[TV] Stephen King Responds To “Under the Dome” Changes

stephen-king

Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” adaptation premiered on CBS Monday night. It was awesome. I’m already hooked. $13 million people watched it.

Still, somehow, someway, it pissed people off – and those people were fans of King’s original novella, which took him nearly 30 years to pen. Apparently, there were changes, and they weren’t thrilled. So, King, who also write the pilot’s screenplay, responded to those in question.

Here’s what he had to say.

A Letter From Stephen:

For those of you out there in Constant Reader Land who are feeling miffed because the TV version of “Under the Dome” varies considerably from the book version, here’s a little story.

Near the end of his life, and long after his greatest novels were written, James M. Cain agreed to be interviewed by a student reporter who covered culture and the arts for his college newspaper. This young man began his time with Cain by bemoaning how Hollywood had changed books such as The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity. Before he could properly get into his rant, the old man interrupted him by pointing to a shelf of books behind his desk. “The movies didn’t change them a bit, son,” he said. “They’re all right up there. Every word is the same as when I wrote them.”

I feel the same way about “Under the Dome”. If you loved the book when you first read it, it’s still there for your perusal. But that doesn’t mean the TV series is bad, because it’s not. In fact, it’s very good. And, if you look closely, you’ll see that most of my characters are still there, although some have been combined and others have changed jobs. That’s also true of the big stuff, like the supermarket riot, the reason for all that propane storage, and the book’s thematic concerns with diminishing resources.

Many of the changes wrought by Brian K. Vaughan and his team of writers have been of necessity, and I approved of them wholeheartedly. Some have been occasioned by their plan to keep the Dome in place over Chester’s Mill for months instead of little more than a week, as is the case in the book. Other story modifications are slotting into place because the writers have completely re-imagined the source of the Dome.

That such a re-imagining had to take place was my only serious concern when the series was still in the planning stages, and that concern was purely practical. If the solution to the mystery were the same on TV as in the book, everyone would know it in short order, which would spoil a lot of the fun (besides, plenty of readers didn’t like my solution, anyway). By the same token, it would spoil things if you guys knew the arcs of the characters in advance. Some who die in the book—Angie, for instance—live in the TV version of Chester’s Mill…at least for a while. And some who live in the book may not be as lucky during the run of the show. Just sayin’.

Listen, I’ve always been a situational writer. My idea of what to do with a plot is to shoot it before it can breed. It’s true that when I start a story, I usually have a general idea of where it’s going to finish up, but in many cases I end up in a different place entirely (for instance, I fully expected Ben Mears to die at the end of ’Salem’s Lot, and Susannah Dean was supposed to pop off at the end of Song of Susannah). “The book is the boss,” Alfred Bester used to say, and what that means to me is the situation is the boss. If you play fair with the characters—and let them play their parts according to their strengths and weaknesses—you can never go wrong. It’s impossible.

There’s only one element of my novel that absolutely had to be the same in the novel and the show, and that’s the Dome itself. It’s best to think of that novel and what you’re seeing week-to-week on CBS as a case of fraternal twins. Both started in the same creative womb, but you will be able to tell them apart. Or, if you’re of a sci-fi bent, think of them as alternate versions of the same reality.

As for me, I’m enjoying the chance to watch that alternate reality play out; I still think there’s no place like Dome.

As for you, Constant Reader, feel free to take the original down from your bookshelf anytime you want. Nothing between the covers has changed a bit.

Stephen King
June 27th, 2013

Source: Stephen King
  • Boonraiser

    This is awesome. He has a great sense of humour. These whiners are the same ones who complain about all book to t.v. adaptations, Game of Thrones, Walking Dead etc. Why the hell would you want to know everything before it happens? When watching a new movie, you wouldn’t want any spoilers beforehand, so why would you for a t.v. show?
    I’ve never read the book, but really enjoyed the pilot.

    • weresmurf

      Certain films I can understand to a degree. I saw WWZ and found it the biggest waste of time I’d spent in a cinema this side of the year 2000. I felt none of the spirit of the book had been kept alive. I don’t mind, in fact I ENDORSE changes to the source material as long as the spirit is kept alive and kicking. Frank Darabont does it beautifully with Stephen Kings source material with Shawshank (somewhat SUPERIOR as a film even) and The Mist (The Green Mile is still better as a book but still a great movie). But I think it’s important the movie or tv show still pays respect to the source material by staying at least structurally similair, not exact, but having its core principles intact. WWZ didn’t do that for me at all, that’s why I rate it to be one of the biggest pieces of shit I’ve seen in the last decade or so. However having said that, I find THE MIST to be one of the best adaptations I’ve seen. It had a completely, COMPLETELY changed ending which was 110% in line with the spirit of the novel and absolutely suited it.

      SO… *gasp* tl:dr? Kings right.

  • huntermc

    Books and movies (or TV, or comics, etc.) are different forms of media, each with their own strengths. What works well in one doesn’t necessarily work the same in others. Any good adaptation should take the essence of what makes the story unique and reshape it into the best version possible in the other media.

  • scaredyet

    huntermc has nailed it. No matter what, movie/TV adaptations will always be different than the source material, and that’s a good thing. Stephen King obviously knows this as well as anybody, having been involved with so many adaptations himself. The changes are neither an improvement nor a worsening of the original, but obviously there will always be people who are unhappy with the changes. So be it.

    Also, “novella”? It’s 1074 pages!

  • Nyghtfall

    “…King’s original novella…”

    NOVELLA?! If 1700 pages is a NOVELLA, I’d hate to see what you call a full-length NOVEL!

    • weresmurf

      Thats NOTHING! Apparently “$13 million people watched it.” 13 million dollars worth of people watched it!!!

      Incidentally.. how much is a person worth!?

    • saus6186

      1700? What fucking version did u read? It’s just barely over 1,000…

  • toadsanchez

    I understand that movies and shows should be different. It allows for better time management and some details are changed or left out to avoid confusing the audience members who haven’t read the books.

    But in this case, I find it way off. Ok, so it’s a separate entity, but it’s going to confuse a lot of people, whether you read the book or not. Barbie’s not the bad guy, he never buried a body at the beginning of the book. The kid never knew about an ‘energy source.’ I don’t know much about how the ending will be different(the ending was the only part I didn’t like in the book) but I bet the rest of the show will be a “cluster-mug.”

  • Evan3

    Meh, you need to judge each iteration on its own. As long as the show doesn’t wholly bastardize the main themes or characters, then no harm no foul. Hell, we all love Walking Dead and that is very different from the comics in the details, but very similar in the general arcs, themes and characterizations (Andrea notwithstanding).

    Also, Brian K. Vaughan is an incredible writer. I love Stephen King, but at this point in their respective careers, Vaughan can write circles around King. The material is in good hands.

  • Mr.Mirage

    Dear Retired Writer (as if: yeah, you and Jagger),

    Ah, how long is it going to take before you learn that, yeah, at this stage of your (our) life, you just flip the Rockefeller Bird at certain critics. Hell, you just head on back inside now, and get back to writing. Okay?

    Sincerely,

    Constant Reader from the first paperback publishing of Salem’s Lot, with no title and a bumpy cover.

    PS: Tell the Mrs. some of us are getting tired of waiting.

    *No, they won’t even read it, let alone respond, but I am in the same generation landslide era. He answered a fan letter, once, way, way, WAY back (now long lost, alas), in the form of a simple postcard. Hardcore Old School Steve sent a tiny card, addressed to me on the front, and a brief note to me, personally. I was apparently one of the idiot critics (I asked about the lyrics to the song the Singer Of Songs that allowed him to become a Big Hit, something about how they were crappy, as I recall. His response was, starting with correct and proper mean in which I, too, was taught;

    Dear Jim (which is how I had signed my letter to him),
    Something something clever comment, really a funny guy, short joke with punchline.

    Yours,

    There was a scribble of some kind, which I took to be the Autograph Of The Great Man, and it was. The typeset was just flawed in readily seen places that it was obviously an original. Thanks, man.

    Just a fan note in a horror bottle…*

  • Mr.Mirage

    Sorry… derp… the song was in The Stand (the original studio version, not the megaword extended remix).