Sometime this spring, my seven-year-old son became an ardent Star Wars fan. He's watched all six movies and moved on to the cartoons The Yoda Chronicles and The Clone Wars. He collects Lego Star Wars sets and has a Chewbacca lunch box and a R2-D2 backpack. We spent a lot of time this summer reading Star Wars books (which is great because they have a good collection of books at his reading level.) Think now like Yoda I do. Move like him, I do not.
As a parent, I feel it's part of my job to let him explore his interests as fully as possible. That said, I know his interests can change. In the past, he's been into trains, Ancient Egypt, dinosaurs, the Wild West, and even gun history. He still likes most of those subjects, but not as passionately as he used to. It's natural for his interests to change as he gets older. However, science fiction and fantasy require a certain sense of wonder and an open mind, a sense of playfulness and creativity, that functions better in children and young people than in older ones. (Obviously one can be older and still enjoy science fiction and fantasy, but it takes more work the older and more world-weary one becomes.) Will his interest in Star Wars last until the release of Episode VII next year? How about when he's seventeen, twenty-seven, or forty-seven? Science fiction and fantasy are important genres in movies, TV, games, and comics. Will this love for the genre spill over into books as well?
Childhood is the time to make SF/fantasy fans; how do we assure they stay that way as they grow up? Acceptance by their peers will probably play an important role. I think being able to find people online who share your interests may help you hold on them even when local friends may not get Star Wars or Doctor Who. Alex comes with me every year to WisCon, and if I start attending more local cons, I'm sure I'll bring him too, if only because I can't leave him at home. He will get to experience more of fandom than I did at his age. Hopefully he won't rebel against it later because his mom is crazy enough to belong.
Does anyone else have experiences with children growing up in fandom and keeping them in fandom? Please share your thoughts in the comments.