Giving Kids Their Future: Why We Need Science Fiction For Kids

I’m going to kick this post off with a quote from Ursula Le Guin’s speech at the National Book Awards.

Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.

Hard times are coming.  Some would say hard times are here.  The media tends to promote the idea.  The future looks big and scary with a lot of doomsayers in our midst.  And kids get an earful of it. . . and an eyeful.  The media gives them great heaping gulps of the awfulness going on . . . and the awfulness we might be headed into.

It’s not a complete surprise that the current publication trend in Science Fiction tends to be dystopian in nature.  Dark futures full of trouble and oppression tend to seem probable in our current climate–imagining a future that is dark isn’t a challenge.

But . . . is this the future world we want to sell our younger generations?  I remember being a kid in the 1980s, when Sally Ride being the first woman astronaut in space was a thrill for me.  When the possibility of space travel and moon bases seemed just around the corner.  When I would open a book and dream of rocket ships or artificial intelligence, or imagine what technologies we’d invent in the years to come.

I’m not saying dystopian visions aren’t important, but they aren’t the only visions–and maybe they shouldn’t be the primary ones.  Do we want our youth to believe mankind is in a hopeless collision with a dark future?  That anything they strive for or fight for is futile?

In my opinion, we need to open doors for kids instead.  Give them the future as their inheritance–one that they can feel hopeful about inheriting.   Let them see humankind figuring out answers to problems.  Give them the conviction that the world doesn’t have to be the way it is now,  that they can alter the future, go in new directions.  Redefine the way things are done.

That means giving them science fiction stories to read.  Not just for the teens, and not just dystopias, but for middle grade readers, even picture book readers.  Give them stories of invention, of space adventure, of explorations,  of new technologies and their consequences.  Give them aliens, interstellar battles, new worlds.   Teach them they can think new things, discover new possibilities, explore new places.  As Ray Bradbury said:

Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.

 

The future isn’t a dead end, and despite our fears and worries, we shouldn’t make it into one for our children.  Let them raise their heads, and see the stars and dream . . . because those dreams will be part of our own future.

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on January 3, 2015, in General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I remember reading a lot of kid’s space adventure stories when i was a kid – child protagonist builds a ship to go to the moon, or is a stowaway on a space shuttle, or meets aliens, or creates a robot, or something like that. these were positive, optimistic, happy ending stories, no dystopia to speak of. I miss stuff like that.

    • I read a bunch of both. But the dystopian settings were often escapable and unsustainable in the old stories. Monica Hughes “Devil on My Back” shows the revolution in the domed city against the computers, and the eventual downfall of the oppressive regime is finished in “The Dream Catcher”.

  2. Great post, Stephanie! I grew up reading many of the Golden Age SF writers, and watching Star Trek the Original Series, and those visions of the future definitely influenced my worldview. I’d love to see more hopeful SF for kids inspiring dreams of the future.

  3. Reblogged this on Wyrdwend.

  4. Love it. And I agree, Science Fiction is a fun place for a kid or adult to hang out.

  5. Charles Lominec

    Excellent points. While we need to be aware of the lessons of dystopian stories, we shouldn’t let them become self-fulfilling prophecies.

  6. Excellent, wonderful post. Thank you!

  7. Stephanie–awesome article. You know where I stand on this. The future doesn’t have to be a bad one.

  1. Pingback: This is Why We Need More Children’s Science Fiction | Views From the Tesseract

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