The Stand and Stephen King by Josh Boone
Stephen King was a god to me when I was a kid. I was raised by Bible-thumping Baptists in Virginia Beach, VA. Stephen King was a big no no. When procured, hardcovers were hidden under my bed on top of the wooden slats that supported my box springs, and paperbacks were stripped of their covers and glued inside the stripped covers of Christian books so I could get away with reading them without discovery. My life bore some disturbing similarities to “Fahrenheit 451,” and there was indeed a bonfire in our fireplace when a stash of King books was discovered at one point. Tears were shed and it wasn’t the smoke in my eyes from the blackened pile of ashes that used to be “The Stand” and “It.”
When I was twelve, I mailed King a package containing the first three books in his “Dark Tower” series to sign along with a letter professing my love for his books and my desire to be a writer when I grew up. I didn’t know King’s address, only that he lived in Bangor, Maine, and I sent the package out into the universe hoping it would reach him. And it did.
A box arrived in the mail several weeks later from King. Inside were my “Dark Tower” books, each inscribed with a lengthy note from “god” himself, who encouraged me in my writing and thanked me for being a fan. He also threw in an expensive limited edition of one of his books, “My Pretty Pony,” as a gift. My parents, genuinely moved by King’s kindness and generosity, lifted the ban on his books that very day.
King has been a towering figure in my life since the mid 80’s, years before my parents were “born again” and limits were set on what I could read, I would spend hours exploring the bookshelves in my father’s study. On the bottom shelf were paperbacks of a number of King’s earliest novels. The first one I actually read was “Firestarter” when I was eight. I’ve read everything he’s published since, some many times over. I still vividly remember reading “The Stand” in secret under my bed the summer I was twelve.
King has long been my literary drug of choice and my passion for his storytelling has never wavered. I wrote a critical role for him in my first film and was deeply moved he was willing to be a part of it. Having the opportunity to meet my hero, hug him, and express the impact his work had on my life meant the world to me.
I am incredibly excited to be working on “The Stand.” Like all of King’s work, it is grounded and populated with living, breathing human beings that every single one of us can relate to. One of King’s greatest talents is investing us so much in his characters that we swallow the supernatural elements without a second thought. He earns it.
What follows is a list of my favorite King novels and shorter works. These are the stories that have had the biggest impact on me.
Note: I haven’t read “Revival” at the time of this writing but there’s a copy sitting nearby waiting for me.
The Dark Tower*
Hearts in Atlantis
The Dead Zone
The Green Mile
* The entire series, with my favorites being The Waste Lands and Wizard and Glass.
* Firestarter is the first King book I read at the age of eight. It was borrowed from the Kempsville Public Library in Virginia Beach, VA.
The Sun Dog
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
The End of the Whole Mess
The Man in the Black Suit
The Woman in the Room
Children of the Corn
That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French
The complete list of the books to be read can be found on the Stephen King Books In Chronological Order For Stephen King Revisited Reading Lists page. To be notified of new posts and updates via email, please sign-up using the box on the right side or the bottom of this site.
Josh Boone is the director of “The Fault in Our Stars.” He wrote and directed “Stuck in Love,” which features the vocal talents of Mr. King. Boone is currently working on The Stand for Warner Brothers and Clive Barker’s Imajica with MRC and Seraphim Films.
Awesome post Josh. Heard you relate your family background when you appeared on Hollywood BabbleOn with Kevin Smith.
Awesome list of fav King books and stories too. My fav King Dark Tower books are The Drawing Of the Three and The Wastelands.
Best wishes with your adaptation of The Stand. Can’t wait to watch them!!
Well written. I too have had a passion for him, mind you, not as early as you had, but still a long-standing, on-going one. It’s interesting that some of his main themes relate to religion, and that was the one thing that was restraining you. Read on fellow reader. Oh, and congrats on all of your achievements.
I’ve read LISEY’S STORY twice now, Josh, both for its Kingness and in, I suppose you could say, “early preparation.” Hope you’re keeping well while you’re keeping busy!
I thought your name sounded familiar. My daughter, my wife and I all read The Fault in Our Stars and the “girls” saw the movie version that you directed….they wouldn’t take me but I’ll get over it.
Can’t wait to see what you can do with The Stand, it is going to be epic!
Take care and great essay,
Rock on, man! “The Stand” is a massive undertaking and bringing this epic story to life will be someone’s life’s work. In light of what our Earth is experiencing at this moment, the ramifications of the human race merrily trotting off to Hell is so eloquently envisioned that it should be mandatory reading for anyone entering public service! Will wait with eagerness for this project to come to fruition.
P.S. I read “Carrie” in High School 1974.
Dreams do come true!
I’m sorry for what you had to endure as a child (I was lucky to be raised w/out religion) but what a thrill it must have been to receive such a generous gift from Mr. King. Very much looking forward to The Stand!
I am not a person who would ever tell King I am his biggest fan. I am one who has restraint on people being my idols. However of all the people I admire as I do a music star, sports star, etc.. I respect his art the most. The work he has published so far and created is astonishing and he is still going strong. I thought 11/22/63 was as good as the classics he is best known for. My first book I read for enjoyment was Pet Sematary. Thankfully my parents didn’t mind a 12 year old was reading King and it was encouraged. King truly is a masterful storyteller.
I wish I would have known about getting a book autographed back then. I went to his tour for Insomnia to hopefully get a favorite signed. Now that I know I am certain King is so swamped with books he doesn’t do it anymore, or so I’ve heard.
I think its safe to say that we are all really excited about The Stand being remade and Its not often we actually get to “meet” the director of such an anticipated film. So, for that, Thank You! I’m honored and If you need any help, let me know! 🙂
Thanks for sharing such a personal story about your parents and King background. I am touched and proud of Steve for being such a stand up guy. It would of been so easy for him to ignore some kids’ letter but no.. he went above and beyond and actually won your parents over with a simple act of kindness and a wonderful gift.
— Wow, My Love just grew tenfold!
Good Luck on the movie, Josh
and make us proud!
Much Love from a fellow Constant Reader –
Thank you for a wonderful essay, Josh. And “THE STAND” is one of my favorites. I am so proud and also glad that you will be the director in the remaking of the film.
These are my favorite short stories/novellas:
little sisters of eluria
and my favorite novels
the dark tower (favorite of them all is probably the drawing of the three)
the green mile
hearts in atlantis
Josh: It would be interesting if you could share your favorite movies based on King’s books.
These are my favorites
stand by me
the green mile
carrie (1976 and 2013 version)
the shawshank redemption
hearts in atlantis
Really look forward to these movies! I hope Mr. Boone is able to resolve the supernatural aspects with the science fiction aspects of this book. This contrast was one of two frustrations I had when reading it, even though I really enjoyed it otherwise.
The superflu seemed to set the tone as a science-fiction book, but then the ouija board, mental telepathy, clairvoyance, and dark magic aspects created a thematic dichotomy for me that was never comfortable. If the script is able to emphasize that the superflu had awakened some ability in people (or mutated them like Marvel movies) then that seems like a more contemporary and palatable plot device. The evil (and good) in the world of the Stand could be biologically preternatural, and the superflu and superhuman abilities somehow of the same origin. If the movies maintain the dark-magic aspects (where the superflu is maybe one battle in a larger supernatural war) then hopefully the movies set that tone early on, perhaps by introducing the dark-magic first. Going one of these two directions might help avoid the hand of god ending which read a little to me like deus ex machina.
The second frustration I had with this book is that I had trouble accepting the motivations that would drive people to Las Vegas to join Flagg’s society. To contrast this with Lord of the Rings, the motivations for humans joining Sauron’s army are acceptable for me as a viewer/reader because in the allegorical world of Tolkien pure organized evil can exist. In the world of the Stand, the story takes place in a world similar to our own. So the questions are: why the appeal of Las Vegas? why would well-intentioned people go there? as desperate as the people were, did they not know that the Dark Man was to be their dictator?
If the questions about Flagg’s society can be answered and the dichotomy between science-fiction and supernatural can be resolved, I think these will be great movies.
I don’t agree that the dichotomy you talk about is a breaking point. In The Stand, King made a world where God, whatever particular understanding of him/her/it any of the characters may have, definitively exists. Given that, the supernatural elements are (along with being one of the driving forces of the themes of the book) perfectly in line.
As to why people would purposely follow Flagg, even “well-intentioned” people as you say, history is rife with examples of people following leaders who we can look back at now and say without much argument were evil. Do you think that every single German who followed Hitler was a devil in miniature? Many didn’t even know about the death camps, and Hitler’s nationalistic spiel appealed to a people whose economy and pride had been shaken badly by the previous war. I have known people personally who believe that a society where thieves get their hands chopped off and drug addicts are more severely punished wouldn’t be such a bad idea, so its no stretch to believe that sort of society would appeal to some. Even Nick was tempted by Flagg’s offer in his dreams. I have little doubt that people who were more inclined to join Flagg’s society to begin with were presented with a very different picture of him in their dreams than how people like Fran, Stu, Glen, etc. saw him. Even the Free Zone is not presented as some wholly good place where people only make the best decisions; Glen, who is unarguably one of my favorite characters in the entire book, at one point argues for locking people up who don’t necessarily want to stay in the Free Zone. It’s not crucifying dissenters, no, but it’s still not an appealing prospect.
Also, it should be kept in mind that we are talking about a world that is only superficially similar to our own anymore. The absolute magnitude of 99% of *everybody* dying; your friends, family, *everyone*, combined with complete societal collapse, would have a radical effect on the human psyche that would be difficult, if not impossible for us to wrap our heads around.
Thanks for the discussion. I don’t disagree about your comparison to Hitler Germany and the people part of that, but was just thinking the movie could explore the appeal of Flagg’s society a bit more. I’ll stand by the idea that the movie should also de-emphasize the supernatural aspects of the novel. The metaphors explored would not include God/devil comparisons, and instead Randall Flagg and his ideology could be viewed as an embodiment of the virus and Abagail an embodiment of whatever biological or physical primitive that makes certain people immune. The virus unlocks or creates the ability of man and animals to sense the world around them to varying degree, and includes sensing others over great distances or time. The hand of God ending should be replaced with instead one of the 3 detonating it, or convincing the pyromaniac to, and the hand of God should be metaphorical (perhaps in an epilogue recounted as a story “as if the hand of God reached down with a great ball of fire…”). The scene in the epilogue with Flagg reawakening on a Pacific island can be a direct analogy to the virus’ ability to constantly shift and mutate. The virus has affected Flagg so much that he apparently can somehow shift his entire person to other places, at the cost of loss of his memory. I’m thinking here more the TV series “Lost” and the weirdness involved in that TV show, where it was a science-fiction story, and not steeped in fantasy, allegory, or religion.