Tom Hanks, George R.R. Martin And More Celebrate The Legacy Of Stephen King As Carrie’s 50th Anniversary Nears

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The legacy of Stephen King is about to hit a major milestone. On April 5 of this year, Constant Readers around the world will be celebrating, as that will mark the 50th anniversary of Carrie – the first novel that King got published and the work that launched his phenomenal career. That date is still a little over a week away, but this week’s edition of The King Beat is jumping the gun a little bit with three stories and a new Recommendation Of The Week linked to the special half-century anniversary.

Between testimonials from incredible talents about King’s work, an essay about Carrie by best-selling author Margaret Atwood, and news of an event recognizing the history of The Shining later this year, there’s plenty to discuss, so let’s dig in!

Tom Hanks in The Green Mile

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

With Carrie About To Turn 50, Tom Hanks, George R.R. Martin And Sissy Spacek Speak To Stephen King’s Legacy

The works of Stephen King mean a lot to a lot of people – and that includes other creatives. As I’ve come to understand from my own interviews over the years, filmmakers, actors, photographers, authors, musicians and more have recognized the remarkable impact that King has had on both their work and pop culture at large. There are a great many people who have nothing but great things to say about the legendary writer – and in celebration of Carrie’s 50th anniversary, The New York Times has collected a number of wonderful testimonials.

The article includes paragraphs from by a wide collection of individuals with an appreciation for Stephen King – including people who have very close affiliations with his work. For example, there is an entry from Tom Hanks, who doesn’t actually mention his time making Frank Darabont’s The Green Mile and instead focuses on how he came to read his first King novel back in the 1970s: The Stand. Hanks writes,

In the late ’70s the image of Carrie covered in blood at the high school dance was already part of the national narrative — in a fun way. Struggling to afford the rent and the diapers while navigating those first years of a creative journey in the big city, I had not seen the movie nor read the book. Then a copy of ‘The Stand’ was being gobbled up by our gang — read in a fever pitch on every subway ride and first thing in the morning. Once done, the copy was passed along to the next pair of eyes and promptly devoured. When I finally had the paperback in my hand, I read the opening words — from Springsteen’s ‘Jungleland’ — and disappeared into the Stephen King realm. From there, I read four of his titles in a row — and read him still.

George R.R. Martin, creator of Game Of Thrones and writer of the forthcoming The Winds of Winter, marvels at Stephen King’s productivity, and notes that he can only say he’s “pretty sure” that he’s read all of the author’s books because some of the great number may have slipped by him. That being said, he writes,

Once I am aware that King has a new book out, I tend to snap it up at once, take it home and … well, if I put it on my bookshelf it may linger for a while, but if I should crack it open and read the first page, my doom is sealed. There are a handful of writers whose novels, once begun, cannot be put aside. They grab hold of you, and there’s nothing to be done but read, and read, and read, all night and all day, until the tale is done.

There is even a quick entry from Sissy Spacek, who earned her first Oscar nomination for playing Carrie White in Brian De Palma’s beloved adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel:

Stephen King hit a nerve with ‘Carrie.’ He created a story that gave face to the underdog, and after 50 years it still resonates.

The whole article, which also includes testimonials from Diablo Cody, Senator Angus King, Josh Malerman, Mick Garris and Jeff VanderMeer, is terrific and worth a read.

Carrie (Sissy Spacek) in the burning prom in Carrie

(Image credit: United Artists)

Margaret Atwood Has Published A Magnificent Reflection On Carrie

In celebration of Carrie’s semicentennial, this week saw the publication of a new hardcover of the classic book, and one of the exciting additions included with the edition is an introduction from The Handsmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood. The book is available for purchase now, but Atwood’s essay has also been adapted for the New York Times book review section as an article titled “Stephen King’s First Book Is 50 Years Old, and Still Horrifyingly Relevant.”

In the piece, she discusses the well-known history of the book – which was thrown in the trash by Stephen King before it was rescued by his wife Tabitha – but it also provides a fascinating dissection of the work on both micro and macro levels. Atwood points to the fact that Carrie is part of a historical trend where stories about “Female figures with quasi-supernatural powers” coincide with key points in the history of women’s rights, but she also examines the different voices that are represented in the epistolary novel and analyzes the character’s names (including “Chris” Hargensen being an “anti-savoir” and Carrie’s last name being better associated with “white trash” than innocence).

It provides fascinating insight into Carrie as the work celebrates its fifth decade of existence, and should be read by anyone who celebrates the work.

The elevator of blood, The Shining 4K trailer

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Getting In On The Stephen King Anniversary Celebrations, The Stanley Hotel Has Announced Plans For An Event This Fall Centered Around The History Of The Shining

Naturally, the 50th anniversary of Carrie is the first of many half-century celebrations in the years to come for Stephen King fans… but it won’t just be the publication dates of his books that inspire festivities. For example, fans won’t be getting the opportunity to reflect on 50 years of The Shining until January 2027, but there will be revelries later this year inspired by the fortuitous hotel reservation that inspired the creation of that book.

It was 50 years ago this coming October that Stephen King and his wife Tabitha made arrangements to stay at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado – the couple staying in the infamous Room 217 as the establishment emptied out for the winter season. The experience of staying at and exploring the place was what gave him the idea to write The Shining. That’s a pretty big deal considering that the book is one of the most beloved tomes published in the 20th century, and it’s thusly appropriate that there is going to be an event this fall to celebrate that special history.

The Estes Park Trail Gazette reported this week that The Stanley is going to host a happening later this year dedicated to Stephen King and The Shining. Specific details about the revels are not included in the article (it simply notes that a “lineup of events will be announced this summer”), but Constant Readers may want to mark their calendars for September 30.

Having had the opportunity to stay at The Stanley a few years ago in the run-up to the theatrical release of Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep, I can say from personal experience that the hotel is a magnificent place that wonderfully embraces its place in Stephen King’s legacy (as I wrote about a few weeks ago in The King Beat, it will soon add to its brand as a destination for horror fans by opening a genre-centric space in coordination with Blumhouse). When more details are announced about the forthcoming anniversary, you can be sure that you’ll be able to find them in an edition of this column.

Sign going into the cemetary in Pet Sematary: Bloodlines

(Image credit: Paramount+)

Recommendation Of The Week: “I Was A Teenage Graverobber” a.k.a. “In A Half World Of Terror”

Given that this week’s King Beat has a specific focus on the very start of Stephen King’s career, it makes sense to keep that theme going with my Recommendation Of The Week. Carrie may have been the first novel that King had published, but it was far from the first time that he had successfully sold some of his writing. Nine years before Carrie arrived on bookstores, the young author’s first professionally printed work was the short story “I Was A Teenage Grave Robber,” which was later rewritten and retitled “In A Half-World Of Terror.” This quick taste of horror has never been republished in any of King’s many collections, but it’s easy enough to hunt down if you search for it online.

“I Was A Teenage Grave Robber” is a tale that centers on a destitute protagonist named Danny – an 18-year-old orphan who is forced to drop out of college after he is conned out of the last remaining money from his inheritance. He is desperate to reenlist, and an opportunity comes to him when he is approached by a stranger in a bar and offered the chance to work for a man named Steffen Weinbaum. As it turns out, Weinbaum is a mad scientist who conducts experiments using radiation on dead bodies, and what he needs Danny for is to procure him his test subjects. Needless to say, it’s not pleasant work… but the real trouble are the horrors that his employer is hoping to unleash upon the world.

That does it for this final edition of The King Beat in March 2024, but I’ll be back next Thursday with a new column. Be sure to head back to CinemaBlend then, and in the meantime, you can explore my series Adapting Stephen King, which dives into the full history of King stories adapted in film and television.

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