If you’re not aware, the media, abetted by a violent thriller writer, has taken up the torch of harassing Amazon into cracking down upon “lewd” content. This time, however, Amazon is quite serious about it. They’ve taken to completely deleting erotic content with the precision of a busted, makeshift hatchet.
Undoubtedly there will be a lot of other writers such as myself who’ll take to their blogs and interviews to tell of the hypocrisy, the rational incongruity of using an author who writes shameless violence to take on the villainous smut writers. To speak of the larger philosophical issues.
Instead, I’m going to speak a bit on the practical repercussions of such a move, how it affects real people, both readers and writers, and not just of the filthy erotica in question. Because it does affect real people. This moral crusade, like ones of the past, will hurt actual, flesh and blood humans who have harmed nobody, and done nothing objectively wrong.
Michelle and myself are part of numerous author networks, we write across numerous genres because that’s the sort of people we are. Our minds never sit still, we go from fantasy to erotica, from romance to historical thriller, we write fiction and non-fiction alike. We even do reviews, and I take guilty pleasure in coming up with excuses to write songs and poems to insert into our many stories.
Thus far — though it is still just begun — we have only had a few books suffer from the crude hatchet of moral justice, likely due to our great divergence of interests. So the financial loss we’ll take to our living will be moderate compared to most authors. However, we know writers who will face serious hardships because of this. People who will struggle to make ends meat for their families because someone feigned a fainting spell over the existence of naughty words on the internet. People who will see their dreams of being a professional author dashed because others can simply not tolerate that there exists a harmless choice in the world that they would not have taken: to buy a clearly marketed work of writing centered around sexuality.
Don’t be fooled here, nobody is being misled about the content of these books, after all. The reason why they are being targeted is that their content is brazenly presented to the pérouser of naughty literature. It’s not about duplicitous authors tricking people into buying content that offends their sensibilities. It’s not about deception (or seducing young people into reading illicit content).
But it will be. Thanks to this modern era witch hunt.
If you think that vulgar daddy-daughter stories will disappear by this campaign, then you don’t understand how a human being works even on the most basic, bold font, underlined manner. How a purely moral scare such as this has no clear boundaries, so there will always be borderline content to hide among. Afterall, even through the Dark Ages of western civilization, before printing presses allowed easy distribution of materials, and the church in Rome controlled all, some naughty monks would compile dirty collections in the eternal human tradition under a thin veneer of respectability.
The content will persist, but it’ll become harder for interested parties to find, and easier for the unwitting to stumble upon it. The scandalous covers proclaiming the sexual nature of the book, the baudy titles informing you of the exact nature of the insidious tale within, will vanish. The rest will persist, perhaps in diminished form, but it will be scattershot. Harder to strike its intended audience, but landing in the laps of many others interested in more tepid affairs.
Even if Amazon were able and willing to regulate their massive, overwhelming catalogue of books, it still won’t disappear. Why? Because as I started out saying, this witch hunt, like all the others before it, will only target the weak and vulnerable.
This time it’s the independent author. The indies. Those authors who bucked the control of the big publishers, who broke with centuries of tradition of writing being a thing for the rich and privileged with a connection (or the cash) to open publisher doors.
If you think for one moment the ‘respectable’ publishing houses will be forbade the selling of dirty words, think again. They always have done it, ‘bodice rippers’ are nothing new, they’ve been around for longer than we’ve had bodices! The big publishers have contracts and deals with Amazon and other store fronts, they have power and influence. They have professional marketers and they will become masters of deceiving readers and painting their works with a thin veneer of respectability so that they can sell their daddy-daughter rape stories to the suspecting and unsuspecting alike, and the same crusaders who are crushing the livelihoods of authors now will be helpless to stop it.
Most importantly, they have a lucrative market with an audience that will exist for as long as humans do. Regardless of shifting attitudes. Of moral outrage.
The crusaders part will be done by then, of course. They’ll have concentrated money and power back into the hands of the Old Guard. The price-fixing publishers who want your money, not a lend of your mind like so many budding authors.
So to the crusaders, enjoy your little victory. It’s hollow and meaningless, sure. You succeeded in doing little more than bloodying the nose of the school kid half your age, and sending him home from school, but his uncle is still there, and he’s teaching one of your classes no doubt.
To the petty “respectable” authors who look to the erotic indies and see them make a livelihood with envious eyes, don’t pat yourself on the back too hard. Thanks to your vigorous support those lost incomes will go from sheltering families to lining corporate coffers.
And for us all? We all lose, because when the largest book vendor in the world (controlling the vast majourity of sales to be had) censors creativity, the ripples will be felt. Authors will still their metaphorical pen with worries that their words will cross a line, that weeks, months or years of diligent effort will be lost on a technicality. Sacrificed on the altar of shifting public morality that deems some fictional words about breasts or penises for conscious, discerning adults to be obscene.