Christopher Gregory Rivera for NPR
There are a lot of crickets in New York City, but at RL Stine’s home, you’ll find 3-foot-tall crickets.
Well, not a real cockroach. She was just one of the many horror-based talents scattered around his desk, filled with lunch boxes, Goosebumps dolls, and, of course, books.
Was this a straightforward slight mistake about what kind of cheap cockroach it was? An easy way to (hopefully) attract the reader? definitely. But that’s what Stein built his career on – cheap tricks and thrills. “Goosebumps are mostly teasing,” he says.
“I don’t really want to terrorize children. That’s not what I really want. If I think a scene is getting too scary, or too intense, I’m throwing in something funny.”
The popular children’s book series Goosebumps celebrated Stein’s 30th anniversary this year. It’s a franchise that has produced TV shows, movies, and more books. And even if its popularity has waned in recent years (“I don’t have the same sales as the ’90s. We the love ’90s,” he says), the series still has hooks, claws, or some other creepy tendrils around fans today.
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Christopher Gregory Rivera for NPR
Stine celebrates its anniversary with two new books and a handful of looks. When we met, he was fresh from his New York City Comic Con appearance, meeting and greeting a large group of fans, and was preparing to appear at the Library of Congress to take questions from the kids. In a way, Stine is in a sweet spot with his fans – his original fan base is now large enough to share “Goosebumps” with their kids. “You’re getting old,” he says. “This is a hard pill to swallow.” “Terrible. But what’s the excitement. I get to scare many generations, right?”
Stine is originally from Ohio. He moved to New York with big dreams of becoming a writer – not just the kind of writer. He started as a humorist, editing a children’s magazine for Scholastic. One day in the ’80s, he was having lunch with his friend Jan Fayuel, who was also an editor at Scholastic. She was supposed to be working on a teen horror book called blind date, but the author had just pulled out. Desperate, I told Stein so he is He could write a horror novel for teenagers.
“I didn’t know what she was talking about,” he says. What is a teen horror novel?
“I was on a schedule,” Feyuel remembers. I said ‘You know, like any blind date, it can turn horrible, so I’m sure you can find the horror in it. And the humor in it. “”
Stein ran to a nearby library and picked up anyone who was writing teen horror—Christopher Pike, Lewis Duncan. It was a quick study. Feuel guesses he wrote the book in about a week: “And I said, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got a whole new career here. “”
What’s Wrong With The First Goosebumps Book
Christopher Gregory Rivera for NPR
While blind date She worked for teens, and Stine turned to writing series for younger children, at an age group that people in the book industry call “middle grade.” The first book “Goosebumps” Welcome to Dead House It was published in 1992. It is about a family that moves into a noisy old house in a small town. Early on, Amanda had to go out in search of her missing brother. You find it in a cemetery, of course.
I got out of the car, walked a few steps on the grass and called him. At first he didn’t answer my screams. He seemed to evade and evade across the tombstones. He would run in one direction, then cut to one side, then head in another.
Why was he doing that?
I walked a few more steps – then stopped, gripped by fear.
I suddenly realized why Josh was lunging and avoiding like this, running wildly across the tombstones. He was chased.
Someone or – something – was after him.
Stein now says he thinks this book is actually pretty scary—it didn’t strike the balance between funny and scary—but it made an impact on a lot of young readers, like India Hill Brown. “I remember reading it as a kid, it was so scary,” Brown says. “And I remember reading it as an adult, it was really scary,” she laughs.
Brown is the author of a children’s horror book – the forgotten girl And the The girl in the lake. I have already returned to Welcome to Dead House When working on her first book, through a jagged patch of writer’s block. This helped her focus on “what made me love middle class horror.”
It’s an interesting era, before you realize that growth is kind of horrible. You’re on the verge of not wanting to be a kid anymore – which is why the “Goosebumps” heroes tend to be 12 years old – a little bit older than the target age group. You want to have a little independence, a touch of agency, but also feel secure. “My only rule of thumb for writing for 7- to 11-year-olds is that they can’t think it’s going to be real,” Stein says. “They have to know it’s fiction. And then I can go away with the fears.”
The “Goosebumps” noise train took a while to take off, but when it did – it crashed pretty big. It inspired a children’s TV show, merchandise, and — for a certain type of die-hard fan — the books themselves became collectibles.
“I remember going through bookstores every month the next day The scream of terror It was supposed to come out,” awesome fan Brian Stelter told me.
Stelter is best known as the former CNN media correspondent and host of the show Trusted sources, but in the “Goosebumps” world, he is best known for creating the fan site The Bumps. It wasn’t just “goose bumps” Fan site: Stelter, a little biased, called it “the first unofficial ‘Goosebumps’ site.” For Stelter, the fact that he had an online competition shows the power and reach of Stine’s books. “There were all these sites, including mine obsessed With his creativity and desire to talk and share more about it.”
Feyuel, a former Scholastic editor, told Goosebumps that Stine has done an amazing feat. No one at the time was writing horror for middle grade kids. Stein, boys in particular, had them read.
When Parents Tried To Ban ‘Goosebumps’
In 1997, a small group of parents in a Minneapolis suburb tried to reach
“The scream of terror” It was pulled from primary school libraries. They claimed that the series did not promote healthy values in children, and that it was too scary. Stein reasoned that it was up to parents who were afraid of the covers, and hadn’t actually read the books. The payment to credit the books eventually failed.
“We got a lot of support from teachers, librarians, and reading teachers who saw the kids really went for it,” says Stein. “He really helped us a lot at the time. They were always right behind the ‘Goosebumps.'”
Now it’s going to be part of the profile where I relate something Stein said to a bigger story that’s been in the news – like the recent series of book bans. Or maybe you come up with a neat summary of Stein’s work that hints at a deeper meaning – like how ‘goosebumpsAnd the“ Like all good horror, it actually plays into deeper and eternal fears: Do my friends love? Are my parents acting strangely?
But Goosebumps for the past 30 years has consistently, stubbornly, avoided deeper meanings or larger lessons. In a way, these parents were right. Stine was not interested in teaching children healthy values. He was never interested in teaching children anything. Other than: keep reading to find out what happens next.