Hero Worship: Stephen King

Gothic Manchester festival co-organiser Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes tells The Skinny about Stephen King’s influence on his research and teaching

Feature by Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes | 09 Oct 2013
  • Stephen King

This is a good year for fans of Stephen King. Two new novels, one of which is the much-awaited sequel to The Shining, and the successful TV adaptation of Under the Dome have all materialised within the space of only a few months. Seeing all this new work advertised on my last web shop has reminded me of three things.

Firstly, that I miss the fact that I could once read King without anxiously getting my pencil out to highlight important passages. Secondly, that now that I work in Higher Education, I find it hard justifying the time that it takes to read what are, more often than not, volumes between 500 and 900 pages long. Thirdly, were it not for this man's influence, I would probably have chosen a very different career path.

The truth is, when I was a teenager, I was obsessed with King. In fact, there was a period of two or three years where I did little else other than read him. I was told off at the local gym for getting out my copy of Salem's Lot instead of doing my push-ups, and I distinctly remember a meeting with my literature teacher (an unapologetic genre reader himself) where he smiled and kindly suggested that maybe I should try reading other writers. Like a good student, I went off and picked a copy of Frankenstein.

Tastes change, and so do reading habits, but my penchant for the landscapes of the gothic imagination has not abandoned me. Although I have since then discovered, cherished and even taught the work of other gothic writers, such as H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, M. R. James and Angela Carter, I keep indulging in some King when I get the chance. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that he made me want to study and teach literature.

Gothic Manchester Festival runs 21-27 Oct