Nightmare on Sesame Street
August 5, 2008 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Goosebumps. Rotten School. Mostly Ghostly. The Nightmare Room. Fear Street. If you were born after about 1980 and had nightmares, there's a good chance R.L. Stine had something to do with it. (And he's certainly had a number of his own.) He's been called the Stephen King of children's literature, one of Forbes' top-40 best paid entertainers (beating out Michael Douglas, U2, and Bill Cosby, among others), and America's best selling author. It's an interesting place to end up for this Ohio State grad, who was editor of the campus humor magazine, The Sundial, and who has written humor under the pen name Jovial Bob Stein (including The Ghostbusters 2 Storybook and How to Wash a Duck and How to Do Everything Else). The very prolific author (who shares some credit with Tom Perrotta), plans to be around until the day the "kids stop reading." Until then, might I suggest getting them a nightlight?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow (30 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Hmmmm ... a corollary to this?
posted by RavinDave at 7:33 AM on August 5, 2008

Nothing. I never get writer's block. Unlike other writers that start with a story and then make their title I do the exact opposite, and I have a cheat-sheet for each one of my characters about their personality, the way they look, etc. So there is no possible way that I could have writer's block.

Channeling a little bit of Jovial Bob Stein there, I daresay.
posted by kingbenny at 7:40 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't forget the Goosebumps blog!
posted by burnmp3s at 7:41 AM on August 5, 2008

RavinDave: Hmmmm ... a corollary to this?

It's theme week for NotMyselfRightNow. Wednesday's is already in the bag. I'm having a blast writing Thursday's post, and need to figure out what Friday's will be.

posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:44 AM on August 5, 2008

So, are these books actually scary? I remember hating kid-lit horror stories when I was a kid, because they were never scary. No one ever died, because that would be wrong in a story for kids.
posted by grumblebee at 7:44 AM on August 5, 2008

grumblebee, you might have missed out on these. The Goosebumps books are practically the Hardy Boys in comparison.
posted by Dr-Baa at 7:52 AM on August 5, 2008

grumblebee - RE: Goosebumps, only in as much as the last words of Chapter 11 being "...there was something in the darkness." and the first words of Chapter 12 "It was a chair." My favorite part of any Goosebumps novel, though, was the twist ending; those were routinely clever and sometimes even scary (in the lingering, moderately disturbing, M. Night Shyamalan-lite way.) By the time I grew out of Goosebumps, I lapped having an interest his Fear Street, etc. novels so I'm not sure about those. That "Babysitter" series he wrote really, really sucked, though. Meanwhile, sorry for the derail, but you want a suggestion for some actually scary kidlit kid lit, try William Sleator on for size.
posted by griphus at 7:54 AM on August 5, 2008

Poo on R.L. Stine and go Christopher Pike!
posted by k8t at 7:57 AM on August 5, 2008

Goosebumps also turns up on this recommended reading list.

Thanks Dr-Baa, for the reference - number one! Now I have to read it.
posted by Xoebe at 7:59 AM on August 5, 2008

Don't forget the Goosebumps blog!

Err, yeah, this one.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:05 AM on August 5, 2008

He never gets writers block because all his books are exactly the same.

Not that I didn't love them. The Fear Street books were very good quick reading. Although some were kind of gross. I'm still terrified to clean out my garbage disposal because of one of his stories involving a guy getting his hand caught in one when a poltergeist (or something?) fired it up.

k8t: Yay for Christopher Pike (what were the blonde vampire ones? I loved those), but there's some sex in there. Started reading them in 5th or 6th grade and definitely learned some new words. Fear Street is more innocuous in that respect.
posted by olinerd at 8:41 AM on August 5, 2008

grumblebee, you might have missed out on these. The Goosebumps books are practically the Hardy Boys in comparison.

Oh my god, the Scary Stories books were absolutely terrifying. The cover art still freaks me out.
posted by liet at 8:45 AM on August 5, 2008

Psh. Goosebumps were for lamers.

The Fear Street books were where it was at.

And plenty of people died in those. (Only one I remember, though, was someone who burned to death in a shower that had been turned up to its highest setting by ghosts.)
posted by Ms. Saint at 9:16 AM on August 5, 2008

Hey, R.L. Stine went to my highschool! I never read his books and have nothing to add really. In conclusion: You're welcome!
posted by Kwine at 9:31 AM on August 5, 2008

It was Monster Blood that got me hooked.. also a big fan of A Night in Terror Tower
posted by KebertXela at 9:52 AM on August 5, 2008

RL Stein? Might I suggest some Christopher Pike, instead?

k8t is wise.
posted by absalom at 9:58 AM on August 5, 2008

I read a pile of RLStein when I was "that age," and never lost a minute of sleep over any of them.

Actually, one of the scary stories in my "Magic the Gathering Short Story Collection" book gave me way more missed sleep than the dozens of Goosebumps put together.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:32 AM on August 5, 2008

dude, i LOVED the fear street books. also loved the christopher pike books.

unlike some kids books though, rereading them as an adult is just annoying.

but they were awesome when i was 8-14 or so.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:46 AM on August 5, 2008

Oh my god, the Scary Stories books were absolutely terrifying. The cover art still freaks me out.

I actually made a post on the Scary Stories books you might want to look at. Or maybe not.
posted by puke & cry at 11:14 AM on August 5, 2008

I think I went through about 80% of John Bellair's ouvre between the ages of 9 and 13. Every once in a while someone died in those too, but it was mostly creepy pseudo-occult type stuff going on. At least within the universe of the books, the monsters were actually real and not someone pulling some Scooby-Doo type hijinks.
posted by LionIndex at 11:14 AM on August 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

+5 for LionIndex.

The John Bellairs books were wonderful in that the protagonists were fighting Ancient Aramaic Evil (or finding the Ummim and the Thummin) in a setting of 50's New England Catholic quietude.

Bookish kids! With crotchety old friends! Dealing with the occult! NO PARENTS TO BUST UP THE CRAZINESS.

(... not to mention the fantastic Edward Gorey covers.)
posted by ntartifex at 1:31 PM on August 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

The Scary Stories books were lame retellings of lame urban legends (and there was... A HOOK on the DOOR HANDLE! oooooohhhhh), the only thing interesting about them was the art. I always felt I was being talked down to by books like that. I was more into Stephen King, who was at least talking down to adults.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:35 PM on August 5, 2008

I met RL Stine at Wordstock a couple of years ago. He gave a talk and then there was a signing. My sister and I were the only non-parents there over 10. He tried to drum up enthusiasm for Rotten School but the audience wasn't really into it. He mentioned that his son wrote the rotten school song, and then bitterly mumbled that it was the only thing his son helped him with (or something like that). Actually, the whole talk was peppered with resentful mentions of his son.

When it was time to meet Stine, I was downright giddy. The man may be a bit of a hack, but he wrote 90% of my reading material age 8-12. I tried telling him about how The Beast (about the rollercoaster that can take you through time) totally blew my mind in fifth grade because it looked at time as a mutable concept. Stine looked at me blankly and said "You know, The Beast is a realy rollercoaster!". I died a little inside.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 2:26 PM on August 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

olinerd: Yay for Christopher Pike (what were the blonde vampire ones? I loved those)

Those were the Last Vampire novels.

I loved R. L. Stine when I was in elementary school, but then I went on vacation with my older cousin who told me only little kids read R. L. Stine books, and teenagers read Christopher Pike. I ditched all my Goosebumps books immediately, and I kind of regret it now. I don't remember a single story, but some of those covers were awesome. I still have most of my Christopher Pike books, though, and break them out when I need a mindless afternoon read. I must've read that Last Vampire series at least twenty times now.
posted by lilac girl at 5:44 PM on August 5, 2008

Hey, somebody should do a John Bellairs post. I've only met two people in real life besides myself who ever read him even though they still carry him in the kids' horror section to this day.

We recently moved and I came home just the other night to my dark, empty apartment and when I switched on the light, the Gorey frontspiece from the Eyes of the Killer Robot was taped on my fridge. I was pretty creeped until I confirmed with my boyfriend that he had found it behind a bookcase, apparently haven fallen out of my childhood Bellairs collection.
posted by Jess the Mess at 7:07 PM on August 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

I once owned a Goosebumps book by R.L Stine and a cheesy jokebook by Jovial Bob Stine. The day I figured out they were by the same person was the first day I ever imagined authors as human beings instead of just abstract names on the front of a book. Who is this guy, I wondered, and why does he write jokebooks under a fake name? Does he not want to spoil his image as a spooky creepy guy? What if all his life he's wanted to be funny, but for some reason he's stuck writing scary books? My 8-year-old self actually pitied him a little.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:37 PM on August 5, 2008

the lamp from the warlock's tomb... the house with the clock in its walls... the letter, the witch, and the ring...the mummy, the will and the crypt... need I go on. I loved those books and I always will. I'm a huge Gorey fan too because of it.

Those books scared the *shit* out of me as a kid. I used to get nightmares and I don't scare easily. There was one book that had a demon which wore a black hood like the grim reaper, but instead of skeleton arms it had a squid tentacle. And the characters find a small dog which had the skin sucked right off its head leaving the bare skull exposed. *shudder*. Another one with a guy wearing a yellow raincoat and hat who gets turned into an undead mummy - still wearing the raincoat and hat! *shudders again*

Don't forget the patented double-ending! They killed off the bad guy and everything's ok; yet strangely there seems to be another eighty pages left. Oh look, he came back from the dead. Huh. If you ever read any of his books that were finished by that other guy they never felt the same, because there was only one climax.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:44 PM on August 5, 2008

John Bellairs readers, represent (and yes, someone do a FPP about him!). I've known a lot of people who were avid readers in childhood and I'm yet to meet someone else who has read his works. Well, face-to-face. Yay, Jess the Mess and PercussivePaul!
posted by barnacles at 4:16 AM on August 6, 2008

Don't forget LionIndex and ntartifax from earlier in the thread.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:49 AM on August 6, 2008

When I was a kid, I had The Sick of Being Sick Book by Jovial Bob. I loved it because, to quote another of my favorite children's books, "He talked to me like he had no idea that he was an adult and I was a kid." I am completely blown away by the notion that the same guy who entertained my generation went on to traumatize the next one; I would never have connected the two writers.

J-Bob, what happened? You okay? You know that guy in the house of mirrors wasn't a ghost, probably just some carny trying to scare you, right?

To continue the Bellairs digression, I also had a copy of The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt, but it was given to me by accident. The well-meaning grown-up who bought it for me had it confused with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which she presumably hadn't read herself because otherwise I can't imagine how you could make that mistake. She thought she was starting me down the path to Jesus, but ended up merely scaring the crap out of me.
posted by cirocco at 5:16 PM on August 6, 2008

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