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First edition cover
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
First edition cover
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
The Stand is a post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy novel by American author Stephen King. It expands upon the scenario of his earlier short story, "Night Surf". The novel was originally published in 1978 and was later re-released in 1990 as The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition; King restored some text originally cut for brevity, added and revised sections, changed the setting of the story from 1980 (which in turn was changed to 1985 for the original paperback release in 1980) to 1990, and updated a few pop culture references accordingly. The Stand was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1979, and was adapted into both a television miniseries for ABC and a graphic novel published by Marvel Comics.
The book is dedicated to King's wife, Tabitha: "For Tabby: This dark chest of wonders."
At a remote U.S. Army base, a weaponized strain of influenza, officially known as Project Blue and nicknamed "Captain Trips", is accidentally released. Despite an effort to put the base under lockdown, a security malfunction allows a soldier, Charles Campion, to escape with his family. By the time the military tracks the already-deceased Campion to Texas, he has triggered a pandemic of apocalyptic proportions which eventually kills off 99.4% of the world's human population.
As the pandemic intensifies, a multi-faceted narrative—told partly from the perspective of primary characters—outlines the total breakdown and destruction of society through widespread violence; the failure of martial law to contain the outbreak; the military's increasingly violent efforts to censor information; and, finally, the near-extinction of mankind. The emotional toll is also dealt with, as the few survivors must care for their families and friends, dealing with confusion and grief as virtually everyone they know succumbs to the flu.
The expanded edition opens with a prologue titled "The Circle Opens" that offers greater detail into the circumstances surrounding the development of the virus and the security breach that allowed its escape from the secret laboratory compound where it was created.
Intertwining cross-country odysseys are undertaken by a small number of survivors in three parties, all drawn together by both circumstances and their shared dreams of a 108-year-old woman in Hemingford Home, Nebraska, whom they see as an embodiment of good. The woman, Abagail Freemantle—better known as "Mother Abagail"—becomes the spiritual leader for the survivors. Mother Abagail directs them to Boulder, Colorado, where they struggle to re-establish a democratic society called the "Free Zone."
Meanwhile, another group of survivors is drawn to Las Vegas by Randall Flagg, who is an evil being with supernatural powers. Flagg’s governance is brutally tyrannical, using gruesome methods of torture and execution to quell dissent. Flagg's group is able to quickly reorganize its society, restore power to Las Vegas, and rebuild the city with the many technical professionals who have migrated there. Flagg's group launches a weapons program, searching what remains of the United States for suitable arms.
Mother Abagail, feeling that she has become prideful due to her pleasure at being a public figure, disappears into the wilderness on a journey of spiritual reconciliation. During her absence, the Free Zone's leadership committee decides to secretly send three people to Flagg's territory to act as spies. Harold Lauder and Nadine Cross, who are disaffected Free Zone inhabitants tempted by Flagg, stage an attack on the committee with a bomb. The explosion kills several people, but most of the committee members avoid the explosion thanks to Mother Abagail's timely return. However, she is dying from malnutrition.
The stage is now set for the final confrontation as Flagg's group becomes aware of the threat from the Free Zone. There is no pitched battle, however. Instead, at Mother Abagail's dying behest, four of the five surviving members of the leadership committee—Glen Bateman, Stu Redman, Ralph Brentner, and Larry Underwood—set off on foot towards Las Vegas on an expedition to confront Flagg. Stu breaks his leg en route and convinces the others to go on without him, telling them that God will provide for him if that's what's meant to happen.
The remaining three are soon taken prisoner by Flagg's army. When Glen refuses to grovel before Flagg, he is killed by Lloyd Henreid, his second in command. Flagg gathers his entire collective to witness the execution of Brentner and Underwood. Moments before they are to be killed, the Trashcan Man, an insane follower of Flagg's, arrives with a stolen nuclear warhead. Flagg's magical attempt to silence a dissenter is transformed into a giant glowing hand—"The Hand of God"—which detonates the bomb, destroying Las Vegas and all of Flagg's followers, along with Larry and Ralph.
The inhabitants of Boulder anxiously anticipate the birth of a baby by Stu's love interest, Frances Goldsmith; they fear that the child may not possess an immunity to the superflu and may die, implying a permanent end to humanity. Soon after she gives birth to a live baby, Stu returns to Boulder, having been rescued by a Free Zone spy named Tom Cullen. The baby, Peter, manages to fight off the superflu. The original edition of the novel ends with Fran and Stu questioning whether the human race can learn from its mistakes. The answer, given in the last line, is ambiguous: "I don’t know."
The expanded edition follows this with a brief coda called "The Circle Closes", which leaves a darker impression and fits in with King’s ongoing "wheel of ka" theme. An amnesia-stricken Flagg wakes up on a beach somewhere in the South Pacific, having somehow escaped the atomic blast in Vegas by using his dark magic. There he begins recruiting adherents among a preliterate, dark-skinned people, who worship him as a deity.
In his non-fiction book Danse Macabre, Stephen King writes about the origins of The Stand at some length. One source was Patty Hearst's case. The original idea was to create a novel about the episode because "it seemed that only a novel might really succeed in explaining all the contradictions".
The author also mentions George R. Stewart's novel Earth Abides, which describes the odyssey of one of the last human survivors after the population is decimated by a plague, as one of the main inspirations:
With my Patty Hearst book, I never found the right way in… and during that entire six-week period, something else was nagging very quietly at the back of my mind. It was a news story I had read about an accidental CBW spill in Utah. (…) This article called up memories of a novel called Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart.
(…) and one day while sitting at my typewriter, (…) I wrote—just to write something: The world comes to an end but everybody in the SLA is somehow immune. Snake bit them. I looked at that for a while and then typed: No more gas shortages. That was sort of cheerful, in a horrible sort of way. 
The Stand was also planned by King as an epic The Lord of the Rings–type story in a contemporary American setting:
For a long time—ten years, at least—I had wanted to write a fantasy epic like The Lord of the Rings, only with an American setting. I just couldn't figure out how to do it. Then . . . after my wife and kids and I moved to Boulder, Colorado, I saw a 60 Minutes segment on CBW (chemical-biological warfare). I never forgot the gruesome footage of the test mice shuddering, convulsing, and dying, all in twenty seconds or less. That got me remembering a chemical spill in Utah, that killed a bunch of sheep (these were canisters on their way to some burial ground; they fell off the truck and ruptured). I remembered a news reporter saying, 'If the winds had been blowing the other way, there was Salt Lake City.' This incident later served as the basis of a movie called Rage, starring George C. Scott, but before it was released, I was deep into The Stand, finally writing my American fantasy epic, set in a plague-decimated USA. Only instead of a hobbit, my hero was a Texan named Stu Redman, and instead of a Dark Lord, my villain was a ruthless drifter and supernatural madman named Randall Flagg. The land of Mordor ('where the shadows lie,' according to Tolkien) was played by Las Vegas.
King nearly abandoned The Stand due to writers' block. Eventually, he reached the conclusion that the heroes were becoming too complacent, and were beginning to repeat all the same mistakes of their old society. In an attempt to resolve this, he added the part of the storyline where Harold and Nadine construct a bomb which explodes in a Free Zone committee meeting, killing Nick Andros, Chad Norris, and Susan Stern. Later, Mother Abagail explains on her deathbed that God permitted the bombing because He was dissatisfied with the heroes' focus on petty politics, and not on the ultimate quest of destroying Flagg. When telling this story, King sardonically observed that the bomb saved the book, and that he only had to kill half of the core cast in order to do this.
|The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition|
First edition cover
In 1990, a new unabridged edition of The Stand was published, billed as "The Complete & Uncut Edition". Published in hardcover by Doubleday in May 1990, this became the longest book published by King at 1152 pages. When the novel was originally published in 1978, Doubleday believed the readers would be averse to such a long book, and that The Stand would be a bigger seller if it was much shorter. Stephen King cut approximately 400 pages (around 150,000 words) from the original manuscript. This edition reinstates most of the deleted pages (as selected by King), as well as updates the setting from the 1980s to the 1990s. This new edition features a new preface by Stephen King, and illustrations by Bernie Wrightson. Additionally, Doubleday published a deluxe edition of The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition, limited to 1,250 numbered copies and 52 lettered copies. This edition, known as the "Coffin Box" edition due to the book being housed in a wooden case, was signed by Stephen King and Bernie Wrightson.
A movie adaptation of The Stand was in development hell for over ten years. During the 1980s, Stephen King had planned a theatrical film, with George A. Romero directing and himself writing, not trusting anybody else with the project. However, writing a workable screenplay proved difficult, due to the novel's length. King talked about adapting it for television, but was informed that the television networks did not "want to see the end of the world, particularly in prime time." Eventually King allowed screenwriter Rospo Pallenberg, who was a fan of The Stand, to write his own adaptation of the novel. Pallenberg's script would clock the film in at close to three hours, while still staying true to the novel. Everyone liked the script; however, just as it was about to finally come together, Warner Brothers backed out of the project.
ABC eventually offered Stephen King the chance to make The Stand into a 8-hour miniseries for television. King wrote a new screenplay (toned down slightly for television). The miniseries was broadcast in 1994, directed by Mick Garris, and starring such actors as Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, Miguel Ferrer, Laura San Giacomo, Jamey Sheridan, Ossie Davis, Bill Fagerbakke and Shawnee Smith, with notable cameos including Ed Harris, Kathy Bates, and Sam Raimi.
In January 2011, it was announced that Warner Bros. and CBS Films will be developing a feature-length film adaptation of The Stand. There is currently no official release date. In July 2011, it was reported that the film may be a trilogy, and that David Yates is considering directing. On August 10, Warner Bros. finalized the deal for Yates and Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves to re-team for a multi-movie version of The Stand. However, in October 2011, it was reported that both Yates and Kloves had left the project because Yates felt it would work better as a miniseries, and that actor/director Ben Affleck was Warner Bros.' new choice for the project. In August 2013, it was reported that Affleck had left the project for the role as Batman and Scott Cooper was in talks to rewrite and direct. Cooper later dropped out of the project over creative differences with the studio.
Marvel Comics adapted The Stand into a series of six, five issue comic book miniseries. The series was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Mike Perkins. Colorist Laura Martin, letterer Chris Eliopoulos and cover artist Lee Bermejo were also on the staff. The first issue of The Stand: Captain Trips was released on September 10, 2008.