Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Winter 2008

 

To Build a Fan

Christopher Garcia and Evelyn Aurora Nelson

I've got a slightly strange life. While I broke up with Genevieve in 2006, I've never stopped watching her now 8 year old daughter Evelyn. You see, when I lived with Evelyn, she and I bonded in a way that only kids and bigger kids-at-heart can. I taught her about movies, about computers and how to count card (by 7 she was into a four deck shoe!), and she taught me that dolls get arranged by size, that invisible tea is always drank with lots of sugar and that children should only watch Food Network if there's an adult around to explain why people eat things like snails. When we broke up, I pretty much insisted that I got to see Evelyn, and that meant picking her up from school and taking her to Cheerleading and making her dinner and watching her during the Saturdays when she's not at her Dad's and her Mom has to work. It just makes me happy to be around her, so I've got that going for me.

And I love science fiction. Most folks know that, I'm assuming, and I'm always trying to introduce new people to new things. Evelyn has never read science fiction, so it just seemed right. I figured setting up the steps over a number of years would be the best idea.

Phase one started right around the time her Mom and I started dating. It was 2003 and the Boston Red Sox hadn't won a World Series since before Harding was in the White House. Evelyn's Mom had just unpacked her old video tapes and I found the original version of the Holy Trilogy: Star Wars. I actually asked her Mom if I could show them to her. Gen enthusiastically said yes since they were films she had loved so dearly as a kid. We sat down and watched all of them. She then insisted that we watch them again. This was not a problem as it had been ages since I'd seen them. Her favourite part was Leia in the Gold Bikini on Jabba's barge. That made me smile. It was my favourite part too. She enjoyed it and I believe she saw it about 20 times over that first month and I'm betting she still watches it at least once a month.

So far, so good. A fan is coming soon!

Next, I had to get her into the sound of science fiction. She likes to listen to taped stories as she's getting to sleep. Now, I could have tried to get some of the classic SF that's on tape, but there's very little that I figured would keep her attention. There was a radio show compilation that had some old science fiction, though they also had various pieces of music and commercials and such mixed in. I figured she'd love the story about the team that was circling Mars looking for a lost ship. After about a month, I started asking her about the story on the tape and she had no idea what I was talking about. I did hear her humming Begin the Beguine, which turns out was the song that opened the tape. Go figure.

Fan Creation: reply hazy, ask again later.

As she got a little older, I started regularly reading to her and having her read along. The kids SF books out there are good, though seldom did Evelyn seem to like them. The Magic School Bus was her favorite, but that's Fantasy! No way I'd be having my (completely non-biologically related) little girl reading fantasy! I tried to introduce a series of robot books to her, but they didn't take. She did see the Matrix over at her Dad's house, but she came away from it just talking about the costumes and how she wanted to make them when she grew up. Perhaps I've told her too much about how movies are made. The day she comes home and says that she wants points on the gross of Christmas movies will make me very concerned...and proud. I brought home the Harry Potter books and tried to read one to her, but she'd have none of it. I tried Lemony Snickett (written by the devilish Danny Handler, a guy I knew from readings we'd do back in the 1990s) and even with the SteamPunk elements she wasn't biting. We dressed her up as a Clockwork witch one year and she loved it, but she wasn't biting. I considered reading her some Tim Powers, but I came to my senses.

Mission is waffling.

Evelyn turned 7 and I decided it was time to get serious. Must read SF to her! Must convert her. We started with her birthday present. A series of SF books. Heinlein, Asimov, Piper, a few others. She dug Little Fuzzy...or so she said. I'm still not sure she really read it. She was playing with one of my Dozois Year's Best compilations and she tore out a few pages to make paper cranes, a talent she learned in school. Looking over what she tore out, I think she put them to better use than leaving them in there.

Signs of failure increasing.

I bring out the big guns. I start by finding a few choice short stories. She likes Phil Farmer and Theo Sturgeon stuff, though choices must be made very deliberately. I figured the film front was a strong way to do it. Now, she had become interested in AMC's movies, especially the ones like Fletch and The Godfather. I know, kids of that age shouldn't be watching The Godfather, but she loves it. She once came up to me and said that if I didn't let her stay up late, she'd call Luca Brazi. I was pleased again. I figured smarter SF was in order so I bought a few films she might like. Men in Black was one of the first. She tried, she really did. She didn't like it. She liked a few of the special effects, but mostly she seemed bored. I bought GalaxyQuest, which worked at times. She loved the aliens and she kept quoting Alan Rickman. He's also her favorite in the Harry Potter movies. She was equally impressed with his performance in Bob Roberts, but she only watched a little of it. Like I said she's a strange little girl.

Signs of improvement.

The big test came right around the time she turned 8. I knew it was time to bring her closer, so I gave her a bunch of my old paperbacks. Her mother didn't like it, but she loved them. At first, she simply redrew the covers for herself. She did pretty well, and since she wasn't actually drawing on the books themselves, this was a plus. She did a good job copying Freas' Laser Book covers, of which she now owns about 15. I started reading time, the usually empty space between arriving home and eating dinner. I bought more books, mostly easy chapter books, to try and entice her into SF. She again would have nothing of it. At one point she looked at me and said "I didn't need to hear the end. You can keep reading though." This was troubling. I started in on other books: The Great Time Machine Hoax didn't even last two pages. Mists of Avalon did slightly better. Perdido Street Station was next. What the hell was I thinking.

The final straw came when the new Bond movie hit DVD. As is true of every time a new Bond film comes out, every Turner cable network starts showing Bond films around the clock. I was in the kitchen and I heard Evelyn jumping up and down. I finished up the meal and went in to look at her.

"What are you watching?" I asked.

"There's this guy and he'd got a hat with can cut stuff and they painted this lady gold and there was a golf game!" she shouted.

I looked to the screen and there was Goldfinger, staring back at me.

"He's almost as good as Austin Powers!" Evelyn exclaimed.

I shuddered.

So, it's still not deeply ingrained yet, but I can say that she enjoys Spy Movies. She's now watched 10 of the Bond films, mostly Connery, a couple of Moores and two Daltons, and she's even trying to read Casino Royale. No, I'm not kidding. She struggles and doesn't get everything, but she reads it when she can. I gave her a copy of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang and told her it was by the same guy who wrote Bond. She enjoyed it a lot and then I showed her the movie. She loved it.

"It's almost as good as Xanadu!" she said, referencing her Mother's favourite film.

I've only got so much time to undo what her mother does.

 

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