Thoughts on Banned Book Week
This is Banned Books Week. With that in mind, I thought that I would give a few thoughts about banning books. Particularly Science Fiction and Fantasy but also a few other genres. To be clear, I utter loathe the concept of banning books. What right do you, whoever “you” are, have to tell me what I can or cannot read. I recognize that you yourself do not like the book. You find it offensive or objectionable. You think it horrific or disgusting. But I and many more people don’t feel that way. How dare you, you psuedo-jackboot, tell me what I can enjoy.
Admittedly, most of the books that the failed masters of banning try to work their bad magic on are for children or young adults. They don’t want their own children to read it, and by extension, they want to prevent everyone’s kids from reading it. It infuriates me to no end. Yeah, I don’t like some books, but they should never be banned.
J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye comes to mind as a pretty good non- SF book to begin with. For an audience reading the novel when first published, I can see how it would be controversial and a little offensive. American literature had never seen a protagonist like Holden Caufield. But that was what, almost sixty years ago now? And you are still trying to ban it? Come on. I have never read it, but To Kill a Mockingbird also comes to mind. Are you joking? Do you know how to read? There is an important message about the racism depicted in the book. Figure it out. And then there is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Yes it is incredibly racist, but that is a product of its time. Indeed, Huck comes to the realization that he is willing to go to hell to insure that Jim remains free. And, some of the racism actually comes from outside the novel.
Moving on to SF, I was on Suduvu (or Suvudu) this morning and reading some of their postings on banned fantasy books (so far only The Golden Compass and The Amulet of Samarkand– both of which I really want to read now). In one of the comments, the thought was posited that usually contemporary fantasy with a YA audience is the primary target. Why?
Well, because it takes place in our world. And the occult is depicted. Oh shit, the kids will be learning witchcraft!! Wait, what type of witchcraft? I doubt even the true believers know. This would cover Harry Potter and The Barteimius Trilogy but not His Dark Materials. With Pullman’s work, I think that the issue is that it is the great atheist fantasy (or the Great Atheist Fantasy). Pullman has a dim view of religion, and he has a point. Excluding religions like Olympians, Norse, Egyptian, etc. and focusing on revealed religions, there is a remarkable point. The founders, the spiritual teachers may not have been scoundrels or frauds. But their followers, those who come after, often are. This can be seen throughout the history of the Catholic Church. The Reformation began because of Church corruption. Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope, was incredibly corrupt, as were those who preceded him and succeeded him. That is the struggle of religion. And often humans fail to live up to expectations.
To put it simply. I fundamentally loathe banning books. And on this week, when we remember the joke that is banning books, we should fight this piece of intolerant, authoritarian stupidity.