lovely post. In our are (SW Florida) people are wearing masks. I even see joggers wearing masks. THey're ignoring the president and our Republican governor. Your sci fi retrospective was interesting. I don't know if you are aware (I have written about it) that in the 50s and sixties, I knew, through my first husband, all the sci fi greats of the era. Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon (my husband's roomie before I married him), William Tenn (Phil Klass's pen name. And I never met him, but L. Ron Hubbard was friends with my husband. The list is longer but these are the names at the top. Clarke always called when he was in New York and we'd have dinner.
comment by tealstar on Sept 13, 2020 7:04 AM ()
You were partying with the very people who made up the Golden Age of science fiction. Even L. Ron Hubbard, whose Battlefield Earth I never read, wrote some very intriguing stuff about how to revive memory. And you said once you met my favorite A.E. Van Vogt.
reply by drmaus on Sept 13, 2020 7:54 AM ()
I never could get into Stephen King's book--sorry--if it helps I have liked some of the movies made from his books.

Why should they wear masks? Their president doesn't and has mass rallies without anyone wearing masks!!
comment by greatmartin on Sept 12, 2020 2:47 PM ()
Sure, his books aren’t for everyone. And they aren’t the most elegant literature. But someone whose imagination is big enough to think of someone’s using a commercial plane as a weapon, like happened in 9/11, as he wrote about in The Running Man — and to predict a president like Donald Trump, as he did in The Dead Zone — makes me want to look for more.
reply by drmaus on Sept 13, 2020 7:39 AM ()

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