Welcome to the blog of science fiction author Eileen Rhoadarmer--where science fiction and Mommyhood collide!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How Did I Miss Banned Book Week?

Well, to be honest I've never actually participated in anything to do with the week, but I do take pride in reading the books.  In fact, as a writer I think I would take a certain amount of pride in having people try to ban something I write.  It would mean I was saying something.

My high school had a science fiction class, which I took during my junior year.  (More than 10 years later, I still think that's cool.)  It was an excellent class, and introduced me to many great pieces of literature.  But the thing I remember most about that class was something the teacher told us one day:  "If you haven't offended someone, you haven't really said anything."  I don't believe he was the originator of this quote, but he is the person who introduced it to me, and it had a profound effect on me which has lasted to this day.  People get offended by things, but that doesn't mean they aren't worth saying.  Sometimes it means they're worth saying even more.

The sad thing is that I don't even remember this teacher's name.  I should probably go check out my yearbook--since he had such an impact on me, I owe him that much.  Hang on...

It was Mr. Ron Elms.  Thank you, Mr. Elms!

One of my facebook friends posted this article yesterday, about libel lawsuits that kill books far more efficiently than trying to ban them.  It's worth reading for any author--and readers as well.  It's a good idea to make dramatic changes to anyone living that you don't plan to show in a good light, or so it seems.  But isn't that one of the great things about science fiction?  You can imagine a horrible outcome to a current event, but place it so far into an exaggerated future that no one can really point fingers.  In fact, if you do it right, people from all sides of the political/religious/scientific/whatever spectrum can look at it without taking offense, because if it's good they can claim people of their beliefs would bring it about, and if its bad they can blame it on people who don't agree with them.  (George Orwell, anyone?)


David Barron said...

It is my feeling that there are two kinds of people in this world: (1) People Who Take Offense and (2) People Who Read.

So, no worries, especially since people who read often seek out more of what offended people who take offense.

But yeah, libel laws (I'm looking at you, UK) are tragicomically overpowered.

Eileen Rhoadarmer said...

Interesting opinion, but I don't agree with your breakdown of people. While it would be nice, reading--even being well-read--does not naturally predispose someone to being openminded. There's a big difference between getting offended by something and taking it to he extreme where you try to block others from seeing the same thing. It really comes down to, when you read something you find offensive, do you a)stop reading it and spare it no more thought, b)give it a scathing review on Amazon, your own website, and/or word of mouth to your circle of friends, c)think about it a lot to either verify that it IS offensive to you or determine if perhaps you should expand your views, or d)start the process of banning the book so nobody else ever has to read such an offensive piece of sh*t. In my opinion, a, b, and c are perfectly rational reactions. I have a hard time imagining a person who is incapable of being offended by SOMETHING.

Now, looking again I suppose that by putting People Who Take Offense in capitals you may have been implying people who do d only, but I still don't see this group excluding those who are well-read.

Brian said...


Satire and parody, people. One of the original functions of SF, as mentioned in the introduction by Bruce Sterling to William Gibson's Burning Chrome short story collection.

Everything is fair use and fair game. When you get sued for libel, tell them it's satire or parody. That way you can make fun of Donald Trump's hair all you want. Plus, libel is the press/publisher only, not an individual, so far as I know, and the UK is actually better than the U.S. on that one, so I've heard.

Caveat Lecteur on the internet. Just because it's out there don't mean it's so, and a lawyer will always recommend 'doing nothing' and site extreme cases and goofy rulings, it's not just a single issue where you hit judicial activism, it's just that some folks pretend there's only one place where it happens and nobody else seems to bother with caring.

On a lighter note: Take a look at Max Barry's Jennifer Government and think about it.

And if you really want to have fun, get some of those "they really said that!?" quote books and use the quotes from them. Refudiate that!