ConFusion 2015, Panel 3: Books You Read as a Kid that Screwed You Up for Years

This was a fun panel, and at times a little disturbing. It was mostly the panelists and audience throwing titles back and forth and cringing appropriately. The titles included Flowers in the Attic, a number of Piers Anthony books, Stephen King, Ayn Rand, Anne Rice, and the Twilight novels, among many others.

The reasons for “messed up” ranged from nightmares, to skewed views of sexuality, to upended views of parent-child relationships, to unrealistic expectations about reality itself. Piers Anthony and Stephen King were mentioned about as much as everyone else put together. Straight-up horror novels weren’t mentioned nearly as often as fantasy and non-genre novels; maybe because the horror novels tend to be more straightforward.

It was also interesting to track which novels affected people of different generations. Piers Anthony for older readers. The Twilight novels for younger readers. Stephen King and Anne Rice for everybody. And didn’t it just make me feel old to hear adults talking about how the Twilight novels messed them up “as kids”.

So here is my list of books which messed me up, and why:

* Anthonology, by Piers Anthony. This one had some of the weirdest, most disturbing stories I have ever read. “In the Barn”. “Up Schist Creek”. “On the Uses of Torture”, etc. For a bored farm kid at the trailing edge of puberty, this was perhaps not a wise decision.

* Alien novelization by Alan Dean Foster. Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have read this when I was twelve. I didn’t see the movie until I was in college, so my imagination ran rampant. Nightmares and sleep deprivation followed for a long, long time.

* Jaws by Peter Benchley. See the entry for Alien. I was probably eleven. We had a pool. I had an aunt who lived on a lake. Needless to say, I was conflicted.

* The Shining by Stephen King. Read it when I was, oh, thirteen or so. Every other Stephen King book or short story I read before college can go in this entry, too. The lady-in-the-bathtub scene was so much worse in the book.

* The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. This is an odd one. It wasn’t the books themselves that knocked me off-kilter, so much as the character of Raistlin. There are some personalities that teenagers shouldn’t use as role models.

I’m sure there are many others that a talented psychologist could uncover.

Feel free to add your own in the comments.

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