Tag Archives: A Wrinkle in Time

Banned SF&F: let’s celebrate Banned Books Week 2008!

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
Why: sexuality.

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

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What was your introduction to sci-fi?

I certainly hope it was more elegant and, umm… cleaner than in this story Nancy Kress shares about one of her fans. Of course, if the young lady had to go through that to get some good science fiction, at least she was lucky enough to find such a superb novel. One could hardly do better than starting off with Beggars in Spain as one’s first sci-fi reading experience. Kress says she herself started with Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.

My memory is a bit shaky going that far back, but I think the first sci-fi book I ever read was Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. That would have been in grade school, I’m sure, because I have a clear memory of the book being in the grade school library. I just don’t recall what year it was, exactly. Most likely I was around 9 or 10 years old.

It’s possible I read some other juvenile-type sci-fi around that time that has completely escaped my memory. The next thing I remember is reading whatever fantasy was in the school library, which wasn’t that much: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and Quag Keep by Andre Norton. Those were around age 11-12.

I think I was 14 when I was looking through a box of old books my parents had picked up at a yard sale. In it I found a hardcover book missing its dust jacket, called A Time of Changes, by some fellow named Robert Silverberg whom I’d never heard of before. I didn’t even have any idea it was science fiction. Out of idle curiosity, I opened to the first page for a brief scan to see if there was anything interesting. And there was. I was drawn in by the fantastic narrative hook, and before I knew it I was finished reading what was to become one of my favorite novels ever. At age 15 I happened upon another “favorite novel ever” — Frank Herbert’s masterpiece Dune. By that time, I was thoroughly hooked and and my sci-fi readings became more frequent.

So there you have it, some of my foundational SF experiences. All in the usual manner, I might add…. nothing strange, no stickiness involved, nothing like that. Just me and some great books.

So what’s your story?