by Stephen H. Segal & Valya Dudycz Lupescu
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Although many view science fiction and fantasy as sheer escapism, they offer much more, often viewing our culture through the introduction of technology and addressing social and political issues. Stephen H. Segal and Valya Dudycz Lupescu looked at science fiction and fantasy in books, on film, and television, and saw that familial relationships abound, often in unexpected places. More importantly, these relationships offer good advice which can be adopted by parents attempting to raise their own kids, and they present these lessons in Geek Parenting.
Each entry, one hesitates to call them chapters, in Geek Parenting covers one or two pages. The authors open with an explanation of what the geeks in question can teach, such as “Morticia, Gomez, Wednesday, and Pugsley Addams teach us: if they’re creepy and they’re kooky, then you’re the one who’s lucky.” These short, pithy, headings give a clue about the content that is to follow, but often the authors veer off in an unexpected direction to present their parenting lesson. The authors also seem to restrict themselves to one lesson per family, so the Addams family teaches that one can be happy without fitting into societal norms, but it could just have easily taught that parents can be in a loving, functional (even sensual) relationship.
Not all of the lessons are positive. The manner in which Obi-Wan Kenobi raised Anakin Skywalker is shown as a cautionary lesson. Kenobi consistently teaches Anakin what he shouldn’t do, very rarely giving the young Padawan any positive reinforcement, almost as if his entire purpose was the drive Skywalker into the arms of a more attentive and aware mentor, no matter who transparently evil. Similarly, parents who appear evil, like the Other Mother in Coraline can teach positive lessons about the expectations kids could/should have.
Segal and Lupescu manage to pull a wide range of parenting lessons from an equally broad range of science fiction references, casting their net so wide that even dedicated science fiction fans may find themselves having to look up the sources for some of the object lessons the pair use. This fact demonstrates how thorough Segal and Lupescu have been in trying to find examples that will support the parenting tips that want to promote, from allowing children to read “dangerous books” to teaching kids that things won’t always go their way. Some of the lessons seem redundant, particularly about allowing kids to figure out who they are, but each lesson, and the cultural reference which suggests it, adds a different dimension to the primary lesson.
Geek Parenting notonly gives solid advice on parenting, but it also shows how far geek culture has come from a time when people like Segal or Lupescu would have hidden their enjoyment of science fiction and fantasy, or had people look at them askew, and now when science fiction and fantasy have taken over pop culture, becoming as acceptable as sports or music fandom. While the book might not replace the standard parenting books, it does present helpful advice in an entertaining manner which may very well introduce the parents to new works of literature and film.
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