I just found out that WH Smith has taken down their website while they remove all self published ebooks from their site. Apparently, they get some of their ebooks from Kobo, one of their partners, and some self published authors have been ignoring the ‘decency’ rules by using these platforms to publish content containing rape, incest and bestiality.
You can read a BBC report about it here.
On one hand, I can see their point. Does incest, rape and bestiality really make a good work of fiction? Why in the world anyone would want to write a book about bestiality, is totally beyond me but, it takes all sorts to make a world I guess. I wouldn’t want to read such stuff, especially as I was a child victim of incest myself, but does that mean no one should be allowed to?
On the other hand, is this just another example of the nanny state gone mad? Rape and incest happen, every day, all over the world and stopping people from including it in works of fiction, might be construed as censorship on steroids. There are ways to infer rape and incest in a storyline, without giving readers a gut-wrenching blow by blow account, and in so doing, keep the story within bounds without taking the realism out of it.
WH Smith is a Newsagent, and they sell newspapers and magazines, including ‘top shelf’ men’s smut rags. Surely, if they want to remove all ‘dirty stuff’ they should stop selling these too? And, furthermore, I’ll bet fifty quid of anyone’s money that there are numerous traditionally published titles that also feature rape and incest. Possibly not bestiality though, do people really write about that? Seriously? Anyway, are they going to remove the trad pubbed smut too? They damn well better, or there will be a riot.
Did I serious misspell liar, or what?
LOL well umm, I didn’t want to mention that.
These actions put WH Smith, and other distribution agents, on a slippery slope. While I agree that some of the literature offered by all publishers and authors (not just self-published) is demeaning, vile, and disgusting in my opinion, most distribution channels are not being even-handed in there determination of what is, or is not worthy of sale.
I was following comments on this post on facebook and noticed someone talk about the Fifty Shades phenomenon. While this story may not depict rape or suedo-incest, it does glorify a one-sided relationship between a virginal college student and an older masochistic masongynist-and distributors everywhere are jumping at the chance to offer this poorly written book to the masses. This is not the first time this has happened.Back in the early sixties, Lawrence Block wrote a book entitled “Sixty-nine Barrow Street.” This book told the story of a man caught in an abusive relationship with a woman. This woman was so deranged that she ended up detaining a young girl in her home (sometimes in her closet) while abusing her both sexually and mentally. In the end, The main character ends up killing the abusive woman in self-defense. This book was considered smut because of its sexual honesty while another book titled, “Lolita” about an older man infatuated with a girl so young, his actions could only be explained as statutory rape, saw literary fame.
While I personally would not be interested in any story that depicts a person being demean or abused by another, I cannot blame the authors for writing such material. I believe that most write in such sub-genres because there is a demand. I write paranormal romance and erotica under a pen name and have found myself sucked into continuing because of many reasons beyond economic. The sales certainly keeping me writing in this genre but I gain so much more. The stories tend to be short and I must write more in order to continue to offer new material. I’ve written a story about a woman becoming involved in a wiccan or celtic seasonal celebration involving sex with two brothers. I’ve written a story of a woman signing up for an experiment in telepathy only to become sexually involved with her sender-through telepathy. I’ve also written a novel about a demon succubus going through men like water in her attempt to find mortal love. The point is that I (and many other authors) write these stories to the market. Yes, I want to write ethically, morally, and to a standard that might be consider literary, but I also write for the money. Any author that tries to convince others that they are writing strictly for some higher purpose is either a lyer, or an unserious writer, possibly both.
So, I think that the reason these distributors are pulling certain books from their proverbial shelves is simply to uphold their image. They are probably under pressure from one group or another so they are caving. The bottom line is that, if there is a market for such material, readers will find a way to purchase it and writers will find a way to write it. The fact that these books are bought and sold is indicative of our society. As much as it disgusts me to see works like this being openly sold, I appreciate that they are available from a freedom of speech point of view.
While I do agree that certains books are pushed to the top with much help from the media and distributors (cases in point: Twilight, Fifty Shades of Gray, and The Cookoos Calling-after it was “discovered” that it was written by J. K. Rowling) every book should be given the chance to rise to the top or fall into obscurity on its own. Yes, some of these books are written for titilation and shock value but they should not be banned as a means to control society. On the other hand, if the distributor is a private business, they have every right to decide what they will, or will not sell.
I could go on forever debating both pro and cons of such actions but in the end, I believe the market simply reacts to the desires of those buying. What people buy is indicative of the current moral standing of our society as a whole. Are we creating societal degenerates by offering this type of material or will these degenerates still be present, if not hidden, if this type of material is forbidden?
Great post by the way, Merita. Very thought-provoking.
Hi JL, this is definitely the longest and most in depth comment on my entire blog, thank you. I agree with you, demand inspires authors to write and I really don’t know how, or if it’s even possible, to stop the worst of these books being seen. Perhaps the answer lies in sites like Amazon and all the other publishing platforms, having separate sub-sites for such material, which have to be logged onto with credit card details, to prove no children are accessing them.
I also agree that there has been double standards in decency, such as the books you’ve already mentioned and I’m sure there are more of them. I hate the double standards that say they can show Lolita on their site because it made a lot of money, whereas the newer stuff that is as yet unknown, cannot because it offends. It all offends, whether it has made money in the past and if they are to ban one, they should ban them all.
Rape, incest and bestiality may happen every day but that doesn’t make them right. Ever. To be self-published because you are raising awareness is an act of goodness in my opinion. To be self-published and using any of that for sheer tittilation value/sales is not a good thing. It only spreads a message of acceptance and tolerance until no one can even see a goal post any more. (JMO)
I agree Aurora, totally agree. Many people write memoirs containing their own experiences of rape and incest and such books are designed to inform and help others who may be struggling with similar experiences. To ban these is pointless and stupid. People have become so desensitised these days, nothing shocks anymore so people are searching for new boundaries and new thrills. I don’t know whether the internet is to blame for this or not, but I do wonder what we are to do about this trend, or even if we can do anything about it at all.
Reblogged this on Vampires, Crime and Angels…Eclectic Me and commented:
I can understand where they’re coming from. It happens often, when you search a totally innocent word and all this porn crap comes up on the likes of Amazon. I often search by price and all the free books are these gross out porn stories and you can so easily click one by accident because it has an innocent title and a relatively innocent cover, only to find out what it is afterwards. But surely the simple fix is an adult content filter, like Smashwords have? And the key here is not to punish ALL Indie Authors for the selfishness of the few, is it?! It hardly seems fair or right.
What are your thoughts?
I totally agree with you. It surely can’t be that hard for these sites to implement some kind of filter? It is easy to find something you don’t want, by clicking on links that look benign, we’ve all done it, but with a little work on the part of the site admins, it can be overcome without punishing all indie authors.
Exactly. The only one I’ve seen doing it at all, never mind successfully is Smashwords. They include even some ordinary romance under their ‘adult filter’, just because it skirts the fence of acceptable literature.
Smashwords are brilliant, I love them. I just wish people would use them more instead of Amazon. Their distribution is second to none and the royalties are better.
Very true. You can find stuff on there that isn’t anywhere else, and it’s all about the Indie’s. 🙂
Yes indeed, it’s a great site.