Friday, June 30, 2006


Glad I came across this article (and the Bram Stoker Award press release) or I would have thought from the way some people were still whispering about it that nobody "officially" knew. But, yeah, Joe Hill is Stephen King's son. And it was the worst-kept secret EVER.

I mean, honestly, the worst-kept secret in the history of secrets. At least a dozen people emailed or IM'd me and said, "Don't tell anybody, but Joe Hill is Stephen King's son." Or variations thereon, "So-and-so would kill me if they knew I was telling you this." And this happened for MONTHS all over genre.

Meanwhile, ironically enough, it appears Variety had let the cat out of the bag (see article link above) on April 5th of this year.

You could also see it in the smugness of some of the reviews, a kind of "I know a secret," with little hints dropped (like little winking references to Stephen King) so we could tell in hindsight just how clever said reviewers were to not reveal the secret and yet allude to it. (Perhaps more disturbing, you could see it in how certain people treated Joe Hill in person at various events--a kind of muffled fawning that has no particular saving grace to it. One can certainly see why he kept his identity a secret for so long. That said, there was also genuine adulation for the talent in question.)

You could also see it in Locus's People & Publishing, which one month ran headshots of Stephen King and Joe Hill in identical profile, with near-identical beards. Now THAT I thought was pretty funny.

Anyway, you heard it here last, folks. Joe Hill is Stephen King's son.

As for his fiction, that's a TRUE secret since I'm a World Fantasy Award judge--and I ain't tellin' nobody.

BUT, I can now reveal that I am the son of Tiny Tim... What? That don't buy me no love? How about you, Evil? What do you think?

(Evil Monkey: "Go to sleep.")



At 9:54 PM, Blogger Jayme Lynn Blaschke said...

Hell, I didn't even know Stephen King had a son. I *do* know Joe Lansdale has a son, but it ain't Joe Hill. An' he don't write much, neither.

At 1:28 AM, Blogger Cheryl said...

It was on Mark Kelly's blog a while back as well, so I'm kind of surprised people still didn't know. But it was secret for a while. I met Joe at FantasyCon last year, but knowing nothing about King other than that he wrote very successful horror novels I had no idea.

So I read 20th Century Ghosts and was blown away. Fabulous book, and I said so. Imagine my surprise when I got hate mail accusing me of only saying nice things about Hill because he was Stephen King's son.

At 4:32 AM, Blogger Abigail Nussbaum said...

Are you serious? I had no earthly notion. I know King has a son named (I think) Owen who is a writer. I Joe Hill that Owen's pen name?

Frankly, I'm glad I didn't know when I read 20th Century Ghosts. I like King (not so much his most recent stuff, but Bag of Bones is one of my all-time favorite novels), but I would have had so many conflicting expectations if I'd known about the connection, even though such expectations obviously make no sense.

Of course, now Hill's attitude towards horror becomes even more fascinating than it already was.

At 5:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Yep--serious. I totally understand why he kept it a secret for so long. And you're right--there's that overlay of Stephen King's writing that would have changed people's perception of Hill's writing. Or made it impossible to form an independent opinion.


I can't comment on the book right now, but I will after judging is complete. Re hate mail--that's ridiculous.

It is interesting how information gets out there, in terms of what we read online and don't read online.


At 5:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Owen's a different son of King's, apparently.


At 5:31 AM, Anonymous Nick Mamatas said...

Stephen King has two sons. Owen is one. Joe Hillstrom King is the other. Even Joe's pseudonym is simply a slice down the middle.

Supposedly, the pater likes Owen's stuff (which is lousy) but not Joe's (which is great), but that's fanboy rumors for you, not necessarily facts.

At 5:48 AM, Blogger Cheryl said...

As I recall, King has had some trouble with stalkers and the like. Conspiracy theory stuff. Which might explain both Hill's apparent wish to keep his family links quiet, and the hate mail.

Hate mail happens. It is part of the job. But when people take the trouble to anonymize themselves it has normally been over fannish issues. As far as I can recall, Hill's is the only review that has prompted anonymized hate mail.

At 6:20 AM, Anonymous jim hetley said...

>As I recall, King has had some trouble with stalkers
>and the like.

Yeah, he and Tabby have stalkers. We live in the same town, sons went to school with their kids.

Stuff like the city bomb squad detonataing mysterious packages left at the gate...

At 8:39 AM, Blogger La Gringa said...

Weel, I didn't know. Harumph!

At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew Tiny Tim. Tiny Tim was a friend of mine. You, sir, are no Tiny Tim's son! ;)


At 3:11 PM, Blogger Neal Asher said...

What a hideous load to carry. You'd also never know for sure whether you achieved success on your own merits.

At 5:00 PM, Blogger Horia Nicola Ursu said...

I don't envy at all Joe Hill for this whole "father's fame" issue. I mean, his stories are truly some of the best dark fantasies I've read in years.
And Jeff, you're really the last to write about it... Even I have blogged about this ages ago (, on May 8th... True, you don't read Romanian (yet! he-he!).

At 6:01 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Apparently Scott Lynch was created during a fantasy convention, when a panel containing Matt Stover, Kage Baker and Fritz Lieber was hit by a freak electrical storm that melted their talents together...

Re: the other dude, son of whatshisface, i agree it's nice for him to achieve success on his own. I hope it's not made a massive deal out of now.

At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a lot of respect for Hill's approach--a kind of phased-in approach re his father, so as few readers as possible get the bends. Also, he seems like a genuinely nice guy, which helps.

As the son of Tiny Tim, though, it's a lot hard for me. Especially because I hate the ukelele.


At 9:25 PM, Anonymous Jude said...

I honestly had no idea when I met him at ICFA, but now I think and suddenly realize "yeah he does look alot like a young Steve King."

At 8:43 AM, Blogger Matthew Cheney said...

There's a difference between people privately sharing such information, which plenty of people did, having come by it in different ways, which is probably what contributed to it being the-secret-that-wasn't (I heard from somebody who put it together via a couple of different clues, and didn't want the news spread because didn't know who else knew, so I assumed hardly anybody else knew)--

Wait, that sentence is unwieldy.

What I meant to say is that while perhaps some people liked holding onto this information as a way of feeling good about having "insider knowledge", for the most part I think people refrained from stating it publicly out of a respect for Joe. He hasn't, so far as I know, used his connections to build his career, and there's certainly the chance of being subjected to some sort of harrassment from the nuttier of the King nuts. It's irrelevant information in terms of the quality of his work. Most of the people I know of who were excited by 20th Century Ghosts became excited by it without knowing anything about Joe. Eventually, of course, as he became better known and his work gained a larger audience, his identity would be public knowledge, and that has now happened, but I hope the only effect of it being public knowledge is that nobody really cares.

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Abigail Nussbaum said...

I have to say, my first thought once I had digested this news was the wish that the knowledge wouldn't go much further. I'd like more people to be able to judge 20th Century Ghosts on its own merits, without the knowledge of Hill's connection to King at the back of their minds.

Obviously, the revelation was inevitable, but if I was recommending this collection to someone who isn't within this (objectively quite small) online community, I'd hold back on the King connection until they'd finished reading.

At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I only posted *because* it's widely known. You can't get more widely known than an article in Variety, and probably other entertainment magazines.

I think the main thing is--outside of genre, no one really cares that he's King's son.

I was remarking on the anatomy of a secret. I was not outing Hill--he's already done that himself, obviously.

Also, I don't think it matters if someone knows he's King's son or not. It did not affect my reading of the work. It would only affect it if they were very similar writers. They are not.

I'd be more concerned about how people read King's wife, in that I think she suffers a lot more from being connected to King (in a reader's sense) than Hill does in being his son.

In the long run it's all irrelevant anyway.


At 11:21 AM, Blogger Sean Wright said...

For what it's worth, I met Joe Hill at last year's Fancon (Sept 2005) here in Britain and he bought a copy of my book - Twisted Root of Jaarfindor. Lovely.

Nice guy, very amiable. Very tall.

I had no idea he was Stephen King's son until Joe did a reading at around midnight on the Saturday of the Fancon, and as he was reading in that half-lighted room, I said to my wife, 'You know this guy looks like a young Stephen King, and sounds like him too.'

'Shut up!' Trish hissed. She was engrossed.

I did as she said (a wiseman I am). We were blown away by the haunting tale 20th Century Ghost. I think Joe Hill should be called Joe Mountain.

At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely he must be Joe King....

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