Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wow. R.L. Stine As Underdog

Back at the end of the last century, R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series was looked down upon by librarians and parents who had been English majors. Yes, series fiction wasn't embraced with open arms back then, even when it sold very well, as Goosebumps did. Maybe particularly when it sold very well as Goosebumps did.

I read a couple of Goosebumps stories back in the nineties, and while they didn't grab me, I didn't see where they were all that bad. At the time, I found it interesting that they were published in paperback and therefore were cheap. That meant that kids could afford to buy them themselves. While moms may have wanted their potentially gifted ones to read Out of the Dust, the kids themselves were forking over their ill-gotten gains for Goosebumps. I respected that young readers were choosing their own reading.

‘Goosebumps’ Rises From the Literary Grave appeared in Sunday's New York Times Book Review, and it explains how Goosebumps fell on hard times. Hard times is defined here as selling only two million copies a year instead of four million a month. R. L. Stine, who has always seemed like a modest and decent man in any article I've ever read about him, and Scholastic, his long-time publisher, are getting ready to produce new titles set in an evil amusement park. (Is there any other kind?)

The article includes this interesting line: "Stephen King, writing in Entertainment Weekly, has suggested that Mr. Stine’s success helped persuade Scholastic to pursue J. K. Rowling’s boy wizard."

I have no idea whether or not that's true, but I can see the logic behind King's thinking. As I said earlier, series' fiction was considered a little bit low on the foodchain back before Harry Potter. The money Scholastic made from Goosebumps could very well have convinced it that a series was a good financial risk.

Will Goosebumps rise from the dead and walk again among the living, scattering all other books before it? Could it become--gasp!--the next Harry Potter in terms of sales for Scholastic?

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