A story my mother often tells involves a porcelain clown and its subsequent demise at the hands of her favorite son. As legend would have it—yes, legend—my two-year-old self decided the clown was an affront to humanity, and smashed it with a baseball before it could infect the world with its evil. It’s not a particularly interesting story, but it comes up whenever conversation turns to clown phobia, which many people admittedly have. I suppose the story serves as a confirmation for those who are afraid of clowns. It’s a parable that verifies—yes, indeed—clowns are inherently evil, even a two-year-old child can see that.
A not-so-interesting fact never mentioned in the story’s retelling is that while my two-year-old self was shattering that porcelain clown in 1982, Stephen King was holed up in Bangor, Maine, writing his horror classic “It.” For those who don’t know, “It” is a story about children fighting against an evil entity that has taken the form of a clown.
The more I think about that coincidence the creepier it gets. It’s not an earth-shattering coincidence the likes of which would make someone believe in the supernatural and immediately tremble in fear. The fear is subtle; it gnaws at you. It causes that moment of discomfort in the recesses of your brain, and then you begin doubting reality.
It’s an unspectacular coincidence, my mind says. Something like it probably happened to tons of kids at that time. It’s a stupid thought...
But it IS sort of weird…
And then, of course, the overactive imagination takes over. What if King was literally writing at the moment I stopped and turned to look at the porcelain clown? What if it was a particularly grisly scene where a child was being attacked by the big baddie of King’s novel, Pennywise the Clown? What if I stared at the porcelain clown in my bedroom and heard the clack-clack of a distant typewriter just as a chill ran the length of my back? Maybe I grabbed the baseball at that moment for comfort; never letting my eyes leave the motionless porcelain clown, intuition telling me something was wrong. Maybe at that exact second Stephen King was typing the description of Pennywise the Clown reaching toward young Ben Hanscom, while in my bedroom I saw—or thought I saw—the eyes of my porcelain clown move ever so slightly in my direction. Maybe a voice echoed in my head asking me if I wanted a balloon. Maybe it told me I could float. Maybe at that moment the red painted smile of the porcelain clown opened slowly to reveal a row of jagged rotting teeth, and terrified, I threw the baseball as hard as I could, wishing for it all to end.
Maybe our imaginations can run away with us sometimes.
I recently read Stephen King’s “It,” after wanting to see the new movie, but procrastinating long enough that it had left my local theater. Reading the book seemed a good substitute. I won’t review the book here, as it seems a foolish thing to do more than thirty years after the release of said book. Especially when the book is already considered a classic of its genre. My opinion seems rather inconsequential. I will say this, however: “It” haunts me.
I sit and think about why the book haunts me, and it is not just the story, its themes, and concepts I can’t shake. I’m haunted by the real life inception of the book. I’m haunted by the possibilities of what was going on in Stephen King’s head when he wrote “It.”
It would take a lot more writing than a simple blog post to really dive into this topic—and frankly, I don’t really want to dive into it—but boiled down to its essence is this: Stephen King wrote a horror book about terrible things happening to a group of eleven-year-old kids (six boys; one girl), and he began writing this book just a few months after his own daughter had turned eleven. Again, his daughter turned eleven, and King spent the next four years writing about terrible things happening to children of her age. He wrote things violent, he wrote things emotional, and he even wrote things sexual.
Now, I understand that as writers we very often take inspiration from our own lives to create stories. That is not a new concept by any means. I used my own experience with adopting a rescue dog to fuel the story of “The Dean Machine.” To a large degree, I get it. But I just can’t get past the idea of having an eleven-year-old-daughter and then writing “It.”
I suppose if I really think about it, it’s only natural to be afraid that certain things might happen to your daughter. You want to protect her from life and its pitfalls. Your mind might go to some dark places when thinking of the things you want to protect her from, and as a writer you might use your own fears to fuel your work.
But in “It,” the thing that terrifies, and abuses the little girl the most isn’t the clown, or even the outside world. The bad guy in her life is her father. It’s as if Stephen King’s greatest fear for his daughter, was what he might do to her. I can’t shake the feeling that Stephen King wrote “It” to scare himself. Like the book is his own personal worst nightmare.
I don’t know. I’m probably over thinking all of this. But I guess that’s what I find haunting. The idea that maybe our imaginations can run away with us sometimes.
Dylan Lee Peters is the author of the fantasy adventure series "Everflame," the sci-fi fantasy "The Dean Machine," and most recently the epic fantasy series "The Hands of Ruin."
I went to see Thor: Ragnarok this weekend with my wife, and I left the theatre sort of disappointed. When my wife asked me if I liked the movie, I sort of shrugged, made some nondescript male grunting noise, and followed that up with, “I thought it was going to be like Guardians of the Galaxy.”
(Quick side note: when you type “gua” into Google search, Guardians of the Galaxy is the first thing that comes up. This is a heresy against guacamole I will not stand for).
My wife’s obvious but poignant comment was, “It’s a Thor movie, not a Guardians of the Galaxy movie.”
… and I guess the truth is I just wanted another Guardians of the Galaxy movie. So why did I go to a Thor movie wanting to see something other than Thor? Why did I expect that? Am I mentally defective?
While that last question can certainly be debated, it stands to reason that something caused me to think Thor: Ragnarok might be styled more like a Guardians movie. My only thought while walking out of the theatre was that the “buzz” had gotten to me. Damn it all, shaking a fist at the sky, I fell prey to one of the classic blunders. Inconceivable.
We’re all aware of the “buzz.” It’s the separate but not equal bastard child of all modern entertainment. It’s the shadow monster hanging over Hawkins, Indiana. It’s what makes people who don’t like high fantasy watch Game of Thrones. It’s the reason I know who Kendrick Lamar is even though I haven’t listened to rap music since I was in middle school. It’s the reason people who can’t even spell the word government think they know exactly who should be elected to each and every public office in our country. I mean can you imagine if we allowed the masses to elect other positions of societal importance like doctors? Or scientists? The species would be dead in a week…
Oh, shit… went off the rails… recalculating...
But the point is that it was the “buzz” around Thor: Ragnarok that had me thinking it would be like a Guardians movie. To be fair, the inclusion of bright cosmic colors in Thor were reminiscent of Guardians, there was a fair amount of comedy in Thor that was not present in the earlier movies, and there were two action sequences that happened while Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” were blaring from the speakers. And in those moments the movie did seem very Guardians-esque. However, if you’re going to the theatre expecting to see a Thor movie that is a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, like me, you will be disappointed.
Yet, the people who run Marvel Studios did this on purpose. This buzz was not organic. It was purposeful and intended. Thor was not as popular or profitable as Guardians of the Galaxy, so the executives used the power of Guardians to propel Thor. And it worked. The amount of money Marvel Studios made this past weekend is embarrassing. Now those executives are one step closer to replacing their souls with liquid cash. (Ah, the American Dream). All while fools like me forked over their money for something less than.
But I’m not complaining. Hell, I’m impressed. Touché, Marvel Studios executives. Because the truth is, we all want to replace our souls with liquid cash.
But seriously, all of us who create—whether it be movies, or books, or any product—we all wish we could generate that kind of buzz to drive people to our work. We all wish we could take something that already has power and use it to convince people to consume our goods. People who create are rarely also good sales people. I mean, trying to convince you to consume my goods sounds so dirty, doesn’t it?
Alas… I really want you to consume my goods (sigh)… so in homage to Marvel and the American Dream, let’s stir up some buzz for my newest series of novels, The Hands of Ruin.
The Hands of Ruin series has a secret family lineage thing, and a mystical force-like power thing just like Star Wars. So if you like Star Wars, you will love The Hands of Ruin!
The Hands of Ruin has two teenage kids being forced to live with a crappy family member, and have all sorts of bad stuff happen to them before they find out they have previously unknown powers, just like in Harry Potter. So if you liked Harry Potter, you will absolutely fall in love with The Hands of Ruin!
The Hands of Ruin has a badass female character both beautiful and strong who is constantly thrown into horrible situations where she has to fight against the establishment, just like The Hunger Games. If you like The Hunger Games than you are doing yourself an obscene and cruel injustice by not reading The Hands of Ruin!
The Hands of Ruin has shocking scenes like Game of Thrones. The Hands of Ruin and Game of Thrones might as well be exactly the same thing except different and not derivative!
Do you remember the fantastical things you loved from your childhood? Jim Henson stuff? Transformers stuff? Pokémon stuff? The Hands of Ruin is just like all of those things! Don’t deprive your inner child any longer!
Phew… there, I did it… and yes, I feel terribly dirty. But now there’s buzz, so go forth and spread the buzz. And I’ll leave you with this one more shameful and completely tangential connection from something you like to my new book series. I assume you came here because this blog post was about Thor: Ragnarok. I’m assuming you like Thor. Well…
The Hands Of Ruin is THOR in acronym. So there!
(insert hand gesture)
(insert fart noise)
(drop mic… walk away… prepare to rule the world after buzz takes hold)
• • •
Dylan Lee Peters is an unstable individual who has written seven novels all of which you should probably be reading. Actually, remove the probably from that sentence. It’s too wishy-washy.
Download book one of The Hands of Ruin series for FREE here.
I’d like to rant for a minute. What is the point of facebook? Or what I really mean is, I’m not sure I should be using facebook anymore, what’s the point? My page says that 560 people like my page and 527 people follow my page, but a post I made over two weeks ago–a post that I pinned–has only “reached” 110 people. So that means that 450 people that “like” what I post don’t get to see it, and 417 people who want to “follow” what I post don’t get to see it. Three days ago I posted a link of new content for those who like and follow my page, FREE content for that matter, and it has “reached” only 53 people. Seriously? I can’t even use facebook to notify people who want me to notify them that I have free content for them…
So it seems all facebook is good for at this moment is to function as a personal scrapbook. As I am very likely the only person who sees everything I post, the logical conclusion is that facebook is just an echo chamber; a mirror that reflects ourselves to ourselves for what? Mental masturbation?
Or maybe the truth is that facebook is merely a place to gather everyone so big businesses have a captive audience for their advertisements. After all, 90% of my facebook notifications are the facebook ad team telling me how great it would be for me if I paid them for advertising. Only if you’re willing to pay enough can you get your content to people who have “liked” you, or “followed” you. And there is a Universal Studios ad prominently displayed on my news feed, and I’ve never “liked” or “followed” them. It seems facebook is no longer a part of the “social network” but more a tool of the capitalist network. I understand ads pay for something that is otherwise free, but what is facebook at this point other than an ad machine?
But maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe I’m just being a whiner. Maybe I haven’t told enough people that they’re #SAD or #losers. Maybe I just don’t understand how best to use facebook.
I guess I should just call the Russians. They seem to have figured it out.
And honestly, I’m not really worried about someone reading this and thinking less of me for complaining and being negative.
I’ll be posting this on facebook. No one will see it anyway.