In Stephen King’s 2015 anthology, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: Stories, one of his twisted tales is a novella called Ur , originally published as an eBook in 2009.
In Ur, an English professor who’s wedded to books decides to take the plunge into electronic reading, and buys a Kindle. When it arrives, it turns out to be a *special* Kindle, which apparently has the ability to access eBooks from other realities.
Then he finds out it can also read newspapers from the futures of this and other realities, as well, which leads to a horrifying revelation ….
This story bemused me for several reasons.
1) It’s often been an interesting “What If?” kind of thought experiment: What if I could sidestep to a universe next door (pace e e cummings) that didn’t happen to have the Beatles, or Beethoven, and “compose” that music to great acclaim in the new world?
Of course, my next depressing thought is that a world whose history was so different as to not produce The Fab Four or the Great Beetle-Browed One, would likely as not be a world that didn’t appreciate their music. A whole lot of things led up to great works, and trailed after them (streaming glories, pace Wordsworth), so it’s not as if I could come down from Mount Sinai with the White Album and expect to get away with it, right?
2) The more interesting amusement is how similar in basic concept this story is to one I wrote in 1981, called “On the Cable,” about a guy whose cable box fritzes out and gives him TV programming from other realities.
This amazes me and amuses me, that Mr King’s mind and mine are twisted enough (in some of the same ways) to have independently come up with the same concept. I feel honored that I was able to dip into the same trough, so to speak, as that crafter of great stuff.
Of course, there are other angles on the same idea, such as CBS’s 1996-2000 Early Edition.
“On the Cable” was concocted as an entry in The Twilight Zone magazine’s short story contest. The first version had a downer ending.
I received this nice postcard back
Being a clueless, snotty-nosed type, I immediately took this as encouragement and rewrote the story to come out happier. Since the story is the same until page 6, that’s where this scan of the second version starts.
I didn’t win anything, but it was a fun effort.
When I read the King story in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, I was soon smiling as if greeting the child of a best friend, in whom I see a family resemblance.
Mr King’s craft and talent take the idea to much more realistic and outré heights, you’ll agree. But I hope you’ll also agree with me that it’s kind of humorous that we came up with semi-similar variations on the whole foresee-the-future-through-technology angle.
Mr King, I salute you! (Even though I like the cut version of The Stand better.) If you want to read more of my rejections, send me a note!