9 Books That May Have Inspired 'Stranger Things' Season 2
Thank God friends don't lie, because Netflix has confirmed Stranger Things will return in 2017! While we try to contain our joyous enthusiasm, let's take a look at the books that may have inspired Stranger Things Season 2, based on the released episode titles.
Stranger Things took the world by storm when it premiered on July 15, 2016. The Duffer Brothers' Netflix Original Series — an homage to 1980s releases from Steven Spielberg and Stephen King — garnered accolades from critics and viewers alike, all of whom found themselves enchanted by the show's nostalgia.
On Aug. 31, Netflix confirmed that Stranger Things Season 2 would return for a 2017 release, assuaging fans' founded fears of a long wait. The news of Stranger Things' return comes roughly one month after we learned that two older Netflix Original Series, Jessica Jones and Daredevil , wouldn't get new episodes before 2018. Granted, we have three other Marvel series coming to Netflix before then, but the delay made this fan nervous.
Thankfully, we're getting more Stranger Things in a timely manner. With just nine episodes, Season 2 will be barely longer than Season 1. In its announcement teaser, which you can watch below, Netflix released the titles of every Stranger Things Season 2 episode. They're just as vague this time around, folks, but they sound a lot more spooky.
This list is an attempt to guess at the books that may have inspired Stranger Things Season 2, based on the titles shown in the video above. As always, please feel free to share your own guesses with me on Twitter.
1. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
Episode Title: "Madmax"
Stranger Things Season 2 takes place in Fall 1984 — That's one year after the events of Season 1, if you're keeping score. — and the first episode is titled "Madmax." Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome didn't hit theaters until 1985, but the first two films were already part of pop culture by '84. It's not difficult to imagine Mike, Will, Lucas, and Dustin watching, and being inspired by, Mel Gibson's iconic dystopian anti-hero, especially considering Lucas' penchant for going Rambo to infiltrate secret government compounds.
That being said, it's also not a stretch to think that our geeky heroes might have gotten their hands on a copy of Tamora Pierce's 1983 fantasy novel, Alanna: The First Adventure . The story here focuses on a girl with magical powers, who disguises herself as a boy and trains to become a knight. She eventually travels to a desert in the south, where she and her friend, Prince Jonathan, face off against a race of demons that are holding the Black City captive.
Sounds a bit like Eleven and Max Rockatansky to me.
2. The Between by Tananarive Due
Episode Title: "The Boy Who Came Back to Life"
Stranger Things' "Boy Who Came Back to Life" is most likely Will Byers, the preteen boy kidnapped by the Demogorgon in the series' first episode. In the Season 1 finale, viewers see Byers struggling to adapt to life in his own world, and his time in the Upside Down appears to have left him with permanent changes.
In Tananarive Due's The Between , Hilton James' grandmother mysteriously comes back to life, only to die the next year, saving Hilton when he nearly drowns in an undertow. Almost 30 years later, Hilton feels that he has cheated death somehow, and believes his grandmother may have had a vision of his drowning that brought her back to life for a few more months. He also experiences a lot of impossible interactions, such as a conversation with a homeless man who had been dead for two hours, and a steamy rendezvous with a client.
As his mental state deteriorates, Hilton finds himself rapidly approaching divorce. But when his wife receives racist death threats, the two must work together to figure out who wants them dead and why.
3. Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge
Episode Title: "The Pumpkin Patch"
Few things say "Fall" and "Halloween" quite so well as a pumpkin patch, and I can only imagine what the Duffer Brothers have planned for the Stranger Things gang in this Season 2 episode. It's probably nothing like Norman Partridge's Dark Harvest, but that doesn't make the idea that it might be connected any less compelling.
This Bram Stoker Award-winning novella is set in a Midwestern town with a dark ritual. Every Halloween, a butcher known as October Boy comes out of the cornfields to stalk and slaughter the teen boys who attempt to kill him. It's 1963, and Pete McCormick has decided to step up and attempt to claim the October Boy's prize.
It might be Children of the Corn meets It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, but Dark Harvest feels like the perfect source of inspiration for Stranger Things Season 2.
4. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Episode Title: "The Palace"
Because Mike, Will, Lucas, and Dustin are Dungeons & Dragons players, "The Palace" could refer to another fantasy construct, similar to the way the boys dub the road that leads to Hawkins Labs, "Mirkwood." I think it probably has something to do with Eleven, given how much of a secret femme she is. But, as any Stranger Things viewer knows, the chances of "The Palace" being a place filled with light, ponies, and princes are slim to none.
Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle centers on the three surviving members of the Blackwood family, who live in a secluded manor house on the outskirts of a village. Years before, Constance Blackwood stood trial for the murder-by-poisoning of her relatives. Although she was acquitted, she now lives as a recluse, and it's up to her younger sister, 18-year-old Mary Katherine, to handle the family's public interactions.
Although hardly supernatural, Jackson's novella functions primarily as a ghost story. Socially inept Mary Katherine will remind you of a more menacing Eleven. Pick up We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and see if you think it might be inspiration-worthy for the Duffer Brothers.
5. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Episode Title: "The Storm"
Storms always mean something in film and fiction. Whether it's the downpour that precedes Richard Tyler's bump on the head in The Pagemaster, or the climactic storm sequence in Poltergeist, the storm generally means that conditions are about to get much worse before they improve.
Jesmyn Ward's National Book Award-winning novel, Salvage the Bones , centers on a family living in the fictional Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, who prepare for Hurricane Katrina to hit. Following them through the storm and its aftermath, Salvage the Bones is ultimately a story of hardscrabble survival in the face of overwhelming and unstoppable adversity.
Little that happens in Stranger Things is based on actual events, thank God, but the sense of encroaching danger and the forced abandonment of childish ways in Ward's novel will strike a chord with Stranger Things fans.
6. Area X : The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer
Episode Title: "The Pollywog"
Pollywogs. Tadpoles. Unless you see someone rubbing an arrowhead on its back, there's just not that much to be scared of when it comes to a frog. Maybe it's because of biology class, but those little amphibians do bring lab experiments to mind, which leads me to believe that Stranger Things' "Pollywog" will be more intimidating and sciencey than standard wetlands fare.
Enter Area X : Jeff VanderMeer's collected Southern Reach Trilogy. This weird tale begins with four women's expedition into an anomalous territory. No one leaves Area X unchanged, as they know too well, but the secrets VanderMeer unfolds will stun even the most jaded sci-fi reader.
Stranger Things viewers are all too familiar with secret government agencies and strange experiments, so the Southern Reach Trilogy will feel quite familiar.
7. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Episode Title: "The Secret Cabin"
Bad things happen in cabins in the woods. It's possible that this episode title refers to Castle Byers, but I sort of doubt that, given that Will's backyard hideout isn't any kind of secret. It's likely the kids will wind up in an old hunting cabin in Stranger Things Season 2, but what waits for them inside is anyone's guess.
In Alice Sebold's dark walk down memory lane, The Lovely Bones , 14-year-old Susie Salmon falls victim to her neighbor's gruesome fantasies when he lures her into the hidden underground bunker he has constructed. Her disappearance haunts the Salmon family, and Susie observes the changes in her parents, siblings, and friends from her personal Heaven above.
Nostalgia drives both Stranger Things and The Lovely Bones. Even though one deals with much more horrific content, you don't have to reach far to connect the Netflix Original Series with Sebold's novel.
8. Firestarter by Stephen King
Episode Title: "The Brain"
Stranger Things is filled with plenty of smart cookies, but "The Brain" probably refers to Eleven's special cerebrum. Like Firefly's River Tam, Eleven can definitely kill you with her brain.
So can little Charlie McGee, the titular pyrokinetic in Stephen King's 1980 novel, Firestarter . Charlie and her father, Andy, are on the run from The Shop, also known as the U.S. Department of Scientific Intelligence. The McGees are Shop experiments, and the government agency wants them back. Although she's a pacifist who is somewhat afraid of her own abilities, Charlie has no intentions of cooperating with the people who have made her family who they are, and resolves to kill any Shop operatives who stand in the way of her freedom.
Remind you of anyone?
9. Beautiful Children by Charles Bock
Episode Title: "The Lost Brother"
I really hope that "The Lost Brother" refers to Will Byers — sorry, Will — and not his brother, Jonathan, because Joyce Byers can't take losing another son, OK?
Charles Bock's award-winning 2011 novel, Beautiful Children , examines a host of Las Vegas residents who find themselves affected by the disappearance of a 12-year-old boy. Unlike Will and Jonathan, Newell Ewing is always happy to make mischief and get in trouble. But once he vanishes, the question remains: is he a runaway or a victim?
If you enjoyed Stranger Things' examination of how Will's absence affected his family, friends, and other members of the community, give Beautiful Children a read.