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Stephen King is the most influential author of the second half of the 20th century

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/10/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,853 times Debate No: 48823
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)




First round is acceptance and, if my opponent needs it, clarification


I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


I'd like to thank my opponent for accepting. As he said in the comments, influential can be determined by all of those factors.

The Shining. Carrie. The Stand. The Green Mile. Titles that have rightfully earned their spots in literary history as some of the greatest pieces of fiction ever devised. His books all together have sold more than 350 million copies and most of them have been converted into other mediums such as movies, television shows, and even comic books. With even this basic understanding of what Mr. King has accomplished, it becomes increasingly apparent how this amazing author easily takes the spot of the most influential author of the second half of the 20th century. Since the resolution states in the second half of the 20th century, I'd appreciate it if my opponent could refrain from referencing King's pieces of literature written after 1999, such as Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome.

Since influence is what we're primarily concerned with, I'll define the term. Influence is defined as "the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others," according to

Now that it's clear what we're debating, I'll elaborate.

My first experience with King's work came in the form of The Stand (Complete and Uncut Edition). Even tallying out around a whopping 1,400 pages, I never lost interest in the plights of the characters or the experiences taken place. The Stand is more than just a post-apocalyptic tale of survival. It's a biblical epic about the fall of man and the steps needed to be taken towards salvation. Since The Stand primarily revolves around Christian based themes, I'll try to refrain from personal bias just for the sake of the topic. What The Stand excels at is making the reader truly evaluate and reconcile on what their own moral stances are, and does this by discreetly making a solid point: Would you take the path towards Las Vegas or Boulder? This compelling force is intended to make the reader look at his life from a different perspective, which in turn is a very influential force.

Secondly, I'd like to cite Carrie. Carrie is the story of a girl who is constantly harassed and bullied by her classmates. However, unbeknownst to them, Carrie has the power of telekinesis, and once she truly harnesses its ability, she uses it to exact her revenge. One of the big points that Carrie was able to make was simply one of anti-bullying. While a girl using telekinesis to murder hundreds of people as a way to get back at their harsh crimes is a pretty extreme way of demonstrating it, the message is still blunt. Carrie was actually King's first published work and was made into a feature film directed by Brian de Palma a few years after starring Sissy Spacek. If the plot of Carrie isn't enough to influence someone to take a stand against bullying then I doubt few things will. Carrie is less of a horror story and more of a human tragedy,as I like to think most of King's books are. While they're found in the horror section of libraries and bookstores, there's so much more to them than just cheap thrills. 'It' is the struggle of a group of adults fighting their inner demons. 'The Shining' is the descent into insanity and the loss of mutual love. 'The Shawshank Redemption' is the fight and dedication of ideals. So as you can see, King's works contain messages and themes that the majority of authors simply aren't able to match. For decades, Stephen King has been influencing people of all ages to reconsider their moral grounds and taught them how to endure even in the greatest of hardships.

I now turn the debate over to my opponent


Premise I: Stephen King

Stephen King wrote 64 books, selling a total of 350 million books. Sales alone aren't important. If someone sold 100 million copies, they would look influential, until you realize he sold a thousand books (100,000 copies each) to get that sales record (that's a random example.)

For example, Ian Fleming and John Creasey both sold 100,000,000 copies, so are they equally influencial? John had to write 600 books to get that number, while Ian only wrote 14. Who do you think was more influential? You might have heard of only a few of Creasey's books, but you've likely heard more of Ian's James Bond (1). Stephen King may have sold 350 million copies, but he had to write 64 to get there. That's a great track record, but it's well under many others, some of whom I will discuss.

Stephen King's movies have earned a total of $1.2 billion, or an average of $35 million a movie (2).

As for influencing his respective genres, King's Salam's Lot didn't change the definition of Vampires, and The Shining didn't change the meaning of hauntings.


Argument I: J. R. R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien wrote many books during the second half of the 20th century, including the Lord of the Rings. The story sold 150 million copies as a singular unit (1). Because the book was made as a single unit, but had to be split into three, the 150 million units sold figure is as a single novel, and doesn't take into account the individual sales. This means that if you buy all three books, it counts as one book sale. This implies the real sales are much higher.

The books have influenced the very meaning of Fantasy, reinventing it, even. The books created the idea of hippie elves, battle ready dwarves that are both underground dwellers and technologically advanced. The series inspired almost every aspect of the Fantasy genre. It inspired Dungeons and Dragons, and almost every RPG made in the US.

The life-action movies alone have earned almost $3 billion dollars, a little over $900 million a movie (3), and this doesn't include earlier animations. King's highest earning film was The Green Mile, at only $290 million. Tolkien's books, blow Stephen King's away in average book sales and gross revenue.

Tolkien's books sold far more copies per unit. His Lord of the Rings movies sold for almost 3x more total, or 30x as much per movie.

Tolkien influenced the industry. There is a difference between making some of the best additions to a genre, and then effecting the meaning of that genre (influence), and while King did little to actually change the definition of the horror genre (while having added some of it's best additions), Tolkien changed the very meaning of Fantasy, if not inventing the genre as it is today.


Argument II: J. K. Rowling

Rowling may not have wrote every Harry Potter book in the second half of the 1900's, but she did write the first 3 books in the 1990's. Averaging book sales, as actual sale numbers aren't available, we can assume those 3 books alone sold nearly 200 million copies. That's the lowest estimate. based off the max estimate, it'd be around 235 million. The movies for these three books earned nearly $2.65 billion(4,5,6).

Those three books alone outsold King's entire collection. J.K. Rowling redefined much of the Magic genre, and revolutionized the Children's genre. Before her, making children's books about mature subjects, or a children's book that was larger than a hundred or so pages was unheard of.


Argument III: Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss wrote nearly 44 books, and sold a possible 500 million copies. Nearly 11 millions copies a book. Stephen King wrote more books, and sold less copies.

Books Dr. Seuss wrote during the second half of the 1900's included Horton Hears a Who, Green Eggs and Ham, The Lorax, Oh The Places You'll Go, and most notably was How The Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat.

Dr. Seuss books made up most of a child's reading experience as a kid. There is no question as to the influence Dr. Seuss had on the Children's genre and on children in general. The movies from the above mentioned books alone sold for a total of $1.12 billion for only 4 movies (this leaves out the revenue for the earlier animation, of which no sales data is available.)

Argument IV: Relative Influence.

I read Stephen King's book on how to make stories, so I find him an influence in my story-telling life, but simply put, he doesn't influence me the most. In all truth, Darren Shan influenced me most.

Who an author influences most depends on the person reading the book. Much like on DDO. I find RoyLatham and Contradiction to be the most influential. An Anarchist would find Danielle to be the most influential, and some would find TUF and Bluesteel more influential.

Stephen King may be influential to Horror writers, but D&D writers would find Tolkien the most influential. Although almost every child in the US and Europe would consider Dr. Seuss, whom's book almost everyone has read, to be universally influential in their lives.

Conclusion: Stephen King, in both average sales and movie gross income, is well below each person I mentioned, two of whom only had one series of 3 books (J.K. Rowling's only 3 from the 1900's).

Stephen King didn't really change the whole horror genre, and while influential to most horror writers, he is tiny in comparision to the changes J. R. R. Tolkien or J.K. Rowling both made, and was less influential on the general population than Dr. Seuss.

Stephen King is not the most influential writer in the second half of the 1900's.
Debate Round No. 2


tennistanner forfeited this round.


Arguments extended.
Debate Round No. 3


tennistanner forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by whiteflame 6 years ago
I don't doubt it. Have fun, man, I'm sure you can handle yourself.
Posted by donald.keller 6 years ago
@Whiteflame I'll hit it from every possible definition... Sales, income, culture references...
Posted by whiteflame 6 years ago
How do you define what makes an author influential?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: The forfeits tell it pretty plainly. Pro had a massive burden of proof, and he dropped it entirely in the face of Con's assaults. Con also takes conduct for the forfeits, and sources, mainly because he's the only one who had them.

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