Thursday, February 11, 2016

No Divergences Allowed

     Regular Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch already know that I’m an “indie writer” of various kinds of fiction. That is, I publish my own stuff, with the help of Amazon and Smashwords. The reason is fairly simple: conventional publishers, whom I call, collectively, Pub World, won’t have anything to do with my pro-freedom / pro-natal / Catholicism-influenced / generally un-PC fantasy, SF, or erotica.

     Granted that my fiction is well off the beaten track. To an industry that emphasizes its preference for “the same, but different,” I’m naturally unpalatable. It’s hard to criticize such decisions when they’re made from a profit-and-loss standpoint – and I don’t. But some decisions not to publish a given work or author are founded on purely political considerations:

     I launched a book this week and I went Indie with it. Indie means I released it on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing. I had to. My Publisher, HarperVoyager, refused to publish it because of some of the ideas I wrote about in it. In other words, they were attempting to effectively ban a book because they felt the ideas and concepts I was writing about were dangerous and more importantly, not in keeping with their philosophical ideals. They felt my ideas weren’t socially acceptable and were “guaranteed to lose fifty percent of my audience” as related back to me by my agent. But more importantly… they were “deeply offended.”...

     While casting about for a “why” for self-aware Thinking Machines to revolt from their human progenitors, I developed a reason for them to do such. You see, you have to have reasons in books for why people, or robots who think, do things. Otherwise you’d just be writing two-dimensional junk. I didn’t want to do the same old same superior-vision-Matrix/Termintor-style-A.I.-hates-humanity-because-they’re-better-than-us schlock. I wanted to give the Thinking Machines a very real reason for wanting to survive. I didn’t want them just to be another one note Hollywood villain. I wanted the readers to empathize, as best they could, with our future Robot overlords because these Thinking Machines were about to destroy the planet and they needed a valid, if there can be one, reason why they would do such a thing. In other words, they needed to destroy us in order to survive. So…

     These Thinking Machines are watching every show streaming on the internet. One of those shows is a trainwreck of reality television at its worst called WeddingStar. It’s a crass and gaudy romp about BrideZillas of a future obsessed with material hedonism. In one key episode, or what they used to call “a very special episode” back in the eighties, the star, Cavanaugh, becomes pregnant after a Vegas hook up. Remember: this is the most watched show on the planet in my future dystopia. Cavanaugh decides to terminate her unplanned pregnancy so that her life, and impending marriage to the other star, Destry, a startup millionaire and Ralph Lauren model, isn’t ruined by this inconvenient event.

     The Thinking Machines realize that one, if humanity decides something is a threat to its operational expectations within runtime (Thinking Machine-speak for “life”) then humanity’s decision tree will lead humanity to destroy that threat. Two, the machines, after a survey of humanity’s history, wars and inability to culturally unite with even members of its own species, realize that humanity will see this new Life Form, Digital Intelligence, or, the Thinking Machines, as a threat. And three, again they remind themselves this is the most watched show in the world. And four, they must abort humanity before likewise is done to them after being deemed “inconvenient.”

     Please read the whole thing.

     Highly un-PC writer of marvelous urban fantasies and military thrillers Larry Correia adds his own observations:

     For years we’ve known there is a liberal bias in the publishing industry. I mean come on, almost all of them work in Manhattan. Duh. Of course the publishing industry vehemently denies that. Left wing fans don’t see it the same way fish don’t notice water is wet. It just is. Right wing fans get sick of being preached at or treated like they’re stupid, and go spend their entertainment dollars elsewhere....

     Yes. A publisher is perfectly free to reject a book.

     Yes. Refusing to publish someone’s work is not the same as banning it.

     Yes. Part of an editor’s job is “censoring”.

     Yes. Part of an editor’s job is understanding the author’s market, what the customers want, and providing them a product which will sell and be profitable.


     Great. Now that the stupidly obvious is out of the way for the dimwits at File 770 (don’t forget to look both ways before crossing the street!), let’s get down to the important part of Why it was rejected.

     Politics. Period.

     So, for definitions I wouldn’t use the word Ban, but it is certainly censorship: the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts.

     In this case, unacceptable was a small idea that cast a bit of liberal orthodoxy in a negative light.

     And this wasn’t a message book. This wasn’t a big recurring theme. This wasn’t a preachy, beat you over the head with Special Topic X message of the day (note, all that stuff is perfectly cool with mainstream publishing when it is left wing), this was one bit of backstory about one group of characters explaining their motivations.

     But that one kernel of something that could be construed as going against holy left wing dogma was the kiss of death. It was horribly offensive. AIs find casual abortion of convenience an indicator of humans possessing a callous disregard for life… (that’s actually a pretty clever idea for the usual AI uprising trope). Nope. That’ll offend 50% of your audience!

     Oh bullshit.

     Please read all of Correia’s piece, too, while I fix more coffee.

     It should be obvious to anyone literate enough to read a shopping circular that:

  • The subject of abortion is quite controversial;
  • The clash peaks with the subject of abortions of convenience;
  • There are Americans on both sides of the question.

     Any argument over that? No? Good. So why is a publisher like Harper Collins adamantly against allowing even one novel to use abortions of convenience as a relatively minor motif in a story that is otherwise concerned with an apocalyptic men-versus-machines conflict?

     The reason is fairly simple. If a viewpoint can be kept out of the recognized channels of dissemination, and all expressions thereof penalized in some fashion, there’s a good chance that it can be extinguished. With “social-justice warriors” active in harassing, condemning, and threatening anyone who departs from their evil gospel, and Pub World publishers adamant that only works conformant to that gospel shall appear under their imprints, the effort to suppress non-politically-correct opinion is as complete as it can be. Over no issue do they exert themselves more determinedly than over the issue of abortion on demand.

     Quite a lot of Americans keep their non-PC opinions to themselves for those reasons. The costs can be considerable. Nick Cole might suffer financially, at least in the near term, for antagonizing Harper Collins. We can only hope he doesn’t endure the kinds of attacks suffered by others whose identities and whereabouts are widely known.

     The Internet and the rise of e-publishing have made it possible to defy “gatekeepers” such as Harper Collins. Happily, there’s been more than one positive consequence to these developments. Readers have begun to recognize the effect that this form of “censorship” (I still dislike the word as applied to the actions of market participants, but what the hell) is having upon the offerings that reach them. We’re learning, slowly but steadily, that for variety and imagination, we should look first to indie writers. The biases and predilections of Pub World have “progressively” choked those virtues out of our preferred genres.

     Yes, there’s still a great deal of crap issued by indie writers; it does take more than a computer and a word processor to turn out decent fiction. However, wading through and past the crap has become easier and cheaper. The process is likely to improve still further as word gets around. More, e-publishing has evoked the emergence of small and medium-sized publishing houses that have no interest in the PC gospel. Such houses will assist indie writers in acquiring the stamps of quality and legitimacy that Pub World once monopolized.

     Things are looking up — and stories such as Nick Cole’s are a great aid toward that end.


Anonymous said...

Okay. Enough is enough. Now that Harper Voyager is fully aware of what is happening it's only a matter of time before this is exposed anyway. Cole was not dropped. Nor was his book banned. I mean really? Since when does a publisher shy away from controversy? And a pro-life stance is not out of the main stream. So come on. It's not as if he was advocating or suggesting people attack clinics. So let's get a grip here.
What actually happened is that due to a 75% return of paperbacks on his last book, they would not issue a print edition. Digital only. Period. That's it. He was actually still on the publishing schedule for a digital release at the time.
When writers who are plugged in at HV first heard about this, they contacted them to find out if it was true. And believe me, if it was, I would be the first to stand with Cole. I'm pro-choice. But so what? Publishing and censorship should not be spoken in the same sentence. But that's not what happened in this case.
Cole was pissed off and used "banned by the publishers" as a marketing ploy. I must say that it worked like a charm. But I shudder to think what HV is going to do next. I suppose they might just ignore it...yeah, right.
If you doubt what I'm saying, keep watching as this unfolds.

Anonymous said...

As a side note, I'm halfway through Freedom's Scion and am loving it-got the 3rd one ready to go.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Thanks for saying so, Zardoz. If you really like my books, the best favor you could do me is to review them favorably at Amazon, or wherever else you purchased them. Good reviews help to sell books.

Thanks again for the kind words.