I am currently re-reading Stephen King’s The Shining1 in preparation for the sequel, Doctor Sleep, scheduled for release in the fall. Earlier this morning, I came to the scene where Jack Torrence goes out to trim the topiary and gets a little surprise, with those animals turning from cute little hedges into menacing creatures bent on his destruction.
When I first read The Shining, I’d never seen a single episode of Doctor Who. In the years since, I’ve seen three or four episodes, but the first episode I ever watched, the episode which the Internet told me to start with, was “Blink.” For those not familiar, there are evil statues in that episode. These statues can move, but only if the observer is not looking at them. Thus the term, “don’t blink.”
Well, this morning, as I re-read that topiary scene in The Shining, I had a sudden feeling of familiarity, more than the kind of feeling you get when you are re-reading something from a few years back. I’d seen something like this somewhere else. I thought about it for a moment and came up with that Doctor Who episode, “Blink.” In The Shining, it seems that those topiary animals only move when Jack isn’t looking at them. When he looks back, they’ve changed position, just like the statues in “Blink.”
And then I realized that I had it backwards. “Blink” is what should have seemed familiar to me because I’d read The Shining years before. And, of course, the book had been written decades before that. Stephen King had been there first.
This isn’t meant to take anything away from Doctor Who or “Blink.” I think it serves as a good example of how the same idea can be reused in novel ways by different writers. New writers often worry that there are no new ideas, but an old idea used in a unique way is just as good.
- I first read the book in September 2009. And no, I have not seen the movie. ↩