By Daniel Dern: One of the many great things about attending science fiction conventions — regional ones like Arisia, Boskone and ReaderCon, and, where schedule and budget permit, Worldcons — is getting to see/hear, and with luck, planning, and more luck, even getting autographs, perhaps even the chance to chat.
For example, I’ve had, over the years, the privilege of seeing many of my faves (your list will of course vary) like Larry Niven, Anne Leckie, Jerry Pournelle, Samuel R. (“Chip”) Delany, Patricia McKillip, Harlan Ellison, Kit Reed, Barry Malzberg… you get the idea, and, I’m sure, have your own list, and perhaps also stack of autographed books.
But I haven’t seen Stephen King at any of the cons I go to. I became a fan when I encountered his remarkable short story, “Quitters, Inc.” in an anthology. Since then, my King faves include Different Seasons (novellas, including “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”), Firestarter, 1963, The Dome, and his two books of essays on/about writing.
(Although he clearly does go some places: Here’s an hour of King with George, in 2016.)
So back in June when my SO forwarded me an announcement that he was going to be doing an event IN THE TOWN WHERE I LIVE — within reasonable walking distance, no less — as one stop of a book tour that he and his younger son Owen King would be doing for their new (available starting September 29) book, Sleeping Beauties ,you can be I quickly checked my schedule for conflicts and then webbed in my $35 for a ticket.
Note, this event was sponsored or otherwise run by/with Newtonville Books, a local (to me) independent bookstore.
That day has come, I went, I’m back, here’s my report.
A WELL-RUN EVENT
Even before the event proper, it was clear this was done by folks who knew what they were doing. The ticket sales process (using Brown Paper Tickets) was clear and seamless. About a week before, they sent out two or three emails, advising/reminding us how things would go, e.g.:
• The schedule times for “lines start” (5PM), “doors open” (6PM), “event starts” (7PM)”
People were invited to email questions for the Kings, from which a few would be selected and read.
• There would not be any public autographing. (Although I did hedge my bets, bringing my copy of King’s On Writing… just in case a legitimate opportunity arose.)
• Everybody gets a hardcover copy of the new book — at the end of the event. Some would have been pre-autographed.
I got there around 5:15 PM, and there were a fair number of people already. There were two lines, A-L and M-Z. (I assume that was last name, although for me, same difference anyway.) I didn’t see anybody I knew. Some people were wearing or carrying King-themed shirts, handbags, etc. I didn’t see anybody in costume. Everybody was cheerful and well-behaved. (It didn’t hurt that we had perfect New England fall weather.)
Like any experienced fan, I had come prepared — i.e., I’d brought a book. In my case, my library reserve-request of Ann Leckie’s brand-new Provenance, which I’d picked up earlier in the day. I did schmooze some with my fellow in-liners, one of whom had a carry-bag whose design was images of King’s book covers.
The venue was full (the tour’s web site shows all the events SOLD OUT). I’ll guesstimate between 700-800 seats. The background music while we were waiting (once seated) was interesting. I couldn’t hear it clearly, but one cut sounded like the Jefferson Airplane doing a concert version of “Somebody To Love” (i.e., not from their original Surrealistic Pillow album), and later, Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen.”
THEY READ, THEY CHATTED, THEY DID Q&A
Stephen and Owen King began by talking briefly about the book. (Per the book’s website: “Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men.”)
They then each read a page or two. Then they dialogued with each other, talking about growing up, becoming writers, how this book happened.
This segued to a Q&A, where they took turns asking each other questions, including Owen asking his dad two questions from the Shawshank Redemption section of The Stephen King Quizbook, which Owen said he’d found in their attic. Then one of the organizers read several of the pre-submitted questions, and they took one from the audience.
The book’s tour web site includes a video of the Kings talking about their new book:
and here they are on Good Morning, America:
One thing that stood out for me is that as part of one of his answers, Stephen King quoted a line from Alfred Bester on the writing process. I’ve always been impressed by King’s familiarity with the canons (the pulps, early sf, comics, etc. — authors and works) and his acknowledgements and citations of them in his essays.
I’m looking forward to reading Sleeping Beauties.
It’s not the first with this premise; the one that springs to mind is The Disappearance by Philip Wylie (Within SFdom, Wylie is/was probably best-known for Gladiator, considered to be one of the influences/predecessors for Superman, and co-authoring When Worlds Collide/After Worlds Collide. Within popular culture, Wylie is (well, was) probably best known for “momism” in his Generation of Vipers. Other Wylie to check out: Finnley Wren. And my fave, the stories of Florida fishermen Crunch & Des, there’s one or more collections available.
But the world has changed (some) since Wylie’s 1951 take on this kind of event. Plus the “event” is different here. And Wylie and the Kings are, well, very different authors.
Anyhoo, now I can add Stephen King to my (mental) checklist of authors I’ve seen, and heard read.
And oh yeah, my copy of the book from the event includes the authors’ autographs. Whoohoo!