This Day In Literary History
On October 15th, 1844, the legendary German writer and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was born in Rocken bei Lutzen, Prussia, the son of a Lutheran pastor and teacher.
The oldest of three children, Nietzsche's brother Ludwig died at the age of two, a year after their father died of a brain ailment at the age of 33. Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth would later figure in the controversy that still surrounds his philosophy and writings.
As a boy, Friedrich Nietzsche attended a boys' school, then a private school. In 1858, the 14-year-old Nietzsche displayed particular talent for both music and language, so the world famous school at Schulpforta accepted him as a student.
While studying there, he received his first important introduction to literature, especially ancient Greek and Roman literature. After graduating in 1864, Nietzsche entered the University of Bonn, where he studied theology and classical philology.
After his first semester, he lost his faith and ended his theological studies. Around this time, he had read David Strauss' famous book, The Life of Jesus, a debunking of the Bible as mythology.
However, two years earlier, in an essay titled Fate and History, Nietzsche had already argued that the central beliefs of Christianity had been discredited by historical research.
Deciding to become a classical philologist, Nietzsche followed his favorite professor to the University of Leipzig. At this time, he began delving into philosophy, studying the works of the thinkers of the day, such as Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Albert Lange.
In 1869, although he was only 24 years old and had neither a doctorate nor a teaching certificate, Nietzsche was offered a professorship in classical philology by the University of Basel in Switzerland. He accepted the offer and served for ten years. He remains one of their youngest tenured Classics professors on record.
During this time, Nietzsche struck up a close friendship with legendary composer Richard Wagner and his wife, Cosima. He had met Richard first in 1868. Nietzsche admired the Wagners greatly, and they introduced him to their inner circle of friends.
His friendship with the Wagners would sour after Richard began to champion German culture, which Nietzsche considered to be a contradiction in terms. He would later blast Wagner in his 1888 book, The Case Of Wagner.
In 1872, Nietzsche published his first book, The Birth of Tragedy, where he argued that ancient Greek tragedy was the highest form of art. This was because its blending of Apollonian and Dionysian elements into a whole allowed the viewer to experience the full spectrum of the human condition.
The Apollonian impulse is detached, rational, sober, and emphasizes superficial appearance, whereas the Dionysian impulse is immersion in the whole of nature, intoxication, irrationality, and inhumanity.
Nietzsche argues that it's not healthy for the individual or society to be ruled by either impulse. Instead, they should be combined to create a healthy whole.
His 1878 book, Human, All Too Human, was a reaction to the pessimism of Wagner and Schopenhauer. It was a book of aphorisms on subjects including metaphysics, religion, the sexes, and morality.
It was the first of Nietzsche's writings that would be taken out of context by the Nazis to build the foundation of their own philosophy - despite the fact that Nietzsche was the same man who had said, "Germany is a great nation only because its people have so much Polish blood in their veins."
In 1879, Nietzsche resigned his professorship due to a severe decline in his health. While serving as a medical orderly in the Franco-Prussian War, he contracted several diseases, including diphtheria and dysentery.
Some believe that he also contracted syphilis, which would eventually cause his mental illness and death. After leaving the university, he continued to write, and in 1881, he began using a typewriter, as his eyesight started to fail.
In his 1881 book Daybreak, Nietzsche began his "campaign against morality," criticizing the moral schemes of such institutions as Christianity and utilitarianism. His aim was not to destroy morality, but to replace the moral schemes of the aforementioned institutions with a new moral code.
There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all morality, and exceptional people should no longer be ashamed of their uniqueness. The old style of morality is for unexceptional people who are satisfied with their mediocrity. Thus, Nietzsche's motto is "become what you are."
The Gay Science (1882) was a mixture of philosophy and poetry. It contained Nietzsche's famous axiom "God is dead" and its explanation, "Whither is God? he cried; I will tell you. We have killed him - you and I. We are his murderers."
Nietzsche's most famous book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, published in four parts between 1883 and 1885, was a philosophical novel that incorporated all of his ideas into a prose narrative that cleverly parodied the Bible.
It told the story of Zarathustra, a wandering prophet who seeks to teach people how to live a fulfilling life in a world without meaning. Although Zarathustra was based on the Persian prophet Zoroaster, he seems more like Jesus Christ - or rather, an anti-Christ.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra is not a traditional novel by any means. It's a very dense and complex treatise on philosophy and morality. It explores Nietzsche's concept of the ubermensch, or overman, better known in English as the superman. It would be another concept bastardized by the Nazis after Nietzsche's death.
Whereas Hitler's idea of a superman was a physically strong Aryan warrior, Nietzsche's ubermensch was mentally as well as physically strong - a well-rounded superman - and could be of any race.
On January 3rd, 1889, Nietzsche collapsed after witnessing the whipping of a horse and throwing his arms around the animal's neck to protect it. This event triggered in Nietzsche a severe psychotic episode from which he would not recover, as it was believed that he was in the final stages of syphilis.
He started sending incoherent letters to friends. Claiming to have been crucified by German doctors, he called for the abolishment of anti-Semitism, the execution of the German emperor, and for all European powers to declare war on Germany.
Nietzsche's mother had him committed to a psychiatric hospital. Later, his sister Elisabeth returned from Paraguay following the suicide of her husband, a notorious anti-Semite. While she cared for her brother, Elisabeth studied his works and read through all of his unpublished manuscripts.
She hired writer and philosopher Rudolf Steiner to tutor her so she could understand her brother's writings. After a few months, Steiner gave up, declaring that it was impossible to teach her anything about philosophy.
Following a series of strokes and a bout with pneumonia, Friedrich Nietzsche died on August 25th, 1900 at the age of 55. His sister Elisabeth took control of his literary legacy. The following year, she had his last book published posthumously.
The Will to Power (1901) was actually a patchwork quilt of bits and pieces of previously unpublished manuscripts cobbled together by Elisabeth Nietzsche, who took great liberties with the material, and most of it out of context.
The final product was a hodgepodge of Nietzschean philosophy distorted and slanted to suit Elisabeth's anti-Semitic, nationalistic convictions. When Hitler rose to power in the early 1930s, the eightysomething year old Elisabeth Nietzsche became enamored with the Nazi dictator.
Hitler was equally enamored with Elisabeth's bastardization of her brother's work. He made Friedrich Nietzsche the official philosopher of the Third Reich. In life, Nietzsche was no anti-Semite; he broke ties with his editor, Ernst Schmeitzner, because he was disgusted by Schmeitzner's anti-Semitism.
Nietzche's relationship with his sister was a never ending pattern of conflict and reconciliation, as Nietzsche was also disgusted by her anti Semitism and that of her husband. And, as previously mentioned, Neitzche had a low opinion of German culture. He also despised nationalism.
Today, over a hundred years after his death, Friedrich Nietzsche still remains one of the world's most influential and controversial philosophers.
Quote Of The Day
"You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star." - Friedrich Nietzsche
Today's video features a complete reading of Friedrich Nietzsche's classic philosophical novel, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Enjoy!
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Monday, October 14, 2019
Joanna M. Weston
I have a poem, 'In peace', up at Writing in a Woman's Voice. I also have another poem up on the same site which commemorates all the girls and women who have gone missing along our highways.
I have yet another poem up at The Blue Pepper. I've had quite a week!
My review of How Beautiful They Were, a novel by Boston Teran, has been published by the Internet Review of Books.
My story, "Penmanship Led Me To Your Mother," appears in the inaugural issue of Mason Street. Thanks to Eric Petersen, Kristen Howe, Frank Zielony, Paul Pekin, David Webb, John Palcewski, Joe Follansbee & Deepa Kandaswamy for providing feedback, encouragement and suggestions when I submiited it almost a year ago.
This story logged 25 rejections between then and now but I never lost confidence in this embellished version of how my parents met. Subs are now open for Mason Street's 2nd issue. No pay but easy to work with. I love the graphic they gave me & hope it illustrated a John Cheever story 60 years ago.
This was my piece for a Society Mirror Challenge run by a story portal. A real case that came up in the papers, I gave a fictional twist to it and wrote a story in the form of a letter to the dead girl.
Friday, October 11, 2019
This Day In Literary History
On October 11th, 1925, the famous American writer Elmore Leonard was born. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, but due to his father's position as a site locator for General Motors, the family moved frequently. In 1934, the Leonards finally took up permanent residence, settling in Detroit, Michigan.
Growing up during the Great Depression, Elmore Leonard became fascinated with gangsters - the folk heroes of the time. He read sensational accounts of the exploits of famous gangsters such as Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker in the newspaper. He was most interested in their guns.
Leonard's writings would become famous for their incredibly accurate depictions of the mechanics of all sorts of firearms, yet throughout his entire life, he never had any interest in owning a gun.
With his father rarely home, he found father figures in the heroes of the big screen. Movies were his passion, and fortunately for him, they were an affordable pastime, even during the Depression.
It was in the movie theater that his pitch perfect ear for dialogue and his knack for creating memorable characters began to develop. He would entertain his friends by telling them stories – vivid accounts of the movies he'd seen, including actual dialogue.
For his fifth grade class project, he wrote and directed the class play, recreating a grim scene from Lewis Milestone's classic 1930 film adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's classic antiwar novel All Quiet On the Western Front (1929).
Leonard also became an avid baseball fan, his favorite team being, of course, the Detroit Tigers, who won their first World Series championship in 1935. His friends gave him the nickname Dutch, after the famous pitcher Dutch Leonard, (no relation) a right-handed knuckleballer.
After graduating high school in 1943, Elmore Leonard joined the Navy and served with the Seabees in the Pacific. In 1946, he enrolled at the University of Detroit. He determined to make his dream of becoming a writer a reality.
He supported himself by working as an advertising copywriter - a position he took while a senior at university, where he would graduate with a degree in English and philosophy.
Though he originally wanted to write crime fiction, Leonard began his literary career writing pulp Westerns, which were the most popular and biggest selling stories at the time. In 1951, he sold his first short story, a Western called Trail of the Apaches, to the famous pulp fiction magazine Argosy.
He would publish some 30 pulp Western short stories, two of which, The Tall T and 3:10 to Yuma, would be adapted as feature films. His first published novel, The Bounty Hunters (1953) was a Western, and he would write four more Western novels.
By the 1960s, the popularity of Western novels had begun to decline rapidly, so Elmore Leonard switched genres and started writing the kind of novels he would become famous for - quirky crime thrillers. His first, The Big Bounce, was published in 1969.
The Big Bounce told the story of Jack Ryan, an aspiring baseball player turned petty crook who gets a chance to go straight when he's hired by Walter Majestyk, (no relation to the title character of Leonard's 1974 novel) a justice of the peace, to work at his beach resort.
Jack falls for Nancy, a psychotic young siren who gets her kicks by seducing married men, taking them for what she can get, then breaking their hearts - and their windows. When Nancy learns of Jack's shady past, she manipulates him into stealing $50,000 from her current patsy, a married millionaire.
The Big Bounce would introduce Elmore Leonard's trademark literary style - gritty realism and razor sharp dialogue. He is rightfully considered one of best writers of dialogue there is.
His skill with dialogue would bring him success as a Hollywood screenwriter. He adapted his own novels for the screen and wrote original screenplays. His best known original screenplay was for the acclaimed 1973 Western feature film, Joe Kidd.
Joe Kidd starred Clint Eastwood as the title character, a gunfighter and ex-bounty hunter hired by wealthy landowner Frank Harlan to be part of his posse, who are hunting Luis Chama, a fugitive Mexican revolutionary-bandito.
As he partakes in the mission, Joe Kidd begins to understand who the real bad guys are. Chama's major crime turns out to be organizing a peasant revolt against the wealthy landowners, who are evicting the poor people from land that is rightfully theirs.
Elmore Leonard's most popular feature film screenplay adaptations of his own novels include Mr. Majestyk and 52 Pick-Up, both of which were published in 1974. Mr. Majestyk is Vince Majestyk, a Vietnam veteran now living a quiet life in Arizona.
Majestyk owns and operates a melon farm. When a two-bit hood tries to coerce him into paying protection money, Majestyk drives the punk off his land with a punch in the face and a shotgun.
The hood files assault charges and Majestyk is taken to a local jail. He later finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time - aboard a prison transfer bus with Frank Renda, a notorious mafia hit man.
The mobsters attack the bus to break Renda out, but Majestyk drives off in the bus, with Renda still in handcuffs. He plans on trading Renda to the police in exchange for his freedom.
Renda vows revenge and orders his men to destroy Majestyk. What Renda and his mafia cohorts don't know is that Mr. Majestyk is a highly trained soldier - a former Army Ranger - and is about to take them to war.
In 52 Pick-Up, Harry Mitchell is a wealthy businessman whose wife, Barbara, is running for office. He becomes the target of blackmailers who claim to possess evidence of him cheating on Barbara.
Knowing that he can't go to the police, Harry decides to handle the situation his own way - by trying to turn the blackmailers against each other. But these psychopathic criminals are smarter than he thinks. And much more dangerous...
More of Leonard's novels would be adapted as memorable feature films, including Rum Punch, (as Jackie Brown) and Get Shorty, and its sequel, Be Cool, both of which feature one of his most popular characters, Chili Palmer - an affable gangster who wants out of the loan sharking business.
In Get Shorty, Chili has his heart set on becoming a movie producer. In Be Cool, having tired of the movie business, Chili decides to return to loansharking, only to get mixed up with the music industry.
Leonard's final novel, Raylan, was published in January of 2012. It features U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, the iconic character and star of the TV series Justified, in a new adventure.
This time, Raylan is on the trail of drug trafficking brothers Dickie and Coover Crowe. What the marshal doesn't know is that the Crowe brothers are trafficking a new cash crop - human organs for transplant operations harvested from unwilling donors.
Elmore Leonard died in August of 2013 at the age of 87.
Quote Of The Day
"My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: when you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip." - Elmore Leonard
Today's video features a 2006 interview with Elmore Leonard, where he discusses the craft of writing. Enjoy!
Thursday, October 10, 2019
This Day In Literary History
On October 10th, 1930, the legendary English playwright and screenwriter Harold Pinter was born in Hackney, East London, England. At the age of ten, Pinter found himself caught up in the terror and chaos of the Blitz. It would have a lasting effect on him as both a human being and as a writer.
When he wasn't caught up in the war, Pinter attended Hackney Downs School, a grammar school in London, where he discovered his talents for writing and acting. He wrote for the school magazine and played Macbeth and Romeo in school productions of the Shakespeare plays.
Pinter excelled in athletics as well. He was an avid cricket player and runner. As a runner, he broke his school's sprinting record, but his passion was cricket. He would serve as chairman of the Gaieties Cricket Club.
In 1948, at the age of eighteen, Pinter began studying drama at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. A year later, he was drafted for military service but declared himself a conscientious objector.
He did this not because he was a pacifist, but because he loathed the Cold War and believed that the governments of England and the United States were just as corrupt and immoral as the Soviet Union. After being tried twice as a draft evader, he was given a fine.
Disliking the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Pinter transferred to the Central School of Speech and Drama. By 1951, he had joined the Anew McMaster repertory company and begun his career as an actor.
For the next five years, taking the stage name David Baron, Pinter played over twenty roles in the company's productions. To supplement his income, he worked at various jobs including that of a waiter, a postman, and a pub bouncer.
Though he was making a name for himself as an actor, Harold Pinter's real ambition was to be a writer. The actor Henry Woolf, a close childhood friend, encouraged Pinter to write his first play and then starred in it - as part of his postgraduate work.
The play, The Room (1957), caught the attention of a young producer named Michael Codron, who would stage a production of Pinter's next play, a breakout work that made Pinter's name as a playwright.
In The Birthday Party (1958), a surreal dark comedy, Stanley Webber, a disheveled piano player in his late thirties, lives in a seaside boarding house run by Meg and Petey, a couple in their sixties.
Meg exhibits strange affection for Stanley; sometimes she flirts with him, sometimes she acts like his mother. One morning, Meg wishes Stanley a happy birthday and gives him a present - a toy drum.
Stanley tries to convince her that it's not his birthday, but she won't listen. She has planned a party which includes some unusual guests - McCann and Goldberg, two strangers to Stanley who may be dangerously psychotic - or maybe it's Stanley who's mad...
Although it's now considered Pinter's first masterwork, The Birthday Party was trashed by most critics when it debuted in 1958. The famous drama critic Irving Wardle gave it a glowing review in which he called it a "comedy of menace." Unfortunately, the review was published just after the play closed.
Undaunted, Harold Pinter kept writing. His next play, The Dumb Waiter (1959), opened in Germany before it hit the London stage. It was a two character play. The characters are Ben and Gus, two hit men waiting in a basement room to receive their orders for their next hit.
While they wait, Ben and Gus make tea and engage in conversations where they argue semantics and discuss the stories in the newspaper that Ben is reading. Meanwhile, in the background, the dumb waiter in the room occasionally - and strangely - opens to deliver food orders.
Ben tries to explain via the dumb waiter's speaking tube that the orders were sent to the wrong room. At the play's climax, the speaking tube whistles and Ben answers it while Gus is getting a drink of water in the bathroom. It's their orders for their next hit. The play ends with Ben drawing his gun on the target - Gus.
Harold Pinter would write nearly thirty plays and fifteen sketches. Between 1968 and 1982, he wrote a series of "memory plays" that explored the nature of memory - its vagaries, ambiguities, and mysteries.
Pinter also wrote 27 screenplays, adapting his plays and the works of others for the screen. He won an Academy Award for his 1981 screenplay adaptation of John Fowles' novel, The French Lieutenant's Woman.
In October of 2005, Pinter won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The award came as quite a shock to right wingers around the world. A prominent liberal political activist, Pinter railed against the Cold War arms race, nuclear weapons, the blockade of Cuba, the South African apartheid regime, the Gulf War, and the later wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He believed that the George W. Bush administration "was charging towards world domination while the American public and Britain's mass-murdering prime minister sat back and watched." Pinter described the war in Iraq as "a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the conception of international law."
The most controversial aspect of Pinter's political activism was his strong rebuke of the Israeli government for its persecution of the Palestinian people. Although Jewish himself, he expressed his contempt for the Israeli regime, signing the mission statement of the activist group Jews for Justice for Palestinians.
Harold Pinter was also awarded the French Légion d'honneur. He died of liver cancer in 2008 at the age of 78.
Quote Of The Day
"Good writing excites me, and makes life worth living." - Harold Pinter
Today's video features Harold Pinter giving his Nobel lecture. Enjoy!
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
This Day In Literary History
On October 9th, 1849, Annabel Lee, the classic final poem by the legendary American writer Edgar Allan Poe, was published. It was published posthumously by the New York Daily Tribune, as Poe had died two days earlier.
Edgar Allan Poe, born in Boston in January of 1809, would become most famous as a master of the short story and the author of classic Gothic horror tales such as The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, The Black Cat, and The Fall of the House of Usher.
However, he began his literary career as a poet, and would become famous for classic poems such as The Conqueror Worm and The Raven. His last great poem was Annabel Lee.
Written in May of 1849 as Poe's life was falling apart and his health rapidly deteriorating, Annabel Lee was an ode to his great love, his young wife Virginia, who had succumbed to tuberculosis two years earlier at the age of 24.
Virginia, a cousin of Poe's, was thirteen when they first married, though they wouldn't share a bed until she was sixteen. They adored each other. Virginia often sat close to Poe while he wrote. She maintained his pens and prepared his manuscripts for mailing.
In a letter to a friend, Poe wrote of his Virginia, "I see no one among the living as beautiful as my little wife." When she contracted tuberculosis in 1847 at the age of nineteen, Poe was devastated.
Virginia turned to her husband for the strength to fight her illness. A year before her death, she wrote this poem:
Ever with thee I wish to roam —
Dearest my life is thine.
Give me a cottage for my home
And a rich old cypress vine,
Removed from the world with its sin and care
And the tattling of many tongues.
Love alone shall guide us when we are there —
Love shall heal my weakened lungs;
And Oh, the tranquil hours we'll spend,
Never wishing that others may see!
Perfect ease we'll enjoy, without thinking to lend
Ourselves to the world and its glee —
Ever peaceful and blissful we'll be.
Unfortunately, as Virginia's illness grew worse, Poe fell back into the alcoholism that had nearly destroyed him in the past. Her death devastated the man who had loved her so dearly.
A friend remarked that "the loss of his wife was a sad blow to [Poe.] He did not seem to care, after she was gone, whether he lived an hour, a day, a week or a year; she was his all."
Drowning in his grief for Virginia, Poe visited her grave often and drank heavily. The more he drank, the worse his mental state became. He tried in vain to move on, knowing that he really couldn't live without her.
He dated poet Sarah Helen Whitman, who lived in Providence, Rhode Island. Their engagement was called off as a result of Poe's drinking, his mental instability, and the interference of Sarah's mother, who did all she could to sabotage the relationship.
Poe returned to Richmond and resumed his relationship with his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster. He later returned to Baltimore, where he plunged into a quagmire of severe alcoholism and mental illness. He fell into financial ruin and disappeared.
Before his disappearance, Poe gave a manuscript to a friend of his. It was something he'd written a while back, a poem he described as a "little trifle that may be worth something to you." It was his completed manuscript of Annabel Lee.
On October 3rd, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe was found wandering the streets of Baltimore by a man named Joseph W. Walker. Severely ill, incoherent, and wearing someone else's clothes, Poe was taken to Washington College Hospital. He died four days later at the age of 40.
Poe's death certificate and medical records were lost in a fire, so the actual cause of his death remains a mystery. Newspapers reported that he died of "congestion of the brain" or "cerebral inflammation."
These were common euphemisms used when a person died of illicit causes such as alcoholism, drug addiction, or venereal disease. They were also used when the authorities wanted to keep the real cause of death quiet.
Some scholars and biographers have suggested that Poe may have been murdered for political reasons or may have contracted rabies. Others theorize that he just drank himself to death out of grief, which, sadly, is the most likely case.
Rufus Griswold, an enemy of Poe's who had published his work in the past, somehow became his literary executor. He wrote a biography of Poe called Memoir of the Author, where he described the writer as a depraved madman addled by drink and drugs.
Most of Griswold's claims were either outright lies or half-truths. For example, although Poe was an opium user and wrote about it, he was only a casual user and never became addicted to the drug.
Griswold's biography was virulently denounced by those who knew Edgar Allan Poe. The letters that Griswold presented as proof of his claims were later revealed to be forgeries.
Over a hundred years after Poe's death, his classic poem Annabel Lee would inspire the legendary Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov to write his classic novel, Lolita (1955).
The novel opens with protagonist and narrator Humbert Humbert recalling his great childhood love Annabel Leigh, (named after Poe's Annabel Lee) her sudden death from typhus, and the grief that would lead him down a path of self-destruction, ending in his death.
Quote Of The Day
"The death of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world." - Edgar Allan Poe
Today's video features a reading of Edgar Allan Poe's classic poem, Annabel Lee. Enjoy!
Tuesday, October 8, 2019
This Day In Literary History
On October 8th, 1943, the famous American writer R.L. Stine was born. He was born Robert Lawrence Stine in Columbus, Ohio. The oldest of three children, Stine's father was a shipping clerk, his mother a homemaker.
When he was nine years old, Stine found a typewriter in his attic. He began writing with it immediately, typing up everything from short stories to joke books. After graduating from Ohio State University in 1965, Stine moved to New York City to become a writer.
In 1969, he married his girlfriend Jane Waldhorn, a writer and editor who would found the children's book publishing company Parachute Press. In 1980, the Stines had their first and only child, a son named Matthew.
As a writer, R.L. Stine got his start writing joke books for children. He wrote dozens of joke books, publishing them under the pseudonym Jovial Bob Stine. He created the teen humor magazine Bananas and worked for years with the children's cable TV channel Nickelodeon. He would later switch genres from humor to horror.
In 1987, Stine published his first teen horror novel, Blind Date. He would follow it with Twisted, Beach Party, The Boyfriend, The Baby-sitter, Beach House, Hit And Run, The Girlfriend, and other titles, most of which were published as part of a series - the Point Horror series.
Around this time, he also co-created and served as head writer for the Nickelodeon children's TV series Eureeka's Castle, which ran from 1989-1995.
In 1990, Stine teamed up with his wife's company Parachute Press and began publishing a new series of teen horror novels called the Fear Street series, set in the fictional East Coast town of Shadyland. Fear Street is a street in the town that had been named after a cursed family.
In the books, a group of average teenagers find themselves pitted against malicious, often supernatural adversaries, though sometimes the kids get caught up in non-supernatural horror dramas like murder mysteries.
Although the Fear Street novels are geared toward teen readers, they often featured violence and gore on a par with adult horror novels.
Tom Perrotta, the bestselling novelist known for such memorable works as Election (1998) and Little Children (2004), revealed in a 2007 interview that he had ghostwritten one of R.L. Stine's Fear Street novels, The Thrill Club.
In 1992, two years after his Fear Street teen horror series took off, Stine and Parachute Press decided to produce a series of horror novels geared toward preteen readers. It would prove to be his most successful series of books.
It would become a pop culture phenomenon that made R.L. Stine a household name and earned him a place on the Forbes List of the 40 Best Paid Entertainers of 1996-1997, as his income that fiscal year was $41 million dollars.
The series of books was called Goosebumps. Stine cranked out dozens of them. The typical Goosebumps book was a paperback novella of approximately 120 pages long. The first title was Welcome To Dead House.
In it, 12-year-old Amanda and her younger brother Josh move into a house that their father inherited from his great uncle. The siblings soon discover that their new home, located in the town of Dark Falls, is cursed.
Every child who ever lived in the home was murdered, and now the house is haunted by the living dead children. Once a year, they need to consume new blood from a freshly killed victim to preserve their immortal existence, which is why they tricked Amanda and Josh's father into moving there.
Though not as gruesome as Stine's Fear Street series, the Goosebumps books were just as scary. Some parents complained that they were too scary for their preteen readers. Nonetheless, the series became a monster hit with kids - no pun intended.
Translated into 32 languages, the Goosebumps series has sold over 300,000,000 copies worldwide. Frightening, clever, well written, and often containing surprise twist endings, the Goosebumps books have also earned many adult fans, myself included.
R.L. Stine won numerous awards for his Goosebumps books, which were adapted as a TV series that ran from 1995-1998. When the series debuted on CBBC in the UK, due to the government's strict censorship guidelines for children's programming, many episodes were banned or heavily cut.
However, on the cable channel Jetix, available in England and Ireland, the episodes aired with few or no cuts. In the U.S., in addition to the TV series, there were direct-to-video releases of Goosebumps shows on VHS and DVD.
A Goosebumps feature film was released in 2015 for the Halloween season, starring Jack Black as R.L. Stine. In it, the horrors from the reclusive writer's books come to life and threaten the Maryland town where he lives.
The movie did poorly on its opening weekend, grossing only $23 million on an estimated $53 million budget, but the total domestic gross for its theatrical run was $80 million, with a worldwide total gross of $158 million.
So, a sequel, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, was released three years later. Its opening weekend was worse than the previous film's, grossing only about $15 million on a lower budget of $35 million. The total worldwide gross was $93 million.
In Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, some kids find an old manuscript while cleaning out an abandoned house. They recite an incantation in it, unknowingly resurrecting Slappy the Dummy, an evil ventriloquist's dummy.
In 1995, after writing numerous children's books, Stine published Superstitious, his first horror novel geared toward adult readers. Unfortunately, the book was poorly received and became a critical and commercial failure.
Stine has since written other adult oriented novels, such as The Sitter and Eye Candy, but those too have proven to be nowhere near as successful as Stine's children's horror novels.
He has published other horror series for kids, including Ghosts Of Fear Street (a younger version of the Fear Street series geared toward preteens) and The Nightmare Room.
He also published a non-horror series called the Rotten School books, which feature the comic misadventures of a group of kids at boarding school. R.L. Stine's most recent horror series for children is the Mostly Ghostly books.
Quote Of The Day
"I'm really a writing machine. I have no rituals. I don't need a special desk or special background music. As long as I have a keyboard in front of me, I can write." - R.L. Stine
Today's video features R.L. Stine speaking at the 2012 National Book Festival. Enjoy!
Monday, October 7, 2019
A short story of mine is up on StoryMirror.
I have a short poem up at Plum Tree Tavern.
I don’t have a lot of time for personal writing projects. I spend 8 or more hours a day in my office, writing newspaper articles, corporate magazine features, employee training scripts and more. But over the last 13 years I did manage to finish a novel. At least I consider it finished.
Of course the old adage says one should toss out the first novel and begin a second. I have recklessly thrown caution to the wind and published it through KDP. I haven’t really tried to market it yet, but may work on that. It’s mildly erotic and violent and would probably be rated R, were it a film. It’s available on Amazon.
My story "Good News" can now - for the first time - be read online in Eunoia Review. This piece was critiqued in the Fiction Group and originally published last year in a print-only journal which is now defunct.
The story is a 22 minute read and is about the writers' group that invented Jesus. Think "Shakespeare in Love" meets "The New Testament."
Joanna M. Weston
I have two poems up at Shot Glass Journal.