A Good Time to Be a Stephen King Fan

I've been a Stephen King fan ever since I read his novel The Shining as a kid.  (It was a reading assignment in my A.P. English class, so even back then some teachers were recognizing the literary value of this pop culture horror writer.) I went on to see his movie adaptations and read his other books, such as The Stand, and I started noticing and appreciating the TV adaptations of his stories in miniseries and anthologies. King has been a prolific author and a worldwide multimedia brand ever since.  Yet just when I think his popularity has peaked, he surprises us all again with a new burst of projects. We're in the midst of a plethora of riches right now, with new motion pictures being released, new television shows being aired, and yes, new written tales being published.

I've been watching The Mist on the Spike network and I'm enjoying it even more than the excellent original 1980 novella or the decent 2007 film directed by Frank Darabont. The show is only 10 episodes, which works well for the plot about a mysterious fog that covers a city in Maine and the terror it unleashes on the residents who try to survive from each other and from the terrors the mist hides. This has been a much better adaptation than the recent CBS show Under the Dome, which started off strong, but went off the rails.

Opening in movie theaters this weekend is the long-awaited live-action adaptation of The Dark Tower.  Probably King's most ambitious work, the epic fantasy series spanned eight novels starting with The Gunslinger in 1982 and wrapping up with The Wind Through the Keyhole in 2012. The new movie stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey and is meant to be a looser retelling of the inter-dimensional, multi-world, time hopping adventure. Bringing the story to the screen has seemingly taken forever, but hopefully it will continue with sequels and a connected TV series.

Also debuting next week on the Audience network is Mr. Mercedes, based on King's detective trilogy that continues with Finders Keepers and End of Watch. Brendan Gleeson stars. The production was plagued with some casting changes -- the talented Anton Yelchin was supposed to play Brady Hartsfield, but he died in a freak car accident, and Ann-Margaret was set to play Ida Silver, but had to drop out due to an illness in her family.

Next up and probably the most anticipated is the new version of It, which will hit theaters in September. Both the original 1986 novel and the 1990 television miniseries starring Tim Curry as the monstrous Pennywise were some of my favorites, so I hope this latest adaptation does it justice. The movie will only deal with part of the narrative, when the characters were kids, and a second film will continue with the characters as adults. (In both the book and the TV version, the story goes back and forth, a narrative structure that works well. Let's hope this approach still delivers the scares -- the trailers look promising so far!)

Wait, there's more! Coming soon to Hulu, Castle Rock will be an anthology series of Stephen King tales set in King's beloved fictional Maine town, familiar to his fans. You may recall that Hulu had great success with a series based on King's time-travel JFK assassination story 11.22.63.  J.J. Abrams will be the executive producer, so my hopes are high.

Finally, Stephen King is collaborating with one of his sons, Owen King, on a new book titled Sleeping Beauties. The plot deals with women disappearing when they go to sleep. It's already topping pre-sale charts! King is also collaborating with Richard Chizmar on the novella Gwendy's Button Box.

That's plenty to appease Stephen King fans for the next few months at least.