How far have we gone to ban Dr. Seuss?

Banned' Dr. Seuss Books Delisted on eBay After Selling for Thousands
The six Dr. Seuss books that will no longer be published by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry StreetIf I Ran the ZooMcElligot’s PoolOn Beyond Zebra!Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer.

I have spoken here often about free speech and the First Amendment. As a writer, I am a firm believer in this sacred institution. I stand by the adage that “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend your right to say it.” That said, have we (as a country and a society) gone over the edge with political correctness that we are banning Dr. Seuss?

I grew up reading Dr. Seuss, watching the TV specials, the movies, etc. His books have been an institution and a focal point in children’s literature. And yet, we are examining everything to the point of lunacy for political, racial, and social content, forcing it from our lives.

Like any parent, the first books I bought, read, and gave to my children were Dr. Seuss. We didn’t look at it through the lens of political correctness, we looked at it as an easy way to teach our kids about the environment (The Lorax) or counting and colors (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish) or even behaving themselves while having fun (The Cat in the Hat). Are we also going to erase all the movies and TV specials based around Dr. Seuss?

I applaud the New York Public Library (NYPL) who took a stand against this audacity, saying, “As public libraries do not censor material, the very few copies we have of the six Dr. Seuss titles in question will remain in circulation until they are no longer in acceptable condition,’’ the NYPL said in a statement. “At that point, we will not be able to replace them, as the books are out of print. So, eventually, they will no longer be available to borrow.” This is the cost of our political correctness.

I think we are continuing to have this conversation on sensitivity in literature, especially anything written in the early 20th century. Is some of it insensitive to race and culture? Absolutely. They, like any form of entertainment of that time period, is a product of that time. It needs to be looked at through that spectrum, not the lens of today’s “cancel culture” who think anything and everything that is racially or socially insensitive needs to be eliminated. Remember these words:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it…”

George Santayana, Spanish philosopher

We cannot simply erase the past, thinking it will create a better future. If we don’t learn from that history, we will just make those same mistakes all over again. Why can’t we just look at something and appreciate it for the sentiment and not outright cancel it?

Sorry for the rant, but back to Dr. Seuss… I understand some of the imagery in “If I Ran the Zoo” and “And to think I Saw It on Mulberry Street” are racially insensitive. We didn’t have such a world view when Theodore Geisel wrote and drew these books. The imagery is what it is, but to ban the books outright is, well, fascist. It’s the same thing that Adolph Hitler and the Nazi’s did to books written by Jews or that didn’t portray the Aryan image as they wanted it. So now, we’re doing it to anything that the “PC Police” say is insensitive to whatever race, religion, or creed.

We don’t need to ban books. We need to look at them through the lens of the time they were written, understand why they were written, so that we can have a conversation and learn what not to write or how to act. How can we understand the evil of racial injustice without “To Kill a Mockingbird” or the plight of runaway slaves without “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and yet these books are being banned because of “racially insensitive language.” Do we ban rap music that uses the same language? No, and we shouldn’t so why ban books?

You can’t write a story about the south or any history without using somewhat bad language. I found myself in such a conundrum while writing my latest novel, Corsair and the Sky Pirates. The novel is a steampunk historical fiction set in the late 1800s, early 1900s. I have a very diverse group of characters, and the language back then was not PC. I will not use the “N-word” or anything like that, but I wanted to convey the repugnance of the villains in how they treat people. How do I do that without using such foul language? These are the issues that writers face today, because we want to reach our audience without jeopardizing our relationship with them.

So please, can we stop banning books! If it’s not your cup of tea, don’t buy it, read it, watch it or listen to it. If you want to understand what effect banning books has on society, read “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, “1984” by George Orwell, or “V for Vendetta” by Alan Moore. Then maybe, you’ll understand why we shouldn’t do it.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

Books are now the target of “cancel culture”

My Turn: What 'I'm not politically correct!' really meansI’ve talked previously about “revisionist history” and the whole changing the world outlook from the “PC” police. It’s not a good sign when everything is wrong in movies, television, and now books. In an article published on July 3 in the Washington Post, While offensive TV shows get pulled, problematic books are still inspiring debate and conversation, book critic Ron Charles said…

“The great reckoning now sweeping across pop culture has been working through the stacks of literature for far longer. The effects of time are twofold: Most books have fallen into dust, along with the racist values they imbibed. And those few texts that survive have been subjected to rigorous — and ongoing — debate.”

So now its books. Books! Are we going to have a good ole book burning, like we saw at Nazi rallies or even in movies like Footloose, where religious zealots burned books like Fahrenheit 451 because of its content. In the article, Charles mentioned books like Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn  and Shakespeare’s Othello as examples of racist language not fit for today’s society. Oh course it’s not, but that’s not the point.

As I’ve said before, I’m all for racial equality across the boards. That’s been my mantra for my entire life, and I lived through the 60’s and 70’s in the South. But I draw the line at banning books. Free speech is free speech. It is an essential part of our life as American citizens. I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it with every fiber of my being. That said, I draw the line at book banning or censorship of any kind.

Books are the reflection of our life in this world. The stories of every generation can be found in the books written at that time. Yes, they can be crass, profane, and definitely not politically correct by today’s standards, but they are a reflection of the time they were written in. Books are the chronology of our life written by the authors of the time.  When you read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Huckleberry Finn, The Invisible Man, and other novels, you see the progression of our country through the racial divides. It speaks to the power of literature.

OUR DEFINITIONS OF UNPOLITICALLY CORRECT & POLITICALLY CORRECT ...

“Under the best circumstances, that’s the enriching conversation that literature can inspire: the alchemy that transmutes authors’ moral and artistic flaws into insight and understanding. I don’t mean to suggest that we’re under any super-sophisticated obligation to tolerate plainly racist books. But if cancel culture has a weakness, it’s that it risks short-circuiting the process of critical engagement that leads to our enlightenment.” ~ Ron Charles, the Washington Post

That’s the rub. If we start going after everything one group of people consider offensive (i.e. Gone with the Wind), then where does it stop? What purpose does it have if we “cancel” these novels and no longer discuss or engage in dialogue along these lines? Silence… Nothing but silence. Books allow us to have these constant discussions on race, culture, and society as a whole. It’s what helps us progress and move forward, not backwards.

Take The Great Gatsby for example. In this one novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald lays out everything from race relations to capitalism, alcoholism and class warfare. It is a model of society in that era, the wrong and the right, and opens the door to discuss what changes we could make in our world. This one novel opens up a wide range of discussion on many different topics. To get rid of it would be a great loss to us all.

Are there offensive books out there? Absolutely. There are many that I find offensive and would never read myself, but I’m just one person. We can’t let one person, or one group, dictate to the rest of us what we can or cannot read. Then, we start treading into fascism and communism, one government  rule, and then the next thing to go is our freedom. I don’t want to live like that, do you?

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse Publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Fahrenheit 451 remake speaks of social influences changing from books to social media

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I recently watched the remake of the Ray Bradbury classic “Fahrenheit 451” and, unlike some remakes, this one was spot on. It was updated to reflect the influence of social media and the control it has on society today. It still paid homage to the original, including the original movie, while bringing it into the modern world.

The casting of Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon was brilliant. They were a perfect foil for the other, each one with their own demons and secrets. I loved how Shannon (as Beatty) spends his nights at home, writing down his own thoughts on tissue paper with an illegal pen, burning them at dawn. At the same time, Jordan’s Montag kept a collection of relics including a Blockbuster videotape of the movie “Taxi Driver” in his bathroom vent.

All under the watchful eye of Yuixi, a futuristic version of Alexa which scares the Hell out of me. The movie talks about the influence of social media, bringing back memories of Mark Zuckerberg and his testimony about Facebook controlling what people see. Everything they do is broadcast live with emoji’s littering the screen from the millions of viewers. The movie showed us the future we are heading to in our social media driven world.

Then there’s the books. I found it interesting that the only three books available to people is the Holy Bible, Moby Dick, and To The Lighthouse. The rest? As the firemen teach the little kids… Burn them! It’s sad to see all the classics burn like this. It’s a testament to the staying power of literature that’s represented in these books. That’s why I love this book, this movie, this story… Ray Bradbury wrote a classic that stands the test of time.

The ending may have changed in this newest adaptation, but the story stayed true. When you erase literature, you erase history. Beatty talked about this when he showed Montag a copy of Huck Finn, how it offended black people so they burned it, erased it. That’s the bigger meaning of this story. You may not like what was written before, but you can’t erase it completely. To do that would wipe away the history as to why it was written and lessons we can learn from it.

Image result for fahrenheit 451 movieFahrenheit 451 remains to be a classic, in any form. It should be a required read for every child in school today just for the fact that it will show them the right way and the wrong way when it comes to books and history. We have to teach them the right way, otherwise the story Fahrenheit 451 will go from being a fantasy to being a reality. Remember that next time you toss a book aside.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Fantasy wins at the Oscars, and its just the beginning

d44c6c0cc27b86409073154c09502413After last night’s win at the 90th annual Academy Awards, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is in the spotlight, as is the fantasy genre. It was great to see a writer/director/producer like del Toro win the Best Picture and Best Director Oscar. His vision of other worlds in such wonderfully vivid movies like Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Pacific Rim is legendary.

It was great to see the Academy honor a wonderful fantasy story like The Shape of Water and a director like del Toro. It gives a writer like me the confidence in my own fantasy stories. But, at the same time, it’s also disappointing that other fantasy movies weren’t even given a chance to be recognized.

I wrote previously about how the Academy snubs top-rated movies for “artsy” movies that people have barely seen. It’s a shame that audience approval isn’t part of the consideration. The Oscars are nothing more than a night for Hollywood elites to pat themselves on the back. Even still, they do try to get it right once in a while.

I just don’t understand why there is such a disdain for fantasy movies. If you think about it, only two fantasy movies have won the Best Picture Oscar in the past 50 years–Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and The Shape of Water. At the same time, some of the top selling movies of all time have been fantasy movies released in the 50 years.

It doesn’t make any sense to me. Fantasy is one of the best genres out there. It takes you back in time, to another world, or into a magical fantasy. The mind-blowing improvements in CGI has given filmmakers the opportunity to showcase stories that would never have been done before.

Here’s a great example… In 1966, director François Truffaut brought us the dystopian science fiction film Fahrenheit 451, based on the classic Ray Bradbury novel, starring Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, and Cyril Cusack. Watching this movie, you could see the wires holding the jet packs aloft. Yeah, it was pretty bad.

fahrenheit-451Now, in 2018, HBO is remaking it into a new movie starring Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon. It looks amazing, sure to outshine the original. You also got to love the subject matter (burning books, controlling information) in today’s day and age.

John Lennon said, “I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?” With that, how can you not want to write, read, and watch fantasy?

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.