It’s Banned Books Week (last week of September every year), an assertion of our freedom to read whatever we damn well please, led by the American Library Association for the last 27 years. Way to go, ALA, I’ll drink to that!
Let’s take a look at some of the science fiction and fantasy that has been challenged or banned by the small-minded censorship-loving prudes in the past, and their reasons for wanting it suppressed. I include fantasy just because so many demented dimwits out there criticize it for promoting “witchcraft” or “sorcery” (as if such things really existed), and that kind of irrational, muddle-headed nonsense annoys me to no end. (Much of this information comes from the ALA site, a great resource for learning about banned books).
1984 by George Orwell
Why: “pro-communist, explicit sexual matter.”
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Why: “promiscuous sex, language, moral content, negative activity, contempt for religion,” etc.
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
Why: the Christ Community Church in Alamagordo, New Mexico had themselves a barbecue and threw LOTR on the fire because it’s “satanic.” Ok, everyone together…. ready…. start laughing…. NOW!
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Why: “objectionable language.”
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Why: contains the phrase “God damn”
Wait…. someone wanted to ban a book which is ABOUT the ultimate banning of books? Is it possible for a human being to so completely lack any inkling of the concept of irony!?
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Why: witchcraft, satanism, the usual crap…. blah blah blah.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Why: contains witches and crystal balls, challenges religious beliefs (and we just can’t have that now, can we?).
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Why: sex, language, etc.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
Why: critical of religion.
Cujo, Carrie, and The Dead Zone by Stephen King
Why: sex, violence.
So go on, open one of these books and enjoy it, and be free from the petty tyrants who want to control what you read because (a) they’re so uptight about sex and “bad” words, (b) they can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality, (c) they think their religious beliefs should be insulated from even the slightest criticism, whether real or imagined, or (d) some combination of the above.
Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.
~Alfred Whitney Griswold, New York Times, 24 February 1959
Every burned book enlightens the world.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson