The joys of censorship
I was on a panel for the California Association of Teachers and Educators this week, with Gillian Roberts, Cara Black, and Nadia Gordon (plus various pseudonymous identities–seven writers for the price of four!) and one of the things that came up was censorship. Namely, a poor beleaguered teacher (not here in California) who is being taken to task by her school board for turning her students into career criminals by–yep–having them write mysteries.
This, clearly, is an oversimplification, but not as much as you might imagine. And it’s one of those all-too-commonplace bizarrenesses that makes any sensible person just stand gobsmacked and wonder where to begin.
Are we, as professional crime writers, a particularly bloodthirsty lot? Actually, any gathering of crime writers I’ve attended has been filled with polite and helpful people, without a knife (even a verbal one) in sight. And really, when you think about it, crime fiction is probably the most moral art form there is: an examination of consequences is built into the very bones of the genre.
I understand the concern of parents, that we might not wish to have our kids researching explosives and poisons on the Internet, but a detective story encouraging murderous impulses? Have we as a country gone absolutely insane? Must we pander to the limitations of the terminally unimaginative and chronically uneducated? Political correctness (also known as Good Manners) is for the most part desirable, but really, can’t we just draw a line after which we say, “Oh for Christ sake, do shut up.”
Or am I being ill mannered?
I should mention that if you’re not signed up for the web site’s e-newsletter, you might want to do so. The next one will be out in a week or so, and will have not only a photo of my cat (or portions thereof) but of my husband. This is especially for all those members of the mystery community who have expressed doubt concerning his existence.
There’s also a survey coming onto the site, with prizes.
To respond to a couple of the remarks–No, I haven’t had to re-read the Russell books (although no doubt I should do so, regularly.) I did read O Jerusalem before I wrote Justice Hall, in order to get the voices of those two characters straight in my head, but not the others. Some day I may be forced to, maybe two years from now when I haven’t worked with Russell for a while, but so far I’ve avoided it.
And as to the question of why I “released GRAVE TALENT for publication” when I wasn’t happy with it–honey, if I waited until I was ecstatic about a book to let it go, there would be no Laurie King books out there. I’m never satisfied with a book, period. The best I can hope for is being satisfied that it’s the best I can do with it. It’s like raising kids: You cannot impress absolutely everything upon them. You work to shape them to a few essentials (such as: Not looking when you step into the street is harder on you than it is on the oncoming car; Generosity is a sign of strength, not weakness), then you pray that the things you haven’t managed to plant in their minds don’t prove too disastrous. And then you turn them loose.