Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Stephen King on Cho Seung Hui

Stephen King was asked by Entertainment Weekly about his thoughts on the Virginia Tech murders. Being that Stephen King writes horror stories, I felt it was really interesting to hear his take on it. A lot of people said that Cho should have thrown up warning signals because of his violent stories, but wouldn't Stephen King have thrown up the same flags? When is it just imagination or crossing the line to disturbing insanity?

Here is what Stephen King had to say:

I've thought about it, of course. Certainly in this sensitized day and age, my own college writing — including a short story called ''Cain Rose Up'' and the novel RAGE — would have raised red flags, and I'm certain someone would have tabbed me as mentally ill because of them, even though I interacted in class, never took pictures of girls' legs with my cell phone (in 1970, WHAT cell phones?), and never signed my work with a ?.

As a teacher, I had one student — I will call him George — who raised red flags galore in my own mind: stories about flaying women alive, dismemberment, and, the capper, ''getting back at THEM.'' George was very quiet, and verbally inarticulate. It was only in his written work that he spewed these relentless scenes of gore and torture. His job was in the University Bookstore, and when I inquired about him once, I was told he was a good worker, but ''quiet.'' I thought, ''Whoa, if some kid is ever gonna blow, it'll be this one.'' He never did. But that was in the days before a gun-totin' serial killer could get top billing on the Nightly News and possibly the covers of national magazines.

For most creative people, the imagination serves as an excretory channel for violence: We visualize what we will never actually do (James Patterson, for instance, a nice man who has all too often worked the street that my old friend George used to work). Cho doesn't strike me as in the least creative, however. Dude was crazy. Dude was, in the memorable phrasing of Nikki Giovanni, ''just mean.'' Essentially there's no story here, except for a paranoid a--hole who went DEFCON-1. He may have been inspired by Columbine, but only because he was too dim to think up such a scenario on his own.

On the whole, I don't think you can pick these guys out based on their work, unless you look for violence unenlivened by any real talent.

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Blogger happy roy said...

b/c of my hectic work schedule, i actually had NO idea about any of this. of course, i heard about the shooting and that this guy was the killer, but i didn't really know much beyond that he had some mental problems or that his teachers tried to get him help earlier.

it does provide some food for thought -- at what point does creativity diverge from clear mental disorder? it obviously takes some creativity to write gruesome stories, but does translating it into real life just mean you're boring and unoriginal? obviously there's no admiration or compliments for this killer, because to acknowledge that he was anything but a monster might encourage further copycats. but i have to wonder...what is it that allows some people from being able to write absolutely gruesome stories for entertainment while other people try to enact their own real life horror stories? there's a quote i'm trying to remember: something about the flip-side of genius and creativity is pure madness...or something like that

April 25, 2007 12:58 PM  

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