On the futility of banning books

When I was a child my parents wouldn’t let me read science fiction or fantasy. I had to read a friend’s copy of A Wrinkle in Time during lunch and recess. When I was older I walked to the library to read books there.

When I was twelve my parents decided it was okay for me to watch Star Wars and I did – eight times in the movie theater, saving up my allowance money. My dad seemed to think it was like Buck Rogers, a serial he used to watch in theaters when he was a kid. But I couldn’t watch Star Trek on television. No, I don’t know why one was okay and the other was not.

After I watched Star Wars, I made the mistake of bringing home the book Logan’s World (the sequel to Logan’s Run). I quickly learned that I still wasn’t allowed to read SFF openly. I don’t know what ideas my parents thought I would get from these novels but they didn’t seem to care about the violence, misogyny, and racism that was (and is) common in mainstream fiction.

I think mostly they were afraid of anything that didn’t adhere to the status quo.

They also disapproved of romance.

Over the years I overtly read mysteries, which they seemed to think were all benign puzzle stories in the manner of Agatha Christie, though at the time plenty of the most popular mysteries were far more salacious than the romances were. I did not disclose this fact to my parents.

Despite their best efforts, I began writing romances many years later, first under pen names and then under my own. Coming out into the open like that was exhilirating.

Over time, I felt constrained by “falling in love” as the central theme of romance. I moved to writing mystery/thriller but didn’t find my footing. Then I looked back at the stories I most enjoyed writing and which had gained the most readers and it turned out that these were two paranormal romances.

A few years ago, after they had gone out of print, I re-published new editions and found myself writing all kinds of things in SFF, my first love. I didn’t do that in reaction to my parents’ ban on SFF novels but I can’t see how their ban did anything but turn me into a liar.

SFF can be about exploring the boundaries of science but it is also a way to talk about big things without having to ensure the events fit into a plausible, quotidian world. That’s why I love reading it and why I love writing it.

I’m looking forward to sending more of this work out into the world. And while I know better than to think children no longer have to hide their reading materials from their parents, I hope that every child finds a way to read the stories that connect most strongly to their hearts.