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Friday, January 21, 2022

In 2000, Stephen King Looked to the Future With ‘The Plant’ and ‘Riding the Bullet’ [The Losers’ Club Podcast]

As the ‘90s turned into the 2000s, Stephen King was learning how to write again. He was struck by a van the previous summer and the resulting injuries required rest, rehabilitation, and the complete upheaval of his writing routine. But, somewhat serendipitously, upheaval was also gripping his industry. All across culture, the Internet was changing the way creators disseminated their work. And the suits were getting nervous.

Not King, though. He spent the latter part of the ‘90s experimenting with publishing formats, first by serializing The Green Mile and then by releasing Desperation and The Regulators as companion books. And then came “Riding The Bullet”, which Simon & Schuster released as “the world’s first mass-market e-book.” The novella, a “ghost story in the grand tradition,” was riddled with glitches upon release (and instantly hacked by keyboard warriors) but the gambit was enough of a success to pique King’s interest in digital publishing.

Later that year, he went solo with The Plant, a novel-in-progress he released in 5,000-word installments via “My friends,” he said at the time, “we have a chance to become Big Publishing’s worst nightmare.” In an accompanying letter, he asked readers to kick him a dollar per “episode,” saying that he reserved the right to “cease publication if a lot of people steal the story.” Of course, that’s exactly what people did and The Plant remains unfinished to this day. In fact, it’s the only unfinished King work that’s available to the public.

Join Losers Randall Colburn, Justin Gerber, Jenn Adams, and Rachel Reeves as they unpack the stories alongside the DIY boom of the early Internet age. Along the way, they touch on how King’s accident informs “Riding the Bullet,” as well as the question of whether we even want to see a finished version of The Plant, one of the strangest relics in the King canon. Also, how did that whole e-book thing pan out?

Stream the episode below and stay tuned next week when the Losers revisit Mick Garris’ 2004 adaptation of Riding the Bullet starring Jonathan Jackson, the late Cliff Robertson, and Scream star David Arquette. For further adventures, join the Club over long days and pleasant nights via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, RadioPublic, Acast, Google Podcasts, and RSS. You can also unlock hundreds of hours of exclusive content in The Barrens (Patreon) — from deep dives into uncollected King works to Dark Tower detours to King commentaries.


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