Excellent article in the Guardian about Stephen King’s essay Guns, which he published exclusively for Kindle in January for 99 cents. A gun owner himself, King says gun owners should unite and ban automatic and semi-automatic weapons. The essay was a reaction to the December shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut.
I was extremely moved by this section of the article:
King recalls that the fictional schoolboy killer in his 1977 novel Rage, which was published under a pen name, Richard Bachman, resonated with several boys who subsequently rampaged at their own schools. One, Barry Loukaitis, shot dead a teacher and two students in Moses Lake, Washington in 1996, then quoted a line from the novel: “This sure beats algebra, doesn’t it?”
King said he did not apologise for writing Rage – “no, sir, no ma’am” – because it told the truth about high-school alienation and spoke to troubled adolescents who “were already broken”. However, he said, he ordered his publisher to withdraw the book because it had proved dangerous. He was not obliged to do so by law – it was protected by the first amendment – but it was the right thing to do. Gun advocates should do the same, he argued.
It’s no secret to those who know me that Mr. King is one of my heroes. I think he is a modern day Dickens. I read everything the man publishes. His book On Writing is the only handbook for good writing you will ever need. I have a copy of Rage (in a paperback edition called The Bachman Books, purchased in 1986). And I was struck when I was reading the above passage – he didn’t have to withdraw Rage, but he did so because it was “the right thing to do.” As writers we have a responsibility to ourselves to be true to our muse, even when it takes us to dark places. At the same time we have a responsibility to manage the effect our words might have in the world. And I think Mr. King demonstrated that beautifully.