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Hill, Joe

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author, Comics.

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Working name of US Comics scripter and author Joseph Hillstrom King (1972-    ), son of Stephen King and brother of Owen King; most of his earlier work has been horror, much of it nonfantastic, though Horror in SF topoi sometimes visit; he began to publish work of genre interest with "The Lady Rests" in Palace Corbie Seven (anth 1997) edited by Wayne Edwards and John Marshall. He rarely utilizes the SF Megatext in this work, though is manifestly aware of the generic territories he glances upon, displaying a habit of gaze typical of authors of Fantastika: a recognizing of the stories Homo sapiens uses to survive in the current era. Hill's first collection, Twentieth Century Ghosts (coll 2005), contains several tales that might be described in terms of their distanced manipulation of conventions to gain some control of the world that those conventions excavate; later collections, like The Little Silver Book of Sharp Shiny Shivers (coll 2017) and Strange Weather: Four Short Novels (coll 2017), present a similar mix, though the latter does contain some sf, including the very Near Future Disaster tale "Rain", about downpours of murderous crystalline rain. As with some of his other work, as well as that of other members of his family, a Cosy Catastrophe atmosphere is not always eschewed.

Locke & Key (2008-2013) makes some play with Dimensions, but in the end is best read a multi-section supernatural fantasy Comic series with some Horror in SF elements, which may be called the Locke & Key sequence. It has (so far) appeared in comics form, and has been variously assembled in book form, initially as Locke & Key (2008-2013 6vols).

Hill's novels are possibly more conventional than his shorter work. Heart-Shaped Box (2007; with restored text 2007) is supernatural horror, involving a ghost (see Supernatural Creatures) ordered online and delivered in the titular container; the acquisition of the eponymous Horns (2010) gives a man the unwanted ability to extract the darkest psychic truths from those he touches. NOS4A2 (2013; vt NOS4R2 2013) is more complexly ambitious, over and above its intertextual intimacy with previous works both by the author and his author, and clear reference to L Frank Baum's Oz and to David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (2004), the tale juxtaposes tools from various genres (see Equipoise), including a fantasticated form of Time Travel, to portray a long cat-and-mouse interaction between the villain, who creates Vampires and intermittently rules cruelly over a coercive zone known as Christmasland, and the protagonists who must use their own special Psi Powers to destroy him or die, along with their families. Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland (13 November 2013-11 June 2014 Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland) is a six-issue Comics story derived from excised parts of the novel; it has not itself been put into book form.

Of more direct sf interest is The Fireman (2016), which is set in a Near Future world devastated by a spore (Draco Incendia Trychophyton) which causes those it infects to spontaneously combust (see Disaster). Vigilante Cremation Squads soon proliferate through semi-rural New England, where the action is focused. An ambivalently immune Antihero, the Mysterious Stranger known as The Fireman, intervenes gnomically, saving some, letting others burn. Both for girth and substance, The Fireman has been compared with Stephen King's The Stand (1978); it won a Locus Award as best horror/dark fantasy novel. But Hill is an author who has come of age in the twenty-first century; his web of references to previous work, which he typically estranges and transfigures, marks him as an exemplary figure of the current age. [JC]

Joseph Hillstrom King

born Hermon, Maine: 4 June 1972


  • Heart-Shaped Box (New York: HarperCollins/William Morrow, 2007) [hb/Richard Aquan]
    • Heart-Shaped Box (Burton, Michigan: Subterranean Press, 2007) [restored text including extra chapter: illus/hb/Vincent Chong]
  • Horns (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2010) [hb/Vincent Chong]
  • NOS4A2 (New York: HarperCollins/William Morrow, 2013) [hb/]
    • NOS4R2 (London: Gollancz, 2013) [vt of the above: cover only reads NOS-4R2: hb/Gabriel Rodriguez]
  • The Fireman (New York: HarperCollins/William Morrow, 2016) [hb/Amanda Kain]

collections and stories

graphic works


Locke & Key

We make no attempt to trace vts or revisions or rehousings of this fantasy series.

  • Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft (San Diego, California: IDW Publishing, 2008) [graph: assembles 20-February-30 June 2006 Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft 1-6: Locke & Key: illus/hb/Gabriel Rodriguez]
  • Locke & Key: Head Games (San Diego, California: IDW Publishing, 2009) [graph: assembles 28-January 1 July 2009 Locke & Key: Head Games 1-6: Locke & Key: illus/hb/Gabriel Rodriguez]
  • Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows (San Diego, California: IDW Publishing, 2010) [graph: assembles 11 November 2009-14 July 2010 Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows 1-6: Locke & Key: illus/hb/Gabriel Rodriguez]
  • Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom (San Diego, California: IDW Publishing, 2011) [graph: assembles 11 August 2010-27 April 2011 Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom 1-6: Locke & Key: illus/hb/Gabriel Rodriguez]
  • Locke & Key: Clockworks (San Diego, California: IDW Publishing, 2012) [graph: assembles 20 July 2011-14 March 2014 Locke & Key: Clockworks 1-6: Locke & Key: illus/hb/Gabriel Rodriguez]
  • Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega (San Diego, California: IDW Publishing, 2014) [graph: assembles 14 November 2012-18 December 2013 Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega 1-6: Locke & Key: illus/hb/Gabriel Rodriguez]

works as editor


previous versions of this entry

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