Master of children’s horror R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books have been edited for so-called sensitivity, marking yet another beloved author of literature for kids receiving the woke treatment, after text in Roald Dahl’s books was altered in February. But don’t ask Stine about what happened, as he says he wasn’t invited to that particular meeting.
“I’ve never changed a word in Goosebumps,” the 79-year-old author wrote to a fan on Twitter. “Any changes were never shown to me.”
Lindsey, the stories aren’t true. I’ve never changed a word in Goosebumps. Any changes were never shown to me.
— R.L. Stine (@RL_Stine) March 6, 2023
“This story is untrue,” he replied to another tweet as an online mob grew. “I have never changed a word in a Goosebumps book.”
The brouhaha began last week, with an erroneous report in the London Times newspaper announcing some of Stine’s books had been “sanitized” with inclusive language, while words that referred to “mental health, weight or ethnicity” were struck. The newspaper inferred that Stine made the changes himself.
“Writer’s self-censoring includes changing ‘plump’ to ‘cheerful’ and ‘crazy’ to ‘silly’,” The Times reported. But Stine insists that he had nothing to do with the edits.
The Times said it found more than 100 edits in e-book versions of the series of 62 Goosebumps books. But that was misleading—in fact, while the edits are there, they are not new—they were made in 2018, as part of an ebook launch. Stine’s publisher, Scholastic, confirmed the changes, according to Aussie pub The New Daily.
“For more than 30 years, the Goosebumps series has brought millions of kids to reading through humor with just the right amount of scary,” Scholastic said, according to a statement. “Scholastic takes its responsibility seriously to continue bringing this classic adolescent brand to each new generation. When re-issuing titles several years ago, Scholastic reviewed the text to keep the language current and avoid imagery that could negatively impact a young person’s view of themselves today, with a particular focus on mental health.”
First to go in the e-books was “crazy,” replaced with anything from “silly” to “wild” to “lost her mind,” according to the Times via the Post. The phrase “a real nut” is replaced by “a real wild one” and “nutcase” is now that teenage slur, “weirdo.”
Next to go was “fat.” Characters who were once described as “roly-poly,” and “plump” are described as now “cheerful.” “Overweight” characters became “huge” ones.
An “African American” character who “acts real cool, like the rappers on MTV videos” becomes a character with “brown skin” who merely “acts real cool.”
This comes after a swift backlash over the past month regarding the extensive and seemingly arbitrary edits of beloved children’s author Roald Dahl’s books done in consultancy with “sensitivity reading” company, Inclusive Minds. In a quick turnaround, Dahl’s publisher announced that the original, unaltered versions will see a new release later this year.
Stine has been described as “the Stephen King of children’s literature,” and is best known for Goosebumps, a wildly popular mass-market paperback series in the horror genre for tweens and teens that sold tens of millions. A TV series and a film adaptation were also launched based on the series. The first Goosebumps book was published in 1992, and each one had eye-catching titles from Welcome to the Dead House to Monster Blood.
In the 90s, according to the Guardian, parents occasionally tried to ban the books, but not because the language wasn’t sensitive enough—they just weren’t jiving on the whole “horror for kids” idea.
Through his publisher, Stine did not return a call for comment.
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