2.28.2012

What Bleeping Century Is This?!

Okay. Fair warning, Peeps: this month's blog is not as uplifting as the last two!
I don't usually blog about politics or other volatile topics, like the innocuous-looking actions that lead to infringement of our free speech. I can certainly be outspoken about things that I believe matter to me and to authors in this country. But, I'm a romance writer. An "Indie Babe." (A term I've applied to myself and other author friends who are taking the Indie publishing road rather than waiting, possibly for many years, for the traditional publishers to find an open slot for us amidst their quickly diminishing sales & severely diminishing world of royalties.) This Indie Babe typically spends more time thinking about science-fiction and fantasy (and my day job) than paying attention to modern politics or to the latest NYC publishing world's vapid and reactionary Amazon-bashing or Indie-bashing propaganda to be blogging about either. Edgar Rice Burroughs Indie published, btw... take that you NYC haters, us Indies are in good company! And anyway, there are plenty of blogs that I read almost daily that are covering all that action. In particular, PG at his blog ThePassiveVoice.com, also Joe Konrath, Kris Rusch, Barry Eisler, and Dean Wesley-Smith, to name some of the biggies.

But really, this past month has just had me wondering more often than I have for the entirety of all the years leading up to it: What f*cking century is this?!

So, earlier in the month we had the hearings in Washington D.C. about reasonable access for women to birth control. And who did we have testifying on the panels of those hearings? Men, and only men. Yes, it is absurd for only men to be commenting on the state of women's access to, and insurance coverage for, birth control. Someday, if and when it's physically possible for a man to choose to carry a baby to term, then the Feds can tell me that a man knows more than any woman what her access or insurance coverage around birth control (or hormone-based medical treatments that my life might depend on) needs to be! The fact that those hearings contained only men (many religiously affiliated, notice?) is certainly common knowledge by now. It was all over the news. Between that and the billionaire Republican talking about women putting aspirin between their knees in the good ole times, I do believe at least one side of the aisle got across very well just how little they value women as human beings. Great job, folks. Thank goodness for technology-driven media or we'd be back in the dark ages with no communication that this had even happened and worse, no accountability. (Well okay, but at least we know it happened). Women walked out of the hearings, outraged upon seeing only men on the panels. Understandable. Umm... wait, we got the vote years ago, right? I mean... did I somehow time travel back to the 1800's? No? Then, ouch! 'Cause it sure feels like it, Peeps.

And then this past week we've just learned that if you are an Indie publisher or author, as I am, that PayPal is being forced by banks and Credit Card companies to CENSOR what we can and cannot publish through our distributors! How, you ask? They are taking the sneaky approach and doing it via nonpayment of PayPal to authors, their publishers, and even large, free distribution channels like Smashwords). Granted, this applies only to certain types of erotic subject matter, which my work does not fall into. However, let me say that if Nabokov's Lolita was written today, it would, under the rules the banking and credit card industry are forcing onto PayPal right now, prevent Lolita from ever seeing the light of day. Now, regardless of how I feel, or how you feel, about the subject matter of that book, it is widely acclaimed as a classic and considered one of the best, albeit controversial, examples of 20th Century literature. (And by best, I mean, for example, that Time magazine named it to the list of 100 Best English-language novels written between 1923 and 2005). 

Art is art, even when I, or you, don't like it and don't think so. The artist has a right to write about thoughts, ideas, and actions that any citizen might find distasteful, even horrifying, and also to write about actions that might be illegal. Writing about something illegal is not the same as doing the thing that's illegal. It's a work of FICTION!

Have you ever seen in a bookstore the true crime books that retell in every disgusting detail what serial killers did to their victims and how? That's not illegal, it's a true crime story. I don't like them, but I'm not going to support their censorship. I might not like a picture someone posts up on their Facebook page either, but I'm not going to lobby for Facebook to remove it, either! That would be silly.

Do you watch crime dramas on TV, like Law & Order? How about Castle? I love that show. It's about a writer, and it's really great! One of the things that makes Castle so great, besides the outstanding cast and crew, is the great writing. But I have never once questioned whether the writers on that show are breaking the law by writing about a murder. They do it every week. I do not question whether the artists on set, the finish carpenters, or the gaffers are breaking the law every week as they help to stage and re-enact the fictional murders that Kate and Castle solve on a fictional show. That would be silly, wouldn't it?

So if someone writes about a character thinking about or committing an illegal activity within a work of fiction, who are the banks to tell that artist or the artist's publishing company that they cannot be paid by Amazon, Smashwords or any other distributor via their PayPal account, simply because the banks have decided that they want PayPal to exclude current books that might have a Lolita storyline, or any other material in a specific author's work? Note that these banks are not responding to illegal activity on PayPal's part, nor to any illegal activity on the part of the authors or the independent publishers who sell their work. No, the banks and the credit card companies have simply decided that PayPal must stop paying authors and independent publishers who publish certain types of erotic literature (art!) just because they say so. Umm ... Fahrenheit 451, anyone?

All of us might disagree vehemently on what constitutes "art" for us personally ... but isn't that the point of art to begin with? If we let banks decide which work of art has value and which work should be banned through nonpayment of legitimate, legal earnings, we may as well rip up every government document including the Constitution of the U.S. and hand Washington D.C. over lock, stock and barrel to American Express or any other financial corporation and put a big red bow on the top.

Censorship is censorship, even if the detail of what is being censored is something that the majority of citizens might find personally offensive. Personally, I find it truly offensive that a distributor or PayPal being strong armed by the banking industry has any right to tell me what types of fiction I can and cannot write and how the distributor can pay me, or any artist, for the royalties that were earned.

So again I find myself asking: What F*cking century is this?! ... Discuss!

Roxy

2 comments:

  1. I said it would make a good post, and I was right. Well said!

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  2. Thanks for reading, Frankie! I'm finding it hard to believe any of this is even happening in 2012. After seeing the doors that the Patriot Act has opened up, I'm concerned that if certain types of fictional content can be censored through pressure on PayPal, how long before paranormal romance works that contain werewolf and shape-shifter content are suddenly over that arbitrary line and being banned because they're considered "bestiality?" How long before the sex in my archangel romances becomes banned because I offended some religious right? If it can happen with cartoons that were censored for depicting Mohammed (Denmark), which offended so many Islamists, it can happen again elsewhere and with other content. The lines and rules between countries are blurring as digital forms of art are globally distributed. It's all extremely disturbing.

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