By Maggie James
Shouldn't adults be free to choose their reading material?
Something disturbing happened to an author friend of mine recently. A writer of horror fiction, he uploaded his latest work to one of the self-publishing platforms. To his amazement, it was rejected because the contents were deemed unsuitable. My friend hasn't been specific about the storyline, only that it contained sexual activity involving a man and a horse.
Now I appreciate such material may not be to everyone's taste. But to refuse to publish it? Really? Should platforms like Amazon, Google, Kobo, etc., have the right to reject self-published material because they deem it offensive? If so, who sets the criteria? Shouldn't adults be free to decide what they read?
The refusal of my friend's story is rendered more bizarre by the fact there are much more controversial works already on sale from self-published authors. Take 'Sick Bastards: A Novel of Extreme Horror, Sex and Gore' by Matt Shaw. From the title alone, anyone offended by such material should realise this book's not for them. Matt also makes it clear in the caveat he adds:
'WARNING: THIS IS AN EXTREME HORROR NOVEL. There is gore. There is bad language. There are scenes of a sexual nature. But hidden underneath it all is also a chilling story. Please do not purchase this book if you are easily shocked, disgusted or offended. This book is not for you.'
Well, that's plain enough. Anyone who buys the book and then says they're offended doesn't have a basis for complaint, in my view. Let me make something clear. In no way am I suggesting that Matt's book should be banned. Quite the opposite. Read on for my take on censorship.
Me? I'm with Voltaire on this
Fiction censorship is nothing new, of course. Throughout history, books have been banned for political, religious and moral reasons, and continue to be blocked today. In a future blog post, I'll be examining censorship of traditionally published fiction, as it's a fascinating topic. Did you know that the children's classic 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' was banned in one country in the past?
I'm against censorship, being a strong supporter of free speech. To paraphrase Voltaire: 'I may not like what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.' When it comes to fiction, my view is this. As long as a suitable disclaimer is placed on potentially upsetting material, then it shouldn't face censorship. And that applies to self-published material as well as books published via the traditional route.
Quite why my friend's story was refused is anyone's guess. It seems one or all of the publishing platforms employ staff to vet submitted material, and perhaps his fell foul of somebody who disapproved of fiction centred around bestiality. Who knows?
Let's hear from you on this subject!
What do you think? Should moral criteria exist for self-published books? Do you believe that fiction dealing with subjects such as bestiality and extreme violence should be banned? Are you an author who has had work refused by a publishing platform? Leave a comment and let me know!
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