Get your ray-guns ready! I’m going to list my three favorite banned sci-fi and fantasy titles.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This one marks a double-threat–great book and a great movie version (you can watch it at CLP’s Downtown & Business location on October 21st)! Working at the height of his powers, Mr. Bradbury takes us to a dystopian future where fireman start fires instead of putting them out! The ultimate anti-censorship book suffered the terrible irony of finding itself on more than one banned book list since its publication in 1953, and even the publisher itself released expurgated versions removing what certain editors considered to be objectionable content. Fahrenheit 451 remains such an important work, it’s at the center of this year’s Big Read.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. People sometimes challenge the most innocuous things. Mr. Gaiman’s Neverwhere has a bit of violence, a bit of sex, and a lot of really uplifting and incredible stuff. Of all the things from a high school reading list a parent might challenge, this book should fall near the bottom. According to complaints, one particular sex scene did this one in. If you can get beyond this, you’ll find a story that effortlessly blends the worlds of modern London and a subterranean shadow-plane of magic, mystery, and adventure. While Neverwhere’s sex and violence quotient seems quite tame to me, I guess I can at least understand why someone might object to it, but learning the last book on this short list had been banned flummoxed me.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Yes, that Hobbit. Some accuse the book of promoting smoking. As an individual who has been rabidly anti-smoking his whole life, but also loved The Hobbit since at least first grade, I don’t see it. Fictional characters smoking a fictional pipeweed (even one as pure as Old Toby) never caused me to waver. Then there’s the folks who identify Tolkien’s work as irreligious. The man was a devout Catholic and his work is suffused with Christian symbolism. I think his Christian bonafides remain pretty unimpeachable.
Folks will come up with all sorts of reasons to ban the books we love. Genres like sci-fi often take it on the chin from would-be censors. All we can do is call them out.
Sunshine remains the best remedy for ignorance.