Banned and Dangerous

“I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it.” – Mae West

Literature has been a flashpoint for centuries. Every generation of every society had problems with certain literature. Books have pushed thought and idea to their breaking point.

That is what literature is really about. It’s about exposing the dark underbelly of life, showing us the things that we think, but are afraid to admit. Literature shows the truth of human potential, both in triumph and tragedy.

It is a powerful and dangerous medium. People have been killed, jailed, or ran out of town for things they wrote. Writers get protested, boycotted, or outright censored by others who feel what they wrote crossed some sort of line.

What is that line, though? It is an ever-changing, evolving thing that is based entirely on social norms. Quite frankly, the line is worthless, and part of art is finding that edge. Artists have lived on that line since story-culture was born.

You cannot second guess the line. You can’t wonder where it is, and if what you are writing is going to be hated or even latched onto by people with political agendas. Just write. If it is good, maybe it will get published. If some people think it is offensive, that’s their problem.

Books should never be banned just because someone is scared by what they find inside. It isn’t society’s job to protect me. I can make my own decisions about what I think and feel. So can most of you. The banning of art by any government or organization is a red flag in any society.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you should let your children read whatever they want. But what you choose to let your child to read, or what your school district wants to teach them should be between you, your school district, and your child. Chances are, your school district will be much more conservative than the average person anyway.

Case in point, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn have been banned by a lot of schools, or had anything related to race, a predominant issue of Mark Twain’s time, removed. The school district I live in recently decided not to teach Tom Sawyer. That is okay, that is their choice. I am perfectly capable of teaching it to my son when he is older.

You shouldn’t worry about if your book is going to be banned. In fact, I joke that I will know I have arrived as a writer when a school bans me from their library.  Two goals for Jack’s writing career: get banned, and have a book end up in a bargain bin next to Stephen King.

Some of the greatest books ever written have been banned, some of my personal favorites burned by critics who failed to understand them, or were afraid of what they learned about themselves. Every year, during banned book month, I make a point to read a banned book (not that hard since I read so many anyway) and even buy one I don’t own yet, just to support the authors and their families.

There are much worse fates than joining their ranks. Being a writer isn’t about second-guessing, it is about setting yourself free. Let the rest of the world worry about that stuff. You just keep creating, and everything will turn out fine.

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at

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