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Stephen King reveals the real secret of terror: children

Blank On Blank: Stephen King (Screenshot: YouTube)

Some fans assume that Stephen King, by virtue of his being the most successful horror writer of his time, must have had a terribly traumatic childhood that fueled his imagination later in life. But it’s not true, as the author himself reveals in the latest installment of PBS Digital Studios’ Blank On Blank webseries. This episode adds interpretive animation—complete with nods to Carrie, It, and The Shining—to an interview King did in October 1989 with Thomas Smith for WAMC’s The Public Radio Book Show. “I don’t remember having a particularly unusual childhood,” King tells Smith. But childhood does fascinate him for other reasons:

It’s a secret world. It exists by its own rules and lives in its own culture. And the second thing is that we forget what it is to be a child, and we forget that life, which is kind of exotic and strange. And that’s what really interests me.

King doesn’t believe that adults are blocking their terrible childhood memories, necessarily. It’s just that kids think in a very different way than adults do. “Sometimes, for a kid, the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line,” he suggests. Children tend to exist in a sort of dreamlike state, King says. “I make this easy connection between childhood and strange powers, paranormal powers.” Since King deals in terror for a living, Smith asks the author about the nature of fear itself. For King, it’s rooted in the fact that adults never really accept that they’re going to die someday, probably in an unpleasant way. They know this on an intellectual level, he says. “But I don’t think on an emotional level or spiritual level we ever quite come to terms with it.”


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