Stephen King’s disdain for Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining is legendary, but the author is also his own harshest critic.
News that James Wan will be producing a feature film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers sparked renewed interest in the lesser-known entry in the author’s canon. The novel (which already had a forgettable miniseries adaptation in the 1990s) is unique for several reasons: It’s one of the only pure sci-fi novels King has ever written. It’s also not very good.
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Now before you go accusing me of passing judgment on an American literary treasure, this isn’t just my opinion. King didn’t mince words when discussing the book during an interview with Rolling Stone in 2014. Turns out, it was written during a dark period in the author’s life; King was extremely addicted to cocaine when he wrote The Tommyknockers.
Writers who may have heard that cocaine is a great tool for writers, enabling us to produce substantial content quickly. But as you’ll hear King explain, quantity doesn’t equal quality.
Per Rolling Stone:
Rolling Stone: Did the quality of your writing start to go down?
Stephen King: Yeah, it did. I mean, The Tommyknockers is an awful book. That was the last one I wrote before I cleaned up my act. And I’ve thought about it a lot lately and said to myself, “There’s really a good book in here, underneath all the sort of spurious energy that cocaine provides, and I ought to go back.” The book is about 700 pages long, and I’m thinking, “There’s probably a good 350-page novel in there.”
RS: Is The Tommyknockers the one book in your catalog you think you botched?
SK: Well, I don’t like Dreamcatcher very much. Dreamcatcher was written after the accident. [In 1999, King was hit by a van while taking a walk and left severely injured.] I was using a lot of Oxycontin for pain. And I couldn’t work on a computer back then because it hurt too much to sit in that position. So I wrote the whole thing longhand. And I was pretty stoned when I wrote it, because of the Oxy, and that’s another book that shows the drugs at work.
Hopefully, Wan will trim the drug-fueled fat, so to speak, from King’s manic sci-fi when he brings The Tommyknockers to the big screen for Universal.
Official Synopsis: On a beautiful June day, while walking deep in the woods on her property in Haven, Maine, Bobbi Anderson quite literally stumbles over her own destiny and that of the entire town. For the dull gray metal protrusion she discovers in the ground is part of a mysterious and massive metal object, one that may have been buried there for millennia. Bobbi can’t help but become obsessed and try to dig it out…the consequences of which will affect and transmute every citizen of Haven, young and old. It means unleashing extraordinary powers beyond those of mere mortals—and certain death for any and all outsiders. An alien hell has now invaded this small New England town…an aggressive and violent malignancy devoid of any mercy or sanity…