What’s taboo? What’s bannable? What’s in good taste?

I am behind schedule for this week’s blog post, so instead of wrapping my ideas in a clever structure, I’m just going to address this week’s questions head-on. I know, it’s a bold choice. That’s just how I roll.

Commence the Answering of Questions!

What’s taboo in literature:

Nothing. I denounce censorship in almost every form, and I welcome authors to write about any subject. That doesn’t mean that I won’t personally find certain topics to be uninteresting, or distasteful, or downright abhorrent. However, I learned a long time ago, even without the advantage of Middle Ages Tech Support, that if I don’t like a book, I CAN STOP READING IT. Just like I’m able to turn off the television (or, even better, change the channel) when I don’t like a program.

Is banning books ever appropriate?

I can’t think of a single scenario where a book should be banned. Researching this question, I discovered that the American Library Association notes, “Books are usually banned with the best intentions—to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information” (see this site for more info).

Should children be guided through (or steered away from) certain materials? Absolutely! That’s the job of parents, teachers, and other mentors. Should books be banned? Absolutely not.

Who are the tastemakers and why do they matter?

Today, some of the tastemakers fall into broad categories. Apparently we can thank thirteen-year-old girls for bad books like Twilight and good books like The Hunger Games. There are plenty of middle-aged housewives (or housedivorcees?) that devour trashy romance novels by the dozen every month. Teenage boys manage to poison the internet and online gaming services with vitriol that makes my hair smoke if I even think about participating.

Sure, those are insulting, pigeonholing stereotypes. And yet, they seem to be steering many big dollar books, movies, games, and musicians. So do they matter? Of course! As an author, do I consider my (potential) audience? Some, sure. But at the end of the day, I know next to nothing about being a prepubescent girl or a middle-aged woman. Writing for those audiences would pose a challenge for me. I have a vague recollection of being a hormone-swamped teenager. I do my best to ignore those recollections, however.

So, I follow the mantra, “Write what you know,” (which means something quite different than what most people think), and I hope that, by staying true to my own vision, I create stories that avoid the taboo, are unbannable, and meet with the approval of the tastemakers.

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