Jeff Trexler, interim director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, told PW that the book bans happening across the country were a topic of much conversation at San Diego Comic-Con. “When people saw my badge, they would want to stop and talk,” said Trexler.
The CBLDF is among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit seeking to overturn Texas’s new law requiring retailers to rate books for sexual content before selling them to schools. Trexler is sanguine that the publishing and bookselling community will win, citing the success earlier this year in getting a judge in Virginia Beach, Va., to throw out a lawsuit seeking to ban the sale of Gender Queer and A Court of Mist and Fury to minors. “The thing is, now the lawyers are adapting and learning from their losses,” he explained. “For example, the lawyer who argued the Virginia Beach case said that after that case failed they would pursue requiring book ratings, which is what we are now seeing in Texas.”
Reflecting on recent events, Trexler said literacy is shifting from a verbal written culture to a visual one, and at these moments of transition people are heard “shouting to stop history.” “We can expect more and more of these obscenity-related cases going forward,” he predicted, adding that the impact of censorship efforts is already being felt in diminished sales in changes to the types of books being acquired.
The antidote is collaborative citizenship and communication. “Publishers can’t fight this on their own, retailers can’t fight this on their own,” Trexler said. “There’s already a lot of rope-a-dope and misdirection around this issue. It’s as if they are simply trying to wear us out. The main thing is, we can’t be passive. We have to work together to try and get ahead of this.”