Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, History, Horror, Science Fiction
Author: Stephen King
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The Stand is a post-apocalyptic dark fantasy novel written by American author Stephen King and first published in 1978 by Doubleday. The plot centers on a pandemic of a weaponized strain of influenza that kills almost the entire world population. The few survivors, united in groups, establish a new social system and engage in confrontation with each other. In writing the book, King sought to create an epic in the spirit of The Lord of the Rings that was set in contemporary America. The book was difficult for King to write because of the large number of characters and storylines.
In 1990, The Stand was reprinted as a Complete and Uncut Edition. King restored some fragments of texts that were initially reduced, revised the order of the chapters, shifted the novel’s setting from 1980 to 10 years forward, and accordingly corrected a number of cultural references. The Complete and Uncut Edition of The Stand is considered to be King’s longest stand-alone work. The book has sold 4.5 million copies.
The Stand was highly appreciated by literary critics and is considered one of King’s best novels. It has been included in lists of the best books of all time by Rolling Stone, Time, the Modern Library, Amazon and the BBC. Reviewers praised the believability of the story, the relevance of the issues raised and the liveliness of the characters, but criticized the protractedness of individual episodes, the plot dualism and the deliberate denouement. A self-titled miniseries based on the novel was broadcast on ABC in 1994. From 2008 to 2012, Marvel Comics published a series of comics written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Mike Perkins. A miniseries to air on CBS All Access is in development.
Free Reading Highlights:
PART 1: TO BE READ BEFORE PURCHASE
There are a couple of things you need to know about this version of The Stand right away, even before you leave the bookstore. For that reason I hope I’ve caught you early–hopefully standing there by the K section of new fiction, with your other purchases tucked under your arm and the book open in front of you. In other words, I hope I’ve caught you while your wallet is still safely in your pocket. Ready? Okay; thanks. I promise to be brief.
First, this is not a new novel. If you hold misapprehensions on that score, let them be dispelled right here and right now, while you are still a safe distance from the cash register which will take money out of your pocket and put it in mine. The Stand was originally published over ten years ago.
Second, this is not a brand-new, entirely different version of The Stand. You will not discover old characters behaving in new ways, nor will the course of the tale branch off at some point from the old narrative, taking you, Constant Reader, in an entirely different direction.
This version of The Stand is an expansion of the original novel. As I’ve said, you won’t find old characters behaving in strange new ways, but you will discover that almost all of the characters were, in the book’s original form, doing more things, and if I didn’t think some of those things were interesting–perhaps even enlightening –I would never have agreed to this project.
If this is not what you want, don’t buy this book. If you have bought it already, I hope you saved your sales receipt. The book-shop where you made your purchase will want it before granting you credit or a cash refund.
If this expansion is something you want, I invite you to come along with me just a little farther. I have lots to tell you, and I think we can talk better around the corner.
In the dark.
PART 2: TO BE READ AFTER PURCHASE
This is not so much a Preface, actually, as it is an explanation of why this new version of The Stand exists at all. It was a long novel to begin with, and this expanded version will be regarded by some–perhaps many–as an act of indulgence by an author whose works have been successful enough to allow it. I hope not, but I’d have to be pretty stupid not to realize that such criticism is in the offing. After all, many critics of the novel regarded it bloated and overlong to begin with.
Whether the book was too long to begin with, or has become so in this edition, is a matter I leave to the individual reader. I only wanted to take this little space to say that I am republishing The Stand as it was originally written not to serve myself or any individual reader, but to serve a body of readers who have asked to have it. I would not offer it if I myself didn’t think those portions which were dropped from the original manuscript made the story a richer one, and I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit I am curious as to what its reception will be.
I’ll spare you the story of how The Stand came to be written–the chain of thought which produces a novel rarely interests anyone but aspiring novelists. They tend to believe there is a “secret formula” to writing a commercially successful novel, but there isn’t.
You get an idea; at some point another idea kicks in; you make a connection or a series of them between ideas; a few characters (usually little more than shadows at first) suggest themselves; a possible ending occurs to the writer’s mind (although when the ending comes, it’s rarely much like the one the writer envisioned); and at some point, the novelist sits down with a paper and pen, a typewriter, or a word cruncher. When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “One word at a time,” and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time. But I’ve read you can see that motherfucker from space without a telescope.
For readers who are interested, the story is told in the final chapter of Danse Macabre, a rambling but user-friendly overview of the horror genre I published in 1981. This is not a commercial for that book; I’m just saying the tale is there if you want it, although it’s told not because it is interesting in itself but to illustrate an entirely different point.
For the purposes of this book, what’s important is that approximately four hundred pages of manuscript were deleted from the final draft. The reason was not an editorial one; if that had been the case, I would be content to let the book live its life and die its eventual death as it was originally published.
The cuts were made at the behest of the accounting department. They toted up production costs, laid these next to the hardcover sales of my previous four books, and decided that a cover price of $12.95 was about what the market would bear (compare that price to this one, friends and neighbors!). I was asked if I would like to make the cuts, or if I would prefer someone in the editorial department to do it. I reluctantly agreed to do the surgery myself. I think I did a fairly good job, for a writer who has been accused over and over again of having diarrhea of the word processor. There is only one place–Trashcan Man’s trip across the country from Indiana to Las Vegas–that seems noticeably scarred in the original version.
If all of the story is there, one might ask, then why bother? Isn’t it indulgence after all? It better not be; if it is, then I have spent a large portion of my life wasting my time. As it happens, I think that in really good stories, the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts. If that were not so, the following would be a perfectly acceptable version of “Hansel and Gretel”:
Hansel and Gretel were two children with a nice father and a nice mother. The nice mother died, and the father married a bitch. The bitch wanted the kids out of the way so she’d have more money to spend on herself. She bullied her spineless, soft-headed hubby into taking Hansel and Gretel into the woods and killing them.
The kids’ father relented at the last moment, allowing them to live so they could starve to death in the woods instead of dying quickly and mercifully at the blade of his knife. While they were wandering around, they found a house made out of candy. It was owned by a witch who was into cannibalism. She locked them up and told them that when they were good and fat, she was going to eat them. But the kids got the best of her. Hansel shoved her into her own oven. They found the witch’s treasure, and they must have found a map, too, because they eventually arrived home again. When they got there, Dad gave the bitch the boot and they lived happily ever after. The End.
I don’t know what you think, but for me, that version’s a loser. The story is there, but it’s not elegant. It’s like a Cadillac with the chrome stripped off and the paint sanded down to dull metal. It goes somewhere, but it ain’t, you know, boss.
I haven’t restored all four hundred of the missing pages; there is a difference between doing it up right and just being downright vulgar. Some of what was left on the cutting room floor when I turned in the truncated version deserved to be left there, and there it remains. Other things, such as Frannie’s confrontation with her mother early in the book, seem to add that richness and dimension which I, as a reader, enjoy deeply. Returning to “Hansel and Gretel” for just a moment, you may remember that the wicked stepmother demands that her husband bring her the hearts of the children as proof that the hapless woodcutter has done as she has ordered.
The woodcutter demonstrates one dim vestige of intelligence by bringing her the hearts of two rabbits. Or take the famous trail of breadcrumbs Hansel leaves behind, so he and his sister can find their way back. Thinking dude! But when he attempts to follow the backtrail, he finds that the birds have eaten it. Neither of these bits are strictly essential to the plot, but in another way they make the plot–they are great and magical bits of storytelling. They change what could have been a dull piece of work into a tale which has charmed and terrified readers for over a hundred years.
I suspect nothing added here is as good as Hansel’s trail of breadcrumbs, but I have always regretted the fact that no one but me and a few in-house readers at Doubleday ever met that maniac who simply calls himself The Kid … or witnessed what happens to him outside a tunnel which counterpoints another tunnel half a continent away–the Lincoln Tunnel in New York, which two of the characters negotiate earlier in the story.
So here is The Stand, Constant Reader, as its author originally intended for it to roll out of the showroom. All its chrome is now intact, for better or for worse. And the final reason for presenting this version is the simplest. Although it has never been my favorite novel, it is the one people who like my books seem to like the most. When I speak (which is as rarely as possible), people always speak to me about The Stand. They discuss the characters as though they were living people, and ask frequently, “What happened to so-and-so?” … as if I got letters from them every now and again.
I am inevitably asked if it is ever going to be a movie. The answer, by the way, is probably yes. Will it be a good one? I don’t know. Bad or good, movies nearly always have a strange diminishing effect on works of fantasy (of course there are exceptions; The Wizard of Oz is an example which springs immediately to mind). In discussions, people are willing to cast various parts endlessly. I’ve always thought Robert Duvall would make a splendid Randall Flagg, but I’ve heard people suggest such people as Clint Eastwood, Bruce Dern, and Christopher Walken.
They all sound good, just as Bruce Springsteen would seem to make an interesting Larry Underwood, if he ever chose to try acting (and, based on his videos, I think he would do very well … although my personal choice would be Marshall Crenshaw). But in the end, I think it’s perhaps best for Stu, Larry, Glen, Frannie, Ralph, Tom Cullen, Lloyd, and that dark fellow to belong to the reader, who will visualize them through the lens of imagination in a vivid and constantly changing way no camera can duplicate.
Movies, after all, are only an illusion of motion comprised of thousands of still photographs. The imagination, however, moves with its own tidal flow. Films, even the best of them, freeze fiction–anyone who has ever seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and then reads Ken Kesey’s novel will find it hard or impossible not to see Jack Nicholson’s face on Randle Patrick McMurphy. That is not necessarily bad … but it is limiting. The glory of a good tale is that it is limitless and fluid; a good tale belongs to each reader in its own particular way.