Nostalgia seems to be everywhere. Goosebumps has made a resurgence. Lego Dimensions has made franchises such as Back to the Future super-cool once more. Even Ghostbusters has a big re-boot out this summer. If all of this favour towards the best elements of our ‘retro’ pasts wasn’t enough- imagine my delight when I stumbled across a resurgence of ‘Point Horror’ on Twitter!!! Man, too much excitement. As if by magic, I discovered that other tweeters/bloggers such as @georgia_bowers and @Cyn_Murphy shared my love for Point Horror and even Christopher Pike (the next logical step if, like me, it is all about The Lost Boys, Critters and Stephen King). Cyn had even written the brilliant Point Horror in 10 Steps (click through to acquaint yourself with this lost art form). To top this off, if this surge of nostalgia towards such teen- horror fodder weren’t enough, my clearly intuitive fellow book-blogger @chelletoy from Twitter and Tales Of Yesterday ran a monthly ‘Point Horror’ book club!
Nostalgia had officially hit my awkward teenage self square-on. The angst. The rebellion. The awkwardness. I’m such a relic that we didn’t have iPhones or laptops or DVDs to occupy our time, or blind us with alternatives to the daily hells I am sure we were all living through. No Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. We had Smash Hits and a couple of cheesy TV shows on terrestrial TV (BBC, ITV and Channel 4). If you were lucky (or your parents didn’t keep that close an eye) you could sneak a watch of Twin Peaks- or pretend you were 18 and sneak into the cinema to watch Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Such pleasures were few and far between- and really there was one main way we could escape the real horrors of our daily lives: CHRISTOPHER PIKE.
To my teenaged-self, Christopher Pike was godlike. His stories offered central protagonists that were cool, but slightly set back from the off putting in-crowd. They were rocking their own beat and not occupied with whether they had the right amount of orange foundation on or whether they had applied enough Sun-In. Hallelulia! Beam me up Scotty. Was I the only one who didn’t want to cough myself into oblivion by smoking at the top of the school fields, just out of the view of the pouncing teachers? Not that I wished to conform- black tights were my stance, I mean who wants to wear navy blue ones? I had my own mind and wanted to do my own thing. Pike’s horrors all seemed to affirm this burgeoning view and bolster my confidence. Standing to the side was now validated. Standing to the side was now also reignited, thanks to current trends. But, where were these former badges of teendom lingering?
Appetite whetted, rabid search completed, prime Pike collection dusted. ‘Spellbound’ selected from amongst the familiar old covers (which still held the same mesmerising appeal-like anchors for the imagination). I vaguely recalled its position of favour along with ‘Scavenger Hunt’ and ‘Witch’. A new fear crept over me, than the ones I remember them holding (other than the ones that used to keep me reading deep into the forbidden night). Would they have changed over time, like films are wont to do- because we have changed? Would it be disappointing? Would it render their power obsolete like that of shredded bank statements? Honestly, these books are of an era. I am not an angsty teen girl anymore so some of its power is lost to adult me. That isn’t to say I don’t appreciate its particular appeal, or that their appeal would be lost to generations anew being exposed to them as a direct result of this latest cultural resurgence. Far from it. Characters like the sceptical and questioning Cindy Jones have much to say to any teens- giving them the required space to realise it is ok to be different, to not blindly follow your peers: to have your own opinions and to make your own decisions. You can and should question if something seems suspect- just like Cindy does about Karen Holly’s impossible sounding death and the mysterious, alluring Joni with the flat eyes. You should also make your own mind up based on your own analysis of the information available to you- not judging or scorning others just because it is the ‘popular’ decision or will give you kudos amongst potentially shallow peers.
My rereading had truly reminded me of the real power of Pike, of his understanding of teens and their needs and feelings. He always had just the right amount of lusty leaning, so as not to become smutty- just enough to retain our interest and make the stories seem true to our experiences- or let’s be honest the experiences we dreamed of having! Who didn’t want to be a couple of years older with a hunky boyfriend to eat the face off. Even here Pike gives us examples that encourage us all to respect ourselves. Cindy’s message is to ditch any male that tries to force you into doing something you are not comfortable with or ready for. Pike you are a public service provider! Reaching teenagers in a way parents and sex education lessons don’t. All under the guise of some seriously unsettling stories, with just the right amount of supernatural menace to mirror the real life menace hinted at and denounced within these pages. As the cover promises, with its eagle-like, expansive power watching omnipotently over an unsuspecting couple, dangers are all around you. If you want to survive you need to explore suspicions and act on them, if necessary.
While I relished the supernatural element (key driver of any Pike work): here shamanism and animal totems, it was the setting that truly ensnared my imagination with its promise of freedom. The Rockies, with its cerulean blue skies and fresh mountain air. It’s aptly named Crystal Falls and Snake Tail River looming up above with its deceptive air of purity. Who wouldn’t want to be up there on a moonlight wander. Midnight feasts for adolescents! Couple this with an unexpected twist, that even a monster can have redeeming features and the exploration of gray spaces is complete. Yet another important lesson is assimilated: life is not black and white. In short, I hope this resurgence affords Christopher Pike a just share of this new attention- he moves beyond stereotypes with some very natty lessons embedded in his own interpretation of this genre, one that travels beyond the effective employment of the tropes we have come to expect. So get on eBay, browse second hand book shops- get some Christopher Pike. I am keeping mine forevermore!