Don't Ask The Wall Street Journal How To Wean Your Kids Off Reading Science FictionS

Somebody wrote to the Wall Street Journal's book advice column to ask how you go about convincing your 13-year-old nephew to stop reading science fiction. Thank goodness the WSJ's in-house book nerd was smart enough to say: You don't.

Be glad that when you were a teenager, you didn't have an aunt like the person who wrote to the Journal's "Book Lover" column to ask this question:

My 13-year-old nephew is a voracious reader, but he tends to limit his reading to science fiction. He recently read "Brave New World," because he thought it was sci-fi. Any suggestions on how to expand his horizons to include other genres?

Anyone with half a lick of sense will know that a 13-year-old who's voluntarily reading Huxley is doing just fine and does not require an intervention. But the WSJ's book columnist, Cynthia Crossen, is a nicer person than I am, since she refrains from telling the aunt what an idiot she was being.

Instead, Crossen gives auntie a smart (if slightly muddled) lecture on the wrongness of misplaced snobbery, and admits that not all SF is equally great. Then she recommends that instead of stopping the allegedly trash-loving nephew from reading SF, the aunt should steer him towards the good stuff:

So Aunt B.'s mission is to gradually nudge the boy along the spectrum from Godzilla and 50-foot women to H. G. Wells, Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein and Douglas Adams.

Then he'll be ready for some great contemporary science-fiction writers: William Gibson, China Miéville, Neal Stephenson, Connie Willis, David Mitchell, Kazuo Ishiguro and Richard Powers.

Remembering an early encounter with science fiction, George Orwell wrote: "Back in the 1900s, it was a wonderful experience for a boy to discover H.G. Wells. There you were, in a world of pedants, clergymen and golfers…and here was this wonderful man who could tell you about the inhabitants of the sea, and who knew that the future was not going to be what respectable people imagined." That's a gift indeed.