Evil in/and Stephen King: Essay Volume

deadline for submissions: 
March 4, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Hong Kong Baptist University
contact email: 

The concept of evil received much attention throughout the 20th century. Despite the industrial scale atrocities committed in Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and Maoist China, alongside the genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Rwanda, as well as the explosion of serial killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Andrei Chikatilo in the latter part of the 20th century, the first two decades of the 21st century have been largely unconcerned with rigorous discussion of such evil. Indeed, the very term “evil” has been ostensibly erased from our contemporary lexis; in lieu of recognizing and defining evil in the light of the present, the consensus seemingly remains that “evil” is too vague or too simplistic a descriptor, and is therefore inappropriate.

Surely, however, language usages like “very bad,” “atrocious,” and “egregious’” fall far short of seriously encapsulating the gravity—or, rather, depravity—of certain human acts? Consequently, the recent Evil-scepticism vs. Evil-revivalism debate has recurred to consider such questions as: What constitutes an act of evil? How often must an individual commit said acts of evil for them to be deemed an evil person? Are acts of evil necessarily active, or is the passive, gleeful observance of pain inflicted on another sufficient to be considered evil? Are intention and volition required or does indifference to the suffering of others qualify as evil?

The objective of this Stephen King essay volume is the serious, academic consideration of evil as manifested in popular fiction (and the popular imagination). How has King framed—and even naturalised, given his normalization of supernatural realism—evil in contemporary western pop culture? Has evil been sanitised? Or aggrandised? And what might be the appeal of evil to what Harold Bloom described as the (King-derived) post-literate reader of contemporaneity? As America’s most popular purveyor of “horror” fiction (or as he himself prefers, “suspense” fiction), Stephen King is naturally the authorial point of reference. How, then, is the concept of evil addressed in King’s oeuvre?

The editors have already collected a handful of essays. These have already made it through the first stage of the review process. Our goal is to complete our book manuscript by December 2022 (with the aim of a Summer 2023 publication).

We have re-posted this CFP as we are looking specifically for essays that interface with one or more of King’s major early works, including Carrie, The Dead Zone, Cujo, Pet Sematary, It, and/or Misery. We also request that contributors seriously invest in the field of Evil Studies in order to ensure scholarly rigour (the rigour oft absent in Stephen King criticism). Finally, we ask that contributors, instead of focussing narrowly on one or two King novels, evince a greater familiarity with the King canon, which includes a substantial amount of nonfiction. King (reflexively) discusses evil in his fiction and nonfiction; King can therefore likewise be a worthwhile critical resource.             

Please submit 200-word abstracts, along with a very brief CV, by 4 March 2022 to jspolley@hkbu.edu.hk under the heading “Evil King.” Successful applicants/contributors will be notified by mid-March 2022. The deadline for full papers (7,000-11,000 words in APA) is 1 July 2022.