Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf has the distinction of having come into being in perhaps the weirdest creative process possible. Coming at a time when King was at perhaps the peak of his popularity (subject to debate of course, as someone with as long a career as him’s popularity has waxed and waned quite often) King was invited to write the prose for… a wall calender.
Yeah, a normal 12-month January-through-December Judo-Christian timeline wall calendar. Each month was to, as expected, have an accompanying painted illustration by Bernie Wrightson and a part of a story written by King.
The issue became, as anyone who has read King can attest, that brevity is not one of the man’s virtues. He can plod on and on about details and experiences that have nothing to do with the main text, which is not conducive to writing text that has to fit in the narrow margin of a calendar’s text box while not being so much as to obscure the art.
So it quickly became an issue that King’s prose was waaaaaay too long to fit on any calender, and the project was scrapped. But rather than just scrap the project and Wrightson ‘s art altogether, they decided to compile the desperate parts into one novella, which became Cycle of the Werewolf. No attempt to disguise the story’s origins were even made, as the story consists of twelve chapters, titled after each month of the year, January through December. Each chapter is accompanied by the relevant piece of Wrightson ‘s art.
The fact that this is essentially a novel that started out as a calender is — to say the least — unique and odd, but that doesn’t win it or lose it any points in my book. Devoid of how it came about, one can only judge a book by the merit of it’s prose. The problem is that it’s nature and origin (I think) contributed toward it being fairly mundane and uninteresting.
You see, if I were going to write a story about a well-known monster or trope, I wouldn’t do so unless I felt I had something unique or different to say regarding that trope. BUT if someone hired me to write a calender or other such piece of consumerism about a pre-existing concept, I’d likely just do it.
That’s what I think happened here. Yes it’s a King story about werewolves, but it features none of King’s usual vision or twists on the existing narrative. It’s a standard, by-the-numbers werewolf story. By that respect, many authors have been inventive and done the job better, like Steve Lake’s Full Moon series of short stories, for one.
Also, there’s a glaring issue that King doesn’t seem to understand how to write the dialog of a child, yet continues to feature children in his works. The character of Wrightson is supposed to be ten, yet continually talks like a teenager, excersizing empathy, courage, and other traits that no ten-year old would have. And I’m sorry, and 10-year-old firing a magnum, even with a half-load of gunpowder, would have both his shoulders dislocated from the kickback and likely be deaf afterwards.
At the end of the day, Cycle of the Werewolf just isn’t that interesting.
“At the end of the day, Cycle of the Werewolf just isn’t that interesting.”