15 Things You Didn't Know About The Stand

Even if you’ve read every word of Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic classic, you may still be able to learn something about post-pandemic life in the horror master’s universe.

1. It Had Roots in an Earlier Story

Stephen King first dreamed up the superflu known as “Captain Trips” in the 1969 science fiction short story “Night Surf,” which was published in the University of Maine’s Ubris literary journal. In this early iteration, the virus apparently originates in Southeast Asia.

2. King Wanted to Pay Tribute to a Fantasy Master

King set out to pen The Stand to scratch a 10-year itch to “write a fantasy epic like Lord of the Rings, only with an American setting.” Wrote King:

“Only instead of a hobbit, my hero was a Texan named Stu Redman, and instead of a Dark Lord, my villain was a ruthless drifter and supernatural madman named Randall Flagg. The land of Mordor ("where the shadows lie, according to Tolkien) was played by Las Vegas.”

3. Chemical Weapons Tests Helped Spark King’s Thinking

King found inspiration in the Dugway sheep incident of March 1968, an episode in which some 6,000 sheep dropped dead on ranches near the army’s Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah. The military initially denied any connection, but a later report revealed that the sheep were the victim of a nerve gas test that blew away from the base.

4. King Took Cues from an Earlier Pandemic Novel

In his nonfiction book Danse Macabre, King also cites author George R. Stewart’s novel Earth Abides — about one of humanity’s last survivors after a devastating pandemic destroys most of mankind — as a pivotal inspiration for The Stand.

5. The Novel Was Also a Product of Current Events

King also revealed in Danse Macabre that contemporary changes in politics and society helped shape The Stand and inspired him to write a novel in which the America he grew up in collapses:

“Its writing came during a troubled period for the world in general and America in particular; we were suffering from our first gas pains in history, we had just witnessed the sorry end of the Nixon administration and the first presidential resignation in history, we had been resoundingly defeated in Southeast Asia, and we were grappling with a host of domestic problems, from the troubling question of abortion-on-demand to an inflation rate that was beginning to spiral upward in a positively scary way…The America I had grown up in seemed to be crumbling beneath my feet.”

6. Christian Radio Made a Contribution As Well

King revealed a third inspiration for The Stand in Danse Macabre: A single line he heard in a radio broadcast of a sermon when he was living in Colorado. The line “Once in every generation the plague will fall among them” made such an impression on King that he wrote it down and pinned it over his typewriter. Later, when the author was struggling to write a fictionalized account of the Patty Hearst kidnapping (the unpublished The House on Value Street), he saw the gloomy quote and found the inspiration to start a new project that became The Stand.

7. The Finished Product Was Really, Really Long

Even though King had quite a bit of interesting inspiration, the writing was slow going. After two years of work, King had a 1,200-page manuscript that weighed 12 pounds. (He jokes in Danse Macabre that the bulk matched “the same weight as the sort of bowling ball I favor.”)

8. The Extreme Length Led to Logistical Problems

The 1,200-page novel presented a serious problem – King’s publisher, Doubleday, couldn’t print a novel that long. Literally. In addition to whatever qualms the publisher might have had about trying to sell such a hefty book, its printing presses couldn’t create it. As King explained to Time in 2009, “Doubleday had a physically limiting factor in those days because they used a glue binding instead of a cloth binding, and the way it was explained to me was that they had so much of a thickness they could do before the glue just fell apart.”

9. King Made Heavy Cuts

Doubleday didn’t want to break the novel into two volumes, so King’s editor asked him to slash 400 pages (some 150,000 words) to improve both the book’s quality and its commercial prospects. King complied, and an 823-page revision hit bookstores in September 1978. It moved 65,000 copies to make the hardcover bestseller list.

10. The Cut Pages Weren’t Lost

Of course, when your fans are as rabid as King’s, it’s hard for lost pages to stay lost. In 1990 King restored the text he had hacked away to create The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition. King didn’t just slip all the cut pages back into the original manuscript, though – he retyped each one. He told Time he “had the manuscript on one side of an IBM Selectric typewriter and I had the pages of a book that I had torn out of the binding on the other side.” The restored edition had another quirk – King also updated the setting of the novel to the then-present day and included references to cultural touchstones like Freddy Krueger that had not existed in 1978.

11. The Boss Gave the Book Its Title

The title of the novel comes from the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen’s sweeping Born to Run closer, “Jungleland” — “Tonight all is silence in the world/As we take our stand/Down in Jungleland.”

12. King Nearly Abandoned the Project

In 2000’s part-memoir, part-how-to-guide On Writing, King admits writer’s block nearly killed The Stand when he realized his characters were doomed to make the same mistakes that led to their old society’s woes.

13. The Villain Is Pulled from History

King may have discarded his Patty Hearst novel to write The Stand, but a pivotal character in her life became a running character in many of his novels. Recurring King villain Randall Flagg — who looms over The Dark Tower series, The Eyes of the Dragon, and Hearts in Atlantis under various aliases — makes his first appearance in The Stand. King has revealed Flagg was based on Hearst’s kidnapper, the Symbionese Liberation Army’s Donald DeFreeze.

14. The Novel Exists in a Larger King Universe

Like many of King’s novels, The Stand is interwoven with the Dark Tower series. Not only is Flagg a main antagonist in the series - the heroes of The Dark Tower also visit Topeka in the world of The Stand in the series’ fourth book, Wizard and Glass.

15. It Enabled King to Buy a Canoe

While The Stand was the latest in a long line of successes King had enjoyed, his splurges after its publication were relatively modest. In September 1979, one year after The Stand debuted, King opened up to the New York Times about how he was spending the loot by saying, “We have a mortgage like everybody else, but I don’t have to worry about the payments. I feel we’re as safe as anyone can be in this crazy world, but I’m not buying yachts. My only extravagances have been a canoe, a video recorder and hardcover books.”

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Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
The Covers of Jack Kerouac's Classic Titles Are Getting a Makeover
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press

Readers have been enjoying classic Jack Kerouac books like The Dharma Bums and On the Road for decades, but starting this August the novels will have a new look. Several abstract covers have been unveiled as part of Penguin’s "Great Kerouac" series, according to design website It’s Nice That.

The vibrant covers, designed by Tom Etherington of Penguin Press, feature the works of abstract expressionist painter Franz Kline. The artwork is intended to capture “the experience of reading Kerouac” rather than illustrating a particular scene or character, Etherington told It’s Nice That. Indeed, abstract styles of artwork seem a fitting match for Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose”—a writing style that was influenced by improvisational jazz music.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of The Dharma Bums, which was published just one year after On the Road. The Great Kerouac series will be available for purchase on August 2.

[h/t It's Nice That]

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Hulton Archive, Getty Images
15 Things You Might Not Know About Jules Verne
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Jules Verne, widely regarded as one of the fathers of science fiction, wrote some of literature's most famous adventure novels, including seminal works like Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Around the World in 80 Days. In addition to helping pioneer a new genre of writing, the French author also sailed the world, had a career as a stockbroker, fell in love with his cousin, and was shot by his nephew. Here are 15 facts you probably didn't know about him.

1. HE GREW UP SURROUNDED BY SHIPS.

On February 8, 1828, Pierre and Sophie Verne welcomed their first child, Jules Gabriel, at Sophie's mother's home in Nantes, a city in western France. Verne's birthplace had a profound impact on his writing. In the 19th century, Nantes was a busy port city that served as a major hub for French shipbuilders and traders, and Verne's family lived on Ile Feydeau, a small, man-made island in a tributary of the Loire River. Verne spent his childhood watching ships sail down the Loire and imagining what it would be like to climb aboard them [PDF]. He would later work these early memories of maritime life into his writing.

2. HE FELL IN LOVE WITH HIS COUSIN.

Verne began writing poetry at just 12 years old. As a teenager, he used poetry as an outlet for his burgeoning romantic feelings. Verne fell in love with his cousin, Caroline Tronson, who was a year and a half older than him. He wrote and dedicated poems to Tronson, gave her presents, and attended dances with her. Unfortunately, Tronson didn't reciprocate her younger cousin's feelings. In 1847, when Verne was 19 and Tronson was 20, she married a man two decades her senior. Verne was heartbroken.

3. HIS FATHER PRESSURED HIM TO BE A LAWYER.

While Verne had been passionate about writing since his early teens, his father strongly encouraged young Jules to follow in his footsteps and enter the legal profession. Soon after Tronson's marriage, Verne's father capitalized on his son's depression, convincing him to move to Paris to study law.

Verne graduated with a law degree in 1851. But he kept writing fiction during this period, and continued to clash with his father over his career path. In 1852, Verne's father arranged for him to practice law in Nantes, but Verne decided to pursue life as a writer instead.

4. HE LIVED IN PARIS DURING A TUMULTUOUS TIME.

Verne's time in Paris coincided with a period of intense political instability. The French Revolution of 1848 broke out soon after Verne moved to the city to study law. Though he didn't participate, he was strikingly close to the conflict and its turbulent aftermath, including the coup d'état that ended France's Second Republic. "On Thursday the fighting was intense; at the end of my street, houses were knocked down by cannon fire," he wrote to his mother during the fighting that followed the coup in December 1851. Verne managed to stay out of the political upheaval during those years, but his writing later explored themes of governmental strife. In his 1864 novella The Count of Chanteleine: A Tale of the French Revolution, Verne wrote about the struggles of ordinary and noble French people during the French Revolutionary Wars, while his novel The Flight to France recounted the wartime adventures of an army captain in 1792.

5. HE BECAME A STOCKBROKER TO PAY THE BILLS.

In May 1856, Verne was the best man at his best friend's wedding in Amiens, a city in northern France. During the wedding festivities, Verne lodged with the bride's family and met Honorine de Viane Morel, the bride's sister. He developed a crush on Morel, a 26-year-old widow with two kids, and in January 1857, with the permission of her family, the two married.

There was one big problem. Verne had been writing plays for Paris theaters, but being a playwright didn't pay the bills. Verne needed a respectable income to support Morel and her daughters. Morel's brother offered Verne a job at a brokerage, and he accepted, quitting his theater job to become a stockbroker at the Paris Bourse. Writing was never too far from Verne's mind, though. He woke up early each day to write and research for several hours before heading to his day job.

6. HIS ADVENTURE NOVELS WERE PART OF A SERIES …

A caricature of Jules Verne on the sea floor with fantastic sea creatures on the cover of a magazine.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Modern readers probably think of Verne's most famous books as distinct entities, but his adventure novels were actually part of a series. In the early 1860s, Verne met Pierre-Jules Hetzel, an established publisher and magazine editor who helped Verne publish his first novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon. This novel served as the beginning of Voyages Extraordinaires, a series of dozens of books written by Verne and published by Hetzel. Most of these novels—including famous titles like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea—appeared in installments in Hetzel's magazine before being published in book form.

7. … THAT PROVIDED HIM WITH A STEADY STREAM OF INCOME.

Starting in 1863, Verne agreed to write two volumes per year for Hetzel, a contract that provided him with a steady source of income for decades. Between 1863 and 1905, Verne published 54 novels about travel, adventure, history, science, and technology for the Voyages Extraordinaires series. He worked closely with Hetzel on characters, structure, and plot until the publisher's death in 1886. Verne's writing wasn't limited to this series, however; in total, he wrote 65 novels over the course of his life, though some would not be published until long after his death.

8. HE DREW INSPIRATION FROM HIS OWN SAILING ADVENTURES.

During the 1860s, Verne's career was taking off, and he was making good money. So in 1867, he bought a small yacht, which he named the Saint Michel, after his son, Michel. When he wasn't living in Amiens, he spent time sailing around Europe to the Channel Islands, along the English Coast, and across the Bay of Biscay. Besides enjoying the peace and quiet at sea, he also worked during these sailing trips, writing most of the manuscripts for Around the World in Eighty Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea on his yacht. As he earned more money, he replaced the Saint Michel with a larger boat that he called the Saint Michel II. A few years later, he bought a third vessel, the Saint Michel III, a steam yacht that he hired a crew of 10 to man on long voyages to Scotland and through the Mediterranean.

9. HE'S ONE OF THE MOST TRANSLATED AUTHORS IN THE WORLD …

Verne wrote in French, but his works have always had an international appeal. Since the 1850s, his writing has been translated into approximately 150 languages—making him the second most translated author ever. He has appeared in translation even more often than William Shakespeare. He is second only to Agatha Christie, who holds the world record.

10. … BUT NOT ALL OF THOSE TRANSLATIONS ARE ACCURATE.

Although Verne wrote primarily for adults, many English-language publishers considered his science fiction writing to be juvenile and marketed his books to children. Translators dumbed down his work, simplifying stories, cutting heavily researched passages, summarizing dialogue, and in some cases, nixing anything that might be construed as a critique of the British Empire. Many translations even contain outright errors, such as measurements converted incorrectly.

Some literary historians now bemoan the shoddy translations of many of Verne's works, arguing that almost all of these early English translations feature significant changes to both plot and tone. Even today, these poor translations make up much of Verne's available work in English. But anglophone readers hoping to read more authentic versions of his stories are in luck. Thanks to scholarly interest, there has been a recent surge in new Verne translations that aim to be more faithful to the original texts.

11. HE HAD MAJOR HEALTH PROBLEMS.

Starting in his twenties, Verne began experiencing sudden bouts of extreme stomach pain. He wrote about his agonizing stomach cramps in letters to family members, but he failed to get a proper diagnosis from doctors. To try to ease his pain, he experimented with different diets, including one in which he ate only eggs and dairy. Historians believe that Verne may have had colitis or a related digestion disorder.

Even more unsettling than the stomach pain, Verne suffered from five episodes of facial paralysis over the course of his life. During these painful episodes, one side of his face suddenly became immobile. After the first attack, doctors treated his facial nerve with electric stimulation, but he had another attack five years later, and several more after that. Recently, researchers have concluded that he had Bell's palsy, a temporary form of one-sided facial paralysis caused by damage to the facial nerve. Doctors have hypothesized that it was the result of ear infections or inflammation, but no one knows for sure why he experienced this.

Verne developed type-2 diabetes in his fifties, and his health declined significantly in the last decade of his life. He suffered from high blood pressure, chronic dizziness, tinnitus, and other maladies, and eventually went partially blind.

12. HIS MENTALLY ILL NEPHEW SHOT HIM IN THE LEG …

In March 1886, a traumatic incident left the 58-year-old Verne disabled for the rest of his life. Verne's nephew Gaston, who was then in his twenties and suffering from mental illness, suddenly became violent, to Verne's detriment. The writer was arriving home one day when, out of the blue, Gaston shot him twice with a pistol. Thankfully, Verne survived, but the second bullet that Gaston fired struck the author's left leg.

13. … LEAVING HIM WITH A PERMANENT LIMP.

After the incident, Gaston was sent to a mental asylum. He wasn't diagnosed with a specific disorder, but most historians believe he suffered from paranoia or schizophrenia.

Verne never fully recovered from the attack. The bullet damaged his left leg badly, and his diabetes complicated the healing process. A secondary infection left him with a noticeable limp that persisted until his death in 1905.

14. HIS WORK CONTRIBUTED TO THE RISE OF STEAMPUNK.

Verne's body of work heavily influenced steampunk, the science fiction subgenre that takes inspiration from 19th century industrial technology. Some of Verne's characters, as well as the fictional machines he wrote about, have appeared in prominent steampunk works. For example, the TV show The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne explored the idea that Verne actually experienced the fantastic things he wrote about, and Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea appeared as a character in the comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

15. MANY OF HIS PREDICTIONS WERE SURPRISINGLY SPOT-ON.

Some of the technology Verne imagined in his fiction later became reality. One of the machines that Verne dreamed up, Nautilus—the electric submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea—came to life years after he first wrote about it. The first installment of the serialized Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was published in 1869, and the first battery-powered submarines were launched in the 1880s. (Similar submarine designs are still in use today.)

In addition, Verne's Paris In The Twentieth Century contains several surprisingly accurate technological predictions. Written in 1863, the dystopian novel imagines a tech-obsessed Parisian society in 1960. Verne wrote about skyscrapers, elevators, cars with internal combustion engines, trains, electric city lights, and suburbs. He was massively ahead of his time. He even wrote about a group of mechanical calculators (as in, computers) that could communicate with one another over a network (like the Internet). Pretty impressive for a guy born in 1828.

But Verne's influence goes beyond science fiction, steampunk, or real-world technology. His writing has inspired countless authors in genres ranging from poetry to travel to adventure. As Ray Bradbury wrote, "We are all, in one way or another, the children of Jules Verne."

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