And here comes the next spectacular ruckus regarding indy-writers and the (relatively) non-elected, totally bureaucratic and ham-fisted powers of our universe. This one, for a marvel, does not involve Amazon.com, at whose door can be laid the last couple or three of these shindigs. This one involves Paypal, that pearl of great price … and fairly substantial fees on transactions although not to onerous as these things go, certainly better than pawn shops and payday check cashing establishments without a particle of the stigma and it usually makes up for the convenience of the transaction and who am I to object, actually? I don’t, just accepting the reality of the situation – although I have known people who do. Personally, I am enormously fond of Paypal; their security of accounts is awesome, they are unbounded by temporal national and state boundaries, and their small-vendor tools are marvelously useful to the freelance artist/writer/editor. If they are ever in a death-match against Bank of America, I cannot stoutly affirm that I would bet the farm on the former … but I would cheerfully wager at least a couple of large tubs of tomato and squash plants. (Yes, I have an enduring grudge against B of A – why do you ask?)

Anyway and back to the subject at hand, it is with sadness that I have to admit that Paypal has been forced into playing the heavy in the latest censorship-of-the-writerly set. Ghastly details here and one of many responses here. Essentially, Paypal has informed a number of online publishing outlets which use them to transfer payments that certain topics are beyond the pale, so to speak … and that unless such outlets as the ever-popular Smashwords.com, to henceforth cease and desist from publishing and distributing certain material, otherwise the benefits of the aforementioned financial institution will be withdrawn, et cetera, et cetera. Yep, 900-pound gorilla exercising their 900-poundness-pull in the social-financial arena. Here we go again.

Those verboten topics topics include (so we are informed) “bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica” which are things that at first glance and toward which all right-thinking good citizens would object, disapprove, decry and condemn . OK, then – at first glance and blush, all of these are condemned by law and man, if not by meter, and by good taste. (Which lets most of Hollywood out…)
But … how does one go about judging. No, I hate to fall back on that old standby … but seriously – who judges? And by what standard other than a case-by-case basis? This one is so broad that it can be massaged and stretched to incorporate quite a lot of material … some of it by well-established and traditional writers, or very, very best-selling ones. Bestiality – I can think of two examples off the top of my head, besides the one Smashwords writer who first brought this matter up on a LinkdIn group. His book, BTW, is called Wet Goddess – guy falls for a dolphin. One of Carl Hiaason’s books features a character who marries one. And the Twilight series features a werewolf heart-throb … which is a stretch as far as bestiality goes, but one that I wouldn’t be surprised to have someone take, just for the sake of argument. ‘Rape for titillation’ – well, there goes several thousand yards of bodice-ripping novels. ‘Incest’ – tell me, wasn’t there some ghastly memoir on the best-seller lists a while back about just that? Underage erotica: there goes Lolita

My point is – again, this is a standard so broad as to be essentially useless. Worse than useless, for it would enshrine two tiers of writers, two kinds of books: those whose writers are well-thought of, or well-established enough that they can explore any or all of these themes in their books, and get payments processed for them … and the other tier – struggling indys all … who wouldn’t. This is the indy-book equivalent of that ghastly CPSIA legislation of 2008, which sought to banish all kinds of lead contamination from anything which might conceivably come near a person under the age of 12 … and instead put the kibosh on home-crafters and workshops making kids clothes and toys, and children’s books printed before a certain date … because there might be lead in the ink.

(Just FYI – my books are up at Smashwords.com, also. I can truthfully say there is no bestiality, rape for titillation, incest or underage titillation in them. Just some rather mild erotica, and I’m not saying in which books or where – for that, you’ll have to read them yourself.)

Cross-posted at Chicagoboyz.net)

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