'[O]ther worlds than these': The Multi-Media Multi-verse of Adapting Stephen King (Panel)

American/Diaspora / Cultural Studies and Media Studies

Abigail Montgomery (Blue Ridge Community College)

“‘Go then. There are other worlds than these’” (King, Gunslinger, 266). These are the final words of one of Jake Chambers’s lifetimes in Stephen King’s 1982 novel The Gunslinger, Volume I in his Dark Tower series. Throughout the subsequent seven volumes—and other novels—King has continued to develop this “other worlds” concept, also described as “many levels . . . [of] the Tower of all existence” (King, Insomnia, 576). Recently, the metaphor may apply as well to adaptations of King’s work as to the multi-verse of the novels and stories themselves.

King’s fiction has been adapted for film and television for decades, with results from B-horror films to Oscar winners. In recent years, King adaptations have expanded into graphic novels and long-form streaming service television series. An interesting turn, exemplified by the releasing-in-2017 IT and The Dark Tower films and The Mist TV series (as well as by 2000s television series Haven and The Dead Zone), has involved adaptations that actively change or add to narratives—new locations, characters, and events; marked time shifts; cross-racial casting—doing something substantively different from standard novel-to-film changes.

This session invites papers examining a particular King work or series—not limited to those listed—and its adaptation into another medium or media. Papers may consider specific interpretive questions—what are the implications of moving IT forward 30 years, or of treating the Dark Tower film as a series sequel?—or more theoretical and structural ones—what happens to canonicity and authoritativeness when one work has a novel, multiple film adaptations, and several graphic novels? These and other questions specific to multi-media King adaptations are encouraged. Literature, film, popular culture, and media studies scholars and all critical approaches are welcome.

This session examines issues of multi-media adaptation, canonicity, authoritativeness, and text ownership through the lens of recent adaptations--and re-adaptations--of Stephen King’s fiction. What does it mean if characters are added or missing; if a narrative changes decades; if the same title refers to two or more very different stories; if a film is a sequel to a novel? How have these issues changed in the decades of King's career and adaptation history, and how have his works and their adaptations influenced or created these changes?