From Shel Silverstein inciting cannibalism to a book about a baby penguin that’s consistently among the most challenged and banned books, we look at children,…
This week’s special guest is Megan Dangerous from Oh No! Lit Class.
Walk into your local library this week and you’re likely to see a display of books that have been banned in different times and places for a variety of reasons. Standard choices include Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, Huckleberry Finn and maybe some more recent additions like The Kite Runner. Most of us glance over it was we walk by, but not so for a group of pastors in Maine. They want to ban the display of banned books.
The pastors don’t seem to mind the books banned for racist language, violence against women or drug use, just the ones that shine a positive light on LGBTQ characters. The library refused to remove any books from its display and one can only hope opened a dictionary to the entry for ‘irony.’ Banned books fall into two major categories: those banned by specific institutions, such as a school district, and those banned by countries.
My father was a sci-fi fan of the old school. The man had the entire original Star Trek series on VHS, commercial free, and an Enterprise technical manual. So in his honor, a little late for Father’s Day, we go back in time to look to the future as we dive into the wormhole of classic sci-fi.
As the spike in sales of neckties and golf-themed tchotchkes tells us, last Sunday was Father’s Day, and no, it’s not the day that sees the most collect calls all year. For one thing, it’s not 1987; who still makes collect calls? Where do you even find a payphone? My own father, who’s gone on before, was a sci-fi fan of the old school, bred to the bone. My mother would buy him grocery bags of pulp paperbacks as gifts. The man had the entire original Star Trek series on VHS, commercial free, and an Enterprise technical manual. [nerd!] So in his honor, today’s episode goes back in time to look to the future as we dive into the wormhole of classic sci-fi. My name’s Moxie and this is your brain on facts.
First off, and this is often a point of contention, we need to establish what we’re talking about when we say “sci-fi.” We’re not going to haul out the Merriam-Webster for this. There is some wiggle room and a fair amount of contention here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at a list of top however-many sci-fi whatevers only to kvetch out-loud, “That’s barely even fantasy, let alone sci-fi” or “Just because it’s set in the future doesn’t make it sci-fi. Philistines.” Whether a work draws on existing science and technology to extrapolate what we might see in future generations, what is known as ‘hard sci-fi,’ or the author goes ‘laser guns, pew pew,” [sfx] a key requirement for science fiction is that it be speculative. If it’s worth its salt, its focus will be how we as humans will interact with and react to this proposed environment, its trappings and its other occupants. Even though there’s a lot of overlap in the fan bases and, as Arthur C. Clarke said, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” we’re going to eschew the sword & sorcery genre of fantasy and even science-fantasy for right now. Likewise, we probably won’t get into more recent sub-genres like cyberpunk and slip-stream today. We’ve also going to skip over some of the better-known authors because they’re, well, better-known. But that’s okay, because we have a LOT of talk about.