Stacie Hanes is a graduate student focusing on British Literature, including authors such as Terry Pratchett and Bram Stoker. She has long been involved with the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts.
I have a son named after Robert A. Heinlein, so as you might imagine, I always hoped he’d love reading at least some of the same things I love.
Interestingly enough, it was asking me to write this that enabled me to recommend more books to him because I had been just throwing a lot of stuff at him to see what would stick. I’d been a little frustrated because he didn’t seem to read as much as I would like, although he reads easily and well, and I found this a little baffling. Now I realize I’d been making some assumptions; I guess sometimes we do that even when we’re trying to avoid it.
One of my fondest memories, and the basis for one of my big assumptions, was that Anson loved the Narnia books when he was younger. His father read them to him at bedtime, well past the point when he could have read them himself, as a father-son thing. They also read their way through A Series of Unfortunate Events. Those are two lengthy series, neither of them sf. (It turns out he likes sf more than “medieval-style” fantasy.)
So, for the past couple of years, I’ve been making recommendations, but haven’t really had what you would call a breakout hit with him as a reader—possibly in part because I thought he liked fantasy. He has read and enjoyed the Hunger Games, although I don’t think he has finished the series. He really liked the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, and a YA novel called The Comet’s Curse, which is the first in the Galahad series by Dom Testa.
When I asked Anson what he really enjoyed reading, for this article, he replied, “Space! Space! Books about space!” He was very animated. He’s 13 now, having just had a birthday a couple of weeks ago, but if I had been asked this question a couple of years ago, and had been trying to find books for him, I think the results would have been the same, because the books that came to mind would work for a bright 9- or 10-year-old, but worked for me when I discovered them as an adult.
Discovering that he had an enthusiasm for sf set in space, I went to where my paperbacks are shelved and tipped a few Heinlein juveniles into my arm: Red Planet, The Rolling Stones, Rocketship Galileo, and Tunnel in the Sky (he’s already read Space Cadet and Have Spacesuit—Will Travel). I added Ender’s Game, Childhood’s End, and The Forever War to the stack, handed him the lot, and, as an afterthought, pointed out Tobias Buckell’s books on my shelves.
Friends have recommended the Star Wars expanded universe novels, Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, some of Lois McMaster Bujold’s work, L. E. Modessit, Jr.’s Parafaith War (and sequel), the Lensman series, and C.J. Cherryh’s Chanur books. If he ever gets into post-apocalyptic sf set on Earth, I’d give him George Stewart’s Earth Abides—I read that when I was younger than he is now. Pratchett’s Strata is good; I wish I had a copy handy. At any rate, now that I know better what he wants, I have a list of books and authors to hand over at regular intervals.
The first book he chose from the pile I gave him was Ender’s Game; I am curious about whether he will like it. Though I consider some aspects of the novel problematic now, when I first read it, I loved it. So I’m looking forward to getting his reaction when he’s done. We’ll discuss it, and maybe talk about the issues of plot rails and genocide the way we discussed the rise of female sf heroes when we watched Alien a few weeks ago. I’m Lecture Mom, but he knows it and loves it. It’s not quite identical to my childhood experience of watching sf movies with my father and reading the books he left lying around, but it’s how I roll. Today I took Anson to the movies to see the latest Marvel superhero offering, and we were talking about it as we left the theater. He threw his arms around my neck and said (in LOLcat), “I loves my mommeh, I loves it so.”