I had quite the array of bizarro jobs before I was even old enough to drive, starting with educational video star and ending with church babysitter. But one of my favorites was the day I got to spend an afternoon at a word processing business sorting through fan mail for Christopher Pike. "Hold on," you say, before even touching Christopher Pike. "Word processing business? What in the hell is that?"
Yes, my 21st century compatriot. Back in ancient times, people could have a legitimate and profitable business with nothing more than a couple typewriters and a promise to format your resumé. It was here I transcribed cassette-taped interviews about performance art that taught me, most interestingly at my fresh teen age, that pouring chocolate syrup on your bare chest constitutes art. These were exciting revelations. But nothing like sorting through Christopher Pike’s fan mail.
If you were in middle school and down with thrillers, Christopher Pike was king (along with R.L. Stine, although Goosebumps always read more elementary to me *adjusts 12-year-old coke-bottle glasses*). Pike’s characters and plotlines were gory, sexy, and edgy. To this day, I will maintain the plotline of Sebold’s The Lovely Bones (which I adore, don’t get me wrong) was 100% ripped from Pike’s Remember Me. (Side note: Just now fell down a pulp fiction rabbithole looking through some old covers of his books online. Witch! Scavenger Hunt! The Chain Letter series! Where is Netflix with a Christopher Pike reboot??)
So I sat in a dim room with some corkboard walls and florescent lights and dumped a Santa Claus-esque bag of letters on the table, letters bursting with purple penmanship, stickers and kissy marks. These teenage girls had the serious hots for Christopher Pike, many of them promising they had red hair and green eyes like the heroines of his novels. I don’t remember what I was supposed to be doing with these missives, exactly—opening them and sorting them somehow. Skimming these notes was like peeking into strangers’ journals, but no ... it was more intimate than that. Nothing quite compares to the relationship between a fan and her beloved author.
Besides letters from young girls—almost all young girls, in fact, many of whom wanted to be writers, wanted to marry him, wanted to climb mountains and trumpet their love for his books to the world—I also found random snippets of paper addressed to Kevin McFadden which OH MY GOD YOU GUYS HIS NAME IS KEVIN MCFADDEN!!!!! Game changer, right there. Okay, I know, I know, you can Google "Christopher Pike" now in less time than it takes me to say his name aloud and pull up a Wikipedia page with the name Kevin McFadden on it but in the mid 90s this was not so. No one knew his real name but me. I was the holder of secret special amazing information.
Brace yourself for anticlimax: after sorting through mail for a few hours, all I got was like twenty bucks. I didn’t get to meet Christopher Pike/ Kevin McFadden and pick his brain about writing. (I was outlining a horror book at the time that was a bunch of people getting killed off at a resort. A great white shark in a pool was used as a murder weapon and it was the greatest thing that has ever been written.) I should have gotten to meet him. It would have blown my mind (replete with obligatory Rachel haircut) apart. Did he read those letters? Did they amuse him, or scare him? Some were damn creepy. Did he ever answer them? And where are those girls now who wrote to him? I remember feeling a weird kinship with them. I too loved his books intensely. But I didn’t want to be like them. I wanted to be like him. I wanted passionate fan letters decorated with kissy marks and purple pens.