Many people believe that Stephen King is your garden variety scare king who happened to make it big. His stories are often wet-your-pants terrifying, sometimes made into movies, and widely popular. There are those who would claim that those are pretty much the facts surrounding the author, and that he’s not exactly known creating anything “important.”
Neither are true.
He has some works that are purely thrill rides, for sure; but who is to say that thrill rides have no value? Why are they cast aside while books about the depression, the 1920s, coming-of-age stories—hey, aren’t those all about depression?—are glowing in the limelight, particularly in schools and colleges across the country? I would argue that fantasy and horror, as a genre, is pretty damn creative, if not important, and that to snub them is simply a mistake at best, hubris at worst.
But even with that said, King’s works run deeper. Firstly, many of his tales—from novellas like Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, The Body, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and The Long Walk to lengthier works like Bag of Bones, Rose Madder, and Dreamcatcher—are so much more than horror stories. They are human stories, some with fantastic elements and some such pure human experiences that they could be true stories.
Secondly, most of his works—if not all of them—are intertwined.
I know, it sounds like a curious conspiracy, but in The Stephen King Universe, authors Christopher Golden, Stanley Wiater, and Hank Wagner analyze his works and explain how characters, themes, elements, and one villain in particular can be found in most of King’s works. In this comprehensive survey of King’s works up to 2001, they break down each work and its characters and major elements—and tie it to the rest of his works.
Many people might argue that these are simply nods to his other works. That wouldn’t be such a surprise; after all, plenty of authors do that. Even Pixar references its past films in new movies. But the authors argue that The King Universe is set up in layers, as if dimensions of the same world, intertwining and interacting with one another.
I know, it’s mind-boggling. But if you’ve read even a handful of King’s works, you’re bound to notice a few repeated characters, a few coincidences in different locations. What it all comes down to, the authors of The King Universe argue, is his trademark Dark Tower series and the battle of good versus evil that lies within. It’s a lengthy read, sometimes scholarly and sometimes repetitive, but if you’ve ever wondered why, say, Cynthia Smith shows up in The Regulators, Desperation, AND Rose Madder, you might want to check it out.