29 November, 2007


I read an interesting children's book to JAG a week or two ago. It's quite a simple tale, but one that was just right for us to read. It's a funny thing, though, that we only heard about it because someone tried, officially, legally, to censor it. The law of unintended consequences came into play again.

The book's title,
Olympic Mind Games, was the point at issue with the censors. The book is set just slightly in the future, at the time (and partially at the location) of the 2012 Olympic Games in London; the Games themselves don't really feature in the story, other than as setting for the action: The key is that the Olympic Village is apparently the most secure place in Britain at the time, and security is one of the protagonist's needs. While he is in the Village, through the aid of the alien he is working with, he discovers he is in telepathic communication with his twin sister, who is also in the Village, as a competitor. Thus the title. Quite clever, actually.

The problem arises because the organisers of the 2012 Games have trademarked the word Olympic. As if one can claim that the use of a word which, in assorted languages, has been used since at least 1896 and, in its original language, since about 800 years before Christ. And yet, at utterly stupid as it seems, the law has not firmly slapped the organisers and told them (in suitably restrained language) to get a stronger grip on reality, and behave themselves in the public arena; still no one ever said that the result of law is fair.

Instead, the author was given some kind of legal restraint on using the word in his title, presumably in case any of his potential readers should be mistaken and think that his book was authorised by or in any way tied to the 2012 Olympic Games. Of course, no one could possibly make that mistake, not least because the book's cover conspicuously features an alien face, and nowhere is it tainted with the monstrosity that is the official logo of their games. In the end, thanks to someone whose common sense must have recoiled at the sheer effrontery of what they were trying to do, Ronsson, the author, was permitted to use the title of his book.

So why do i write this now? Because i heard a news story on BBC Radio 4 one day, about the conflict between Ronsson and his would-be censors and, immediately, with no real knowledge of the book, not even exactly what age-group it was aim at, i ordered it. There is no way that an intrusive, out of control, bureaucratic organisation ought to be allowed to prevent anything from being written or published, particularly not for such an appallingly asinine reason. The amusing point and unintended consequence here is that i had never heard of the book, and was unlikely to, except for the actions of the censors; they stimulated action directly opposite to what they intended.

I enjoyed the book, as it happens. Both of us did, in fact. If you'd like to read the review, you can.

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