The Final: Stephen King vs Neil Gaiman

Stephen King

Special attack: Killer clown. That turns out to be an alien.


  • Has sold over 350 million books worldwide
  • Father of a million childhood nightmares


  • Probably has enough money to build a space station but hasn’t yet built a space station
  • Has probably written more books than he’s read

Neil Gaiman

Special attack: Sleeper hold


  • Adored, award-winning author of fantasy and graphic novels
  • King of the Faeries


  • Only exists partially in this world
  • Mobbed by fans wherever he goes


How we think it’d play out…

Stephen King awoke in an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar room whose windows (also unfamiliar) looked out onto an unfamiliar garden. How did he get here? The last thing he remembered was getting into his car with the intention of driving to Neil Gaiman’s house and delivering the almighty butt-whupping that would ensure his place as the Ultimate Writer. But then… he dimly recalled losing control of the car, the terrifying screech of brakes, and…

“Ah – awake at last.” King hadn’t heard the door open, but Gaiman was suddenly at his bedside, a steaming bowl of soup in his hands and an eerie grin on his face. “You know, I’ve always been a big fan of yours.”

“No,” said King.

“It’s true,” said Gaiman, “all the way back to Carrie -”

“No, I mean this can’t be how it ends. We’ve both been through too much in this contest for it to finish up as a lame Misery rip-off; it’s demeaning to us both.”

Gaiman frowned. He’d been looking forward to calling King a “dirty birdy”. “What do you suggest?”

“There’s only one way to decide which of us should be the Ultimate Writer. A gruelling challenge of skill and determination – the ultimate test of our abilities as professional authors.”

“You don’t mean –“

“That’s right. A book signing.”

Within hours the local bookstore was full to bursting with fans, and a huge crowd of hopefuls spilled out into the street. King and Gaiman sat at their respective tables, signing pens in hand, each man now beginning to regret this a little.

The crowd was like nothing they’d ever seen. The news that Neil Gaiman and Stephen King were to appear together at a signing – apparently to settle some sort of dispute that had arisen on the internet – had spread so fast that the entire surrounding area had been closed to traffic.

King cracked his knuckles, took a deep breath and signed his first book. “Thank you. I get many of my ideas in the shower. My favourite colour? Red.”

Meanwhile, Gaiman was doing the same. “Thank you very much. I find gardening a great source of ideas. I like your hat.”

Time wore on, and the crowd showed no sign of diminishing– if anything, it was growing larger. The double signing of two of the world’s most beloved authors had by now become national news, and busloads more fans were arriving every minute
The strain was beginning to tell on both authors: cramp was forcing King to sign with his left hand, while Gaiman was finding ever more creative ways to tell fans where his ideas came from. “They’re pre-written by poodles and mailed to me every morning.”

Hours later both men were visibly sweating, and the crowd was growing restless as a combination of heat, dehydration and lack of toilets took its toll. Rumours began circulating that it wasn’t Stephen King and Neil Gaiman at all at the front of the line; it was just Shaun Hutson and some bloke in a wig. The mood was turning ugly.

King looked at Gaiman; his left arm was now cramping up so badly he was giving serious thought to signing with his toes. “Want to get out of here?”

“Had… enough… have you?” sneered Gaiman, but his face betrayed the weariness of over a dozen hours of signing. “Fine. But how’re we going to do it? If we try to leave, they’ll tear us apart!”

“I don’t know. I’d use my killer clown, but Philip K Dick murdered him. Long story.”

“Hmm,” said Gaiman. “Well, Loki owes me a favour…”

Calling on the trickster-god’s powers, Gaiman managed to convince the entire crowd to a man that they were waiting in line for Ed Sheeran tickets. Slowly but surely the mass of people began to dissipate, amid a lot of confused muttering.

“Well, that’s that sorted,” said King, after the last few stragglers had left the building. “But how do we decide who’s the Ultimate Writer?”

Gaiman sighed. “Thumb war?”



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179 thoughts on “The Final: Stephen King vs Neil Gaiman

  1. 20 years ago it would have been King by a landslide. And whilst I list many of his books as some of my all-time favourite reads, due to his recent efforts I remain unconvinced that he actually survived that crash.
    Mr Gaiman on the other hand is in his prime, going from strength-to-strength and if nothing else youth & exuberance will win over old age & treachery.

  2. KING still RULES! :) Leigh, what about Under the Dome, Lisey’s Story, The Dark Tower, 11/22/63? Joyland? Doctor Sleep? Mr. Mercedes? Even if you weren’t THAT impressed with some of his newer works, doesn’t mean you rule out all the older ones! C’mon…. King All The Way, Baby!

  3. Cry your pardons but your ‘disadvantage’ up there for Stephen King is wrong. He’s a voracious reader. Heck it’s probably the reason he got hit by that van back in ’99. He was reading while walking on the side of the road.

    • The reason he was hit was because the guy “driving” the van was an idiot who was trying to keep his dog out of the hamburger he had in his cooler behind him instead of keeping his eyes on the road. He drifted off the road on to where SK was walking and….well, you know the rest.

  4. King has to win, the mark of greatness has to be longevity and the ability to replicate greatness over and over for decades. King not only writes amazing books, he kept the short story market going, writes TV show episodes like series 2 episode 1 of Under The Dome and X files and created television shows like Kingdom Hospital. He’s written a musical and graphic novels and contrary to popular belief of ‘just being a horror writer’, is happy to switch genres as well as format, such as his recent hard boiled crime novels, thrillers and The Shawshank Redemption, the film adaption which was voted the most uplifting film of all time. He is widely known to be the greatest character writer alive today, if not of all time, and has not only created fictional towns that seem real, but also whole worlds and universes. His first works are timeless as the proof that Carrie, his first ever published novel, has just been remade for a new generation of cinema goers as the story is still just as relevant today as it was then. And he did vampires and futuristic running games in his novels decades before Twilight and The Hunger Games came along. His readers (of which there is no stereotype) read their first ‘King’ and loyally stay with him for life due to the quality of his writing and the power of his storytelling. Oh, and for somebody who writes truly scary books, he seems a genuinely nice man.

  5. Has to be Stephen King. He is so prolific and after all these years I am still rereading his books. Just began The Talisman again..:-) Go SK xxx

  6. I had gotten away from reading after finishing post secondary education some decades ago. I stumbled around in the fog and was lost. Ty Stephen for bringing me back into the light of the REAL WORLD!!! he he he…..:)

    • That is your failure. His writing is so amazing, that he is the only person to win a World Fantasy Award for a graphic novel. He works more in the graphic arts writing and British television. Check out his novels and you will see how the fight it’s by no means one sided. That being said, King is my favorite author. If only for the option to start the canon over and it is so vast that it can almost feel new again.

  7. Stephen King all the way. He has far more talent than Geiman and has had more of an effect on pop culture. Stephen King has enriched the lives of millions, just look at his sales and his writing is incredible, almost poetic. Stephen has created thousands of characters over the years and has touched the hearts of millions with Carrie’s tragic tale and he has helped me through some dark times. Stephen King’s characterisation is on par with Charles Dickens! He is the best author of the last fifty years and deserves to be crowned best writer. Stephen King fan for twenty four years!

  8. Seriously Stephen King vs Neil Geiman? What about Stephen King vs Clive Barker? Clive Barker is a master of horror along with Stephen King and Geiman, though good, doesn’t come close! Clive Barker can write Geiman under the table and is far more original and inspiring. In my opinion Stephen King has won hands down. So has Clive Barker. They are incredible writers who have touched upon pop culture in a phenomenal way.
    I meen, Carrie vs Coroline? Carrie wins hands down. Just my opinion.
    Should be Stephen King vs Clive Barker, but awards aren’t given for art, just popularity.

  9. Stephen King all the way! I am a prolific reader and it always comes back to Stephen King in a landslide!!

  10. Mr. King, hands down! I have read all of his works many times over the years and yet they still fill my with wonder and delight, just as they did on the first reading. Long May he reign!

  11. Have to go with the man I’ve been reading for 30 years: Stephen king!! No way the other guy (whoever he is) can ever beat Sai King!

  12. I love Stephen King’s books. I’ve read several of them multiple times and each reading is as enjoyable as the first. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Mercedes which is very different from the majority of his other works. King is definitely the Ultimate Writer!

  13. Stephen King all day, every day! Especially the Dark Tower series, epic read by an epic writer. I’ve read a few of his books until they started having pages fall out!

  14. Stephen King has always been my favorite horror author I love his books and his movies. He has given me some of my best hours of reading when I was younger and has also given me some of my scariest nightmares and I thank him for that. Im not trying to be disrespectful to the other author but I have never heard of him until now but even if I had I would still be voting for King :)

  15. Stephen King, no doubt in my mind. I have nearly every book he has ever published. I have never even read the other guy.

  16. ALL HAIL THE KING!! If he wins I think a tour of UK Waterstones is in order for a mass signing. Sorry for Neil as he stands no chance against SK – but he did well to get this far. I am currently on my 5th read through of IT at the moment – or maybe its the 6th? Beep beep!

  17. Gaiman’s stories are so wonderfully alive. It’s probably best not to keep two together on a shelf – if they ever started talking to each other, humanity would soon be classified as a series of misplaced commas and suddenly it’s all Ctrl-x for you.

  18. This was a tough one! I love them both so much but I had to go with SK. He was the first one to bring me into his macabre world’s he’s why I found gaiman.

  19. I have to go with King hands down…. I’ve been a loyal fan and constant reader since I read The Stand (my all time favorite), and read “IT” while pregnant with my son in 1989 (everyone convinced that is what is wrong with him… LOL, just kidding, he’s just a little twisted like his mom), but The Gunslinger sealed the deal forever. While I had never heard of Gaiman before today, I am sure he must be a fine writer because he is up here against The King, he will still never be the best in my eyes! Long live The King!!! <3

    • Gaiman is a British authpr who changed the landscape of writing in Graphic Novels through his Sandman series. His novel Coraline is perhaps his best known work, but his novels The Graveyard Book and American Gods are amazing. He inspired Eric Kripke to create the TV series Supernatural and in truth many of their greatest episodes could be traced back to Gaiman. His collections of Short Stories are amazing, particularly Smoke and Mirrors. His greatest short stories are ‘October in the Chair’ and ‘Murder Mysteries.’ A brilliant author, who now occasionally writes amazing episodes of Doctor Who.

  20. Gaiman is an excellent writer,but King is the master. He knows what terrifies us most on an instintive level. He knows the worst truths about human nature and how to articulate them perfectly. His work is haunting and beautiful and scary all at the same time. He’s the author with the gore galore that’l horrify a reader to the core!

  21. King… all the way. Been a fan for 30 years… read all but I believe 4 of his books, and I’m workingvon those. Gaiman… excellent author, have read my fair share. But he definitely doesn’t compare. King, all the way to the end of the worlds and to the top of the Tower. May Ka forever be in your favor, Sai King.

  22. Stephen King aaaaaall the waaaaaaay! Tak!
    I have read many of his amazing books and love how I can get so wrapped up in it to be taken to worlds that are not quite off as it may seem. Dark Tower series is freakin awesome!

  23. Been a King fan for 30 years… I’ve read all but 4 of his books, and I’m working on those. He never fails to put out excellent stories and to leave the reader begging for more. Gaiman is excellent, I wont simply brush him aside, however in comparison to King, you simply can’t even hold a candle to King’s accomplishments. May Sai King live on forever in all the worlds, and reach the top of his Tower, and may Ka forever be in his favor.

  24. King all the way. In my opinion he has transformed his genre and had a more lasting impact than Gaiman. I adore King. If i could only read one author for the rest of my life it would be him. If i could only read one book series what could offer you more than the Dark Tower? Oh, and anyone saying King has lost his edge needs to read Doctor sleep, Joyland and Mr Mercedes!

  25. Stephen King could write a cookbook and it would outsell most of the authors that are out. The reason: his writing style has the ability to pull you in like no one else. You don’t feel like you are reading the story, you are there. His details and descriptions are without compare, without being tedious and long winded. I am not as fond of his newer books, it seems he is shifting genres somewhat, but I have been reading him since I was 10 and will never stop. King is brilliant.

  26. Even Gaiman said he’d vote for King ;) Love them both, for very different reasons. I’ll have to flip a coin.

  27. King is so over rated, he doesn’t even write anymore, it’s all ghost written and the whole dark tower was just him massaging his ego. Granted he wrote great stuff 10 plus years ago he is past it. Gaimen is the new king

  28. Gaiman is my pick.
    I get the impression that that some of these haven’t read a book in 20 years.
    Add to that , too many of Kings best monsters had lame explanations. Pennywise was an alien spider ? What the hell was that?!
    Indian burial ground was the reason for the Outlook?
    If the Indians had had that kind of mojo they would never have been conquered in the first place!
    But American Gods? FABULOUS!

    • Unless I’m mistaken, King never said The Overlook was built on an Indian burial ground. I have read both The Shining and Doctor Sleep and don’t remember this detail. I think it was something from the movie, but not the novel. I did a quick google search and I think it’s just a movie detail.
      Also, no need to insult people just because they haven’t read anything by Gaiman or heard of him. Nor is there any need to start insulting another author. If others are being insulting, ignore them. No need to start being rude back. Last thing we want here is people slinging insults.

      Both Authors are great to have made it this far. Both have beaten very formidable foes. While I have heard of Gaiman and his works, I have yet to read one. I have been meaning too though as I have watched both Coraline and Stardust and have wanted to read both. Gaiman is clearly a fantastic author to have beaten both Christie and Conan Doyle, two of my all time favourite authors.

      I personally will be voting King as I have been a long time fan of his and have enjoyed a lot of his works. But of course, to see either one win is great.

    • Sorry if my comment is split of multi posted. I keep trying to post and not sure if it’s actually doing it or not…

    • I have read both Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, and while I really do like everything Gaiman has written, I have to give my vote to Stephen King. You are correct, American Gods is fabulous – but so is the Dark Tower series. In addition, King’s work since the publication of the Dark Tower series, has evolved, his characters have a new depth, and his situations a new realism. Well, as real as they can be, given the subject matter. BTW – You are confusing Poltergeist with The Shining (which it sounds as though you’ve never read). Or possibly Pet Sematary. Either way, the Overlook (not Outlook) was never said to have been built on an Indian burial ground.

  29. All you gentleman proudly declaring that you’ve never even heard of Neil Gaiman: please, calm down. Let’s all just remember that who the better author is, whoever wins, it’s entirely a matter of taste. (It is also Neil Gaiman).

  30. Gaiman, even though it’s hard to choose – he has poetry about him that I haven’t found often in King (though I do have a love for the DT series and some of his other works)

  31. Well, King once wrote my daughter a fan letter (postcard), so I almost went with him. (True) But Gaiman got me with the Poodles writing his ideas. I know that’s totally true.

  32. Prose stylist as a writing style was dead for so long that only a few adults and writers loved it, thus style is even perceived as reserved for children’s stories and not really taught as an ideal style in school.

    When Neil made it good, everyone wanted to be a prose stylist again.

    Thank GOD for Neil.

    And he stands up for the rights of the downtrodden comic book artist, and rightfully so too.

  33. Anyone can take a dog, cat, clown, or any other benign object, say it’s evil and write a story…

    Neil Gaiman gets inside of your mind, finds a deep down subconscious fear that you probably burried as a child, slowly tears it out and exposes you to it !

    Neil Gaiman The Lord of Dreams !

  34. Loved the entire Sandman run….laughed my ass off reading Good Omens. Love Gaimans work. But King is one of the greatest writers of all time. I can only recall a couple of times that I finished a King book and wasn’t satisfied. He is the master of Horror for a reason.

  35. Neither of these guys would have made it into my finals, but, of them, Gaiman has to take it.

    King is good. He has some great books in there. But, he’s ultimately a pulp author. He churns out books by the dozens, and only rarely is there a gem. Gaiman’s works are always a joy to read, and almost always make you think.

    But, honestly. Zelanzy, Howard, Lovecraft, Dumas, Mieville, Cook, Dick, Stephenson, heck, Tolkien. Any of those guys would be better for the top slot than either of them.
    I mean, Niel Stephenson is possibly the most creative, versatile, and consistent current author, China Mievile is the most revolutionary fantasy author (even if his latest book decided it was above puny grammar rules, and that was a bit of a turn-off), and Roger Zelanzy’s Great Book of Amber is probably the greatest novel I’ve ever read.

    I’m fully expecting for King to win simply due to his bigger fanbase, but I really don’t think he’s the greatest writer by any stretch of the imagination.

  36. Neil Gaiman gets my vote. I never cared for Stephen King, he always seemed to be overtly manipulating his readers to me.

  37. While I cut my teeth on King…… The Wolves in the Walls and Coraline are favourites for keeping my kids up at night, and my very tired copy of American Gods has an evermoving bookmark in it (it’s where I go to truly escape). Mr Gaiman, I doff my cap.

  38. Stephen King was the Hero-writer of my youth. Neil Gaiman is my all-time-Hero-writer. Mister King has made it so that I will never dare to enter the state of Maine, but mister Gaiman makes me cry because a book is finished and I do not want to be apart from its characters.

  39. This is a very tough call. Both have monumental successes and they’re both very good people. For me, the deciding factor is the variety of genres. King has worked wonders as a novelist, short story writer, and filmed script writer (both television and movies). Gaiman has the edge, thanks to comic books and Doctor Who. It’s a slight edge, given that King wrote two very solid film scripts based on EC comic book series, but significant enough (thanks to “Sandman” reinventing what comic books are). King should take this, but my vote goes to the underdog.

  40. I was enraptured around 80 81 82 by Stephen King. My cousin recommended I read his work. I accidentally walked into a used bookstore and bought The Dark Tower first edition. I’ve been collecting ever since.
    I have all his books in first editions. And some signed and rare forms of print. This constant reader never stops.

  41. Both have their merits, in fact, I find it difficult to compare due to the very small overlap in literary genres. Couldn’t we share this one – joint custody of the award 6 months each and discuss who gets it on holidays!

  42. Cormac McCarthy. There’s no greater writer in the English language today.

    Oh, he wasn’t in the contest? Okay… Gaiman then! In contrast to King he is always original and imaginative, constantly surprising and engaging, wonderfully eclectic and intertextual, a beautiful stylist … and, most important, he manages something that King has never come close to, which is to create characters – even Gods or immortals – whom I actually care deeply about. In a word, he manages to touch both the heart and the mind in his writing.

    That is something that King never did (for me).

  43. What a horrible Question!
    As both authours have written such incredible books, with both at different times writing a book that was so good I reread it immediately, so made my decision answering another question.
    I asked myself who would I be most upset to find out one of them died? Gaiman.

  44. I love them both!! Why was there no option for a tie?? I voted for Mr King, because Mr Gaiman suggested that this is what he would do (on his FB page). so I’ll honor that choice.

  45. For me King’s writing style lacks the something special Neil has. I enjoy both.but Neil has that something extra special. When his characters speak they seem real without speaking slang. IDK if I can explain this well enough,what it is I mean,but here goes my try…Am currently reading a book by Robin Cook (after having finished The Ocean At The End Of The Lane) & what stands out to me is his outdated style of slang the characters use (& it’s not just outdated but age inappropriate – such as college age kids referring to someone as a “dork & a dog as a “turd bag”,seemed to middle school age to me), Something about this reminded me of King’s writing. And I noted that this does not happen in any of Neil’s books. Not that I can recall anyway. Lack of modern day generational slang helps anything stand the test of time. Anyway that’s just one major difference that stand out in my mind. One that elevates Neil above & beyond.

  46. Neil Gaiman’s stories are so much better than Stephen King’s. Yes, Stephen King may have written a lot more books than Neil Gaiman, but I will choose quality over quantity every time. King’s stories are anticlimactic in the sense that he writes a good central plot but then ruins the whole thing with some half assed, not really thought out ending that just doesn’t work at all, so Gaiman all the way.

  47. Thing is…you read Neil and it all flows sort of naturally despite crazy stuff happening
    Guy gets swallowed up a female demon/god/temptress/whatever and you just read it and go yeah, yeah, that makes sense.

  48. Neil Gaiman. The story within a story in ‘Murder Mysteries’ is spectacular and ‘October in the Chair’ is wonderful. The Graveyard Book is superb.

  49. Neil is by far the better storyteller. I almost always know where the story will go with King. You can’t go into a Neil Gaiman story with expectations other than the notion that it will be magnificent and wonderfully written. One writes books, the other writes stories. One makes the every day creepy, the other makes the other-worldly fit in everyday life like it’s toast. For those with imagination and who make the effort to read books not on the grocery store shelves, this is a no-brainer.

  50. I love both writer… Hard to choose but I voted for Gaiman for two reason: 1. I’m now read again American gods 2.I know Mr King will win and it will be okay. Because I still afraid of clowns:) (and i’m 22 now)
    I wish I hadn’t choose between them:)

  51. It has to be the illustrious Mr. Gaiman. King is great at horror, true. But Neil is great at EVERYTHING. He does books for all age groups and all genres. Neil will always win.

  52. Stephen King is the Best writer.”It” is� “It” is terrific and terrifying. Distrust Pennywise the Clown�

  53. I like both, but I love Gaiman. King has written some great books, and he has written tons of them, but that’s the problem: some of his books ARE great, and some seem to be a product of his ” Write a Stephen King Book” ™ program on his computer.
    Take “Dome” ( or not) , it was formulaic, and BORING. Contrast that with “1963”, that actually made me cry at some parts. He is uneven, where almost everything tgat Gaiman has written I find extremely enjoyable.

  54. Niel Gaimen, the way he writes makes me want to write. His descriptions and use intellect, simply beautiful thoughtful ,honest and all the time interesting .. Great stuff!

  55. To those who say, “I’ve never even heard of that other guy”, you seriously are missing out on so much and yet are ignorant to it. Do yourselves a favour and pick up a Gaiman book – Sandman, American Gods, Neverwhere, etc… You will not regret it.

    • Agreed. I started reading King earlier, but when I discovered Gaiman, he quickly became my favorite author, and no one has yet topped him in my book. (And I can’t imagine anyone ever doing so!)

  56. Neil, no question. King’s stories are good, but the endings always seem a rush, like he didn’t quite know how to end an otherwise fine story. Neil is great beginning to end and the story is much better at capturing the magic of life.

  57. The only reason King would win is because he is a more well-known name than Gaiman, he produces more commercial writings. Yes, he has it written/ published more than Gaiman, but the percentage of King’s works that are true masterpieces is nothing compared to Gaiman. Everything Neil Gaiman writes is amazing.

  58. Trouble is King can’t write an ending can he like late Iain Bankes
    The Stand, It, Dark Half, Pet Cemetery, all end with a bit of a whimper…. its like he used his good ending on Misery.
    The books are unputdownable but then you realise there are just 30 pages left and you get that Last episode of Lost feeling…..

  59. The amount of stories alone is quite the accomplishment. Look how many characters and situations have been invented by Stephen King. Unforgettable and too many too list here. And he’s been thinking it up since the 50s.

  60. A valid point,but I’d still say Gaiman – quality edging out quantity. I enjoy reading both, & admire both,but Gaiman’s writing & creating just has that certain little something extra that reaches out & grabs me – in a good way! lol

What do you think?