Sunday, March 4, 2012

A pause, while your correspondent mulls over PayPal.

First, in the news:  If you've been meaning to read SwanSong, I've got a deal for you.  As part of Read an Ebook Week this week, SwanSong is free at Smashwords.com. There's a link to the left, below my picture, that will take you to my Smashwords author page; from there, you can click to the SwanSong page.  Just remember to put in the coupon code from the SwanSong page when you check out.

Also, if all goes well, Seized: Book One of the Pipe Woman Chronicles will be seeing the light of day on or about the spring equinox (which is March 20th this year).  That's, like, two weeks from now.  (Note to self: Yikes!)

Now then.

I was going to run part two of my two-parter on grad school this week.  But then I got an e-mail from Smashwords (not that I'm special -- they sent the same one to all their authors and publishers) that I want to talk about instead.

Here's what's happened, in the words of Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords.  These are excerpts from the e-mail I received yesterday.

In case you haven't heard, about two weeks ago, PayPal contacted Smashwords and gave us a surprise ultimatum: Remove all titles containing bestiality, rape or incest, otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal account.

PayPal tells us that their crackdown is necessary so that they can remain in compliance with the requirements of the banks and credit card associations.... [snip]

PayPal is asking us to censor legal fiction. Regardless of how one views topics of rape, bestiality and incest, these topics are pervasive in mainstream fiction. We believe this crackdown is really targeting erotica writers. This is unfair, and it marks a slippery slope. We don't want credit card companies or financial institutions telling our authors what they can write and what readers can read. Fiction is fantasy. It's not real. It's legal. [snip]

Several Smashwords authors have contacted me to stress that this censorship affects women disproportionately. Women write a lot of the erotica, and they're also the primary consumers of erotica. They're also the primary consumers of mainstream romance, which could also come under threat if PayPal and the credit card companies were to overly enforce their too-broad and too-nebulous obscenity clauses (I think this is unlikely, but at the same time, why would dubious consent be okay in mainstream romance but not okay in erotica? If your write paranormal, can your were-creatures not get it on with one another, or is that bestiality? The insanity needs to stop here. These are not questions an author, publisher or distributor of legal fiction should have to answer). 

The last part got my attention because (spoiler alert!) my next book has a character who can change into the shape of an animal.  I don't think any sane person would consider what I've written to be crossing the line into bestiality.  But then, no sane person would expect Rush Limbaugh to call a female law student a slut because she wanted her college health service to offer contraception.  Oh wait....

Personally, I think the bankers in this country have enough control over our lives already without dictating to a publisher what he can or can't publish.

Coker winds up by saying:
All writers and their readers should stand up and voice their opposition to financial services companies censoring books. Authors should have the freedom to publish legal fiction, and readers should have the freedom to read what they want.

Right on, Mark.

Here's a little more information about the PayPal dispute.
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