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The novel re-works the scenario first seen in King's earlier short story, Night Surf (included in the short story collection Night Shift). The novel contains the first published reference to King's über-villain Randall Flagg. Flagg also appears in King's fantasy novel The Eyes of the Dragon and the Dark Tower series.
The publishing history of the book is unique in that it was re-released as The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition in 1990. This edition restored some text originally edited for brevity, added some new sections and revised others, and changed the setting of the novel from the early 1980s to the early 1990s.
The story begins with the death of most of the human population of North America (and, presumably, the world) following the escape and spread of a man-made biological weapon (a superflu virus) known formally as "Project Blue" and colloquially, on the west coast, as "Captain Trips". 99.4 percent of people are susceptible to Trips, and the disease has a mortality rate of 100 percent. This first section of the novel takes place over 19 days and charts the total breakdown and destruction of society in some very graphic scenes.
The novel continues, in part two, with the intertwining cross-country odysseys of the small number of survivors, including a pregnant college student (Frances Goldsmith), a laid-off factory worker from Texas (Stuart Redman), a high school outcast (Harold Lauder), a deaf-mute wanderer (Nick Andros), a dissatisfied pop musician (Larry Underwood), and a pessimistic sociology professor (Glen Bateman). They are drawn together by their shared dreams of an elderly psychic woman whom they see as a refuge. This woman, Abagail Freemantle (known as 'Mother Abagail'), becomes the spiritual leader of this group of survivors, who begin to attempt to re-establish a democratic society in the Colorado town of Boulder. Meanwhile, another group of survivors including a common thief (Lloyd Henreid), an arsonist (Trashcan Man), and the ex-chief of the Santa Monica PD (Barry Dorgan) are drawn to Las Vegas, Nevada by another entity, an evil being with supernatural powers known as Randall Flagg, the "dark man," or the "walkin' dude." Flagg's rule is tyrannical and brutal yet effective.
In part three, the stage is set for the final confrontation as the two camps become aware of one another, and each recognizes the other as a threat to its survival, leading to 'the stand' of the good against the evil and involving a salvaged nuclear weapon.
Confirmed influence on Lost
Disc 7 of Lost: The Complete Second Season (DVD) comments that the table where writers brainstorm for new episodes of Lost is “never without a copy of The Stand” J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse repeatedly hinted at the importance of the book in their molding of the show on multiple interviews and podcasts. In one such example from the official podcast on Novemer 6th, 2006, Carlton says: "So, in fact, our model in many ways have been other things, including Stephen King's The Stand, which we acknowledge as kind of a way you can tell a long, sprawling, character-based story."
Charlie resembles The Stand's supporting character Larry Underwood through his status as a musician and substance abuse issues. According to Damon Lindelof, the writers created Charlie as an "homage to Larry Underwood."
In The Stand (and other King works), antagonist Randall Flagg, also known as the Man in Black, is King's personification of the universe's agent of evil. Said Damon Lindelof in 2004, "We're not misdirecting you on Terry O' Quinn's Flagg-esque (Walter in some worlds) qualities... but hopefully he's got some big surprises in store for everyone." The main villain in Lost ended up known as the Man in Black, and he took Locke's form.
As noted above, the produces explicitly modeled Charlie on Larry Underwood and lent Locke qualities reminiscent of Flagg.
On a larger level, both stories begin with the theme of strangers forming a new society together after disaster. Unity and cooperation are significant themes in both works. In Lost, Jack famously states that "If we can't live together, we're going to die alone." This is paralleled in The Stand by the line, "If they stayed alone, they would die alone", a thought attributed to Nadine.
Both stories involved drama surrounding pregnancy, with characters fearing that a child born to a single mother could be vulnerable to a mysterious illness. Vivid dreams and visions are a frequent theme in both the book and the show.
The scene in "Ab Aeterno" in which the Man in Black offers an imprisoned Richard is similar to a scene from the Stand where the Man in Black frees Lloyd Henreid from prison. Damon and Carlton acknowledged this similarity on the Official Lost Podcast.
Both works concerned nuclear bombs; in a podcast shortly before the Season 5 finale, Damon and Carlton gave the name "Trashcan Man" as a hint to the final outcome of Jughead, a reference to Trashcan Man accidentally detonating an Atomic bomb in Las Vegas.