Science fiction and fantasy mothers are awesome. Not only can raise they kids in magical worlds, robot apocalypses, and seedy space stations, but women like Sarah Connor, Molly Weasley, ElastiGirl, and Keiko O’Brien all do it with some class.
But real life moms are even better, because they often put those magical worlds and seedy space stations into our brains to begin with. For Mother’s Day, we’re reminiscing about times we were just podlings and the ways our moms shaped our geeky tendencies.
I really wouldn’t be doing the job I’m doing, or be working with the things I love if it weren’t for my mom, Rebecca Britt. For one thing, my mom would try to put books in my hands over toys, and most of those books were very geeky. I’ve already written about how she read my sister and I A Wrinkle in Time when I was very young. There are so many geeky moments my mom participated in and/or encouraged. She took me to a couple Star Trek conventions. She made me an awesome Spock costume when I was in 3rd grade. She encouraged me to sing “Ghostbusters” in the school talent show. She fed me a steady diet of dinosaur books. But, I’ll really never forget the night she let my sister and I stay up late and watch the Star Trek: The Next Generation season finale in which Captain Picard is turned into a Borg. Oh no! And because we were so upset, she then let us watch Back to the Future II, which had just come out on video and we’d never seen. Best night ever.
(P.S. Regular readers will notice my mom popping up in the comments on Tor.com from time to time. Her handle is “Your Mom.” True story.)
When I was four, I was Tinkerbell for Hallowe’en. I decided that the only way to play this character properly was to speak like a fairy.... in funny tinkly bell sounds. My mother seemed to understand that this was a perfectly logical course of action.
When I was five, I watched The Wizard of Oz so many times, the tape started to get fuzzy at the edges. I needed a pair of ruby red slippers. I got them for Christmas, and a new pair each year as my feet got bigger because my mom knew that having props to play was better than an action figure any day of the week.
When I was six, I got a real kimono from my grandmother after she visited Japan. I wanted to wear it to school. My mom dressed me up and brought me to class.
And maybe my mom was never a Star Wars fan or read Lord of the Rings, but when she told me that she spent her childhood with capguns and a cowboy hat — pretending to be Calamity Jane — I knew, unequivocally, that I was her daughter. Love you, mom.
I’m not sure my mom would define herself as “geeky”—I’d say instead that the most definitive aspect of her taste in books and entertainment is her open-mindedness. She’s constantly reading, and half the time the books are just random mystery novels she’s picked up at the library or used book store, anything she thinks might be interesting—sometimes she’s unimpressed, but more often than not, she finds a new author or series she likes, and adds them to her crazy list.
When my younger siblings and I were little, she’d read to us just as constantly, everything from fairy tales to Dr. Seuss to Greek myths, whatever we wanted, really…My mom’s always had an appreciation for the offbeat, and a vested interest in letting her kids develop their own tastes and personalities, even when they don’t overlap with her own. I can’t remember her ever reading much science fiction, for example, but the summer I was stuck at home with the worst case of poison ivy every unleashed on a dorky 11-year-old, she cleared out the Vonnegut shelf of our local library, thinking I might like his work (and of course, she was right).
Around the same time, she let me stay up to watch Twin Peaks (as long as I promised to skip shows like Beverly Hills, 90210, which premiered the same year—it’s important to have some standards, after all). So while all my classmates were talking about Dylan and Brenda and the prom, all I cared about was Who Killed Laura Palmer? and The Black Lodge, and I’ve never looked back. Over the years, my mom has been directly responsible for my love of Buffy, Harry Potter, and even A Song of Ice and Fire, but most importantly, she’s taught me that being open to all different genres, and different kinds of stories, is a far more rewarding path than clinging to a boring, predetermined notion of what you like, and don’t like.
She enjoys things (whether we’re talking books, movies, characters, series) simply because they’re interesting, well-written, funny, bizarre, different, goofy…I don’t know if that’s necessarily “geeky,” but it sure works for me. Love you, Mom :)
There has never been a time when my mother did not support my, or my two brothers’, interest in art, books, movies, and gaming — sf/f or otherwise. Being a single parent raising three kids, you’d think she’d be anxious to steer us towards more practical interests but, instead, let us indulge in anything that championed imagination and creativity. The other gift she gave us was never assuming anything was above our heads.
She took us to museums in such a matter-of-fact fashion that the Cloisters seemed as exciting as Star Wars, not a “learning oportunity.” And her willingness to take us to Men-at-Arms Hobbies each and every weekend to buy D&D miniatures made fantasy seem as worthy a pursuit as the countless trips to the planetarium she took us on.
As for specific geek cred, I don’t think she would self-identify as geeky and yet the evidence is damning. She took us to see Zardoz when I was practically a baby, absolutely adores Time Bandits, exposed us to Arthur C. Clarke stories, we recently rewatched Excalibur, and she currently has a dog named after a Kinuko Craft painting. She also reads Tor.com (and is quick to point out the stories she likes and doesn’t like.)
She opened the world to us far beyond our deep suburban surroundings and allowed us to believe anything was possible. Thank you, Mom! We love you.
Stubby the Rocket is the mascot of Tor.com and if you’ll excuse it it has to go call its mother the shipyard right now.