Monday, October 8, 2012

Banned Books--Why Dystopians More than Others?

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So we've just come out of Banned Books Week. This was a spectacular week of great reviews, bloggmanship, and expressions of free speech. For a list of great posts, visit Book Journey. Because my debut novel is dystopian, I tend to write a lot about this genre, and during this past week, I've been struck by how many banned books fall under the dystopian genre.

Why is that?

Perhaps it seems like an obvious question, but I really wanted to geek out and over-analyze it. I do that sometimes. :D

The first thought I had was that dystopian novels tend to be political. They almost always have an agenda. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons people are threatened by them, but it doesn't entirely hold up because the same thing could be said of any literary science fiction piece.

My final semester in college a took a class called Literary Science Fiction. We read mostly short stories with a few novellas thrown in. The biggest thing I remember about this class was that the stories were extremely political--not overtly, but in the issues they dealt with and what they were trying to say about these issues. As the reader, you either agreed with the politics or you didn't. Because we live in a bipartisan world, chances are the agreement stats for such stories are going to be pretty evenly divided. As someone who doesn't often agree with the politics of many in my field, I liked very few of the stories. The ones I liked, I actually loved. The ones I didn't like made me spit in disgust.

Yet, this reaction rarely happens to me with dystopias. Why? I think it's because dystopias are more real, more visceral  They may be a walking political statement, but they don't feel like they are. It feels more like escapism, like being caught in a live-free-or-die-fighting sort of world and we can't help but care and become invested.

It's not that dystopians don't make a political statement--they definitely do--but it's what they're saying that makes the difference. Rather than a blatant bipartisan plug, they deal with universal human rights violations. These are issues that everyone, no matter what their politics, can get behind. So why are they banned? Doesn't make sense, right?

Well, aside from the fact that banning ANY book doesn't make sense, there is more. Almost without exception, dystopians focus on a strong protagonist that must overcome a repressive regime, fight for the unalienable rights of humanity, and take on the dystopian world. This is another reason dystopians are so compelling. These are characters that grab our hearts, spike our adrenaline, and yank a visceral emotional reaction out of us.

This is also, in my opinion, why so many people are so threatened by these stories. They teach us to take our lives and our fate into our own hands, to challenge the powers that be, and take action against the injustices of the world. Those closed-minded, power-tripping people that don't want an intelligent, actionable public to take up arms against them take issue with these stories. After all, one person standing up for what's right can become many. Many becomes multitudes. Multitudes become armies. Armies incite revolution.

You gotta love dystopians. :D

Look for Persistence of Vision, Winter 2012

In a world where collective hives are enslaving the population and individuals have been hunted to the verge of extinction, Maggie Harper, and independent 21st Century woman, must find the strength to preserve the freedom of the future, but without the aid of her memories.

After experiencing a traumatic time loss, Maggie is plagued by a barrage of images she can't explain. When she's attacked by a creep with a spider's web tattoo, she is saved by Marcus, a man she's never met, but somehow remembers. He tells her that both he and her creepy attacker are from a future in which individuals are being murdered by collectives, and Marcus is part of the rebellion. The collectives have acquired time travel and they plan to enslave the human race throughout all of history. The flashes Maggie has been seeing are echoes of lost memories, and the information buried deep within them is instrumental in defeating the collective hives.

In order to preserve the individuality of mankind, Maggie must try to re-discover stolen memories, re-kindle friendships she has no recollection of, and wade through her feelings for the mysterious Marcus, all while dodging the tattooed assassins the collectives keep sending her way.

If Maggie can't fill the holes in her memory and find the answers to stop the collectives, the world both in her time and in all ages past and future will be doomed to enslavement in the grey, mediocre collectives. As the danger swirls around her and the collectives close in, Maggie realizes she must make a choice: stand out or fade away...


  1. I didn't realize so many were banned.

  2. Your comment about dystopians being non-partisan makes sense. There is something non-threatening about fictitious people overthrowing a fictitious situation. That is probably what makes them so powerful--because they get at the basic rights we all are striving for in different ways. Sometimes we need reminders that regardless of political preference, we really do tend to have the same goals at heart.

    1. Agreed! Thanks for stopping by, Rachel! :D