One of the major changes to the 1990 edition of The Stand is that Stephen King added a preface explaining why a new edition of the novel has been released. According to King (and he should know, eh?), four hundred pages of the manuscript were cut from the published version of the novel in 1978 mainly due to financial concerns. The publisher was worried that the extra pages would have pushed the price too high for the book, as it was a long novel already, so King reluctantly made the cuts. For the 1990 edition, he restored many but not all of those pages, and he also tinkered with some more things such as updating the cultural references and the dates. He did something similar for the paperback edition in 1980, mainly with the dates, moving the date of the flu outbreak from 1980 to 1985. For the 1990 edition, the date is moved to 1990.
In addition to the preface, King made minor updates to the dedication (from "For my wife Tabitha: This dark chest of wonders." to "For Tabby/this dark chest of wonders.") and the author's note. The excerpts from songs that serve as invocations and mood music to begin the book change from songs by Bruce Springsteen, Blue Oyster Cult, and Bob Dylan to songs by Bruce Springsteen, Blue Oyster Cult, and Country Joe And The Fish. Why Dylan gets dropped is beyond me. I haven't finished reading the 1990 edition yet, so my suspicion is that he gets used later since his song, "Shelter From The Storm", is still listed in the copyright acknowledgements at the beginning of the novel. But, the song by Country Joe And The Fish isn't listed there, so perhaps someone slipped up and didn't replace Dylan with Country Joe there. Then again, the Country Joe lyrics are just the "What's that spell?" portions of the "Fish" chants (or "Fuck" when they were feeling particularly rowdy), so maybe they didn't need the legalese.
After the song lyrics, we get a page that states "The circle opens" along with an Ed Dorn quote ("We need help, the Poet reckoned."). As an aside, the one time I was in the same room as King was in Maine in 1996 at an Ed Dorn poetry reading during a "Poetry in the 1950s" conference. Despite the brickbats snooty literati sometime toss his way (for example, when he got a medal from the National Book Foundation, some critics and publishing types had a hissyfit), King has been very supportive of literature in general, even stuff far more avant garde than his own work. If I remember correctly, he even paid for Dorn's appearance at the conference.
Then we get the first actual bit of the novel, a brief scene with Charlie Campion, the plague carrier, waking up his wife so they can flee from California, where he has been working at a military base developing biological weapons, one of which, the superflu or Captain Trips, has now escaped the lab and started killing everyone at the base.
And after that we reach the point where the 1978/1980 Stand starts.
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