Friday, September 23, 2011

Banned Books Week

I wanted to remind everyone that Sept. 24 - Oct. 1 is Banned Books Week. Why does this matter to gamers? Because roleplaying games have incited similar controversies in school and public libraries since the “Dawn of Roleplaying” (otherwise known as “The Early Eighties”).   

I recall the controversy raised by the “Mazes & Monsters” made-for-TV movie, given legitimacy by rising star Tom Hanks; debates in my hometown’s public schools, notably the junior high/middle school, about whether to host a Dungeons & Dragons club; the general stigma toward geeks of any type, particularly gaming geeks; and the complete lack of gaming books, even non-fiction titles, in the school and public libraries. Roleplaying games might have more general acceptance in today’s society, but they still suffer from varying degrees of stigma.

Banning or challenging books isn’t something from the Golden Age of Fascism; it’s alive and well today in our supposedly enlightened society. We still hear about fundamentalist forces challenging books on the news with alarming frequency. Even here on the medieval frontier of Northern Virginia (the medieval side…) we recently had a controversy over having the unabridged version of Anne Frank’s diaries in the public schools, a story that briefly went national.

On a personal note, in reading over the American Library Association’s list of “Banned and Challenged Classics” various moral groups have contested over the years, I’m pleasantly surprised at how many “challenged” books I read as part of my public school curriculum (including To Kill A Mockingbird, 1984, Of Mice and Men, Animal Farm, In Cold Blood, Brave New World, and A Separate Peace) and how many I’ve enjoyed on my own later in life (among them Slaughterhouse Five, The Lord of the Rings [!]).    

I’m not going to preach about the subject much more than to say an ideology that bans books prefers its followers -- and indeed everyone -- to remain manipulated by fear and ignorance, something all too abundant in our world.