This article is part of the Failed Children's Products series.
Thanks to Sean McArdle for making the book covers, and for illustrating every Failed Children's Product thus far!
R.L. Stine's Real Life Horrors: Mouths of Madness, by Jason Hillcut
In 1995, during the height in popularity of Stine's über-popular Goosebumps series, the author was approached by the conservative education collective Moral Matters Now to write a book discouraging young teens from experimenting with alcohol, drugs and unsafe sex. Stine was offered an attractively lucrative deal to do nothing more than lend his name to the series, which would be written by Christian author Jason Hillcut. Hillcut's Mouths of Madness presents a world in which young adults are so obsessed with blowjobs they do little else beyond orally pleasure each other, until they all get AIDS and die.
Peculiarly, oral sex is a topic that Hillcut seems to know nothing about, given his somewhat nonsensical blowjob descriptions, which often involve "chewing." These scenes also imply Hillcut lacks a basic knowledge of human anatomy, as penises are routinely described as entering the blowjob-giver's stomach. Unfortunately for Stine, he never even bothered to read Hillcut's work until after it was published, at which time he sued Moral Matters Now to remove his name from the series.
Semidarkness, by Bill O'Brien
Speaking of blowjobs... Inspired by an interview he read with Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, Bill O'Brien, a struggling writer working as a high school shop teacher, decided to employ the same psychology Meyer's book had tapped into for young girls, but now for boys. Whereas Meyer had created a utopia for young females, with a blank-slate heroine obsessing over and protected by a perfect handsome boyfriend, O'Brien tapped into what he felt were untapped young-male fantasies.
O'Brien's cheekily titled Semidarkness tells the story of Scotty Brown, who discovers a coven of gorgeous immortal witches attending his high school. The witches all immediately become infatuated with Scotty and demand a variety of sexual acts. They worship a sexy goddess named Heelah, who is dying and needs to give blowjobs to the "Chosen One" in order to survive; Scotty is, of course, the Chosen One. These blowjobs in turn give Scotty super powers, which he uses to beat up bullies and fight off an invasion of aliens who look like large-breasted human females. (He must play with their large breasts in order to destroy them; this is their only vulnerability.) O'Brien self-published the book in Chicago in 2007, and he sold copies to his male students. When an angry parent notified the school, O'Brien was forced to stop.
The Diary of Anne Frankenstein, by Thomas Runyen
Perhaps it was simply ahead of its time, given the current popularity of literary/historical mash-ups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but in 1958 readers did not know what to make of Thomas Runyen's high-concept, macabre and slightly whimsical faux-sequel to Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, in which grieving father Otto recovers Anne's head (she died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp) and resurrects her with the help of a mad scientist. Runyen was trying to capitalize on the resurgence in popularity of the classic Universal monsters, but that meant little to American Jews still reeling from WWII, who called the book offensive and anti-Semitic. Runyen had a similar lack of success with another attempted historical-horror mash-up, Creature from the Black Rangoon, which used the 1962 Burmese military coup d'état as a setting for more wacky monster shenanigans.
Mass Effect: Andromeda turns its nose up at the original trilogy's rigid morality. It boasts a more nuanced and intellectually compelling shades-of-grey approach in which a heart icon pops up when it's time to tell an alien to take their clothes off.
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