Am I the only “mean mommy” who does this?

I regularly force my children to watch movies. That sounds horrifying when I say it out loud, but if you ask them, that’s what they’ll tell you. However, the conversation usually goes something like this. I’ll use my most recent offense as an example:

Me: Charlie(12yo), come watch this movie with me, I think it’s something you’re old enough to appreciate now.

Charlie: *lots of eye rolling and heavy sighs* What is it this time?

Me: Donnie Darko. It’s weird, and creepy, and all the things that you like.

Charlie: Whatever…If I don’t like it in 15 minutes, I’m leaving.

***Two hours and 13 minutes later***

Charlie: Hey, look at this cool Frank wallpaper I found for my phone. Best. Movie. Ever.

I guess my question is, why do they continue to doubt me? I know my kids, I know which of my quirks they inherited, and which ones they didn’t. Why can’t they see me as the cool mom that I am, instead of making me prove it to them over and over again?  #NerdParentProblems



“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut


“Harrison Bergeron” is Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical story about what the world would look like if everyone were truly equal.

Melissa: This was probably the first sci-fi short story I ever read. It was an assignment in my 9th grade English class. I don’t remember much of what I read in high school, but this story stuck with me. The idea of the handicapping system horrified me, and as a 14 year-old kid, I identified with Harrison – I wanted to fight the oppressive system and fly, even if it was just for a moment. Reading this story today, I find myself in the shoes of Hazel. I want my children to fight for what they believe in, but at the same time, I’m terrified of the consequences if they do. I also find myself reflecting on Vonnegut’s view of egalitarianism. I realize the story is satire, but I think some of his point may have been lost because he took the idea of equality so far. He makes the idea of equality so absurd, that it’s hard to take the warning seriously.

Joe: I imagine this story taking place in washed-out gray tones. It seems a very bleak sort of future in which, in the name of “competitive balance,” people are unable to live to their fullest potential. I thought that Vonnegut did an interesting job building this dystopic scene with concepts like the Handicapper General and the various ways people were handicapped to ensure “equality.” I can appreciate Vonnegut’s point of view in pointing out the danger of chasing the egalitarian ideal.

Brooke: I think the idea of everyone being equal was a good idea to use for a sci-fi story. It was a good use of satire. Overall, I really love this story. I like Vonnegut’s descriptions. It makes me feel afraid of a future where this could happen, but even though anything is possible, I don’t think this kind of future could happen.

Charlie: It’s…okay…I liked the descriptions and the storytelling. If you asked me if I think it would happen, you know, fifty years ago if you told someone they would be surfing the internet on their phones, they would’ve said it couldn’t happen. So could this story happen? I say yes. I liked the idea, it’s a really good idea. I think I relate to Hazel, because I could be thinking about something really deeply and then 5 seconds later, forget about it. (mom’s note: this is SO true) And none for Gretchen Weiners, goodbye. (I told you we’re fluent in movie quotes in this house)

Family Consensus: 7.5

“The Troll Bridge” by Neil Gaiman


This story is an homage to all the fairy tale trolls out there. It’s the story of Jack, who meets a troll under a bridge when he is very young, and convinces him not to eat his life, because he hasn’t lived yet.

Melissa: When I was young, I had an uncut copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales that I loved. They were so honest, unlike the sanitized books commonly found in children’s libraries. Gaiman’s story, loosely based on “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” had the same feel as those stories that I still love today. The ending drives home what it really means to live your life, as opposed to what you thought it would mean when you were young and full of dreams.

Joe: I thought the story was just OK. I didn’t get pulled in or care much about the main character, so I didn’t really care about what happened between him and the troll. I thought the story was well written and constructed nicely, I just didn’t connect.

Brooke: I liked it. It was a cool story. Gaiman’s description of a troll is almost exactly how I would imagine a troll. The ways in which Jack tried to trick the troll was a throwback to the Grimm Fairy Tales. I didn’t expect the ending, but I did really like it.

Charlie: Weird as hell. (It should be noted, that, aside from the Stardust and Coraline movies, this is Charlie’s first exposure to Gaiman. It should also be noted that Charlie just said “Wait, Stardust was Gaiman??”) The ending surprised me, I didn’t see it coming, and it took a minute to realize what had happened. I’m a big fan of the show Grimm, and I could see this story taking place in that universe. I felt like this story honored The Brothers Grimm. I also appreciated that Gaiman wasn’t afraid to give graphic descriptions.

Family Consensus: 6/10 This seemed to be a love it or hate it story.

“I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison


“I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” first published in the March 1967 issue of IF: Worlds of Science Fiction, is the story of Artificial Intelligence exacting its revenge on the humans who created it (well, the five humans left in existence, anyway).

My two youngest boys didn’t read this story.

Melissa: I’m not sure I had ever heard of Harlan Ellison before I saw a synopsis of this story on a top ten list. “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” is easily one of the creepiest AI takeover stories I have ever read. People are capable of great evil, but imagine how much physical and psychological torture can be inflicted at the, er, circuits? of an artificial overlord with no conscience. This story made me an Ellison convert. I will be reading much more of his work in the future.

Joe: I enjoyed the feeling of helplessness that Ellison was able to convey – from both sides. I appreciate the way it ended, though I would have understood if the final conflict between the humans and AM had ended differently. This story is everything I would expect out of post-apocalyptic science fiction. I would definitely recommend, as it is certainly not formulaic, and carries an interesting presentation of recurring themes of the genre.

Brooke: My overall opinion is that this is a very well-written short story. I would recommend it to people who enjoy post-apocalyptic sci-fi. I thought the character of AM had a personality and cold logic that appealed to me as a reader. The ending was one of the best I have seen in any short story.

Family consensus: 8.25/10

A Little Bit About Us

Melissa – That’s me! I am a mother of four, one of whom is pregnant with my first grandchild. I am also a student. I spend my time doing my homework, helping the kids with their homework, and driving them to various activities. When I get some time to myself (which is not often), I like to escape. One of my favorite forms of escape is the fantasy realm of stories. I’m not picky, I read all types of books, but my favorite short stories lean toward the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genres.

Some of  My Favorites (Writers and T.V. Shows)

  • Ray Bradbury
  • Doctor Who
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • The I.T. Crowd
  • Arrested Development
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • H.P. Lovecraft
  • Neil Gaiman

Joe is my other half. He is a 40 year old white man who was born a poor black child…(that sounds familiar…) He collected comics before comics were cool, and now it’s paying dividends. One day, he hopes to grow up to be a real boy!

Some of Joe’s Favorite

  • Stephen King
  • Robert Heinlein
  • Philip K. Dick
  • Ayn Rand
  • Orson Scott Card
  • Firefly
  • Smallville
  • Battlestar Galactica (BOTH versions)

Brooke (15)  is a freshman in high school. She hates Algebra, but loves to sing. She’s easily my most awesome child. (She told me to say that.) She regularly professes her love for anime characters. I’m pretty sure if she could live in an anime, she would leave me in a heartbeat, especially since, she tells me, mothers die in anime.

Some of Brooke’s Favorites

  • The I.T. Crowd
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • H.P. Lovecraft
  • Harlan Ellison
  • Doctor Who
  • Sherlock

Charlie (12) is deep in the throes of puberty. He enjoys making snarky remarks, rolling his eyes, and long walks on the beach. Charlie was born in the wrong decade, and is obsessed with television from the era of cheesy special effects and canned laughter. (I’m not joking, this kid dressed as The Greatest American Hero for Halloween)

Some of Charlie’s Favorites

  • Star Trek
  • Doctor Who
  • Ernest Cline
  • Grimm

Jonas (10) is an elementary school student who is years ahead of his classmates in geekery. He likes to play video games (especially Sonic the Hedgehog), and read books about, you guessed it, video games. When he finds something he loves, he obsesses over it until his passion burns out in an instant. Right now, that obsession is Supernatural.

Some of Jonas’s Favorites

  • Supernatural
  • Doctor Who
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Super Mario Brothers
  • Sonic the Hedgehog