Babes

I’m in foreign parts, visiting my first grandchild, who is about six weeks old now. I’m considering submitting one of his diapers to trad-pub. Too good for most of them, and award winning for sure. Today we discussed Hegelian dialectic. He expressed strong opinions on that too, in a similar fashion. The genetics is strong in this lad. I can tell by his literary output.

Seriously, it has reminded me, pointedly, of just how small and helpless babies are – and of how much work is involved – and just how much washing is needed, and volume is involved in their attempts to communicate. Young Daniel is a fine, healthy lad, and very happy much of the time, but when he is not happy, on subjects like Hegelian dialectic or the passage of a bubble of gas, he does let you know about it in spades.

We keep getting outraged shrieking about ‘staying in our lane’ and not writing characters from people whose life we have not experienced, or whose experiences we have not lived. Well… maybe. But I have noticed that a lot of these are childless authors, writing fantasy. And fantasy babies (which , given the lack of contraception should be on every second page) are remarkably quiet (only screaming in plot needed moments, and being effectively muffled by mother – amazing really) and remarkably free of sicking slightly used milk on themselves and their holder, and never need need a change from what looks and sounded like a diaper Tsar bomba. I am not going to advocate staying in a lane, but if there was ever something to make any reader who has been a parent toss your book against the wall – it’s babies in fantasy-land. They’re a lot more common than most of the ‘groups’ whose lane they fuss about.

And it is those children who are the readers – and writers – of the future, because those whose parents read – are more likely to read, and genres too, often run in families.

It has been particularly fascinating to see how the reading traditions/choices have spread from my wife and I (quite different, and she did not read sf/fantasy at all – and has come to read a lot, mostly fantasy) to our children (one sf/fantasy, the other mostly sf) and then to their wives – neither of whom came from sf/fantasy reading at all. Both now read fantasy, and the one almost exclusively fantasy. I suspect all grandkids – if they read at all, will go in that direction.

So: how have you found books, authors and tastes have spread – especially across the generations? Do your children read the books – or genre – that you read?

Image: Pixabay

43 comments

  1. The problem with random issues is that they slow down the story and are obviously introduced by the author.

    Horses have this problem, too.

    1. Personally I tend to notice that a society should be in population implosion and yet isn’t. When you project a modern society not breeding at replacement into the future and then add fertility suppressing measures. (You need a license to reproduce! Intersexuals and infertility have increased!)

      1. Fantasy novels where there’s a huge death-rate for teens and twenty year olds, and also see three kids as a big family.

        1. My parents and almost anyone else who grew up in the 1920’s and 30’s would have laughed at the idea of three children being a big family. My father’s family was considered normal for rural PA and he had four older brothers and one younger sister that lived.

        2. I have the impression that most stories have one or no siblings. The default seems to be none unless they need a sibling for a plot point. When I write, my default is that everyone has at least two siblings, and that anything LESS than that has to be explained. I also include miscarriages, death shortly after birth, and death of a small child — not as plot points, but as just as part of the expected background.

          1. The thing is that characters are clutter if the story doesn’t need them.

            1. That is true.

              The point of siblings is establishing norms for the world or historical accuracy. It can be like describing furniture or houses or scenery. You can indicate that someone has siblings, for example, as part of their background, without needing to name them.

              Just note that someone was “the middle son”, or had x younger sibs, or was the baby brother with older sisters. And the reference can come up naturally. Someone is good with kids (oh, yeah, he has four younger brothers and sisters) or someone is spoiled (baby brother, baby sister). Or make a point that a character is unusual because he’s an only child.

      2. Right? Like there’s still a clerk at the store, but there’s been huge population reduction. In a declining population there’s no store, much less a clerk.

        1. No, I’m thinking of a culture where infertility is widespread, and yet there is no stigma against people who could be fertile seeking out partners with whom they could have not children.

            1. No shifting of people who can’t have children to the dangerous jobs, no extra safety precautions for the fertile.

          1. Ah, that is a better point than mine. The social stigma would be immense.

            Being an Odd, I would not have thought of that. ~:D

  2. Our children are definitely reading in our footsteps, though with their own personal twists and inclinations. Mrs. Dave and I first bonded over shared reading interests (and the interests of our favorite Uncle Sam) and our decorating scheme has always been “books, with some scattered extras.” While the Wee Horde isn’t *yet* pulling novels off the shelves to read, they are certainly at the point where names must be called, Called, CALLED to get their attention. Seems pretty normal to me.

    Wee Dave tends a bit more toward thrilling heroics, while Wee-er Dave is more interested in fantastical beings going through normal life. Neither, however, is especially exclusive. Fortunately, our local library system can provide what we aren’t willing to pay for.

  3. Yay, baby!

    My kids have taken my Drizzt books, we had to veto the Dreseden Files and a few others until they’re at least teens, and the eldest boy has latched onto The Cat Who.

    1. 16-year-old Kid was in a huff at me because “you never let me read the ‘Dark Tower’ books!!” “…you never asked about ’em?” I have 1-4 lined up on her bookshelf now, and Discussions planned.

      My mom had a “when you’re older” bookshelf, to which I paid scrupulous attention. My father had a separate “when you’re older” shelf, to which I did not. 🙂

  4. Mom and Dad started me on fairy-tales and folk tales, then fantasy and sci fi. And history, lots of history, beautifully illustrated (as things were back then). Red 2.0 started on fairy tales and folk tales, and stories about cats (she is growing up in a well-catted household). Now she likes chapter stories where the bad guy loses and the good guys win.

  5. A mixed bag, and too soon to tell. When the DP has kidlets of her own (DV) will tell.

    It’s be fun to insist on priestly, religious, parent, et al. sensitivity readers, but then one of us would have to read their books

    1. I tried to vet Kid’s reading when she was small. But she turned out to be a reader like me, and there literally were not enough hours in the day. So I had to tentatively trust Junie B. Jones et. al.

  6. I will admit, in a happy fantasy land, I’m not really bothered if the babies are mostly cute and adorable and the writer glosses over the monumental disasters and nights of screaming until 3am. I mean, this is fiction where the good guys almost always win, solutions generally exist, and even bureaucrats can be convinced they made a mistake and apologize for it.

    I’m more disturbed by the vanishing babies that seem to slip into a pocket dimension any time the parents have to go do something. It’s one thing to smooth over the sharp edges. It’s another to have someone vanish for convenience.

    1. I’m careful about that one.

      All right, in “One Name,” “Fever and Snow,” and “Witch-Prince Ways,” where the kid is is always in the forefront of the story. But in “Never Comment On A Likeness,” “The Firemaster and the Flames,” “Sword and Shadow,” and Madeleine and the Mists, the characters always put the child somewhere.

  7. Regarding babies, I’d find it difficult to include a new baby in an adventure. A woman with a new baby takes about three skilled people for support in primitive conditions. When Dad is the only support the adventure story is no longer fun, it’s a death march. Or a horror show, possibly. One sick baby can suck the life out of two adults very rapidly.

    Not really interested in the ‘hyper-realism of human suffering’ genre, I leave that stuff to the Grey Goo people.

    1. Primitive conditions? You won’t be travelling anywhere unless it’s life and (horrible) death.

      From the snelson family archives: the reason my mother’s side of the family ended up in AR is that two brothers and their wives were in a wagon train headed for CA, and Union County AR is where they discovered that one wife was a) pregnant and b) unlikely to get over the Sierras and into CA before giving birth.

      They stayed behind because the alternative was almost certain death, and the possible delay of the wagon train meant it might not be just mother and baby.

      1. Timing is everything. A character who gets pregnant and gives birth, and recovers, during the course of plot-significant events imposes some of the most fearful constraints on timing. (Lulls in the action are so much easier.)

        1. Reminds me of a movie I watched recently that I thought handled the “disaster-time” pregnancy well: Occupation. A group of ordinary townspeople spend the first part of the movie getting to a safe(r) place, woman of a couple is pregnant. Then a lull of relative safety, but then she has to give birth, and realistic bad things happen. I was actually surprised.

    2. I’m with you and Harryvoyager. Infants/toddlers/preschoolers as set dressing for a happy ending, fine. School-aged children as main characters in middle school fiction*, also fine. There are also a couple of media properties that pull off the “nuclear family of adventurers” trope somewhat competently, complete with kids: Mummy Returns, the Incredibles movies. But I am no more interested in fantasy diapers than I am in fantasy toilets, and any writer offended by my lack of interest in such practical matters can go jump in a lake.

      *although I was reading unabridged Sherlock Holmes in middle school, and frankly disliked most child-protagonist literature that came in my way. Would I have liked Harry Potter at that age? Maybe, but he wasn’t around back then.

    3. Traditionally, in Europe after the Dark Ages, there was the churching of women, where a woman went to the church for a blessing and to give thanks for her survival. It was 28 to 40 days after the birth.

      There was an occasion where knights captured a fortress to destroy it, and found a woman still in bed after childbirth, the wife of a foe. So they had to make her a litter and have her carried out. You could not make an unchurched woman walk out.

      1. I love learning these little odd bits of history. Thanks for sharing it.

      2. Sounds a bit like the Chinese “sitting month” tradition – the new mother does no work for a month after delivery (and is supposed to eat special food, etc). Nowadays, in well to do Chinese families the sitting month idea has gone too far.

        1. She may be unclean, she may be required to watch the baby to prevent changelings being substituted, she may be all kinds of things.

  8. My mom was a Trekkie, my dad an old-school Van Vogt and Heinlein fan. I skew very slightly fantasy-ward. But I started out with Star Trek books (thank GOD my mother never picked up my copy of “Dwellers in the Crucible…”) and went from there. Pace Mike Resnick, who absolutely excoriated “Trekbooks and Wookieebooks”, but I only discovered HIM because in my small-town bookstore, there were maybe six inches of books between “Resnick” and “Star”.

  9. Having learned to read at an early age, and then (by the age of 7) moved to a place where I could not just walk down to the library when I was out of suitable reading material, I started going through Dad’s collection of (somewhat unsuitable) books. Tolkien, Heinlein, Asimov, yes, but literally anything I could reach that had words in it. I have many memories of Dad giggling with glee when he saw me reading books that he had read when they were first released (and then asking if he could read them next). And my favorite memory, of Mom being horrified to learn that I was reading The Exorcist over Christmas break in 6th grade. (It was a book, I hadn’t read it yet, ergo…)

    While my daughter’s tastes don’t align perfectly with mine, they are close, and I think the only thing keeping her from reading EVERYTHING is the abuse she received in grade school at the ‘hands’ of the AR program. That said, there are no books on my shelf that are forbidden to her, and only a few that I asked her to hold off until she was older.

  10. I think we read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings three time through as bed time stories.For some reason they didn’t find school reading very interesting.

    When I realized how poor their reading skills were, the six grader got handed LMB’s The Warrior’s Apprentice. The pugnaciously resisting fourth grader was warned “It’s got a lot of bad words in it that I’d better not hear you repeat!” as I handed him Rats, Bats, and Vats. His eyes lit up . . . Psychology never hurts . . .

    They still read SF and Fantasy. (OMG! The eldest turns 39 later this week! How time flies!)

    1. My mother had a story from when she was in grade school. They were going to be doing Chaucer, and the teacher said she would read any one of the tales to the class.

      Someone asked for the Miller’s Tale.

      Any one tale, except that one…

  11. Aside from beloved at the time DC and Marvel comics (rarely superheroes, mostly horror, Conan, ghost, and war stories) I recall the Hardy Boys, the Ace Conans, and the beloved Prydain Chronicles as the main books of my childhood. Unfortunately my high school years got sorta dominated by well-meaning teachers who kept foisting ‘socially relevant SF’ off on me, which killed my joy in it for years afterwards.

  12. My mother was always reading. I actually can’t remember learning to read. I was able to read the Dick and Jane books that my Kindergarden class used to start teaching us. I was always several grade levels above the rest of the class.
    My mother liked Westerns, Mysteries, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Romance (not necessarily in that preference order), so I had a lot to choose from. My daughter isn’t as much of a reader, but her eldest son likes to read, and I always gave him books for his birthday and Christmas gifts. When he graduated from High School, I bought him a Kindle with a KU subscription included. My older son had problems with dyslexia, but he would work at it and read things that interested him. My younger son likes the same types of stories I do. He’s not really a fan of reading on-screen, so I get physical copies for him. He loves the MHI stories.

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