Won’t someone please think of the children? With more and more speculative fiction for young audiences published each year, our kids are in grave danger. Science fiction and fantasy writing fills their heads with filthy concepts, inspires them to look outside the status quo for answers, and changes their perception of the very real world we live in. Terry Pratchett calls fantasy “the compost for a healthy mind,” and I’m pretty sure he means it heaps rotten food and dirt over a perfectly clean yard of ideas.
Hear my plea! If we ignore these reasons for keeping kids off spec fic, who else will save the next generation?
1. Imagination Is a Dangerous Thing
Mundane is good. Routine is healthy. Reality is what matters. Children ask enough questions every day: Why is the sky blue? Where do babies come from? Can I have a soda? Their minds are already too inquisitive. They don’t need to add in other worlds and infinite possibilities to fuel their never-ending search for answers. Spec fic puts their head in the clouds – literally. They’ll dream of space travel, riding dragons, even sprouting wings themselves, for heaven’s sake! Such lofty fantasies may lead to action with real-life and horrifying consequences.
The Chronicles of Narnia set a deadly precedent for children to expect wondrous things in boring places. Imagine your darling locking themselves in a wardrobe because they’re searching for a vast land beyond the stuffy coats. They think they’ll discover the promised Narnia, brimming with talking creatures and Turkish delight. Years later, you’ll finally find their skeletons among the remains of Aunt Letty’s mink.
Even if you think your kid is smart enough to find their way out of a closet, think of the damaging values that these fancies might inspire. Sheer laziness will lead children to want robot servants to do their chores; manual labor is necessary to instill the values of toil and cleanliness into the next generation. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter in young ones, and the answer to that problem is having students read from boring texts. What doesn’t put them to sleep will only make them stronger!
2. Children Shouldn’t Have So Much Agency
The whippersnappers in these books take a lot of risks and solve their own problems. If our children are raised on these sorts of tales, they’ll never learn to take direction or seek out the wisdom of their elders. All of that character agency might get your children thinking that they should make their own decisions, like who to vote into the White House and whether to eat their sandwich with the crust on or off.
In Robin LaFevers’s His Fair Assassin trilogy, each of the teenage murderer nuns* decides to ignore a direct order from their governing abbess. Sure, the abbess has concealed motives and other harmful flaws, but she’s the adult. She sent these girls out on deadly missions to fulfill their purpose – serving the convent and its patron St. Mortain, the god of death. She did not give them permission to save lives, act on their own intuition, or shirk their duty by dillydallying with men (except, of course, those men strategically placed for the girls to manipulate and seduce, by order of the convent). If your children read these books, they might ignore your wishes, think for themselves when placed in a tough situation, or even go so far as to tell you no and ride off into the sunset with a millenia-old former god.
Children need more obedient role models in their stories. The world would be better off if Cinderella had stayed home from the ball. If she had followed the decree of her loving stepmother, she would never have had the burden of becoming a princess. Perhaps your next story should feature a little boy who practices his times tables, brushes his teeth, and goes to bed at a reasonable hour without complaint.
3. Speculative Fiction Writers Have an Agenda
Some writers feel the need to expose our children to nontraditional values by eroding traditional standards of beauty, embracing diversity, and pushing alternative lifestyles. Your child might end up preferring large, nerdy glasses or even wearing costumes in public outside of Halloween. They might feel comfortable with dangerous others – people who are not like them in race, religion, ability, etc. They might get the idea that gender nonconformity is okay in today’s society – boys wearing earrings and girls cutting their hair short left and right (or only left). It’s not right!
In Jo Walton’s Among Others, Morwenna is a teenager living with a disability who, in addition to cavorting with fairies and attempting dangerous magic, ponders the nature of sexuality beyond the traditional bounds of marriage. She does not condemn her lesbian friend. She does not join the town in shunning a boy who reportedly got a girl pregnant; nor does Morwenna shun the girl for her rumored abortion. And Morwenna even considers that sex could be something engaged in casually by teenagers for reasons other than procreation! She should have stuck to the classics section in her school library rather than venture into the stacks with J.R.R. Tolkien and Ursula K. Le Guin.
You may think that the kind fairy godmothers from the stories of your own youth would be suitable for your children. But today’s fairies are nefarious winged beasts deeply steeped in magic and – uggh – nature, which is a clear ploy to get children to think more about humankind’s impact on the environment. Think Fern Gully times a thousand! The misguided lessons hidden behind mythical creatures don’t stop at fairies. Harry Potter even tried to shove some equality down our throats with the plight of the enslaved house elves. These writers are crafty and will stop at nothing to get your children to buy into their egalitarian ideals!
Fans of spec fic are weird, with their wild ideas and diversity. If you want normal, obedient, and above all predictable children, stick to textbooks and instruction manuals. Don’t let your child’s head fill with the wonders of fantastical worlds from speculative fiction.
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