Friday Five: Busy Bee Edition

No time for preamble, I’d hoped to have this out of the door by now but life happened.

  1. Reviews

Ever read Diana Wynne Jones’ Dalemark Quartet? Calmgrove thinks you should

Yes, I will give you every Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances review until I write my own. A Cupful of Cyanide’s version.

And now for two books that have really been grabbing attention – The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah, here reviewed by Sahi at World of Books and Vaishnavi Patel’s Kaikeyi, reviewed by Nicole at Thoughts Stained With Ink

2. General Writey Stuff

I did not expect to share a poem about Burger King, but the poem is good

Want to find some underrated series? Misty has you covered

Want to hear about writing and translating a book about female erotic desires? Step this way

3. Writing

This is more of a general life thing, but this article on relaxing is useful for writing too

4. And the Esoterica

Did you know there were a ton of games based on Hamlet? Well now you do

You people know I’m serious about my food. Well someone else who is serious is Jay Raynor, and this profile of the Hope Workers’ Cafe offers a portrait of a dying institution that still offers a lot of vitality to those around it. Maybe I should get down to a greasy spoon soon.

5. So I saw this article on Cancel Culture in the book community at Frappes and Fiction back when it was published and mulled it over. I agree with a lot of it but also think it focuses more as a call to arms for pushback then an examination of all sides and an argument for a way forward that can work for everyone. Did I want to talk about it? I wasn’t sure. After all, I’m not plugged into the part of the community the author is. But after thinking about some of the recent reactions I’ve seen in the book blogging community outside YA, and tiny glimpses into book bannings in the US, and just seeing some general stuff on free speech on fantasy forums, I’m feeling maybe we need some more pushback before there’s a way forwards.

Here’s my two things. First, the idea that freedom of speech is simply a legal thing and not a cultural thing, and that its preservation lies solely with governments and not with people. Two, that I disagree with the idea that freedom of speech isn’t freedom from consequences.

The second runs for me like this. Take the legal concept of freedom of speech. It doesn’t stop or allow you to physically mouth off against the king or whoever. You can do it whatever the law says. What the law is saying is that the government would cart you away when you do.

It is effectively saying “this major consequence which could happen won’t”. If this is the case, how is freedom of speech not freedom from consequences? Perhaps it is better to say “some consequences”, rather than leave just “consequences” which can be “all consequences” as well as “some consequences”. But I don’t see how it can’t be viewed as in some way being a freedom from a consequence, among other things. The more consequences there are, the less freedom there is.

But even if you accept that, it doesn’t matter if you think it’s just a government affair. But I do not see how in this time of increasing reluctance to simply elect officials and leave them to it rather than to keep lobbying, keep demonstrating, keep pushing, keep advocating, anyone can say that with a straight face. Nor, when we acknowledge how much harm has been done by mass individual consensus to communities who are officially protected by the law, can we say that the legal reality is all that matters and the cultural reality is neither here nor there.

So that’s what I see. Harm being done to free speech on a cultural level, mainly by people who refuse to acknowledge that’s what they’re doing. Is it truly a major problem across life, across books, across YA? Probably not, probably not, couldn’t say… unless you’re in one of those bubbles, or you’re one of those authors. All relatively minor problems are major for those dealing with them. And it does seem to be spreading, and we’re now seeing a parallel movement with a seeming growth banning books at the school and county level in the States. Is there a cause and effect? Who can say, but it’s pretty difficult to argue “don’t ban that book” when you effectively support banning books.

Of course, urging people to temper their criticisms to ensure the continuation of free speech is in itself seeking to tamper with free speech. There is no magic solution where everyone has and feels complete freedom of speech. There is always a balancing of freedom to and freedom from. There is a reason most countries have laws against libel and hate speech and so on.

So I don’t know what to do about it, beyond hope for cultural change in the groups seeking to restrict expression. But I would at least like to make the case that it is harmful, that it does damage free speech, and we should be careful about its use. Some cures are worse than the disease.

That’s it. Have good weekends all.

2 thoughts on “Friday Five: Busy Bee Edition

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