Sunday, September 29, 2013

Post mortem: Banned Books Week 2013.

From the organizers, as tweaked by Kriss Morton.

Yesterday was the final day of this year's Banned Books Week. In my usual timely manner, I'm late to the party. My justification for talking about it now is that, like most observances of this sort, we should be vigilant about the suppression of books, and the ideas in them, all year long.

And not only because I fully expect the Pipe Woman Chronicles will make the list one of these days, if I ever get famous enough.

Look at any list of banned books, in any given year, and you'll find entries from the sublime to the ridiculous.Take the 2012 list. I mean, okay, Fifty Shades of S&M makes sense. Right? But Toni Morrison's Beloved won a Pulitzer, for gods' sake, and Morrison herself won the Nobel for literature in 1992. And what's the deal with Captain Underpants, anyway? [A pause while I go googling...] Hmm, okay, I get it now. It's subversive -- the kids disobey authority. Never mind that our nation was founded by a bunch of guys who disobeyed authority.

But I digress.

Tor.com ran a series of blog posts about banned books this week, and one of them talked about Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. Like many sci-fi and fantasy novels that tackle religion, Pullman sets his series in what amounts to an alternate universe. The "evil overlords" are represented by Mrs. Coulter, but it's clear that what Pullman is really jabbing at is organized religion -- a point that was not lost on the Catholic League when "The Golden Compass," the movie version of the first book, was released in 2007. The group mounted a protest against the books, saying they were "written to promote atheism and denigrate Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism."

Pullman more or less copped to the charge in an interview with the Guardian after he won a major British literary prize, the Whitbread, in 2002. In it, he said:
The original impulses of the great religious geniuses -- with whom I include Jesus -- were, as often as not, something that all of us would benefit from studying and living by. The churches and priesthoods would benefit more than most, but they dare not.... [I]n my view, belief in God seems to be a very good excuse, on the part of those who claim to believe, for doing many wicked things that they wouldn't feel justified in doing without such a belief.
(That's not far too afield from where the Pipe Woman Chronicles end up. Alas, my series lacks Pullman's subtlety. But I digress again.)

The fight against book banning, and in favor of free speech, has been going on pretty much forever, and no one expects it to end any time soon. Whenever an author -- whether it be Dav Pilkey (who wrote the Captain Underpants books) or Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale) or Philip Pullman or Toni Morrison -- tweaks the nose of someone in authority, authority is going to try to silence that author. That's why the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the first amendment: to protect those who dare to speak truth to power.

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Thanks to those of you who took advantage of the free days this week and downloaded the first two Land, Sea, Sky stories. Please stick around -- there's more to come. The third story, "Prophecy," will go live next month, and the first draft of Crosswind is officially in the can.  I've got a Pinterest board set up already, too, for the gods and goddesses in the new series. Why, yes, September has been a busy month...

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These moments of unbanned blogginess are brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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