For nearly 10 years, Joe Hill worked to build his career without the influence of his father - Stephen King - opening doors for him. At some point after releasing 2005’s well-received short story collection 20th Century Ghosts, several rumors spread online about Hill’s true parentage.
The release of 2007’s Heart-Shaped Box brought success but forced the author to admit Joe Hill was the chosen pen name of Joesph Hillstrom King. Since that reveal, Hill and King collaborated together on the novella In the Tall Grass and have participated in family interviews.
Hill’s 2013 novel NOS4A2 left behind any semblance of his attempt to distance himself from his famous father, with multiple references to King novels and characters included throughout. King’s Doctor Sleep, released the same year, returned the favor with nods to his son’s work.
The pair acknowledged the Easter eggs are all in good fun and shouldn’t be taken as serious links between the two separate universes they’ve created. However, who knows what importance the crossovers may have in the future.
NOS4A2 introduces the idea of an inscape, which Hill described to Nightmare Magazine as:
...everyone lives in two worlds. There’s the real world… the solid world that we all know. Everyone also has one foot in another world: the inner world of thought… and in our inscapes, our emotions have the force of gravity, imagination has a kind of solidity to it, a kind of inner reality.
When NOS4A2 readers get a description of the map, it mentions a point called “Pennywise’s Circus.” Of course, Pennywise the Dancing Clown is the main antagonist of King’s novel IT; she terrifies and collects children in the town of Derry, ME.
In an interview about his book, Hill offered a synopsis, saying, "The story is about the one kid who got away from him, and what happens when that kid grows up and Charlie comes back looking for revenge."
GoodReads forum user Renato mentions the similarities between NOS4A2 and King’s novel IT. Both deal with supernatural creatures stalking children to steal their essences and assure their own youth.
In NOS4A2, Vic McQueen encounters and escapes Charlie Manx as a child, while The Losers Club does the same with Pennywise in King’s story. After they grow up, both parties believe their ordeal is over, yet the antagonist returns for another fight.
Released the same year as NOS4A2, King’s Doctor Sleep picks up the story of Danny Torrance where 1977’s The Shining left off. The True Knot are villains who possess the same shine as Danny, but use their powers to consume other carriers.
In NOS4A2, Charlie Manx mentions them as his contemporaries, as he also feeds off others. Hill writes, "There is the True Knot, who live on the road and are in much the same line of work as myself. I leave them be and they are glad to return the favor."
King’s epic novel The Stand features Randall Flagg, an antichrist of sorts who opposes the “good” survivors of a world-ending epidemic. One of Flagg’s followers is The Trashcan Man, an escaped convict with schizophrenia who enjoys setting fires.
Throughout King’s novel, The Trashcan Man recites the words “My life for you” to Flagg. Flagg hears the same mantra from The Tick-Tock Man in The Dark Tower series.
Hill co-opts the phrase for a minion of Charlie Manx, The Gas Mask Man, echoing the desperation and devotion of the preceding King characters.