13

Wad Cheber had said (in chat) that there are differences between each version of the first book (I understand there is a large gap between books 1 & 2 being written):

Like, there are two (or three) editions of Book I (The Gunslinger): The original serialized version in which it appeared in SF&F magazine, which I've never read; the original limited edition print novel version (and reprints of it) which was slightly altered from the serialized version; and the significantly different "Revised and Expanded Edition" which was released in the early 00's, when Book V came out.

What are all the differences?

24

TL; DR: Too many to list here.1

As Bev Vincent says in his analysis The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus:

King’s changes occur on almost every page. Some are simple reworkings of awkward, self-conscious writing—“ hollow blather,” as he calls it in the foreword. He removed most adverbs— following his own advice in On Writing— and clarified numerous cases of pronouns with uncertain antecedents.

Vincent also quotes an update King posted on his website in 2003:

"The material is about an additional 10% (about 35 manuscript pages) with changes on almost every page."
- Stephen King, quoted in The Road to the Dark Tower by Bev Vincent.

I found a long, but not complete, list of all the changes, and posted it (with some corrections) on Google Docs. The Google Doc I created is 15 pages long, so I clearly can't quote it in full here. Instead, I will explain the different types of changes and provide an example or two of each.


Changes to remove plot inconsistencies between The Gunslinger and later books in the series:

Examples:

[Roland] read dry and tattered back issues of magazines with faded pictures.
- The Gunslinger, 1982 edition

In the next book in the series, The Drawing of the Three, we learn that paper is as valuable as gold in Roland's world; using it to make something as cheap and disposable as a magazie would be near sacriligeous to him. When he comes to our world and hears people talking about magazines and photographs, he has no idea what they're talking about. He hears the word "magazine" as "Magda-seen", and assumes they are about the things that a woman named Magda has seen; he can't figure out why anyone cares about what Magda sees. Likewise, he hears the word "photograph" as "fottergraf". Clearly, he has no idea what magazines and photographs are. In the 2003 "Revised and Expanded Edition", King removes all references to magazines.

Another example:

The remains of the wood he had carried had turned to ironwood, and the man in black was a laughing skeleton in a rotting black robe, more bones in this place of bones, one more skull in golgotha.
- The Gunslinger, 1982 edition

The man in black returns in later books, so in the 2003 edition, King mentions that Roland doubts that the skeleton is really his remains:

The remains of the wood he had carried had turned to something like stone, and the man in black was a laughing skeleton in a rotting black robe, more bones in this place of bones, one more skull in this golgotha.

Or is it really you? he thought. I have my doubts, Walter o’ Dim... I have my doubts, Marten-that-was.
- The Gunslinger, 2003 Revised and Updated Edition

Another example: in the 1982 version, Roland and Cuthbert overhear Hax the cook conspiring with a traitor of the guards to poison the people of Farson; they will commit this atrocity in the name of the insurrectionist known as "The Good Man". In later books, the Good Man's name is said to be John Farson. King had forgotten that Farson was a place targeted by the Good Man, and thought Farson was the Good Man's name. This inconsistency was corrected when King changed the town's name to "Taunton" and identified the Good Man as John Farson in the 2003 edition.

There are many changes along these lines, most of them minor but understandable. For instance, in the 1982 edition, Roland remembers his friend "Allen; in later books, we learn that the boy's name was actually "Alain", and King corrected this in the 2003 edition. Similarly, "Aileen" became "Susan", "electric lights" became the "spark lights" we hear of throughout the later books, and so on.


Minor changes in tone and language:

Examples:

King began writing The Gunslinger in 1977, partially based on a story he'd written at college in 1970; it first appeared - in serialized format - in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from 1978 to 1981. The 1982 edition of the book reflects the time in which it was written, and King changed this in the 2003 edition.

From The Road to the Dark Tower:

In the original version, Roland occasionally spoke in 1970s slang, saying things like, “Dig?” King changes dialogue in numerous places to adopt the distinctive language used in later books, things like “if it do ya fine,” “say thank ya,” and “thankee-sai.”

Other examples can also be found - for example, in the 1982 edition, Jake was mostly quiet and passive; this is very out of character for the boy, who becomes a major character in the later books, where he is not afraid to speak his mind.


Plot changes made for reasons which seem to remain unclear:

Examples:

The most striking example of this is the way in which Allie, Roland's brief fling in Tull, dies. In both versions, she is taken hostage by Sheb, and is shot to death by Roland. But the other details of her death are wildly different:

It was Allie, and of course it had to be Allie, coming at him with her face distorted, the scar a hellish purple in the lowering light. He saw that she was held hostage; the distorted, grimacing face of Sheb peered over her shoulder like a witch’s familiar. She was his shield and sacrifice. He saw it all, clear and shadowless in the frozen, deathless light of the sterile calm, and heard her:

"He's got me O Jesus don't shoot don't don't don't...

But the hands were trained. He was the last of his breed and it was not only his mouth that knew the High Speech. The guns beat their heavy, atonal music into the air. Her mouth flapped and she sagged and the guns fired again. Sheb's head snapped back. They both fell into the dust.
- The Gunslinger, 1982 edition (italics in original; bold mine)

Compare this to the revised version. In this version, the man in black had raised a man named Nort from the dead, then told Allie that if she said the word "Nineteen" to the resurrected man, Nort would tell her about what he saw in the next world; the man in black warned Allie that her mind would snap when she heard what Nort had to say. This plays into how events unfold when she is taken hostage:

It was Allie, and of course it had to be Allie, coming at him with her face distorted, the scar a hellish purple in the lowering light. He saw that she was held hostage; the distorted, grimacing face of Sheb peered over her shoulder like a witch’s familiar. She was his shield and sacrifice. He saw it all, clear and shadowless in the frozen, deathless light of the sterile calm, and heard her:

“Kill me, Roland, kill me! I said the word, nineteen, I said, and he told me... I can’t bear it—”

The hands were trained to give her what she wanted. He was the last of his breed and it was not only his mouth that knew the High Speech. The guns beat their heavy, atonal music into the air. Her mouth flapped and she sagged and the guns fired again. The last expression on her face might have been gratitude. Sheb’s head snapped back. They both fell into the dust.
- The Gunslinger, 2003 Revised and Updated Edition (italics in original; bold mine)


Important concepts from later books, which were absent in the 1982 edition of The Gunslinger, introduced in the 2003 edition:

Examples:

This list is lengthy, and includes the following [with the book(s) in which these items reappear in parenthesis]:

  • Arthur Eld (throughout)

  • Crimson King (throughout)

  • Sheemie (books IV and VII)

  • The Manni (book V)

  • The Taheen (books V-VII)

  • Algul Siento (book VII)

  • Billy-bumblers (books III-VIII)

  • The Commala dance (book V)

  • The phrase "There will be water if god wills it" (books III-VII)

  • The Beams of the Tower (throughout), and many more.


Obvious foreshadowing added to the 2003 edition:

Examples:

Warning: MAJOR Spoilers for book VII ahead!

Book VII ends with Roland finally reaching the Dark Tower, climbing to the top, and being pulled through a door into the very desert where we first met him in the opening line of The Gunslinger. We are made to understand that Roland has repeated this quest countless times, perhaps as punishment for the sins he committed along the way to the tower; each time he gets to the tower, he has to start over from the desert with no memory of having already reached his goal umpteen times, nor of the futility of his quest. Thus, the 2003 revised version adds the following brief passage near the beginning of the book. it is a tip of the hat to the fact that Roland has just been teleported from the Tower to the desert, and reference to the way teleportation makes people feel in the later books:

...

The gunslinger had been struck by a momentary dizziness, a kind of yawing sensation that made the entire world seem ephemeral, almost a thing that could be looked through. It passed and, like the world upon whose hide he walked, he moved on.
- The Gunslinger, 2003 Revised and Updated edition

And later, he thinks back to this brief feeling of disorientation:

He sat down and allowed himself a short pull from the waterbag. He thought of that momentary dizziness earlier in the day, that sense of being almost untethered from the world, and wondered what it might have meant. Why should that dizziness make him think of his horn and the last of his old friends, both lost so long ago at Jericho Hill? He still had the guns— his father’s guns— and surely they were more important than horns... or even friends.

Weren’t they?

The question was oddly troubling, but since there seemed to be no answer but the obvious one, he put it aside, possibly for later consideration.
- ibid

...

The implication seems to be that Roland is doomed to repeat his quest endlessly until he learns that his friends, and his heritage as represented by the horn of Eld, are more important than his guns, and protecting his ka-tet is far more important than his obsession with seeing the tower. He must stop treating people as expendable means to an end or he will continue travelling in this loop of suffering forever.



1 As noted in the quote you used in your question, I haven't read the original serialized version of the story, and know little about it. Thus, my answer focuses exclusively on the differences between the two most commonly available versions: the 1982 original book edition, and the 2003 Revised and Updated Edition.

  • 1
    Poo, hit a spoiler. I like to live dangerously. – Mac Cooper Mar 24 '16 at 10:37
  • 2
    @MacCooper King himself has a spoiler warning in the book itself before the last chapter, almost urging you not to read it at all! – James Thorpe Mar 24 '16 at 12:45
  • 2
    I wish he had put that at the beginning of a few of his other books :/ – Broklynite Mar 25 '16 at 7:29
7

Wad Cheber described very well the differences between the 1982 edition and the revised 2003 edition. But what's not covered by his answer are the differences between the original publications in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (1978 to 1981) and the 1982 edition.

These differences are listed in detail in The Complete Guide to the Works of Stephen King by Rocky Wood, David Rawsthorne and Norma Blackburn (2003). The listing fills more than three pages in the Complete Guide, but the changes are all very minor compared to the ones in the 2003 edition. There are no plot changes, only changes in wording, and a few added or removed sentences. Here are a few examples:

F&SF:

The two belts criss-crossed above his crotch

1982 edition:

The two belts criss-crossed over his crotch

F&SF:

“Don't get crumbs in my bed,” she told him

1982 edition:

“Don't go getting your tobacco dandruff in my bed,” she told him

F&SF:

Silence again, as if all possible words between them had been exhausted

1982 edition:

Silence again

F&SF:

And then what? Nothing? Of course not

1982 edition:

And then what? Tachyons? Nothing? Of course not

  • 1982: needs more tachyons! – Rand al'Thor Mar 24 '16 at 13:41
  • Vespene gas anybody? – Broklynite Mar 25 '16 at 7:30

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