Stephen King Speaks Out Against Those Unhappy With ‘Under the Dome’

Posted Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 06:00 pm GMT -4 by

Under the Dome

So a few people out there have expressed a distaste for the changes from the ‘Under the Dome’ novel when it became a made-for-TV mini-series. Apparently enough people have expressed this distaste, that Mr. King had to take the time to write an open letter to the public on why he approves the changes as well as why some of them had to happen.

For those of you who want to know more about how he feels, you can read his letter below or you can skip down over to what I have to say about the subject.

Here’s the letter from Mr. King to everyone in the world that appeared on his official site:

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.

Now my thoughts on the subject? To anyone who is complaining, have you actually seen a Stephen King made for TV mini-series or movie before? To one extent or another almost all of them have had continuity issues or changes made from the book to either make it fit in a TV time line or just to cut down on the budget.

This isn’t new and while I know many are passionate about what could be one of King’s best novels in years, there have always been changes to his work. Yes, I know a few large liberties were taken with this one: some characters were removed, some were combined. For the sake of getting this onto the small screen and having it make sense this is something that most likely had to happen. Most importantly, it’s still a fun watch and not plagued with the acting issues many of his earlier books to mini-series conversions may have suffered slightly from.

Even Mr. King is approving of these changes and it might make a couple more people give this series a chance as the novel was top notch and so far the series has been keeping up the same ideas from within it. So what do you think, are people overreacting? Is this a travesty to the novel? Or have you been enjoying both versions just as much as I have?

  • AnOutsider

    I agree. I go into movies and TV knowing things often change from the source material, and so far, I’m enjoying the show.

    There’s always hubbub around adaptations, and while I find it annoying personally, we can’t forget though, that the creators do grab a chunk of their audience by marketing to the fans of the original material.

  • Jon

    Too bad the show just isn’t very well done. And many of the changes were not necessities for the television series, they were just character changes that made them far less compelling. I really wanted to like this show, but it’s failing on many levels.

    • Alex Croft

      You say that it’s failing, but I think what you fail to realize is the difference between the masses that read, and the masses that watch TV. It does in fact need these changes so that the mainstream people can absorb and understand it, same goes for the characters and the overall changes to the story itself.

      Now its true I’ve not yet finished the book, but you really have to read and understand Mr. King’s personal viewpoint on the matter to understand just why the changes were made, and why they will more than likely work out. So far the special effects have been very good, and not over the top as in many TV shows and movies of today.

      This is of course just my debate and my opinion, but I think if you’re going to criticize a show for being bad, you should at least present some facts of your own!

  • Alex Croft

    I was actually introduced to the novel by way of the series, and I’m now listening to the audiobook in my spare time during the void between weekly episodes. Initially it took a bit of getting used to, but on the opposite side. I had to get used to the original concept, as the show was my introduction. Upon reading Mr. King’s letter, I feel even better than I already did.

    And as a huge sci-fi nerd, I love that he states near the end of the letter that people who are still having issues with it should think of it as an alternate reality, which if you’re not sure is essentially the theory that there are an infinite amount of parallel universes that run beside our own, with every possible outcome of every possible circumstance being played out infinitely.

    So with that in mind, get your role-playing hat on and enjoy it for what it is, which is a potentially excellent new series with a concept that is simultaneously new and familiar, being that it is sort of an ‘apocalyptic’ theme with a touch of an alien-like feel. That added to the unique mix of heroes and anti-heroes, that any thriving series requires.

    That’s my two cents, if you’d like to have a discussion on the matter, or care to debate my views, message me on Facebook, I love a good debate/nerd chat about things like this!

  • snapple070

    I understand that things will change when a book is adapted to film or tv. However what’s important is if what they changed takes the story too far awaythe thefrom the original idea or if it makes the story better. And also extremely important is if its done well. Which may be the biggest problem with Under the Doom the show.

    Takes things like Game of Thrones or to use King examples such as The Shawshank Redemption or Stand by Me. Everything changed in those (for the most part all 3 stuck pretty close to the original story) actually made the story better and it didn’t take away from the core of the story. But looking at the Angie/Jr situation by keeping her alive it changes so much of not only the story itself but the basis of the characters. (Angie obviously is just made up from this point on) Plus Jr’s character is totally different from this change it doesn’t make sense.

    Plus the aforementioned shows and movies were all really well made. Great acting, great directing, and great page to to screen writing. Under the Dome the show is lacking in all three of those departments.

  • Geoff

    I’m really sorry that Stephen had to post a letter to address the criticism of “Under the Dome.” I’ve been a fan since forever, and frankly I’ve found the adaptations of his works, in every form (movie, miniseries, etc. ) to have been perfectly adequate. It’s not easy to bring his visions to the screen–which, frankly, I think is a testament to him as a writer. Look at the adaptations of, say, H.P. Lovecraft to film vs. the source material–who could *possibly* get such a thing right without looking hokey? I say enjoy the ride–particularly since it has the author’s blessing! :)