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What you can do to help?

January 28, 2014
Posted at 11:19 am

Okay. This is going to seem like a stupid idea. Or a childish one. But think about it a little bit, and then realize how much fun it might be to participate. It also turned out to be a lot longer than I planned, but then so do my books, so who's surprised at that?

I got several pieces of mail concerning my recent rant against Amazon for censoring books. Amazon did this because a bunch of (very nice, I'm sure) people in the United Kingdom got on their high horses (we all have one) and brought pressure to bear on Amazon to clean it's list of books of "objectionable material."

In this case, the "objectionable material" was anything that hinted at incest. An example is my book "Tumblr Sister." Now the original of that book, which was posted at SOL, was truly a book involving incest. But Amazon has traditionally prohibited true incest, so I changed it so that Tut, the male protagonist, was adopted by a man who then married Phee's mother. Phee, was one of the female protagonists. So there was not even a hint of blood relationship between Tut and Phee. In the beginning of the book, I addressed the "What do I call her" question, and simply said that if you grow up in a house with a girl, you call her your sister, even if she's technically not.

That is what the industry calls "faux incest'" For fans who like incest, it's not far from that. For those who don't, it is presumed they can keep things on their own moral level in their minds.

So Amazon didn't mind publishing Faux Incest, as long as it really was faux.

Then came the uproar in England. To be Honest, the titles they splashed around were things like "Daddy Got me Pregnant" and "Fucking My Mother" and "Sister's Sweet Pussy" and the like. Those were also faux incest, inside in the text, but the title made things obvious about what was really going on.

So Amazon, feeling the heat, put on the skids and, at least in some cases, started censoring the titles of books. I had to change the name of my book to "Tumblr Step-Sister", even though my title wasn't explicit. It had the word "sister" in it, and that was enough to get it banned. The new title lasted about a month, and then that one got banned too. So I changed it to "Tumblr Sibling." So far, so good on that one. But while the original sold quite well (because, believe it or not, there are a lot of people out there who like reading about incest. Go figure!) Tumblr Sibling hasn't sold much at all, because there is no hint anywhere (until you get into the book itself) that it might contain that kind of relationship.

But let's be clear here. I'm not complaining because sales are down. Not at all. That's not the point, here.

Which brings us to another email I got, from a reader in the UK. He said (this is a paraphrase) that because they never had a revolution, and never had a constitution, they've never had the right of free speech. His point was that, in England, someone might feel like censorship is just fine and dandy, and that there is nothing wrong with it.

Of course I doubt they'd feel that way if their own speech was being censored. But let's not quibble.

And then I got an email from Tom, who just made my day. He said "I wonder if they'd censor King Lear, because Shakespeare definitely has the two daughters having sex with him."

And that made me think about The Holy Bible, in which Lot's two daughters, after they flee from Sodom, which is destroyed behind them, find themselves in a cave with their father, and realize that all the available husbands are ... well ... no longer available. So they get their father drunk and get him to impregnate them. Just for fun, I'll mention that nobody smites them. The Bible just says the girls went on to start nations of their own. And it's pretty clear to anybody who thinks about it for longer than ten seconds, that Adam and Eve, who started off the whole population thing, didn't have a very deep gene pool to swim in. Nor did Noah and his sons when they re-populated the entire earth later on.

So the question is: Does Amazon sell King Lear and The Holy Bible?

And the answer, of course, is "Yes they do!"

Now let me head off the people who are about to write back and yell at me at this point.

I'm quite aware there is a huge difference between The Holy Bible and what is classified as "Erotica" in the present time. The Bible contains erotic writing, but it wasn't put together for that reason.

But I had to mention it, because it's there, and it's obvious, in the context of the argument about what is and is not "objectionable" material.

King Lear, however, might be a different matter. What was Shakespeare's purpose in writing a play that so clearly suggested incest? Unfortunately, he's not around to answer the question, but to me it's a good bet that he expected it to create a reaction in his audience. And I'm pretty sure, based on my own experiences, that he knew there would be some people who would be titillated by the content. Granted, that relationship is presented as a tragedy, but the play, itself, was often revised to have a happy ending, because that's what audiences wanted.

Imagine that. Audiences wanted an incestuous relationship to have a happy ending!

But again, that is not the point. I'm not defending or promoting incest. I actually think it's a bad idea, when attempted in real life. I also think shooting at bad guys indiscriminately (without checking to see who else might get hit) is a bad idea. Movie makers do not.

My point is that whether there is a constitutional basis for it or not, nobody likes to have their speech censored.

The problem, here, is that a lot of those people would like very much to censor other people's speech.

You are all familiar with the mantra of "Death to America!" that is chanted on a daily basis in half a dozen countries.

Imagine, for a moment, what the reaction would be if a thousand Americans got together with banners and guns waving, and chanted "Death to Iran!"

One set of people feel that their speech is entirely appropriate - when they say it. But that same speech used by someone else is racist, xenophobic, insensitive, warmonger-like, dozens of other awful accusations ... and ...


My point is this. I think we should be honest with each other. I think what's good for the goose is good for the gander. I think there should be a level playing field. I think everyone should have the same advantage.

I have no problem with all those people chanting "Death to America!" I think they have the right to say it. I think bigots and racists have the right to use "objectionable" titles for the people they hate.

Of course, should anyone come to America to try to bring death, I'll happily shoot them. And if the racists go beyond speech, and actually threaten anyone, I don't mind if someone shoots them either.

Speech doesn't hurt anybody. That old saying "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me," is quite true.

So here's where we get to the stupid part, that I mentioned at the beginning of this rant.

Amazon sells King Lear and The Holy Bible, both of which contain either actual incest, or faux incest. What would happen if thousands (tens of thousands) of people wrote to Amazon and complained that these two books contain "objectionable content" which "clearly violates Amazon's standards"?

What would happen if those of us who feel that speech is harmless, stood up for our beliefs, like the radical right is so willing to speak up for their beliefs?

I honestly don't know if it would do any good. I don't know if it would bring any changes.

And ... while I'm being honest ...

I just want to make things as difficult for Amazon as possible.

Please write to Amazon and tell them they are not the moral protector of the world. Demand that they remove King Lear and The Holy Bible from their shelves, both literal and digital, unless they stop censoring other books with similar content. Demand that they leave titles alone.

They might just stop publishing erotica completely. I don't know.

But I'd rather have that, and have another company take over that area of publishing, than let Amazon's censors determine what you may and may not read.

I told you would be crazy. Didn't I?

Thanks for reading