When you follow the writing field for any length of time, one thing you can be certain you’ll encounter is a selection of some of the most… er… eccentric people who still manage to be moderately functional in this world. That’s to be expected: the act of writing fiction is in itself a sanity-breaking thing (how else would you describe visualizing and writing about people, places, and events that never existed with sufficient skill that people who read what you’ve written can pretend for a few hours that all of it actually did happen? It’s a self-induced, controlled delusion).
You’ll also see some of the most idiotic business decisions ever – which bears no relationship to the intelligence of the people making those decisions. As anyone who has worked in government or a sufficiently large organization will know, a dysfunctional enough business environment looks from the outside very like extreme incompetence bordering on “What the heck kind of drugs are they on and where can I get some?” Everyone on the inside may well be making the best decisions they can, but when communication between divisions is in the form of a memo Chinese Whispers, and nobody wants to piss off the boss, well… things happen.
Then you get the occasional utter gem of WTF nested in WTF that blows your trusty WTFometer to pieces. Like this one.
The short version is that in response to complaints from the Coalition of the Perpetually Offended (or something), independent authors of what can quaintly be described as “crypto-erotica” (Or more robustly: monster porn) have seen their books removed from Amazon and other venues. Obviously, Amazon being the gorilla of independent sales, the Amazon removal hurts the authors more than any of the others.
The reason for the removal? They promote “bestiality”.
Leaving aside the fact that I have yet to see anyone try to pull any L. K. Hamilton for this reason (or any of the other mainstream published purveyors of undead porn), the layers of fail in this are simply mind-blowing.
We’ll start with inadequate content guidelines that would, if applied consistently, ensure 50 shades never saw the light of day. Seriously. You can check it for yourself. Presumably if you label it “erotica” rather than “porn”, it’s fine – so long as there are no “sex words” in the title. Fail, Amazon.
Then there’s those who manage to conflate monster porn with bestiality. Is it really bestiality when the monster is the one that initiates it? (Gawd, that’s one heck of an after dark con session… must put this into a con vampire book some time). What about werewolves? Is it normal sex three weeks of the month, and bestiality during the full moon? If you’re dealing with vampires or mummies, does that make it necrophilia instead? And how do you classify it when you’re dealing with aliens or deities? Divine? Out of this world? Oh, and if the Coalition of the Perpetually Offended is going to lump this in with incest and pedophilia, shall we then see Shakespeare removed from the shelves? (Juliet was 13 after all). How about Nabokov? Anne Rice? Fail, Mrs Grundy.
Then there’s the overzealous response to the complaints that wound up removing anything indie-published with even a hint of smut (in the keywords, cover, and title – they weren’t actually reading the books to find out which were “dirty”. Authors who retitled them with something a little more innocuous had no problems). Presumably a legacy publisher’s smut imprint would be just fine. It’s only those horrible independent peddlers of filth that are problematic. A quick look at Amazon’s Erotica category had pretty much everything, with the more explicit and… interesting titles further back in the list. Of course, whether or not such masterworks as The Booty Call of Cthulhu will still be on sale in a month is anyone’s guess – but I can guarantee in my browsing on a wide range of topics I have never inadvertently stumbled on anything remotely erotica-related. I had to actually look for it – which, naturally, raises the question of just how the perpetually offended encountered these books in the first place (honestly, I don’t want to know. It’s almost certainly the same mechanism that leads the Mrs Grundys to trawl through books searching for anything dirty and finding “filth” everywhere because when you’re looking for it you will find it). Fail Amazon and Mrs Grundy.
As for the article, after several rereads I’m still not sure precisely what direction the authors intended readers to take. They seem to be mostly supportive of the writers (and we won’t mention the literary agency that thinks the likes of 50 shades has nothing to do with indie publishing or erotica, will we now?), and somewhat mocking of the overreaction, but there’s no real conclusion beyond “yes, people are still writing this stuff”. Maybe not a fail, just a wrapper around a whole lot of other fails.
My conclusion? After seeing the sales numbers being mentioned, I have to wonder if I should be writing monster porn. $2000 a month profit sounds pretty darn sweet from where I’m sitting, and that was a low end number.