This could almost work as Monday Book Love, because I really enjoyed Mike Mullin‘s book ASHFALL. It is a very cool premise: a normal fifteen-year-old boy Alex is home alone when the supervolcano brewing under Yellowstone National Park explodes. The world is covered in ash and Alex begins his journey away from his ruined home to find his family.
It’s pretty awesome. There’s the scary. There’s the really nasty. There’s the kindness. There’s the sexy stuff.
Ah, there’s the rub. There’s some sexy stuff. Not really sexy, mind you. Not like, Harlequin Romance style. More a very sweet, kind, realistic and honest relationship between Alex and Darla, the girl he meets and ultimately travels with.
So here’s the thing. In his blog post, author Mike Mullin talks about how he gets lots of disapproval and general grief for the brief, caring, off-screen “sexual content” of his book, while no one* seems to be particularly concerned by the violence. And by violence I mean VIOLENCE. Not DIE HARD style, exactly, but there are heads blown off by guns, eyes knocked out…yeah. Violence.
Reading Mullin’s post was deeply refreshing. And completely in line with what I believe. So I’ll share his words, and the link so you can read the whole thing.
Well done, M. Mullin. If you need help on that censorship campaign, just let me know. I’m behind you all the way.
Here’s one of the questions I’ve been asked frequently about my debut novel, ASHFALL: “Is it clean?” The first time the question came up, I was taken aback—what did he mean? I examined the stack of books on the table beside me—had I spilled my coffee and not noticed? After checking over a couple of the books, I reassured the questioner—yep, they’re clean.
The librarian standing next to me was shaking her head. “He’s asking about the content,” she whispered. “Oh,” I replied, “it’s about an apocalypse, realistically depicted. It’s violent.”
“That’s fine,” said the guy—a pastor—picking up a copy.
The librarian was still shaking her head. “There are, um, sexual situations in the book,” she said. The guy’s eyes widened, he set down the book, and marched away.
You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought, any kind of violence is okay but the mere mention of sex is not? ASHFALL has a scene in which Alex, the hero, knocks a man’s eye out of his skull. That’s better than two teens exploring their mutual attraction in a responsible, loving way? What exactly does that say about our culture? (None of the sex in ASHFALL is explicit, by the way—it all happens “off-screen,” during the chapter breaks. But if it were explicit, so what? It’s not an illustrated book.)
thought the pastor might be an aberration, but sadly, he wasn’t. At one school I visited, the librarian prepared the students by reading the eye-popping scene out loud but scolded me for including fade-to-black “sex” scenes in the book.
I maintained my sense of indignation for months. Perversely, every time I was asked if ASHFALL was clean, I’d say no, it’s violent. I held out hope that eventually I’d find someone who would turn away from my work because of the violence, not because of a responsible teenage romance—gasp—realistically depicted. But if those people are out there—those who value love more highly than war—they’re awfully quiet.
The rest of his post can be found here. I encourage you to read it. And to read ASHFALL…even if you’re only looking for the dirty parts.
*Of course I did not take a poll of every librarian and bookseller in the world and ask if they were okay with the eye-ball poking scene but freaked out by the loving, hoping to have safe-sex scenes. Consider this my waiver against statements of hyperbole.