Joe Ganley
Writing code since 1979
I have been a professional software engineer for over 10 years. I have written many kinds of software, but my particular strengths are interactive graphics applications, compilers and interpreters, and algorithms.

I also enjoy writing, woodworking, and home improvement. Also this.


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Sunday, September 03, 2000

There was an article in the August 13 New York Times Magazine about Stephen King, and in it he indicated that he wanted to be considered a "real" writer of literature, an achievement of which he is robbed simply because he writes horror. This struck me as interesting, because I've always seen it sort of the other way around: he has the potential -- sometimes realized, sometimes not -- to be a great author, but frequently lets the supernatural aspects of a story take over from the more basic human aspects that make for great literature. The best example of this is
Needful Things. This begins as a fairly straightforward story in which a newcomer to town pits the townspeople against one another by playing their distrusts against one another. This wonderfully addressed some themes of trust, betrayal, and revenge among citizens of a small town, much like Stephen Dobyns's excellent The Church of Dead Girls. (Incidentally, I know King is a big fan of Dobyns, and of this book in particular.) However, rather than follow these themes further, the book degenerates into the usual King-style festival of horrors, with the bad guy being exposed as some sort of demon, and all manner of occult action ensuing. King is a great writer, and a great author, but too often falls back on horrific action instead of pursuing the human element of the story. My favorites of King's are those where he avoids this pitfall -- those with minimal (or no) supernatural element: The Dead Zone, Gerald's Game, The Stand, and even Roadwork, to name a few. I hardly think King needs writing advice from me, and he has said many times how he has little choice as to what he is inspired to write about, but his work would be so much better if he could avoid that horror crutch; or at least, avoid letting it completely overcome the rest of the story as it often does in his work.

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