King of Horror: Celebrating the Legacy of Stephen King
“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.” - Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
As a renowned and bountifully decorated author, Stephen King’s reputation, and indeed his oeuvre, often precedes him throughout both the worlds of literature and pop culture. Most extensively known for his works of horror, supernatural and dark fantasy fiction, King has undisputedly shaped, not only the very genres but also the way in which many of us consume such fiction. With his authorial prowess, King allows us to journey viscerally with him, traversing the world of telekinesis in Carrie right across to the ancient burial site imagined in Pet Sematary.
Within his aforementioned memoir On Writing published in 2000, King discusses his personal relationship with writing and how it came to be that he decided to embark upon his writing career. Moving between Maine, Scarborough, New York and Chicago as a child, King’s upbringing could be considered somewhat tumultuous. However, since he was a child, King began developing his creativity by beginning to read and write fiction recreationally, even stating that he had “found home” when reading horror fiction from a young age.
While he had already written three other novels by this point, it was indeed Carrie in 1973 that was to be his first published work and to be critically acclaimed. The success of this astonishing work of horror then set in motion the success of many of his other novels. Other examples of his best-selling work include, but are not limited to The Shining, Misery, ‘Salem’s Lot and The Green Mile. Not only did these novels reach literary acclamation, but were transformed into award-winning films as well. In this regard, it is clear to see how and why King has become one of the most decorated and cult literary figures.
Having been nominated for awards two years prior, King’s first literary prize win came in 1978 when the American Library Association awarded him with the ‘Best Books for Young Adults’ prize for his novel ‘Salem’s Lot. The award was founded to provide libraries with a resource for collections and advisory purposes, thus serving as a testament to the prevalence and demand for King’s novel. ‘Salem’s Lot was King’s second published novel and an instant best-seller, with its legacy still continuing to be viewed as one of his best works to date.
One of the most prestigious awards for dark fantasy and horror writing is the Bram Stoker Award, established in 1987 by the Horrors Writers Association and named after the iconic author of the Gothic classic Dracula. From 1987 to 2018, Stephen King has received thirty-three nominations and succeeded in winning the prize thirteen times. The award is given in multiple categories, some of King’s being ‘Best Novel’, ‘Best Long/Short Fiction’, ‘Best Collection’, and the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’. The Bram Stoker Awards aim to congratulate winners not on a best-selling basis, but on recognition of “super achievement”, which Stephen King consistently merits.
Another prestigious award previously won by King is the Shirley Jackson Award. The award is relatively new, founded in 2007 in honour of Jackson’s legacy in horror and gothic writing, with eight books and over two hundred short stories including The Haunting of Hill House (recently a popular Netflix show). Whilst nominated twice in 2008 for N. and Just After Sunset, King won the Shirley Jackson Award in 2009 and 2015 for Morality and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams respectively under ‘Best Novelette’ and ‘Single-Author Collection’.
Stephen King’s winning streak continues into the new era of technology, having won the Goodreads Choice Award nine times thus far. Goodreads is a social network created in 2006 for book lovers to track their reading habits and review the database of books. Each year since 2009 the Goodreads Choice Awards have taken place where users nominate and vote on the winners of each category, thus proving King’s popularity amongst not only the highbrow prize jurors, but the readers en masse also.
With such an extensive library of novels in his name, the inspiration of major films, and the winner of awards throughout his entire career, it is clear that Stephen King blazes a trail of glory in the horror and mystery genre. From killer clowns to crazed nurses, from haunted hotels to psychic vampires, King’s imagination has provided us with nightmare fuel to last a lifetime - and we hope they don’t stop coming.