In a cultural moment when panics over the stories we tell are at their peak, Dangerous Fictions shows us exactly what we're fighting about and why
Fictional stories have long been imagined to hold an uncanny power over hearts and minds, especially those of young people. These days, everybody frets about fiction: according to the National Coalition Against Censorship, the current wave of book bans is the worst since the 1980s, and our cultural debates are consumed by questions about the politics and moral responsibility of storytelling. Can readers and viewers, at any age, be harmed by what they read and see?
In Dangerous Fictions Lyta Gold traces arguments both historical and contemporary that have labeled fiction as dark, immoral, frightening, or poisonous; within each she asks, how “dangerous” is fiction, really? And what about it provokes waves of moral panic and even censorship?
Fiction is the story of other people: that, more than anything else, is what makes it dangerous. From YA readers condemning faults in representation, to debates over the moral worth of controversial works like Lolita, to conservative calls to ban literature that might make white readers feel guilty about American history, people of all political stripes clearly believe stories hold considerable political power.
Dangerous Fictions incisively posits that a panic about art is largely a panic about power in disguise. Gold argues that we’ve been having versions of these same fights over fiction for centuries, and that by exposing fiction as a site of social danger, a battleground of immediate public concern, we can see what each side really wants: the right to shape the future of a world deeply in flux, along with an entertaining sideshow to distract from more pressing material concerns about money, access, and the hard work of politics.
From novels about people driven insane by reading novels to “copaganda” TV shows that impact how viewers regard the police, Gold uses her signature wit, research, and fearless commentary to point readers towards a more substantial question: fiction may be dangerous to us, but aren’t we also dangerous to it?