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Net-savvy King can frighten even by phone

JACKET COPY

August 10, 2008|David L. Ulin

WHAT'S NOT to like about Stephen King? This is a guy who writes as if his life depends on it: "I've taken off two months, three months at a time," he told The Times in 1998, "and by the end, I get really squirrelly. My night life, my dream life, gets extremely populated and crazed. It's as though something in there is running all the time. And if it doesn't get an outlet on the page, it comes out in the dreams."

What's more, King has always looked for new iterations, new delivery systems for his work. Over the years, he's put out comics and exclusive audiobooks; he even directed a feature film. Perhaps most significant, he was the first mainstream author to experiment with Web-only publishing, all the way back in 2000, with "Riding the Bullet" and "The Plant."

On July 25, King launched a Web-only project, an original video series based on his as-yet unpublished story "N." The idea is to post five episodes a week for five weeks -- 25 in all -- as an experiment in hybrid storytelling. Each episode is short, less than two minutes, and is accessible not just online but via mobile software. "N.," then, may be the first short story you can watch on your phone.

On the one hand, this is a PR exercise: The story "N." will appear in King's next book, "Just After Sunset," which comes out in November. But the great thing about King is that, even when he's self-promoting, there's something interesting going on. "N." the series is a kind of digital graphic novel, with limited animation but a cool three-dimensional point of view. Each episode comes fully produced, with music, sound effects and voice-overs. It makes for a vividly eerie atmosphere.

I won't give the story away, -- I've seen the first 10 episodes -- but it's a classic King setup in which there's evil afoot, but it's unclear whether it is supernatural or a function of the human mind.

-- David L. Ulin

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