Nice Kids As Tabula Rasa
Discussing the MacHale books has prompted thoughts about the nature of the children I've been reading about in all of these books. I've never been terribly strong on remembering characters in books at the best of times, but I can't help but notice that very, very few of the characters in these sf novels are in the slightest bit memorable.
I think this ties into the niceness issue--maybe what I've been describing as "nice" isn't nice, but merely a blankness, a depiction drawn to alienate as few children as possible, so that the author is not writing "for people like me" as an adult author might, but for "a market". This is a wild surmise you understand....
The funny thing is that today I saw a movie which got across the idea of the sf/scientific child far better than all but a handful of the books I've been reading.
On the flight from Boston to Ft. Lauderdale (business, not pleasure) I watched The Ice Princess. I swear I only watched it because it was such an obvious Noel Streatfield (White Boots) rip off, and had Michelle Trachtenberg in the title role.
I'll assume you don't know it (and ignore all the summaries you see: it isn't a comedy, Casey isn't a bookworm, a maths specialist, or an ousider, and she doesn't "decide to take on the skating world"). Essentially Casey is a geek: child of a hard working single mom, she is aiming to read Physics at Harvard and is still at the stage of assuming that being good at something means she loves it. In her spare time she skates on the pond at the back of the house. Then her physics teacher tells her she needs a science project in order to apply for a physics scholarship and it needs to be based on something she loves. A figure skating fan, she decides to go down to the ice-rink and study the physics of skating. After some argument about spying, she does. The story then follows a predictable trajectory... she gets hooked, starts skating, turns out to be very good and goes onto win Silver in the junior regionals (I was so pleased she didn't win, it made it a much better movie). In the process she gives up Harvard and finds new friends--both depicted more plausibly than is usual in this kind of movie.
But the reason I'm bringing it up here, is that Casey never stops being a scientists. She pays for her own skating lessons by applying her studies of their movements to her friends' figure skating skills. She films them, charts their movements, works out where greater pressure needs to be applied to give them greater lift. Her approach to skating, when she decides it will be her life, is completely different to the other girls around her. She remains what she always was: a scientist.
There is a neat article here. I don't know whether to be more impressed that Trachtenberg learned to skate from scratch or that they took the trouble to get the physics right.