It’s beyond any reasonable doubt that Stephen King is the most excellent horror writer ever. His catalog is astonishing, and although many people will be more aware of his work through the film adaptations of his books, some of which differ significantly from the original pieces. Given that so many of King’s pieces of literature have been adapted for film and television, and he’s sold over 350 million units, some people overlook that he is also a prolific and accomplished short story writer.
King doesn’t just specialize in writing some of the greatest American novels of the 20th Century and short stories; he has also released books under different names and is one of the most well-rounded and consistent authors working in America. Literary enthusiasts and Stephen King fans often state that his short story collection often gets overlooked because of his incredible, well-established body of work that stretches over six decades. So let’s take a look at some of his top short stories.
#4 – Luckey Quarter
The ambiguity and underlying meaning in many of King’s books and short stories are part of why many people critique them in such detail. The difference between a good novelist and a great novelist is that you can argue multiple perspectives of different characters within the same story. King published Luckey Quarter in 1995, but it wasn’t until seven years later that it was documented in his chronicles.
Luckey Quarter follows a dream narrative of a lady who finds a coin that brings her good fortune. She places a small bet and finds that it brings her good luck. Moving onto more significant stakes, she visits the casino to realize this quarter is incredibly lucky and rakes in thousands of dollars. Those who like casino games know very well that even for one of the most strategic games – poker, having a winning poker strategy sometimes can be not enough. Unfortunately, as the story progresses, she ends up back where she started, with no money and the lucky quarter, she hasn’t lost all the money in the casino, but the short story follows a dream sequence. She passes the lucky coin to her son, who begins on a similar spontaneous journey, and the cycle continues.
#3 – The Mist
We might take a bit of heat for this one, as The Mist is one of King’s most notable works, and many people mistakenly believe this is a full novel. However, it’s one of the most highly regarded and esteemed novellas in 20th Century American literature. The Mist categorizes itself as an unfortunate selection of King novels that didn’t quite capture the hysteria or recognition of the original piece.
In truth, it’s difficult to portray a great novel well in cinema. They’re two different art forms, and you could highlight that the confusing nature and ambiguous ending of The Mist are two reasons why it probably shouldn’t have been adapted for film and why it received such polarizing reviews.
With the novella, you can build a broad picture in your mind, and there are not many better authors than King at building suspense and creating the imagery of an apocalyptic and impoverished landscape.
However, legendary directors can bring King’s rich, cryptic, and obscure fascinating writing to life. Although the author wasn’t a huge fan of Kubrick’s version of The Shining, it is widely considered one of the greatest horror films of its generation. Other novels by King have been turned into legendary movies, too, perfectly capturing the darkness and mystery in his writing.
Unfortunately, the Mist hasn’t felt such reappraisal, but the novella is a phenomenally crafted story.
#2 – Survivor Type
Without including a dark and harrowing tale, no list of King’s best works would be complete. Survivor Type is a shipwreck story that details the plight of a Doctor who is washed up on a deserted island. His quest for survival becomes dark, more acutely distressing, and stirs up the sort of isolation and mental despair that King is such a master in harnessing – this one isn’t for the faint-hearted, but it is quintessential King.
#1 – N
We haven’t placed these short stories in numerical order today; the beauty of literature is that interpretations and preferences are entirely subjective. So some people may love the stories on the list, and others may have had a completely different set of four novellas as their top King novellas.
N is a unique novella from King as it is told through the medium of a therapist and is a tale that mirrors the pain and suffering of chronic OCD. The vivid picture is a stark contrast to some of King’s more direct and blunt horror depictions, and the unique storytelling method is the reason for its inclusion today; it is also one of his newer works, published in 2010.