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7 Stories Stephen King Refuses to Publish

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Legendary horror writer Stephen King has sold over 300 million books, and while his prolific output might lead you to believe he publishes every page he produces, that’s not exactly true. Here are seven tales that King fans are highly unlikely to ever see.

1. The Aftermath  

King completed his first novel at just 16 years old, and at 50,000 words, it’s just a fraction of some of the doorstoppers he would later publish. In a post-nuclear war landscape, a young man attempts to sabotage the Sun Corps, a military force that’s secretly a race of aliens called the Denebians. King considers it a highly juvenile piece of work that he’s content to let rest at the Fogler Archive at the University of Maine: you can read it there, provided you get permission from King.

2. I Hate Mondays

While King has collaborated with Peter Straub and X-Files producer Chris Carter, he’s generally a solo act. Exceptions can be made, however, if you happen to be related: He’s co-written works with sons Joe and Owen as a way of fostering their interest in writing. As a child, the latter helped King—or rather, King helped Owen—on I Hate Mondays, a short story about two misfits who are kidnapped by a goon named Doctor Mindbender and forced to give up the combination to a safe. It also resides in the Fogler Archive.  

3. Squad D

In the late 1970s, King contributed a short story for Harlan Ellison’s anthology, Last Dangerous Visions. The collection was never published, and King has never bothered to find another home for Squad D, his tale about the only survivor of a Vietnam platoon who missed the battle that killed them all because he was in the infirmary for hemorrhoids. Guilt-ridden, the soldier contacts the families of the deceased to apologize, with a Twilight Zone-ish result. The story has found its way into margins of the Internet, where one could find it if so inclined.

4. The Cannibals

Before writing Under the Dome—about a town suddenly inhibited by a giant sphere—King played with the concept in other incarnations. He took two passes at a similar premise titled The Cannibals, which was nearly completed in 1981 and clocked in at around 500 pages before he wound up losing the manuscript. It turned up in 2009, leading to Dome. Owing to fan curiosity—and to put to bed rumors Dome was lifted from the plot of The Simpsons Movie, which saw Springfield encased in a giant bubble—King allowed excerpts to be posted on his official website.

5. The House on Value Street

After King had established himself with the success of Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot, he attempted to write a fictionalized account of the Patty Hearst kidnapping. Never quite able to get a handle on the story, he set it aside, unfinished. With the Hearst story no longer a contemporary reference, whatever remains of Value Street has likely outdated itself. (King fans are probably thankful: Abandoning Value Street led to work on The Stand.)

6. Phil and Sundance

King started work on this novella circa 1987 and never completed it. Its existence was unknown until 2013, when a French Stephen King fansite pulled it out of obscurity courtesy of a man who claimed he obtained it after meeting King via the Make a Wish Foundation. According to Cemetery Dance, the publisher that acquired the original, King has no plans to revisit it.  

7. Sword in the Darkness

King completed this 150,000 word novel while he was a senior at the University of Maine in 1970. In it, a gang plans a race riot to mask their plan for a series of heists. Twelve publishers rejected it, including Doubleday, which would later prove to be a lucrative partner for King. Disappointed at the time, King later reflected that it was "tawdry" and that he never bothered to have it critiqued in his literature class.

Additional Sources: Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished.

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10 Facts About Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary
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October 16 is World Dictionary Day, which each year celebrates the birthday of the American lexicographer Noah Webster, who was born in Connecticut in 1758. Last year, Mental Floss marked the occasion with a list of facts about Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language—the enormous two-volume dictionary, published in 1828 when Webster was 70 years old, that established many of the differences that still divide American and British English to this day. But while Webster was America’s foremost lexicographer, on the other side of the Atlantic, Great Britain had Dr. Samuel Johnson.

Johnson—whose 308th birthday was marked with a Google Doodle in September—published the equally groundbreaking Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, three years before Webster was even born. Its influence was arguably just as great as that of Webster’s, and it remained the foremost dictionary of British English until the early 1900s when the very first installments of the Oxford English Dictionary began to appear.

So to mark this year’s Dictionary Day, here are 10 facts about Johnson’s monumental dictionary.

1. IT WASN’T THE FIRST DICTIONARY.

With more than 40,000 entries, Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language was certainly the largest dictionary in the history of the English language at the time but, despite popular opinion, it wasn’t the first. Early vocabularies and glossaries were being compiled as far back as the Old English period, when lists of words and their equivalents in languages like Latin and French first began to be used by scribes and translators. These were followed by educational word lists and then early bilingual dictionaries that began to emerge in the 16th century, which all paved the way for what is now considered the very first English dictionary: Robert Cawdrey’s Table Alphabeticall—in 1604.

2. SAMUEL JOHNSON BORROWED FROM THE DICTIONARIES THAT CAME BEFORE HIS.

In compiling his dictionary, Johnson drew on Nathan Bailey’s Dictionarium Britanicum, which had been published in 1730. (Ironically, a sequel to Bailey’s dictionary, A New Universal Etymological English Dictionary, was published in the same year as Johnson’s, and borrowed heavily from his work; its author, Joseph Nicoll Scott, even gave Johnson some credit for its publication.)

But just as Johnson had borrowed from Bailey and Scott had borrowed from Johnson, Bailey, too had borrowed from an earlier work—namely John Kersey’s Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum (1708)—which was based in part on a technical vocabulary, John Harris’s Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. Lexicographic plagiarism was nothing new.

3. THE DICTIONARY WASN’T THE ONLY THING JOHNSON WROTE.

Although he’s best remembered as a lexicographer today, Johnson was actually something of a literary multitasker. As a journalist, he wrote for an early periodical called The Gentlemen’s Magazine. As a biographer, he wrote the Life of Mr Richard Savage (1744), a memoir of a friend and fellow writer who had died the previous year. Johnson also wrote numerous poems (London, published anonymously in 1738, was his first major published work), a novel (Rasselas, 1759), a stage play (Irene, 1749), and countless essays and critiques. He also co-edited an edition of Shakespeare’s plays. And in between all of that, he even found time to investigate a supposed haunted house in central London.

4. IT WAS THE FIRST DICTIONARY TO USE QUOTATIONS.

Johnson’s dictionary defined some 42,773 words, each of which was given a uniquely scholarly definition, complete with a suggested etymology and an armory of literary quotations—no fewer than 114,000 of them, in fact.

Johnson lifted quotations from books dating back to the 16th century for the citations in his dictionary, and relied heavily on the works of authors he admired and who were popular at the time—Shakespeare, John Milton, Alexander Pope, and Edmund Spenser included. In doing so, he established a lexicographic trend that still survives in dictionaries to this day.

5. IT TOOK MORE THAN EIGHT YEARS TO WRITE.

Defining 42,000 words and finding 114,000 quotes to help you do so takes time: Working from his home off Fleet Street in central London, Johnson and six assistants worked solidly for over eight years to bring his dictionary to print. (Webster, on the other hand, worked all but single-handedly, and used the 22 years it took him to compile his American Dictionary to learn 26 different languages.)

6. JOHNSON WAS WELL PAID FOR HIS TROUBLES.

Johnson was commissioned to write his dictionary by a group of London publishers, who paid him a princely 1,500 guineas—equivalent to roughly $300,000 (£225,000) today.

7. HE LEFT OUT A LOT OF WORDS.

The dictionary’s 42,000-word vocabulary might sound impressive, but it’s believed that the English language probably had as many as five times that many words around the time the dictionary was published in 1755. A lot of that shortfall was simply due to oversight: Johnson included the word irritable in four of his definitions, for instance, but didn’t list it as a headword in his own dictionary. He also failed to include a great many words found in the works of the authors he so admired, and in several of the source dictionaries he utilized, and in some cases he even failed to include the root forms of words whose derivatives were listed elsewhere in the dictionary. Athlete, for instance, didn’t make the final cut, whereas athletic did.

Johnson’s imposition of his own tastes and interests on his dictionary didn't help matters either. His dislike of French, for example, led to familiar words like unique, champagne, and bourgeois being omitted, while those he did include were given a thorough dressing down: ruse is defined as “a French word neither elegant nor necessary,” while finesse is dismissed as “an unnecessary word that is creeping into the language."

8. HE LEFT OUT THE LETTER X.

    At the foot of page 2308 of Johnson’s Dictionary is a note merely reading, “X is a letter which, though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language."

    9. HIS DEFINITIONS WEREN’T ALWAYS SO SCHOLARLY.

      As well as imposing his own taste on his dictionary, Johnson also famously employed his own sense of humor on his work. Among the most memorable of all his definitions is his explanation of oats as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” But he also defined monsieur as “a term of reproach for a Frenchman,” excise as “a hateful tax levied upon commodities and adjudged not by the common judges of property but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid,” and luggage as “anything of more weight than value.” As an example of how to use the word dull, he explained that “to make dictionaries is dull work.”

      10. HE POKED LOTS OF FUN AT HIS OWN OCCUPATION.

      Listed on page 1195 of his dictionary, Johnson’s definition of lexicographer was “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge.”

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      Inside This Pop-Up Book Are a Planetarium, a Speaker, a Decoder Ring, and More
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      Designer Kelli Anderson's new book is for more than just reading. This Book Is a Planetarium is really a collection of paper gadgets. With each thick, card stock page you turn, another surprise pops out.

      "This book concisely explains—and actively demonstrates with six functional pop-up paper contraptions—the science at play in our everyday world," the book's back cover explains. It turns out, there's a whole lot you can do with a few pieces of paper and a little bit of imagination.

      A book is open to reveal a spiralgraph inside.
      Courtesy Chronicle Books

      There's the eponymous planetarium, a paper dome that you can use with your cell phone's flashlight to project constellations onto the ceiling. There's a conical speaker, which you can use to amplify a smaller music player. There's a spiralgraph you can use to make geometric designs. There's a basic cipher you can use to encode and decode secret messages, and on its reverse side, a calendar. There's a stringed musical instrument you can play on. All are miniature, functional machines that can expand your perceptions of what a simple piece of paper can become.

      The cover of This Book Is a Planetarium
      Courtesy Chronicle Books

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