R.L. Stine has been making some news lately with a story told through his Twitter account. It doesn’t seem too innovative or earth-shaking, but it does take me back to a time when his writings were something to look forward to.
Say what you will about his style or audience, but I would probably say he’s the first author who inspired me to write. Perhaps it was that, even in my youth, I figured I could emulate his incredibly formulaic products. It could also be tied in to my mother, who enjoyed soap operas and the daily/weekly cliffhangers they provided. This could’ve easily translated, in my mind, into a taste for something that tantalizes the reader at the end of every chapter.
Reading Goosebumps and Fear Street led me to other YA horror authors whose names I forget now, which led me to horror, fantasy, existentialism, and weird fiction. But it’s that “maturing” I remember best: that change in the reaction to his fiction from “What’s going to happen next?” to “Well, damn, I could write better than this.” I read Goosebumps much longer than I probably should have with the naive notion that at some point the formula had to change.
But why change at all? The target audience was constantly refreshing itself, with the original market aging out while a new breed were being conceived. Stine’s marketing strategies probably aren’t all that different from those of the bridal magazines. Innovation and creativity aren’t expected because there’s no social contract keeping the reader attached to the author. It’s almost brilliant in its simplicity.
So bravo to Mr. Stine. I hope he never changes. And I sincerely hope that I’m not the last of the children inspired by his writings to delve deeper into the genre and/or pick up a writing instrument. Thank you, Jovial Bob. May you never break the formula.