Though I have been rejected from every publishing house in America, now I am also being told that I can't even "self-publish" my glorious filth for money.
I have credit card bills, but I cannot pay them off by conducting business the only way that I know how: writing and selling short stories and novels.
This is an extremely upsetting predicament.
It's nothing personal, evidently. Credit card companies are cracking down on amateur writers all over America this week and no one seems to care very much.
PayPal is refusing to serve as a money nexus for any publishing entity that publishes erotica, specifically erotica featuring incest, bestiality, rape, or underage porn.
(NOTE: I don't write erotica, nor do I write about any of these topics specifically. But my stories, like all literature, have controversial themes and transgressive subject matter that mark them for deletion in any marketplace that doesn't have the protection of prestige. Michel Houellebecq 's next book = safe! The entire Smashwords catalog = up against the wall, smoking one last cigarette, blindfolded, singing the "Internationale.")
No one is taking much responsibility for this act. Who can I blame? Smashwords blames PayPal. PayPal blames their overlord, Ebay, and Ebay blames credit card companies like Visa, Mastercard, and Discover.
This worldwide crackdown on filth is not making the news, but it is happening. This is not some weird political conspiracy theory about chemtrails, aspartame, gluten, or vaccines. It is happening -- in real time -- and unfortunately the victims are perverts and assholes like me who write nearly-criminal stories that only bad people and foreigners enjoy.
This is an actual fight between money and art.
Libertarians? Hippies? Right wing? Left wing? You people both claim that you love freedom of speech. I usually hate both of you, because I usually don't believe you and also because the politically-motivated usually write terrible fiction. But now is your chance to prove me wrong.
It is frustrating to see this happening and to see no one leaping into action to help. Credit card companies seemed to have weighed American apathy correctly. People like to fight for symbols and concepts, but they get nervous when the fight is for something actually important, like made-up stories about doing it with your granny in a shack in the woods or raping horses with comatose children or whatever.
I have had enough, personally. I am tired of being chased further and further underground. I feel that I am already underground enough. The only time I get to share my stories with the public is when I shout them at people in bars, when I give them away for free on my blog, or when I turn them into YouTube videos:
I enjoy being paid a tiny honorarium for the fiction that I write. It is legal for me to write the stories that I write. It is legal for me to sell them. I need a place to do this. Smashwords gives me the best percentage from my sales and allows me to put my novels into formats that everyone can enjoy.
People who do not live their lives in a red rage, waiting for the slightest provocation from powerful forces in order to go into "combat mode," might argue that there is no need to defend pornographers in a venue meant to sell legitimate fiction.
However, though I do not specifically write "porn meant to titillate," the books that I have written do feature scenes that violate the new terms of service that PayPal is demanding from Smashwords.
If Smashwords is going to delete "any" books for the reasons that they have stated, then they are going to have to delete my books, too. Smashwords told me that what I should do is make sure that my books aren't tagged with any obscene words so that they are not rounded up and flagged. This is a sly warning -- an invitation to a clever dodge -- but I can't do such a thing in good conscience.
Instead, out of protest, I have tagged ALL of my books, even the ones that are basically innocent, with dangerous words -- "bestiality," "rape," "underage," "incest," "barely legal" -- even though I have specifically been warned not to do this.
Check out my amazing tag cloud of horribleness at the bottom of my Smashwords author page!
I urge other Smashwords authors to join me in tagging books with these offensive concepts, in order to make the point that you cannot cherry-pick the ideas and themes that are appropriate for fiction.
(flag courtesy of Mr. Sam Snoek-Brown)
Writers are spiteful animals who actually like dangerous ideas. It is thrilling to produce them. It is thrilling to read them.
NOTE: Yes, it bothers me that child pornography, rape, unwilling incest, and nonconsesual sex with animals exists in the world. However, because I am not a fucking idiot, I don't think that deleting books about these topics will get rid of these problems. I like not being a fucking idiot. It makes the world much nicer for me, and makes me able to enjoy many rare and exquisite things, like liquor chocolates, French novels, Janis Joplin, and writing stories about genetically-engineered, epileptic rodents that are sold as living dildos.
Other people who are not fucking idiots can tell the difference between fantasy and reality. We have a little club. It is called "reading."
Rape is horrible, but nobody is "deleting" rapists here. Instead, we are compounding the world's misery by taking the ax to borderline schizophrenics, cranks, weirdos, perverts, and delusional dreamers like me who have harmed no one and only wish to share their insanity with the world in order to prevent being ruled by this insanity.
How will it feel to have my books deleted from the internet by a credit card company?
My books being deleted from the internet by a credit card company will feel exactly like getting raped by a grizzly bear at a McDonald's Playland while children watch, French fries dangling from their mouths, their diapers filling with green diarrhea.
If I were to write a story about how it would feel, that story would also have to be deleted by Smashwords.
The attack on Smashwords really hits me particularly hard, because I was already swallowing my pride when I decided to self-publish my books and stories in the first place.
Sometimes I read about famous authors who "made it" and I see that they had over fifteen rejections for their novel. Or maybe they received over 100 rejection letters for their short stories, enough to wallpaper the room of their garret. Or maybe it took them three sad years to finally place one of their genius short stories in a magazine.
My stories have been rejected thousands of times. I have actually never been published, except in a magazine called "Out of the Gutter" which was published by a friend in Austin and is meant specifically for "men in prison."
"Okay," I told myself after ten years of writing stories and a hundred completed tales that no one wanted. "So I am not really meant to be a writer. And yet I can't stop doing it. What does this mean?"
It means I published two short story collections inside rubber genitalia, inventing the "digital sculpture" in an effort to reinvent what publishing even means.
After I finished writing my second novel, the first book in my epic fantasy series about psychics, cockroaches, and unicorns, I accepted my lot in life: "No one likes your books very much, it seems. But the good people at Smashwords will let you publish them there for free, and maybe once you have made some money, you can go out and fund a print edition for your friends to have. Then your friends will be able to read your stories, at least. You will be able to sleep at night, and carry on with the sad business of writing the sequels to an epic series that no one wanted in the first place."
For a brief period, I had an agent. She shopped my novel around to all of the publishing houses in NYC, and they all turned me down. Then, she stopped being an agent out of sadness and frustration, apologized profusely to me, and we had tea together.
A very good friend convinced me to submit my book to an entirely different agent: some young go-getter with pizazz or some shit. After three months of silence, so long that I had completely forgotten about him, he sent me this letter:
"I'm shamefaced to have kept you waiting so long on a response to this. I really don't have any other excuse than the size of my reading load -- but still, three months is too long, and I'm sorry. Thank you for your patience and understanding. To cut right to the chase, this is is quite literally like nothing I've ever read before, both for better and for worse. Which is to say, it was a refreshing change from the predictable stuff that usually comes across my desk. But it's also just not really my kind of book. I don't think it even is a "kind" of book (or if it is, I've never read those kinds of books). I admire your talent and most of all your imagination, but I quite literally have no idea who would publish this. Which is not to say someone won't -- only that it's far enough outside of the kind of fiction I tend to represent that I wouldn't know what to do with it. It's a crazy book, but I'm honestly not sure if I mean crazy-good or crazy-crazy when I say that."
So, after being called "crazy-crazy" by a literary agent and told to go to hell -- basically -- I realized that my work provoked in East Coast elites the same emotions that my physical presence often provokes: fear and confusion. I remembered a piece of advice that my very good friend Chris Nicholas, Austin independent publishing's famous "Uncle Staple," told me once:
"Nobody likes it when you are smarter than them and you don't have more money."
So! Why try to be liked at all? Smashwords would be the place where I would instead build my world, all on my own, with help from no one but my pals.
Until now, I haven't had any problems with Smashwords. They have paid me quarterly (as they said they would!) and despite not listening to any of my excellent suggestions for how to be a much better website for their authors, they have still been pretty good about protecting their work and publishing precisely the kind of "crazy" ebooks that I enjoy reading.
I guess some part of me knew that this couldn't last forever. And now the credit card companies are trying to dismantle this plucky publishing platform that seems right on the cusp of breaking free and posing a legitimate threat to Amazon, Apple, and Google's initiatives.
Do I think I am some great, genius writer who deserves special treatment? No, not really.
(I mean: sometimes in the shower I think this.)
But do I think I deserve to have my books deleted from the internet by credit card companies?
Hell fucking no, I do not think this.
No one deserves this.
At first, I was surprised, shocked, and upset at Smashwords for their surprising, unilateral decision to change their policy and begin a massive culling of content for moral reasons (not legal ones).
Then, a few days later, Mr. Coker issued a different letter explaining his decision and seeming to waver a little bit about what was happening. It seemed that he was of two minds. He put the gun to the heads of his writers, but he couldn't pull the trigger.
Mark Coker himself is also a novelist. I think someone who was purely a business excecutive would never have hesitated.
Finally, he wrote all of us authors and publishers a more sympathetic analysis of the situation, asking us to help him fight this decision, asking us to help him raise awareness about the issue in order to put pressure on credit card companies who want to defund controversial books.
He ends his letter with: "Let's start a little fire, shall we?"
Yes, let's do that.
Share my rage a little bit with me for just one quiet moment. Imagine how you would feel after being rejected by every single publisher in your language. Imagine how you would feel if you then swallowed all the hate and bitterness in your heart, did judo on it, and started the hard business of making your own publishing empire out of your own works, aligning yourself with the biggest publisher at "the bottom" who was not actually going to charge you for the privilege of making books.
And then, imagine how you would feel if credit card companies found out where you were hiding and said that you had to find some place else to share your work -- that you didn't deserve any money for the decade of work that you put into your stories, even if you did all the publishing work yourself?
How would you feel about that? Would you be angry? Would you want people to stand up for you?
Don't pick on Smashwords, credit card companies. They do good work for bad people. I know they have the exact opposite of your business model, but try to understand them.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Here is a petition that somebody made. Petitions aren't as good as sharing this story with everybody that you know, but then again, probably everybody that you know doesn't want to read Mark Coker's call to action or my angry screed.
Posted by miracle on Mon, 05 Mar 2012 18:00:04 -0500 -- permanent link