This is the second Richard Thomas story I’m reviewing in two days and this one had to be one of the most macabre and unique looks at writing. It’s called “Stephen King Ate My Brain” and is literally about Stephen King eating the narrator’s brain. At the same time, it’s also a wittily dark commentary on inspirations and the writing life. The narrator is given a Faustian deal, only it’s not his soul at stake, but a piece of his brain. In the story, King has an appetite for neurons. To quote directly:
He offered me a deal. I could pick any one novel out of the batch, and make it my own, for a cost. It was a guaranteed best seller, he told me more than once, and in return, just a bit of myself. He’d done this many times, he intoned, no worries, nothing to fear. Struggling young writers approached him all the time, there was no shortage of proteins to choose from. I placed the novel in my backpack, and he lay me out on his desk.
“No worries, son, I’ve done this lots of times.”
What’s scary on one level about this story is that I could easily see writers agreeing to this. Not literally or physically (though even that’s a possibility), but on a mental level. At the same time, it’s also a warning against influence, imitation, and yearning too much for the success of others. There are no shortcuts to great writing. Not even a deal with Stephen King could change that. Well, maybe.
You can check out the story in full below or read the collection where it’s from, Staring into the Abyss.