You would think the automatic, short answer to this question would be a resounding “NO”, and you would be correct… ninety-nine percent of the time. There is the rare book that should be banned for promoting hatred, but unfortunately, these tend to only be published within private circles. The good thing about that is they’ll probably never reach the mainstream public, but the bad thing is that someone thought it necessary for hate lit to exist in the first place, and also that they sometimes slip into the library of public domain if they’re old enough or the copyright has expired. Who would ever want to own the copyright for a piece of hate lit is beyond me, though.
When you consider most classics were banned somewhere simply for being honest about uncomfortable topics, or “brazen” with their writing styles, it really makes most controversies with books seem pointless. I think that there are cases where toning down content or mild censorship for a specific audience are okay, or even a good idea. But it should always be the decision of the author to do so. Massacring the hard work of another because of your own cowardice is the sin of sins, to me.
What brought the question up is that I’ve seen a recent upswing in banning and ordering censorship edits of books within independent publishing – yes, independent books, you read that right. The avenue created expressly for freedom of content is not allowing certain books on their platforms. And before you ask, yes, it’s mostly erotica and horror being subjected to censorship. What are arguably two of the first genres to ever exist, along with fantasy, have been challenged right and left since conception.
I’ve read a handful of the ones on Amazon that were booted from other sellers, such as the more infamous books by Bey Deckard, and while they are no-holds-barred in their content, they’re ultimately fiction. They’re not advocating for anything but the reader’s amusement and disgust at some classic, bad taste shock and hedonism.
Also, in a more insidious case, just so you’re aware of this, translations often get censored for petty reasons. A good example is Japanese author Natsuo Kirino’s famous, well-received thriller Grotesque, which faced censorship in its English translation because Kirino had the gall to briefly mention a male prostitute in a few lines. Yes, so controversial, that. I’m clutching my pearls.
In my opinion, pop fiction that pushes a bad message causes more damage than a dark erotica that holds no façade about what it is. A reader who chooses extreme literature knows exactly what they’re getting themselves into. A vulnerable young adult who chooses what looks like a feel-good contemporary and gets the message “give up your dreams for a hot guy who doesn’t love you”, on the other hand, does not.
I just can’t understand how a novel can be banned or the author forced to chop significant pieces out for having the violence of a schlocky horror movie, and not for telling teens to commit suicide to get back at someone you don’t like, because “suicide is edgy”. None of it seems very fair, so no, I think if this is going to be the case, then no honest piece of fiction should ever be banned. Hate lit and propaganda, sure, those can get banned right and left, but no legitimate novel someone has worked on that has purpose and plot, and intends no actual harm, should be touched.