Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What Goosebumps Means to Me

When I was a kid I was a bit of a reluctant reader.  Blame it on my PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) manifesting as boarder line dyslexia, but I had my issue.  Still, despite that there was one series that I always read without fail and that was RL Stine's Goosebumps.  I just couldn't get enough of those books, and yes, I was a big fan of the TV series as well.

Wherever I went I always made sure to have at least one Goosebumps book with me, and I'd always scour book-order catalogs for new books to add to my collection.  It always gave me my daily dose of monsters, thrills, chills and all without being too scary.  Now, you might find it odd that I was reading a horror series but didn't want it too be too scary.  I have, and very much still do, struggle with anxiety and panic attacks.  At the same time I've always been a fan of Creature Features, Mad Scientists and other such things.  Goosebumps gave me a chance to get all of that and provide a little bit of thrills without overwhelming me.

Did it have its flaws?  Perhaps.  Is it maybe a little cheesy in hindsight?  Maybe, but so are plenty of Silver Age comic books, and plenty of people love them just the way they are.  In fact, some people love them because of the way they are.  Were the effects in the TV series off at time?  A bit, but it was the 90s, and having low budget effects doesn't automatically equal a bad series; just look at Doctor Who.  

I loved the way each book brought something new to discover, but there were also sequels now and again.  I loved those awesome covers (the original covers, that is).  I loved going to the video store (back when those were still a thing) and looking for new episodes on video.  I also read Ghost of Fear Street, which is pretty much exactly like Goosebumps and also by RL Stine, but not quite as often and I still wish I'd read more of those.  

It's pretty safe to say that I was, and still am, a big fan of the Goosebumps series.  So, why have I written this blog post then?  The first reason is obviously to talk about how much I love it and what an impact it had on me.  The second is to address a concern I had.  I've recently come across a blog called Blogger Beware in which the blogger, Troy Steele (no relation to Joe Steele...that I know of) provides snarky reviews of the Goosebumps books.  Seems like a blog version of The Nostalgia Critic right?  Well...not so much.

The main difference is that Doug Walker's actual views on the movies and series he reviews tend to be a lot more subtle and nuanced than his Critic persona, and he'll often praise when they do something right or otherwise offer kind words.  As for Troy Steele, I found nothing to suggest that his views are anything other than what he actually thinks, and that's kind of disturbing.  

Then there's his comment section.  Good Ford, and I thought 4chan was bad!  There will every now and again be a kind soul who wants to polity disagree and offer advise, but not only will Troy be a rude/condescending asshole to them, but he hordes of fanboys will come charging in as well.  If there's one thing I can't stand its herd mentality and people hating for the sake of hating.  Both of which can be found in abundance on Blogger Beware.  

All I'm saying is there's a thin line between snark and hate, or put another way, there's a thin line between snarky and just plain mean spirited.  Blogger Beware crosses that line early and often.  It's not like it's impossible to be snarky, fun and respective all at the same time.  There's Doug Walker and the Channel Awesome gang (even if their fans are a little boneheaded at times) and there's Little Snarky Two Shoes.  Of course, in Little Snarky's case she definitely cares about the books she reviews, and when she does parody its decidedly of the affectionate variety.  Also, she and Channel Awesome are actually funny, entertaining and can write more jokes than just being hateful and mean spirited.  

You know what, let Troy and his immature fanboys hate all they like.  There's no doubt in my mind that RL Stine has touched a generation of readers.  Don't believe me?  Until Harry Potter came around Goosebumps was the number one best selling children's book series.  In fact, if there was no Harry Potter it would be the best selling children's book series of all time.  RL Stine was one of the first authors who inspired me to be a writer and to create my own stories.  I can't possibly thank him enough for inspiring me and beginning my journey down that path.  

Goosebumps is continuing to be published, and the classic series is re-released; personally I like the original covers better, but at least a new generation of readers is getting introduced to the classic series.  The Goosebumps books are a star that will continue to shine for years to come.  Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of RL Stine is getting kids to read; because what's really scare is a world without readers in it.  Mr. Stine, I have I do you proud, and I can't thank you enough for all you've done for me and so many other readers over the years.  That's what Goosebumps means to me.  

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