From Tolkien to Star Blazers, there's a lot of geek culture from my childhood to pass on to my own kids.
My kids are old enough that I can start to share with them all the geeky books, movies and other cultural artifacts that I loved as a child. Sometimes my kids find just as much delight as I did—and sometimes not. Here’s a few of the things I’ve foisted on my two boys.
The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings
Tolkien was one of my favorite authors when I was growing up, and I couldn’t wait to read these books to my own children.
The Hobbit was a no-brainer, but I may have started them on the Lord of the Rings trilogy a little sooner than they were ready for. Tolkien can write pages about hills, dales and valleys, and a seven-year-old whose entire bedtime story was taken up by the geography of Lothlorien feels cheated. However, I wanted them to see Middle Earth and all its folk with their own imaginations before Peter Jackson got to them and ruined everything.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
I discovered Douglas Adams around age ten or eleven, and the combination of science fiction and humor blew my mind. While some of his satire goes over my kids’ heads, there’s enough delightful silliness to enchant them in the same way Adams enchanted me.
It’s also interesting to read the books today because the idea of an electronic, portable, searchable repository of information—which was pure sci-fi speculation when published—is now as common as air to my children.
Sing it with me: “We’re off, to outer space. We’re leaving Mother Earth. To save the human race! Our Star Blazers!” This Japanese import ran five days a week after school, and it was my favorite half hour of the day. What could be cooler than a flying space battleship with a hot-headed hot-shot pilot, space marines, and a wave-motion gun? Nothing. Absolutely nothing could be cooler.
When, as an adult, I discovered Netflix had Star Blazers on disk, I bumped all my wife’s selections and put the entire series at the top of the queue. When the first disk arrived, I plopped my kids on the couch and instructed them to prepare for full awesomeness.
However, the show didn’t resonate with them like it had me. One reason is how slow it moves. In my memory, Star Blazers blazed with space battles, sneering Gamilons, torrents of laser beams and epic explosions. In reality, there’s a lot of dialogue, and most of it is terrible.
Besides the pace, my kids immediately noticed that the quality of the animation didn’t quite meet Pixar standards. The boys politely watched a couple of episodes with me, and then slipped away to play with the dog. We never even made it through the first disc, and now the rest of series floats somewhere in the fathomless depths of the queue. Oh well.
I haven’t mentioned Star Wars and Star Trek because, really, do I need to? But I’d love to hear about shows, books or toys that you’re passing on to your own children. What resonates? Has anything fallen flat? Is there anything you’re saving until they’re the right age?
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