king vs poe featured image

Author Fight Club: Stephen King vs Edgar Allen Poe

Welcome back to Author Fight Club, take two!

This week is sure to be our scariest yet, as popular horror writers Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe take to the ring. In one corner, we have King, author of Carrie, The Shining, It, and many more. In the other, we have Poe, known for classics such as The Tell-Tale Heart,” The Raven,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

If you’ve got a thing for horror and things that go bump in the night, you’ve most definitely picked up King and Poe’s work. The question is—who will emerge as today’s fight club winner?

As always, the competition is based on three categories. First, we take a look at Who has more fans anyway? which will reoccur each week as we explore author influence and impact. The remaining categories are mystery categories that will change each week. Today, we’ve got Whose stories are so disturbing that you begin to question the author’s sanity? and Who’s scarier IRL?

We don’t talk about Fight Club, so instead we’re going to write about it! Authors…take your positions. And…fight!

ROUND ONE: WHOSE GOT MORE FANS ANYWAY?

As always, we’ll turn to Goodreads for a glimpse at fan reactions. Since both King and Poe have such popular works though, we’ll look at their top-rated works as well as their overall Goodreads popularity.

Stephen King has a whopping 717,598 followers on Goodreads, making him the #1 most followed on the site. But let’s give Poe the benefit of the doubt. After all, he’s a bit of an oldie, and Goodreads is way after his time.

Poe might have a meager 19,645 Goodreads followers, but that doesn’t negate that fact that he’s a closely-studied figure in English classrooms. But how popular are his books?

The Complete Stories and Poems has an average rating of 4.39. As for his singular works, The Raven has a rating of 4.29, The Tell-Tale Heart that of 4.23, and The Fall of the House of Usher 3.94. 

As for King? The Green Mile averages 4.45 stars, followed closely by The Stand with 4.34 stars, and The Shining with 4.23. 

With more popular (modern) ratings, I think this round goes to King! But it’s still anyone’s game!

END OF ROUND ONE

KING = 1

POE = 0

ROUND TWO: Whose stories are so disturbing that you begin to question the author’s sanity?

While both authors tackle psychological fears and horrors in their books, Stephen King also has monstrous beings that Poe’s work lacks. But again, that doesn’t necessarily make his horror better–just different.

Let’s start with Poe. “The Tell-Tale Heart” short story leaves readers uneasy and a bit paranoid themselves as the narrator’s guilt manifests as a beating heart he’s convinced is lying under the floorboards. But what’s even more unnerving is the narrator’s rambling thoughts.

True!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily—how calmly I can tell you the whole story.”

Readers can gauge early on that he is, in fact, mad–but they can’t escape his thoughts; they have to keep going and read the story in its entirety. As a general rule, people don’t like senseless acts. It’s scares them, because if murder can happen randomly, it can happen to anyone. So I think that reason alone is why Poe’s short story sends goosebumps across your skin as you read about the narrator’s obsession with the old man’s eye—and the way he kills the old man so as never to be bothered by the eye ever again, all the while convincing himself that he’s not mad.

tell-tale heart graphic

via actively learn

And then of course you have Poe’s other great short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Tackling themes of incest, and the physical effects of them on the Usher bloodline, Poe paints another psychological horror: a sister buried alive.

While Usher is certainly painted as mad, especially at the end of the tale, it still begs a very important question: how do you just “accidentally” bury someone alive??

Stephen King tackles psychological horrors of his own. But these horrors are usually the result of some supernatural force driving the book’s characters crazy. We see this with The Shining, where Jack slowly descends into madness and kills his family. While some might dismiss this as a case of cabin fever, the strange, horrific sights in the house suggest otherwise. 

But King doesn’t stop there—he also has physical beings that are sure to scare the sh*t out of you. We’ve got Pennywise from It—a literal clown that goes around killing kids–and of course Cujo the rabid dog. (I mean, if you’ve got the guts to write about a literal killer dog, you’ve got to be a least a little insane…right?) Not to mention the dead-alive cat from Pet Sematary–and its family!

It held George’s arm in its thick and wormy grip, it pulled George toward that terrible darkness where the water rushed and roared and bellowed as it bore its cargo of storm debris toward the sea. George craned his neck away from that final blackness and began to scream into the rain, to scream mindlessly into the white autumn sky which curved above Derry on that day in the fall of 1957.” 

via The wrap

It’s a tough call!! (Am I allowed to declare a tie?) Unfortunately, we can only have one winner this round. Despite Poe’s ingenious psychological horrors, I think King’s dual mastery of both supernatural horrors and psychological ones shows that he’s capable of more than Poe is–leaving us to question just how sane he really is. 

And with that, King is our Round Two winner!

END OF ROUND TWO

King = 2

Poe = 0

ROUND THREE: Who’s scarier IRL?

If you think this week’s Author Fight Club was over—you thought wrong! We’ve still got one round left to judge, and that’s who is scarier in real life? 

Let’s take to Twitter for a look inside Stephen King’s mind.

Well, he got blocked by Donald Trump…

stephen king tweet

via twitter

…He’s a Star Wars fan…

stephen king tweet

via Twitter

…And he called on followers to vote Stephen King out of office…No the other one.

via twitter

Politically active? Check. Scary? Mmmm…not so much.

Poe might not have existed in the Twitter age, but we do know some facts about his life. On top of his writing prowess, he had a bit of a drinking problem and was often believed to be publicly intoxicated. He also married his thirteen-year-old cousin (YIKES). He was also a literary critic, known for tearing works apart.

But the most interesting (or freakiest) part of his life is his death. His cause of death is unknown, leaving many to guess at what possibly could have happened. It’s said that Poe’s doctor, Dr. Snodgrass discovered Poe unconscious and in loose clothing, as though his had been stolen. He spent several nights in the hospital, occasionally calling out for a mysterious “Reynolds.” It was there that he died of “congestion of the brain,” though no autopsy was performed, and to this day, no one knows what truly happened.

Talk about spooky. With an unnerving death–and a reputation as a harsh critic (I certainly wouldn’t want to be reviewed by him!)—I think Poe’s real life was almost as scary as his works (Well…almost, anyway).

END OF ROUND THREE

KING = 2

POE=1

Both Poe and King made great strides in the horror genre (but let’s not forget who came before who!) Poe’s psychological terrors have been studied well beyond his life, and will continue to be admired for centuries to come. Likewise, Stephen King has become a household name for horror lovers and haters alike. Unfortunately, there can only be ONE Author Fight Club champ.

With a final punch from King, Poe is out! K.O.

With numerous film adaptations and popular books that just keep on coming, Stephen King is a writer that won’t be easily forgotten. His combination of psychological horror and supernatural manifestations means there’s a Stephen King book for everyone, especially with characters that range from kids to adults. His books are certain to keep you up at night–making him this week’s Author Fight Club winner.

author fight club tweet
**This tweet has been edited for your entertainment**

Thanks for reading, and tune in to next week’s Author Fight Club, where we’ll welcome Cassandra Clare and Rick Riordan into the ring to battle it out!

Featured images via Britannica and goodreads