One of the most enduring qualities of science fiction is that given time, much of it comes true. That’s not always a good thing, though. While we have yet to achieve something resembling the BAMA sprawl that is portrayed in William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the dystopian future of burning books envisioned in Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451 is trying to be realized in West Bend, Wisconsin, where four overly-zealous citizens are seething about and suing the city about a book that they claim has caused them emotional strain simply by being in the library and accessible to children.
The book in question is “Baby Be-Bop” by Francesca Lia Block, and the ostensibly traumatizing material in the book has to do with that most dreaded of things that should not be written about much less made available to teenagers who may be questioning their own identities — homosexuality. According to an abstract about the book, the protagonist’s “idyllic childhood… ends when he enters adolescence and recognizes homosexual feelings.” To make matters worse, the similarly dreaded “N-word” appears somewhere in the book.
The people who were so riled up by these hideous words and concepts have filed a lawsuit against West Bend, seeking $120,000 in damages via they also are demanding the resignation of West Bend Mayor Kristine Deiss, and to be granted “the right to publicly burn or destroy by another means the library’s copy of Baby Be-Bop.” [Emphasis added.]
Perhaps what they need instead is a nice box of Denham’s Dentifrice, or Denham’s Dandy Dental Detergent. (Denham’s!) Or perhaps they need a lifetime supply of ketchup, which is said to contain natural mellowing agents. It may be just what they need to help them through this trying time in their lives. After all, if one small book on a shelf in a library can so impact these people’s lives, they’re going to need a lot of ketchup.
Though this will doubtlessly cause the hounds to be loosed in pursuit of me or the firemen to pay a visit, I say that this suit should be thrown out. I’m not a lawyer, although this sort of case is precisely what interests me in becoming one, just so that I can fight indignant radicals who seek to ban, censor, or do worse to books and other sorts of media.
(Also, my ex-wife is a librarian. Make of that what you will.)