Thanks to several successful book-to-screen adaptations, including the blockbuster hit It and Netflix's Gerald's Game, Stephen King had a pretty stellar 2017, and it seems like things are only looking up in the new year. The legendary author and modern Master of Horror will receive the 2018 PEN America Literary Service Award, the literary foundation announced Friday in a press release. The author of such classics as The Shining and Carrie, King will take home the prestigious honor at the PEN America award ceremony in May.
Granted each year to an author "whose critically acclaimed work has drawn a wide audience and who helps us to understand the human condition in original and powerful ways," the PEN America Literary Service Award is more than just a literary honor. It is an inspiring award that celebrates the champions of the freedoms of speech and the press "whose work embodies PEN America's mission to oppose repression in any form and to champion the best of humanity." Anyone who has followed King's career, or at least his Twitter account, knows the bestselling author does exactly that.
The author of more than 50 books, including The Stand, Under the Dome, and the Dark Tower series, King is the recipient of several other noteworthy honors. In 2003, he was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and in 2014, Barack Obama presented him with the National Medal of Arts. In addition to his bestselling books and his many literary accolades, many of King's major works have been adapted into successful movies and TV shows that are major touchstones in the contemporary pop culture zeitgeist.
It is more than King's books and adaptations that earned him the PEN America Literary Service Award, however. It was also his work as "an impassioned advocate of freedom of expression, literacy, and access to information," according to the announcement. King and his wife, Tabitha, run The Haven Foundation, a nonprofit that aids writers and artists struggling through personal hardships. He also frequently, and passionately, speaks out against Donald Trump and his administration's vicious attacks on the press and free speech. As recently as this week, King used his huge social media presence (the author boasts 4.47 million Twitter followers) to call out Trump's cruel and racist comments about immigrants from certain countries, to call attention to the anti-harassment and assault #TimesUp movement, and to criticize America's healthcare system.
In speaking about the organization's decision to name King this year's recipient, PEN America president Andrew Solomon praised the author's literary contributions and applauded him for the attention for his work on behalf of free speech and expression:
“No stranger to the dark side, Stephen King has inspired us to stand up to sinister forces through his rich prose, his generous philanthropy, and his outspoken defense of free expression. Stephen has fearlessly used his bully pulpit as one of our country’s best-loved writers to speak out about the mounting threats to free expression and democracy that are endemic to our times. His vivid storytelling reaches across boundaries to captivate multitudes of readers, young and old, in this country and worldwide, across the political spectrum. He helps us all to confront our demons—whether a dancing clown or a tweeting president.”
In receiving the PEN America Literary Service Award, King joins the ranks of some of many celebrated authors including J.K. Rolwing, Salman Rushdie, and Margaret Atwood, all previous winners of the distinguished award.
King's newest novel, The Outsider, is slated to be released from Scribner on May 22, the same day as 2018 PEN America awards gala, which will be held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.