Today, plenty of the top-ranking shows on Netflix, Hulu, and regular cable TV are based on popular books or graphic novels. For example, Lucifer was originally a DC character from Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel The Sandman, The Witcher was originally a book series by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, and Game of Thrones is an ongoing fantasy book series by George R.R. Martin. But what about Stranger Things?
Stranger Things is not based on a book or graphic novel. However, the show’s creators have spoken extensively about how famous writers like Stephen King and R.L. Stine influenced the series’ creation. Additionally, several authors have published Stranger Things books since the show aired in 2016.
This article will discuss the literary and pop culture influences behind Netflix’s hit series, Stranger Things. It will also give you information about the Stranger Things books available for those wanting to delve more deeply into the Hawkins universe.
Contrary to what some people think, the writers of Stranger Things didn’t base the series on a book. However, the Duffer brothers were heavily influenced by 1980s movies, books, and other pop culture, especially books by the horror master himself, Stephen King.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Matt Duffer mentions they were “really inspired by [Stephen King’s book] It.”
Additionally, John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, games like Dungeons and Dragons, and movies like The Goonies influenced the writers. In that same Vanity Fair interview mentioned above, the Duffers named other specific influences, including:
- The Shining
- The Thing
- A Nightmare on Elm Street
In other words, while you won’t be able to trace the series to any books, you will be able to spot several Easter eggs, homages, and other fun similarities between the show and many books and movies from the 80s.
For example, the font style they chose in the opening credits is a nod to the font used on the cover of most Stephen King books published in the 1980s. Additionally, in season two, Bob talks about being terrified of a disturbing clown when he lived in Maine. There’s not a Stephen King fan alive that wouldn’t understand that reference.
As of July 1, 2022, there are four official Stranger Things novels, with the fifth one, Lucas on the Line, set for publication at the end of July 2022. The following is a brief synopsis of each.
Also, remember that the series was not based on these books. Instead, these books came out a few years after the series premiered on Netflix. The first one, Suspicious Minds, was published in February of 2019.
The first official Stranger Things novel, Suspicious Minds, was written by Gwenda Bond and is set years before the events in the first season of Stranger Things. Instead of being about Eleven, Mike, Dustin, and the rest of the crew, it focuses on Eleven’s mom, Terry Ives, who signs up to be part of an “important government experiment” that will change the world.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t know that she’s pregnant, and the experiments she’s taking part in are doing strange things to her developing baby (Eleven). Furthermore, she didn’t realize that signing up for the experiments would be much easier than getting out of them.
This second book in the series, written by Adam Christopher, focuses primarily on a young Jim Hopper. The story starts in Hawkins, with Eleven asking Hopper to tell her a story. Hopper then tells the story of one of his strangest and most challenging cases as a police detective in NYC.
Authored by Brenna Yovanoff, Runaway Max is the third Stranger Things novel. It outlines Max Mayfield’s backstory and shines a light on her life pre-Hawkins. Though the third official Stranger Things novel, it can be read as a stand-alone book. It’s a must-read for all Max fans.
Just as Runaway Max showcases Max’s backstory, Rebel Robin does the same for season three’s breakout character, Robin Buckley. As one of the few LGBT characters in the Stranger Things universe, Robin’s story focuses on finding and accepting herself in a small town in the 80s.
As of this writing, Lucas on the Line has not been published. However, it should come out sometime later this month. Written by Suyi Davies, it’ll follow the story of one of Stranger Things’ central characters, Lucas Sinclair, one of the few boys of color in 1980s Hawkins.
There are also a few graphic novels and mini-comics for those who can’t get enough of the Stranger Things crew and their misadventures. As of July 2022, there are six main graphic novels. In order, they are:
- The Other Side
- Into the Fire
- Summer Camp
- Dungeons & Dragons
- The Tomb of Ybwen
Four mini-comics came out at various times between the graphic novel’s release dates. These include:
- Zombie Boys
- The Bully
- Erica the Great
- Halloween in Hawkins
There are other books and supplementary materials based on or set in the Stranger Things universe, as well as some ‘behind the scenes’ type books for super fans who want to learn everything they can about the series.
Some of these include:
- Hawkins Horrors
- Stranger Things and the ’80s: The Complete Retro Guide
- Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down: The Official Behind-the-Scenes Companion
- Hawkins Middle School Yearbook/Hawkins High School Yearbook
- Will Byers Secret Files
- How to Survive in a Stranger Things World
Between the ‘official’ novels, the graphic novels, and all the supplementary materials, you should have enough Stranger Things reading material to hold you over until the next season premieres.
Though several Stranger Things books have been released since Netflix premiered its hit show in 2016, Stranger Things is not based on a book. The Duffer brothers, the show’s creators, were heavily influenced by Stephen King books, though. They even pay homage to the horror great in the final episode of season four, where Lucas reads The Talisman aloud to Max.
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