R.L. Stine

Here’s an in-depth article The Atlantic Wire published earlier this month about YA author R.L. Stine.

I’m part of that Goosebumps generation the reporter spoke about.  This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the first book in that series being published.  I remember going to the bookstore to pick up each month’s new title.  Those books had a unique smell; I don’t know if it came from the type of paper used or what, but that scent can instantly transport me to the now-shuttered Borders Books in Fairlawn, Ohio.

This was before the recent boom (and subsequent crash — stay tuned) in young adult fiction, the lean days before Harry Potter.  Back then there wasn’t a lot in the way of YA books, especially good speculative fiction.  Alvin Schwartz had his Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Bruce Coville put out a line of great anthos in his Book Of series, and the Monsters Series published by Crestwood House was superb.  Beyond that, there wasn’t much that held my interest.

Except R.L. Stine.  I devoured those books and went back for more.  Some of the best were the earlier, darker ones like Night of the Living Dummy, The Haunted Mask or The Scarecrow Walks At Midnight.  Admittedly, many of the books explored plots (a ventriloquist doll that comes to life, Halloween masks that become part of you, evil scarecrows) that are well-trod.  But those aren’t really horror cliches when you’re under the age of ten.

As the series went on, the books became more cartoonish and less suspenseful.  I kept buying them, however, because I wanted the full set.  By the time the original Goosebumps series ended, I had moved on to Stephen King; still I have those books, boxed up and tucked away in the closet for some future generation to enjoy.

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