In honor of Banned Books Week, Geekosystem's Susana Polo looks at 10 great science fiction novels that have been banned, or at least threatened with removal from libraries and schools. Including some major classics of the genre!
These titles are among the most popular and beloved science fiction works of the last century. They've told us how bad the future might be before we get there, how free you can be if you don't follow blind belief, and that children are perfectly capable of digesting some pretty heavy concepts, actually. But they've all been banned or threatened with banning.
#10 Shade's Children by Garth Nix
Shade's Children is filled with a creeping dread that the computer intelligence that leads the teenage main characters (through the hellish wasteland of our world filled with terrifying robot soldiers with grafted human body parts who fight over territory in a decades long war-game played by three alien tyrants) does not have their best interests in mind.
Yes, all that other stuff is creepy, including the fact that one of the kids didn't escape the prisoner camps until after he was castrated, but the real slow horror of the book is that eventually Shade is going to betray the children who trust him and learned from him, and no one taught them to think critically enough to see it coming.
Trusted caregivers put Shade's Children on the top 100 banned and challenged books of the nineties.
#9 The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Giver features a dystopian setting where citizens have their sex drive removed, certain women are given the "job" of bearing artificially inseminated children, and where babies are euthanized for developing at a different pace than others. All ideas and memories, history, and art that would help in the governance of a society but at the same time cause inconvenient emotions are held in the mind of the community's Giver, who begins to pass on his gift to the main character Jonas, beginning his eventual disillusionment with the status quo. It makes the point that history, memories, and art; no matter how painful or difficult, are still necessary for a functioning humane society.
A staple of many, many middle and high school curriculums, it was also the 11th most frequently challenged book of the 1990s, in school districts in South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Ohio, and Colorado.
#8 The His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
Says Phillip Pullman on the reaction to his trilogy of children's books: "I've been surprised by how little criticism I've got. Harry Potter's been taking all the flak… Meanwhile, I've been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God."
The Golden Compass was the 4th most frequently challenged book of 2007. It rose to 2nd place in 2008, probably because of the "organized campaign that the anti-defamation group the Catholic League launched against the film version of The Golden Compass." Their president called it "atheism for kids."
#7 Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
Stranger in a Strange Land is a pro-religion, anti-theist book about free love and the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, and was controversial even when it was published in 1962.
So naturally it was challenged as part of the curriculum of a summer "Science Academy" course in Texas.
#6 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
In a textbook example of "missing the point," in 1981 Jackson County, Florida challenged the presence of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four in its schools and libraries, claiming that the book was pro-communism, anti-Semitic, and had sexual references.
While that last one is certainly true, it still sounds like somebody only read the first twenty pages before doing their book report.
#5 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
In 1998, Fahrenheit 451 was removed from the curriculum in a Mississippi high school because a parent objected to the use of the phrase "god damn."
Is it ironic if you suppress a book that condemns the suppression of print information?
#4 A Wrinkle In Time By Madeline L'Engle
A target that seems to be ripe for the ban hammer is any book that stands firmly on the line between children's and adult fiction.
A Wrinkle in Time is the beginning of a four part series by Madeline L'Engle that tackles the the vastness of time and the universe, the nature of evil, and the dangers of blind belief. But, it's got characters known as "witches" in it, so it was the 22nd most frequently challenged book of the 90's.
#3 Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Aside from its crunchy science fiction coating, Slaughterhouse-Five is also a near autobiographical account of the author's experience as an American prisoner of war in World War II, including being present at the fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany where tens of thousands of German civilians were killed by American troops. It is also one of the earliest acknowledgements in popular literature of the fact that the Nazis persecuted homosexuals.
Not only banned (in New York State, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, and Wisconsin) and challenged (in Louisiana, Michigan (twice), Texas, Virginia, Rhode Island, Illinois, Kentucky (twice), and Wisconsin again), copies of Slaughterhouse-Five were burned in North Dakota in 1973. Book design by Evan McHugh.
#2 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Brave New World is an example of being banned for advocating things that it in fact advocates against, because the book actually requires you to pay attention to what it is telling you.
It was banned in Ireland in 1932, a Missouri town in 1980, an Alabama high school in 2000; and challenged in Oklahoma in 1988, California in 1993, Texas in 2003, and Indiana in 2008. Compliants mostly dwelled on the book's supposed endorsement of free love, free drugs, atheism, and rejection of the nuclear family. This would be half-way legitimate if the fictional society promoting those traits was presented as a utopia, but… it's not. Brave New World has been compared to Nineteen Eighty-Four in its contributions to dystopian science fiction.
Ah, the narrator of relative reliableness. Without it we wouldn't have, oh, The Tell Tale Heart, or The Yellow Wallpaper, or Fight Club.
#1 A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The film version of A Clockwork Orange has taken the lion's share of controversy for the IP, as visual art is wont to do. Books, after all, can be boring and take a long time to finish. Movies don't stop playing even when you look away, and you can actually get through one in just a couple of hours.
However, in 1973 a shop owner in Utah was arrested for selling the book, and though the charges were later dropped, the store was forced to relocate due to the controversy. Later in the 70's it was removed from two high schools for "objectionable language." Presumably they didn't mean bratchny, droog, or garbles.
This post by Susana Polo originally appeared at Geekosystem.