Firstborn (2008)


From Death Ray 11.

No, not the story of Gor the Gorilla-boy, but the impending arrival of Guy’s new kid. A few days ago, crucial question of fatherhood reared its ugly head to vex our already troubled cheeky tyke…

The recent news that my wife is expecting our first child heralded a whole new wave of worries in the Haleyhold. Not only do you find yourself fretting over a lot of unpleasant potential pregnancy problems and imminent financial meltdown, but you find your mind racing ahead, past the gestation, vaulting over the birth and scampering far into the future, like some kind of terrified chrono-hare. What if baby inherits the coarser looks of dad, rather than the finer features of mother? Is it going to be stupid? The fretting ranges on  – Which university should I start looking at? What job will young Haley do? Then it gets silly. It’s a conscious effort to wrench your mind back to the present, and that’s weird enough as it is. It’s almost like science fiction. Like, there’s a tiny person growing inside my wife! Help! I feel like Kevin McCarthy at the climax of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, shouting an unbelievable truth at an indifferent world.

At least I don’t need to dwell too much on how the new born is going to get out, unlike my wife.

A few days ago, a far more pertinent problem popped into my head: What SF am I going to show it first? This really is crucial. (Don’t think for a moment that, boy or girl, it’s not going to get an SF upbringing. There’s an awesome two foot high rocket, complete with moon rover and chewable space people, in the Early Learning Centre that has got my name, erm, I mean my child’s name, whatever that is going to be, on it). Like most kids, my very first exposure to the fantastical was through stories read to me by my parents, space toys and TV. As a preschool kid there was Thunderbirds, Space 1999, Star Trek, Bagpuss, The Clangers, Doctor Who, Chorlton and the Wheelies, Jamie and the Magic Torch, classic black and white RKO serials – a galaxy of SF and fantasy gems, opening the already wide eyes of 1970s tots to the pleasures and disappointments of the fundamentally unreal. But now, what awaits my offspring? A lot of badly drawn, shouty anime, by the looks of it, cut into meaningless, garish scraps by even shoutier adverts. And that purple frigging dinosaur.

If that were not a troublesome enough worry, I have had also to ask myself: which  Star Wars first? Tricky. Now it’s obvious Haley 1.1 will have to see these films, at least twelve times. It’s the law. But in what order? According to the narrative’s internal chronology, or classic trilogy first? Is it fair to make someone who doesn’t know who Darth Vader is miss out on learning the shocking truth of Luke Skywalker’s true parentage? Actually, is it fair to make someone new to the world sit through an animated tax dispute with some disinterested actors standing around in the foreground? Hmm. I think I have just made my mind up.

With kids too, there’s always the issue of the bizarre things that scare them. My brother Garth and I, for example, both loved the Muppets, but Sweetums and the other monsters freaked us out so much we used to hallucinate that they were standing outside our bedroom window. Screaming followed. You can’t legislate for these things, but Mrs. Haley’s collection of disturbing Scandinavian fairy tales is going on the top shelf, just in case.

Crumbs, I just thought, what if the kid likes Jar Jar? I think I’ll go back to worrying about the cost of childcare. It’s less upsetting.

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