I'm 66 pages into rereading Stephen King's IT (my current bedtime reading- apt huh?), after an urge to revisit this book which has meant so much for me as a kid. A kid, you say? Aye. I first read IT when I was 12 years old, and I blame the 1,116 pages of this paperback (the very copy I was bought as a kid, which I've now owned for 21 years) for pretty much everything I have become. Heh.
When I was first reading the book and discovering horror, I was perhaps a little young to be doing so (okay, I was very much too young to do so), but it fascinated me. I wanted to know what made these stories (and latterly films) scare people. What was it hidden in those words that could send shivers up peoples' spines? I wanted to harness that power for myself.
The same year, my teachers called my parents into school to talk about the books I had been reading and the stories I had been writing. As well as IT, I had been reading things like William Peter Blatty's original novel of The Exorcist, Craig Thomas thrillers, James Herbert novels and a couple of sleazy, cheesy Nick Carter spy novels. I was reading far higher than the rest of my age group, and had discovered that writing stories about zombies and exploding innards was a good way to freak out my peers and stop a few bullies bothering me (this never worked - They just hit me more for being so odd).
My teachers were freaked out that a shy 12 year old was devouring such material, but my parents didn't have a problem with me reading adult books as long as I knew that they contained adult situations and that I was aware that kids shouldn't try and replicate anything in the books. What I think was a big factor is that for once I was reading something other than comics or cartoon tie-in books.
Anyway, I loved the book then and grew into a massive Stephen King fan. For all of the influence that people like Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Isaac Asimov and Clifford Simak have had on my fiction writing, there's always a very direct influence from Stephen's early horror novels.
Reading the book again now is a weird experience, as the mental images are very similar to the ones I had as a kid, sentences are familiar and the atmosphere is much more effective. I 'get' it more now than I did as a child, which is to be expected, but it's just as much fun a lifetime later. He did kinda need a more brutal edit, but the book remains a milestone in my life as a reader, as it sewed the seeds of me wanting to write horror and fantasy myself. Maybe one day those endeavours will pay off. Until then, I'll get back to reading IT in bed and worrying that Pennywise is watching me sleep.