On Juvenile Fiction

Follow-up To: On the Care and Feeding of Young Rationalists

Related on OB: Formative Youth

Eliezer suspects he may have chosen an altruistic life because of Thundercats.

Nominull thinks his path to truth-seeking might have been lit by Asimov’s Robot stories.

PhilGoetz suggests that Ender’s Game has warped the psyches of many intelligent people.

For good or ill, we seem to agree that fiction strongly influences the way we grow up, and the people we come to be.

So for those of us with the tremendous task of bringing new sentience into the world, it seems sensible to spend some time thinking about what fictions our charges will be exposed to.

The natural counter-part to this question is, of course, are there any particular fictions, or types of fiction, to which we should avoid exposing our children?

Again, this is a pattern we see more commonly in the religious community—and the rest of us tend to look on and laugh at the prudery on display. Still, the general idea doesn’t seem to be something we can reject out of hand. So far as we can tell, all (currently existing) minds are vulnerable to being hacked, young minds more than others. If we determine that a particular piece of fiction, or a particular kind of fiction, tends to reliably and destructively hack vulnerable minds, that seems a disproportionate consequence for pulling the wrong book off the shelf.

So, what books, what films, what stories would you say affected your childhood for the better? What stories do you wish you had encountered earlier? If there are any members of the Bardic Conspiracy present, what sorts of stories should we start telling? Finally, what stories (if any) should young minds not encounter until they have developed some additional robustness?

ETA: If there are particular stories which you think the (adult) members of the community would benefit from, please feel free to share these as well.

ETA2: My wildly optimistic best-case scenario for this post would be someone actually writing a rationalist children’s story in the comments thread.

ETA3: On second thought, this edit has become its own post.