SF, FANTASY & FLAMES: A BANNED BOOK UPDATE

If you’re linking to us for the first time, welcome to BAD FOR YOU!

And to the hearty handful of others who have been here from the start, welcome back.

This is the website for updates on general bad-for-you stuff in kid world. Rather than define what that means, we prefer to simply show it, just as we do in the book that this site is based on (the book, by the way, is set to be released in January 2014 — and available for pre-order with a click on the book’s cover at the right of this page).

Here you’ll find candid shots of school lunches, news about zero tolerance policies, controversies over violent videogames, as well as the latest suspension for flatulence on a school bus. We try to cover all the things that someone out there thinks is bad for kids. 

bookOne of the things we think is bad for kids, and everyone else, is book banning. As it happens, Tor.com is excerpting sections of BAD FOR YOU for the next couple of weeks as part of its “celebration” of Banned Book Week. Celebrating book censorship might sound a little weird because, after all, who wants to throw a party over a bunch of books getting banned. But what Banned Book Week celebrates is “the freedom to read,” according to the American Library Association (one of the biggest sponsors for the annual event).

But you also can’t celebrate “the freedom to read” without highlighting when that freedom has been challenged by censorship. And those challenges occurred over forty times during 2012-13; challenges to books and graphic novels that were considered bad for kids. Six of which were fantasy or SF, the beloved genre of Tor.com followers (also popular among censorship-lovers).

This post is a nod to both genres, the hands-down winners for most censored this past year (a perfect segue to today’s BAD FOR YOU excerpt: “Nursery Crimes: Fear And Fantasy”). 

1) Ender’s Game

Leading off with a Tor publication (it’s up to readers to figure out why), Ender’s Game is an award-winning futuristic tale about specially bred, super-smart kids designed to fight off an alien attack. Though originally published in 1994, the book made the news in 2012 when a teacher at Schofield Middle School in Aiken, S.C. read it aloud to his class and one of his students (and more importantly, the kid’s parent), declared the book pornographic – even though a number of review websites deemed Ender’s Game as “appropriate for readers twelve and older”. The instructor was threatened with criminal charges; charges which, happily, were eventually dismissed. Perhaps in the future, specially bred super-smart kids will be used to fight off any censorship attacks.

2) Feed

Another futuristic society story, this time with folks connected to the Internet via direct implants in their brains. Called “trash” and “covered with the F-word,” the book was challenged in a Virginia high school in Green County, even though the teacher had posted on the school web page a warning about Feed‘s mature nature and a consent form was sent home with students to be signed by parents prior to the assigned reading. Among this “trash” title’s many honors: National Book Award Finalist and Junior Library Guild selection.

3) The Handmaid’s Tale

Here’s a pretty well-known title from famed author Margaret Atwood about yet another futuristic society where, due to declining birthrates, a woman’s main function has been reduced to breeding. The book was required reading for a Page High School International Baccalaureate class at Grimsley High School in Guilford County, N.C. – or, at least it was until challenged for being “sexually explicit, violently graphic and morally corrupt.”

4) Fight Club

Like the previous title, Fight Club was popular enough to be adapted into a big-budget Hollywood movie. And violent enough to be challenged by parents in Katy, Tex. Independent School District who were able to get it removed from the required reading list. Too bad it wasn’t called “Hug Club”.

5) Robopocalypse

Despite being challenged for it’s “inappropriate language,” the national bestseller managed to remain on the required reading list at the Hardin Valley Academy in Knoxville, Tenn. It also managed to win the 2011 Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association.

6) Neonomicon

We end the 2012-13 list with, appropriately enough, a graphic novel. This Lovecraftian horror fantasy was penned by Alan Moore of Watchmen fame. It was banned from the Greenville County, S.C. Public Library in 2012 because a teenager was able to check it out, even though the comic was placed in the library’s adult section. “The head of the library system overturned an internal review committee’s decision to retain the graphic novel because the pictures gave her pause,” according to an Illinois Library Association article on challenged and banned books – which also served as the basis for this post.

As already mentioned, fantasy and SF are two of the most popular genre’s for book banning. In fact, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five has the dubious honor of being named number four on the Ten Most Banned Books list of all time. Of course, the Harry Potter series (featured on today’s BAD FOR YOU excerpt at Tor.com) is trying it’s best to keep up. And like the Potter books, Slaughterhouse Five has been burned by censors. It was back in 1973 when copies of the book wound up slaughtered in a North Dakota school furnace. In fact, administrators were so determined to see the novel destroyed they assumed a scorched-earth policy, and had students’ lockers searched to make sure every last one of the copies (originally issued for a class assignment) were confiscated and burned. After being informed of the torching, Vonnegut wrote to the school board chairman, “If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.”

Of course Vonnegut isn’t the only famous figure in SF to weigh in such a burning issue. There’s also this guy:

We think we’ve come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches, is all ancient history. Then, before you can blink an eye, suddenly, it threatens to start all over again.

Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

 

 

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