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.