I have a confession to make: I’m obsessed with the fictional town of Derry, Maine.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Derry was created by and exists in Stephen King’s multiverse. Derry appears in a multitude of King’s works, from simply being mentioned to being the main setting of the story. If you’ve heard of it before, it’s probably because you’ve interacted with Stephen King’s It in some fashion. It’s where Derry is the most well-known for being a story’s setting, despite being in many, many other popular works by King, such as Insomnia and 11/22/63, with countless other stories referencing Derry.
It was my first encounter with Derry. My family had put on the 1990 miniseries based on the novel when I was probably nine or ten. It freaked me out as a kid, naturally, but looking back now…the miniseries is a cheesy mess. Regardless, when the new adaptation came out in 2017 I thought to myself: “Nah, I don’t need to see that! Got the experience as a kid, not sure what they could change about it”. And well, I was dead wrong.
After a good friend of mine had seen It: Chapter Two, informed me on how good it was and that Bill Hader—who I adore—is in it, I was convinced to give it another ago. And there is where the obsession really starts to hit in full swing.
This post needs a bit of background before I go any further. Obsession is not a word used lightly here, and I have a long history with this form of fixation. Ever since I was a kid I’ve gotten lost in fictional places, wishing that I could live in them—or at the very least visit them—and I would make it my mission to learn everything about them. It’s definitely not unusual, and I’ve always teetered more on the wildly creative side, but these obsessions have always hit a more intensely fanatical point. As a result, most of them have resulted in joining the media’s fandom to simultaneously not feel alone and gather as much information as humanly possible. Essentially, I’ve always been one of those people who needs to know every piece of information relating to something I enjoy (hyperfixations and an addictive personality anyone?) and it’s garnered this need to obsess over things. For most of my childhood it was Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, as a tween it was Twilight and Glee’s Lima, Ohio of all places…you get the point. Now, it happens to be Derry, Maine.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not want to live in Derry or have any of these horrors come true like I did with wanting to go to Hogwarts or be a Cullen as a child. Derry fascinates me more than anything, and the magic of the place and in its residents even more so.
Derry is a horrible place filled with a lot of magic—a lot of dark magic, too. The narrator of 11/22/63 describes Derry as a polluted, unfriendly pit-like town, and he “hated it from the start”. He could sense the magic of the place, just as the kids did in It. A disgusting place, filled with magic and people who don’t care about the tens of kids that go missing…it’s fascinating. I recognize that I probably sound less than sane right now, but as a horror and magic lover, this is such a perfect blend of the two.
The best part about Derry is that it feels like a real place. King convinces you that this dingy town in Maine exists through the way he so impeccably sets his novels in it. You’d think that King himself lived there, and perhaps he did as it’s well-known to be based on Bangor, a town that King lived in for years and in the fictional geography of Maine, sits just outside of Derry. Derry feels like every abandoned, dirty alley you’ve walked through in the dark, every weird shortcut you’ve taken off the beaten path, and every forest you’ve found yourself lost in. It’s a dark and liminal space, where time only seems to exist when something bad is happening. Such as a killer clown that feeds on children, for instance.
Spoilers for It, but the idea of an ancient, killer alien that terrorizes children every 27 years since it landed, living in a creepy lair under the town and the town having been built on the dark magic It thrives on is just some kind of next level lore I’m into. King really puts a lot of thought into the worlds he creates, especially the multiverse that It is a part of, and while I find that can be a downfall in the occasions where his writing becomes slow and dry, leaving no detail to spare is great for the obsessives out there, like me.
You’re telling me a bunch of kids are the only way to stop this alien clown? Cool (though perhaps one of the…more disturbing ways they try to defeat It as children is absolutely not necessary). And these kids…they’re magical? Even better! Oh, and the actual way to defeat the alien clown is through the power of their love for each other? Hell YEAH!
So here’s what it comes down to: a crappy town in Maine where children are benign traumatized on a daily basis and the adults always turn a blind eye is filled with dark magic, but the power of love from a group of Losers is able to change all of that. I think that’s absolutely brilliant. Not to mention, all of the Losers Club, or the main characters in It, are such interesting characters with so much potential and intrigue that keeps me wanting more and more. In particular, I love Eddie Kaspbrak and Richie Tozier, but I’ll be talking about them more on this blog in the future for sure.
Do I really love Derry itself then? Honestly, no. I think that much is clear from this. I don’t love the town, I don’t love what happens in it, but I do love who lives in it and who saves it. Characters can make a place feel like it’s real, alongside good writing, and King manages to do all of that, keeping me on the edge of my seat needing more and more to the point of wanting to craft my own stories in this peculiar town with these fascinating characters.