"Stephen King and GRR Martin Conversation"
YouTube, June 22, 2016
[NOTE: I've only transcribed some of the comments by these two authors regarding J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, which both credit with inspiring some aspects of their own work. -- M.M.]
[13:45] Stephen King: "We didn't have much because our dad left her with a lot of bills when he ran out. But my brother came running into the room one time -- we were latchkey kids before there were latchkey kids -- so we got home from school, my mother was working, we had the apartment, and David said: 'You've got to come up to the attic. I found a whole bunch of our dad's stuff that our mother had, you know, stowed there. So we went up and there and there were boxes and boxes of stuff. He was in the Merchant Marine and there was stuff from overseas. There were little Japanese dolls. And there were drink coasters from foreign places, ports of call, as they used to say. And there was a box of books, and they were paperbacks. And the one on the top was The Thing From The Tomb, by H. P. Lovecraft. And when I saw that I said 'That's really scary. This is what I want to do.'"
. . .
[15:28] G. R. R. Martin: "I had mixed up Mars and Venus with, like, Mungo and planets that I had entirely invented, that I was making my own planets."
Stephen King: "These people don't remember Mongo."
G. R. R. Martin: "They don't remember Mongo? Ming the Emperor. Ming the Merciless. Flash Gordon, not to be confused with Flesh Gordon, an entirely different movie."
. . .
[16:56] G. R. R. Martin:"... books and comic books were my ticket to a wider world. I dreamed of, you know, what the hell was on 8th street. I had no idea, you know? A whole different world with alien peoples. And on 1st street -- Baylin is a peninsula so there's a deep water channel called the kill Vaughn that separates Bayonne from Staten Island, New York. So I would see the lights of Staten Island from our windows in the dark and that was, you know, Shangri-la to me. And I invented all these stories to kind of explore the world."
[some talk about the novel "Survivor Type"]
[19:47] Stephen King: "All I'm trying to say here You just have these sick ideas. George has written his share, believe me. And instead of going to a shrink and paying the shrink, we write them and you pay us. It's a pretty good deal."
[some talk about the story "Graveyard Shift" with giant rats eating someone's tongue. "Sold for 200 bucks"]
[some talk about G. R. R. Martin doing a high school assignment to write another ending to Edgar Allen Poe's "Deus Ex Machina" ending to The Pit and the Pendulum which, read to the class, encouraged him to write more.]
[27:34] Stephen King: "You guys laugh now. But when you get home and it's dark, it's not gonna seem so funy then..."
[some stuff about E. G. Marshall in final Creepshow segment]
[39:04] Stephen King: [some stuff about "Mr Mercedes," "Finders Keepers," End of Watch." from incident in South Carolina and then Brady Hartsfield in Orlando Florida]
[42:46] Stephen King: “If that guy had gone in there with a knife, he would have been overpowered before he’d stabbed more than four people.” [see nine-eleven hijackers with their box-cutters] . . .
. . .
[43:19] G. R. R. Martin: “My fantasy series, of course, is often compared to Tolkien, and I’ve talked in many interviews about that – and I love Tolkien – and I’m the biggest fan in the world of The Lord of the Rings [Stephen King: “me, too”] but Tolkien’s view of good and evil in that is, you know, evil is externalized. It comes from Sauron or Morgoth before it. And there are orcs who are absolutely irredeemable and the good people get together and stop the orcs. And most of the good people are good. And I’ve always been more attracted to grey characters and I do think the Battle of Good and Evil is a great subject for fiction, but in my view the battle for good and evil is waged within the individual human heart. And it’s our decisions. We’re all partly good and partly evil and we make decisions every day. And we may do a good thing on Wednesday and then an evil thing on Thursday, or a selfish thing. And it’s all very complicated. And that’s kind of the approach that I’ve taken.
[44:22] “But I’m also a huge fan of Lovecraft and I think you are too – from reading some of your books – and I see Lovecraftian influences in things like the end of Revival. The vision of the afterlife there is a terrifying Lovecraftian moment of the short story, the name I'm forgetting about the standing stones that everyone who’s like them gets OCD. That’s a very Lovecraftian crazy title for forget . . .”
Stephen King: “It’s just “N” . . .
… [45:14] G. R. R. Martin: “But, even though I see the Lovecraftian things, when I look at your books, the real villains are the people. I mean, you know, Carrie kills a lot of people in that high school. But she’s not the villain. The villain is the mother and the other kids who torment her and do that. Misery, Annie Wilkes, what a horrifying creation and one that both you and I live in constant terror of, any successful writer.
... [46:22] George R. R. Martin: “In Under the Dome, maybe you can say the aliens are the villains who’ve trapped it, but it’s really the horrible ordinary people under the dome who start doing these incredibly horrible things to each other. And Brady Hartsfield is a very clear and vivid example of that. Just a – I mean, The Mist is another one. I mean, there’s the Lovecraftian monsters, but it’s the crazy religious woman inside that is the thing who really makes things a thousand times worse. So, What are your views on the nature of evil. Is there an external evil in the universe? Is it Sauron or Satan or Cthulu or is it our own fucked-up human natures?
[47:06] Stephen King: “It’s interesting because you’re right. There’s no Sauron in The Thrones games. I mean, the evil weaves itself in and out in the same way that the good weaves itself in and out of the characters. And one of the things about that, you know, the thing is, I wrote a series of books called the Dark Tower. And those books were all done, basically, the seven Dark Tower books are one long novel that never got edited because they were done either as short stories that are done as limited editions from Donald Grant Press. Nobody edited them, and nobody copy edited them so I went back and I revised the first one and I really need to go back to all of them. And one of the things in there that to me is a problem is there’s my version of Sauron was the Crimson King. You see this mark, the Eye of the King all the time. That’s outside evil. And in a way, outside evil is a more comforting concept than, you know, the idea that ‘the Devil made me do it’ is a way of shucking responsibility and saying that I’m not there. So I think we all understand that evil is inside a lot of people, and yet at the same time I think that what a lot of – and I’m not expressing this very well – but what a lot of horror fiction does and what a lot of fantastic fiction does is it allows us to grapple with the outside evil that strikes us. You know, you get a call on the phone that says “Your cousin is dead because he was in that Orlando nightclub.” Or like in the thing that makes End of Watch start, you get a diagnosis from the doctor that says “You have cancer and you’re probably going to die within the course of 16, 17 months because this thing has just gone too far and it’s the kind that’s, you know, in the book it’s pancreatic cancer. It’s not a spoiler, really, because it’s on page 9, for Christ’s sake, so don’t yell at me.
[49:28] “I hate this thing about “spoilers: you spoiled this you spoiled that. You can’t spoil a book. Jesus Christ. There’s this story. I mean, you go in there to have the experience. It isn’t like, you know, getting a GI Joe in your cereal box or something [G. R. R. Martin: “or girls on a sled]” I’m not expressing – so there are two kinds of evil. There’s Inside Evil and this Outside Evil and think that when we have the stories like, you know, “N” and Lovecraftian stuff where we’re trying to cope with the sort of things that happen in our lives that are bad things that we don’t understand.”
[50:08] G. R. R. Martin: “… How in the fuck do you write so many books so fast? ...
[52:12] Stephen King: “I did an event at Radio City Music Hall for charity with John Irving and [J. K. Rowling] and this was at the time that she was finishing the seventh of the Harry Potter books. And I know that I’ve been very fortunate as a writer, and you’ve been terrifically fortunate as a writer. You wrote for a long time, wrote a lot of good books, won a lot of awards and then, out of nowhere all of a sudden this crazy thing happens where all these books are suddenly New York Times best sellers – and God knows, it’s deserved – but it’s a sort of sudden thing. And here’s the other thing, OK? People yelling at you and saying “We want the next book. We want the next book.” They’re like babies. “We want the next book right away.” I mean, it’s a great thing to want that, but the pressure that you feel or I feel compared to that final Harry Potter book. Everybody wanted that, and she came to New York, and she was nearly finished with it and she had agreed to do this event. And Jo was trying to do three things at once. She was going to do a vacation with her kids. She was going to finish the last five or six chapters of the seventh Harry Potter book. And she was going to do this event. And she showed up to do the sound check at Radio City Music Hall. And she was dressed just like any housewife or mother or anyone who was on vacation. She had a shell top on, and white clam-digger pants, and loafers or sandals or something and her hair tied back in horsetails. And we were trying to talk about what we were going to do and everything. And the Scholastic Press Publishers is pulling her aside and talking to her. And Jo was very polite. But when she came back and talked to me, she was really, really angry. And what she said was: “They don’t understand what we do, do they?” And I said: “How can they understand when we don’t understand?”