As three of you know, I’m a writer. As such I use words to convey ideas. As others may attest, I’m also an adult. As such I sometimes wish to discuss things that may, or may not, be salient to other adults. Some of those things are violent (read the news for reasons why), others may be sexual (surf the internet to see why), or some may be just about food. I happen to like food. Click that link if you like food too. But, and this is important, if a discussion arises wherein I’m uncomfortable with the subject matter I have choices. I can walk away, I can stay and learn, or I can light someone on fire. Actually, no, I can’t do that last one. I bet you can name some solid reasons why. Yet, for some, burning ideas is accepted. If you don’t like it you BAN it. Usually in high dudgeon, with much gesticulating (to prove you’re earnest), and wrapped in a cloak devoid of common sense. So, yes, joy of joys, censorship hath returned to rear its distorted, ugly, head.
Jim Millot, over at Publisher’s weekly, takes a look at the latest idiots to try and make the world a blander place.
A new content policy instituted by Nook Press last week has resulted in the termination of the accounts of numerous self-published authors.
In recent days, authors have been receiving notices from Nook, which is owned by Barnes & Noble, informing them that their titles are in violation of Nook’s updated content policy. The authors have been told that their titles have been removed from sale, and their accounts have been terminated.
A number of authors who’ve received the notices have taken to social media to vent their frustrations. In a blog post about the situation author Georgette St. Clair said she would have acted to conform to the content policy, had she known it was needed. She writes: “I have never gotten a single warning or complaint from B&N about any of these titles; if I had, I would have taken it down immediately.”
Conformity is not what they’re after. At least not in any literary sense. What they want is “safe” literature. Words that could be read in any Sunday school.
Ooops. More on that in a bit.
Let’s first take a look at the new rules and then we’ll parse out the most obvious violations.
… works portraying or encouraging incest, rape, bestiality, necrophilia, paedophilia or content that encourages hate or violence.
For the record I’m not a fan of any of those activities, but that’s not the issue here today.
Since I write Sci-Fi, let’s go play in my backyard.
- Incest also appears in the writings of two major authors of science fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin and Robert A. Heinlein. Le Guin’s short story “Nine Lives” (1969) features ten clones (five male, five female) of the same person, whose intimate relationship includes incest. Her novel The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) contains a story of two siblings who mate, despite a taboo against it.
- In Philip K. Dick‘s novel, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974), Inspector McNulty is in a sexual relationship with his sister.
- In Piers Anthony‘s Bio of a Space Tyrant (from 1983), the main character’s sister has sex with him when he is 15 and she is 12.
Heinlein wrote numerous books advocating incest as a great way to teach kids the joy of sex. There are those who argue he was satirizing the logical end of the Free Love movement in the 60’s. Maybe. But if satire was his goal he missed it by a wide margin.
Ian Bertram, at Without the State, sums it up nicely.
I have to confess that I find Heinlein’s exploration of sexual themes in these later books disturbing. Although books like “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” and “Stranger” allegedly promote an open attitude to sex and sexuality, his final series of books goes far beyond that, dealing extensively with incest and child sex. In “To Sail Beyond the Sunset” for example, his main protagonist Maureen Johnson (mother of Lazarus Long) connives with her husband to enable him to have sex with two of his daughters – one of them sixteen at the time. She also tries to seduce her own father and speculates on whether he has had sex with one of his granddaughters. Stripped of its SF elements and submitted without Heinlein’s name attached I wonder how easily such a sleazy tale would have found a publisher. A lot of the sexual element of the story is covered by misdirection about ‘Mrs Grundy’, but in real terms a significant element is about child abuse, justified moreover in terms that any paedophile would recognise. Positive representations of incest also turn up in “Job”, “Farnham’s Freehold” and “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls” and most explicitly in “Time Enough for Love” where Lazarus Long makes love to his mother Maureen – a sequence reprised in “Sunset” as part of the wider sequence of incest involving Long, Maureen and her husband, their two daughters and Maureen’s father.
The most explicit example of what I can only call a fixation on young girls – other than ‘Sunset’ – is probably ‘The Door into Summer’ where the hero Dan Davis uses a combination of ‘cold sleep’ and time travel to persuade the 11 year old daughter of his business partner to take cold sleep herself when she reaches 21 so that he can marry her, having gone back into cold sleep himself to come out at the same time. A similar situation arises in “Time for the Stars”, although in this case the hero has been in telepathic communication with the young girl since she was a baby as he travels on an interstellar expedition. The effects of relativity allow her to age so that when he returns to earth he can marry her.
Examples of this fixation can be found to a greater or lesser degree throughout his work. In “Moon” for example, describing the death of Ludmilla, one of Mannie’s wives, he writes, “An explosive bullet hit between her lovely, little-girl breasts”. In “Cat” there is an extended and sexually charged discussion of the delights of spanking a 13-year-old girl. In “Time Enough for Love” Lazarus Long marries a young woman he first meets as a very young child of about 6 years old, his longevity serving the same purpose as time travel and relativity did in “Summer” and “Stars”. Even in his so-called ‘juveniles’ there is a usually a strong dissonance between the actual behaviour and the calendar age of his female characters, all of them demonstrating extreme precocity.
The remaining limitations from Nook seem laudable until you realize they aren’t defined. Hate speech sounds like a great thing to avoid until they decide that “I hate broccoli” should cost an author their placement.
The point here is that all of the terms used are subjective and I, whether you ask or not, am not comfortable having a nameless functionary decide what is, and is not, acceptable.
Not a fun way to kill an evening at my house, but still legal in many states in the U.S. As I noted before.
Pop quiz, if you’ll pardon the expression. What do Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont & Virginia have in common? You can marry your first cousin in every one of them. Well, as long as your first cousin is a member of the opposite sex anyway. But all is not lost. If you’re in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont or Washington D.C., then you’re one of the lucky few who can marry your gay first cousin. In fact, if you’re in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, New Mexico & Vermont you can even have sex with the horse you rode to church after you marry your cousin. Which means that in Connecticut you can marry your gay first cousin while having sex with a horse and be completely within the law.
Plan your vacation now.
Rape? Goodbye Shakespeare, goodbye Jessica Jones comic books, goodbye most literature from the 1600’s forward. If you’ve read The Three Musketeers you’ll know why. It wasn’t subtitled The D’Artagnan Romances #1 by accident.
Above I mentioned Sunday school. The Bible hits all of the offending categories in spades.
Dinah was raped in Genesis.
Beastiality gets four mentions in the Old Testament. To be fair, they are verses condemning it. But, you can only condemn something if it’s happening. Kind of like seeing signs reminding people not to have sex in the birthing rooms in a maternity ward. Someone did that. So, just think about it for a moment and we’ll move on.
Paedophilia gets a shout out in the Old Testament, five times, and it seems like it was heartily approved.
Hate speech? Well, there’s not a lot of positive press for Romans, Samaritans, any non-Jews actually, or others in the Bible.
In fact, just to make it easy on you, Kings, the story of David, hits all the high points, minus beastialtiy, in one long story. Just think of the Godfather movies with a different accent.
So how is Nook enforcing its new rules? Not by banning the Bible, that I can assure you.
Nope, they’re going after low hanging fruit. Self published authors who dream of writing the next 50 Shades of Gray. Given how low that series set the bar you can see why these authors would think it was an attainable goal.
They are attacking the most vulnerable (i.e., people who can’t afford lawyers) just to make themselves feel better.
I’m not saying you should read your favorite rape stories at Sunday school. Nor do I think everyone of every age should read everything. Age appropriate is a thing for a reason. But banning these books isn’t going to make people stop thinking about these things.
More importantly, this crazy stuff called science, has shown that a healthy, and active, fantasy life involving sex is good for you. It promotes happier relationships. Or, to put it another way, the majority of women who read, and enjoyed, 50 Shades, have no real plans to get kidnapped and used as a sex toy for a billionaire.
I know, you find that hard to believe. Just ask your mom. She’ll tell you the truth.