March 25, 2023

Christopher Pike

Christopher Pike is the pen name of Kevin McFadden, an American author of thrillers and science fiction. He is best known for his young adult thrillers published in the 1980s and 1990s. He also wrote a number of thrillers for adults, but those comprised a small percentage of more than 70 titles that bore his name (I can’t find a definitive bibliography I online to get an accurate count). He dropped out of sight for a while after Archway’s paperback line fell out of vogue in the late 1990s and virtually ceased publication of mass market paperbacks in this vein. A major rival of R.L. Stine, a series of books called Spooksville with Pike’s name attached appeared on the scene in the mid-1990s. The Spooksville series appealed to Stine’s younger audience that was reading the Goosebumps books; published in digest-sized trade paperbacks, they were usually thinner books with simpler writing styles and lighter content than his books aimed at teens.

McFadden began by writing adult science fiction novels. He struggled to land a book deal for his writing until an editor at Avon Books recommended he try his hand at young adult thrillers (Pike Fan Club). A Star Trek fan, McFadden chose “Christopher Pike” as his pen name as an homage to the first captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise in the original Star Trek series (Mental Floss). His first novel, Slumber Party, appeared in 1985 as a Point Thriller. He followed up with Weekend and Chain Letter (published by Avon Flare) in 1986, but then went to work with Archway for the bulk of his career. Archway was a young adult imprint of Simon and Schuster’s Pocket Books, presumably created to compete with Scholastic’s popular Point Thrillers. In a Q & A on the Christopher Pike Fan Club Web site cited above, McFadden sheds some light on the reason his thrillers virtually disappeared from the market in the late 1990s: “I was in a major accident that slowed me down for a few years. Then my editor and publisher at Simon and Schuster left […] I assumed the new people would want to work with me but I think they saw me as yesterday’s news. It’s strange to say but I couldn’t get anyone to publish my books, except for Tor.”

Having read several of these in the not-too-distant past, I found them to be generally well-written, with plots more complex than the usual fare by R.L. Stine. It seems the Internet agrees. If there was a young-adult Stephen King equivalent, I’d join the group giving the nod to Christopher Pike, whose books felt deeper and more thoughtfully crafted. The plots were engaging, usually took a nice turn, and several of them were truly science fiction at heart, especially in the nature of the menace or mystery that had to be solved. He’s noted for his use of smart female characters as protagonists. That makes sense, since these seem primarily marketed toward a female audience, although I suspect teen boys might have enjoyed them as well — I have seen some alternative editions with a different style of cover art absent the neon pink, yellow, orange, and green that was the trend for his mass market books, so perhaps there was an experiment to test that theory. My passing thought is that New York missed the boat in marketing these as gender neutral. I guess someone smarter than I am in a marketing department somewhere decided boys that age don’t read books, or at least don’t want to read books with female protagonists (although I personally find that a good story is not contingent upon the gender of its characters).

Pike was very successful in his heyday and remains a relevant force in the YA marketplace. He is a New York Times bestselling author, was nominated for two Edgar awards, and several of his titles were adapted for television. He had a brief spark in Hollywood with hopes for his work to reach the silver screen, in particular with a movie adaptation of Remember Me that generated a lot of interest but was ultimately never produced (Pike Fan Club). Pike recently enjoyed a resurgence in popularity and published some new titles; some of his classic novels have also been reissued in new editions. His Alosha trilogy was published from 2004 to 2006, and he started a new series, Witch World, in 2012. His latest novel as of this post is Strange Girl, published by Simon Pulse in 2015. He has an active fan page on Facebook, which is run by an administrator, with the occasional post from Pike himself.

To view a complete list of his books currently available on Amazon, click here. The following scans are from my personal library. I have decided to part with some of my collection, so many titles are continually listed for sale on the Realms of Night eBay store. Please visit our store and follow us for future sales.

Christopher Fulbright

Christopher Fulbright is the author of short stories, novellas, and full-length novels of fantasy and horror. His short stories have appeared in many venues--webzines, magazines, and anthologies--since 1993. Fulbright received the Richard Laymon President's Award in 2008 from the HWA, and his short stories have received honorable mentions in "The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror" and "Best Horror of the Year." He is a former journalist turned technical writer, an unrepentant horror fan, and owner/webmaster of Realms of Night.

View all posts by Christopher Fulbright →

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