The Storyteller Reports: Banned Books Week, and Stories That Are Worth Telling

Happy Wednesday. As always, for those of you who who aren’t hopelessly addicted yet, I’m back with my weekly storytelling news/commentary, and my storyteller of the week. Read to your heart’s content!

RANT OF THE WEEK: It’s Banned Books Week…

… and I am laughing my rear end off.

All across America, libraries are bravely taking a stand and honoring those books that dared to challenge social norms, scare traditional parents, and anger those stupid Bible-thumping Christian lunatics*. Even to this day, we carry on the valiant fight against ideological oppression, as indicated by a recent scandal in a Missouri library, and a glorious triumph in Massachusetts.

It’s touching, and in fact it would make me cry if it wasn’t for the fact that censorship has no more meaning in 21st-century America. I publish e-books. I know what the Internet’s capable of. You can’t control what’s on there. I can guarantee that with the click of a button, kids can find much more disgusting stories than the toilet passage from James Joyce’s Ulysses. The times they are a-changin’. At least the MPAA still makes sure that no disturbing movies get rated PG-13…

The Joker from The Dark Knight (2008)

… never mind.

All jokes aside, there’s no point to celebrating banned books when most media in the world don’t even know what the term “banned” is. As author Sarah Ockler puts it…

“In a country where the daily news media spotlight more violent, sexualised and sensationalised images than a teenager could ever find in the school library, does anyone truly believe that forcing students to ask parents to check out their books is appropriate? We don’t prepare teens for coping with life’s challenges by hiding information or pretending that the issues explored in books don’t exist. Grief, death, war, sex, heartbreak, loss – these things happen in life. By this time next year, some of these students could be serving on the front lines in Afghanistan. Yet they need mum’s permission to check out a library book?”

Last week, I published a short story with a lot of nastiness. Torthan the freedom fighter goes on a quest for vengeance, and at every step he leaves a trail of blood and corpses. I didn’t try to make it gratuitous, but I didn’t pull any punches either. Neither did Mel Gibson or Flannery O’Connor, but they convey much more profound things about the human race than any cliche “feel-good” story.

Now that censorship is no longer a problem, let’s focus on celebrating the stories that are truly worth retelling.

*= As a Roman Catholic, I feel compelled to mention that I use this term in sarcasm. For the record, J.R.R. Tolkien and Flannery O’Connor were both stupid Bible-thumping Christian fanatics. This does not seem to have had a detrimental effect on their literature.


J.C. Martin, please stand and be recognized.

When I went blog-hunting at the start of this summer, J.C. Martin’s “Fighter Writer” site was one of the first destinations I found. J.C. was my introduction to indie literature. She had a free short story on Smashwords called “A Thousand Tears”. When I finished the last page, I leaned back and blinked a couple of times.

“Whoa,” I said, “I need to step up my game.”

“A Thousand Tears” astounded me. It remains the most memorable short I have read with nameless characters. When J.C. announced a full-length novel called Oracle, I paid attention. You should too. She has her feet in several projects right now- including the most creative blogfest I have ever seen in my life. Find out what she’s up to at her official site.*

Especially considering this Banned Books Week nonsense, it’s a relief to see writers like her practicing their craft. Why celebrate a fight that has been won already when you can celebrate stories like “A Thousand Tears”? There’s a deep literary theme in that story, the progression of which is nothing short of enlightening to witness.

My fellow storytellers, let historians deal with the past. Let us not ignore history, but let us not lose ourselves in it either. Let us join J.C. at the tip of the spear, and write some new meaningful tales for a new generation.

Get “A Thousand Tears” for free from SmashwordsApple or Kobo. And even if you don’t do that, please give her a storyteller’s salute.

*= Some of her projects involve erotica. If you are opposed to this genre, there are references to it on her official website.