39 – Children in Fiction

Daystar and Alexander discuss children in fiction, including what makes them realistic and why reactions to them can vary so widely.

Co-hosted by Alexander Wales

With thanks to Tim Yarbrough for the Intro/Outro music, G.A.T.O Must Be Respected


Stranger Things

IT by Stephen King

Dark Wizard of Donkirk by Alexander Wales

Time Stamps

0:31 Advantages of child protagonists

4:43 “Children don’t act like that.”

16:00 Keeping smart/mature children children

20:37 Evergreen methods

26:40 Predictive Processing and “Wonder”

34:33 Pokemon: The Origin of Species


Hey everyone, this week I’m recommending IT, by Stephen King. While the movie that was recently released was a well made adaptation, it’s impossible for any single movie, or even pair of movies, to capture the world and characters of the book, which is about 450 thousands words long, almost half the length of the Harry Potter series. The reason I’m recommending it this week is because IT is like few other books in capturing the feeling of being children: the friendship, the fear, the tragedy, the lack of control, the imagination, all of it.

There’s also an evil shapeshifting clown monster, of course, an eldritch avatar of fear that is nearly as iconic as any horror monsters out there, but that’s not where I would say the heart and soul of the story is: for me that has always been the characters. The children in IT can at times be caricatures, but they’re caricatures in the ways that kids can be caricatures, still developing who they are as people by committing to one dimension at at time while you watch the other two grow. And seeing them all do this together, to fight an unspeakable evil that only they can face, is fantastically done.

As a rational work, IT is middle of the road: a lot of the monster’s true mechanics are left vague, and what “magic” there is in the story is the wild and unexamined kind. But there are great explanations for why it’s up to the kids to deal with this instead of getting adults involved, and the characters do their best to understand their mercurial enemy and strategize against it without the gifts of particularly high intelligence or rationalist techniques. Mistakes feel organic and understandable, and there’s little if any Idiot Ball holding.

Some content warnings: the book does include a lot of grotesquery, in the forms of gory deaths, including of children. There’s also a sex scene near the end that squiks a lot of people out for understandable reasons. Overall though, I think IT is one of Stephen King’s best works, and the first piece of fiction I think of when I think of writing realistic children. The second, incidentally, is also by Stephen King, a much shorter non-horror novella called The Body, which was adapted into the movie Stand By Me and can be found in the book Different Seasons.

Both can be found at Audible, and if you don’t already have an account, you can sign up for a trial and get a free book at http://www.audibletrial.com/rational

Thanks for listening!

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