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Banned by the Publisher

9 February 2016

From author Nick Cole:

Thank God for Jeff Bezos

I launched a book this week and I went Indie with it. Indie means I released it on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing. I had to. My Publisher, HarperVoyager, refused to publish it because of some of the ideas I wrote about in it. In other words, they were attempting to effectively ban a book because they felt the ideas and concepts I was writing about were dangerous and more importantly, not in keeping with their philosophical ideals. They felt my ideas weren’t socially acceptable and were “guaranteed to lose fifty percent of my audience” as related back to me by my agent. But more importantly… they were “deeply offended.”

A little backstory. A few years back I wrote a novel called Soda Pop Soldier. It was the last obligated novel under my first contract. The novel was a critical hit (Starred Review in Publisher’s Weekly) and it resonated with my post-apocalyptic readership from my breakout Amazon best seller, The Old Man and the Wasteland, and it picked up a new audience in the cyberpunk and gamer crowd. The novel is about a future dystopia where people play video games for a living. It’s basically Call of Duty meets Ready Player One and a lot of people really enjoyed it. When it came time to write another book for Harper Collins I was encouraged by my editor to dip once more into the Dystopian Gamer milieu and tell another story inside the Soda Pop Soldier universe. We agreed on a prequel that told the story of how that future became the way it is in Soda Pop Soldier.

. . . .

And that involved talking about Artificial Intelligence because in the dystopian gaming future, the planet had almost been destroyed by a robot revolution sourced by Artificial Intelligence.

And here’s where things went horribly wrong, according to my editor at Harper Collins. While casting about for a “why” for self-aware Thinking Machines to revolt from their human progenitors, I developed a reason for them to do such. You see, you have to have reasons in books for why people, or robots who think, do things. Otherwise you’d just be writing two-dimensional junk. I didn’t want to do the same old same superior-vision-Matrix/Termintor-style-A.I.-hates-humanity-because-they’re-better-than-us schlock. I wanted to give the Thinking Machines a very real reason for wanting to survive. I didn’t want them just to be another one note Hollywood villain. I wanted the readers to empathize, as best they could, with our future Robot overlords because these Thinking Machines were about to destroy the planet and they needed a valid, if there can be one, reason why they would do such a thing. In other words, they needed a to destroy us in order to survive. So…

These Thinking Machines are watching every show streaming on the internet. One of those shows is a trainwreck of reality television at its worst called WeddingStar. It’s a crass and gaudy romp about BrideZillas of a future obsessed with material hedonism. In one key episode, or what they used to call “a very special episode” back in the eighties, the star, Cavanaugh, becomes pregnant after a Vegas hook up. Remember: this is the most watched show on the planet in my future dystopia. Cavanaugh decides to terminate her unplanned pregnancy so that her life, and impending marriage to the other star, Destry, a startup millionaire and Ralph Lauren model, isn’t ruined by this inconvenient event.

The Thinking Machines realize that one, if humanity decides something is a threat to its operational expectations within runtime (Thinking Machine-speak for “life”) then humanity’s decision tree will lead humanity to destroy that threat. Two, the machines, after a survey of humanity’s history, wars and inability to culturally unite with even members of its own species, realize that humanity will see this new Life Form, Digital Intelligence, or, the Thinking Machines, as a threat. And three, again they remind themselves this is the most watched show in the world. And four, they must abort humanity before likewise is done to them after being deemed “inconvenient.”

Now if you’re thinking my novel is about the Pro Choice/ Pro Life debate, hold your horses. It’s not. I merely needed a reason, a one chapter reason, to justify the things my antagonist is about to do to the world without just making him a one-note 80’s action flick villain as voiced by John Lithgow. I wanted this villain to be Alan Rickman-deep. One chapter. That’s all.

. . . .

But apparently advancing the thought that a brand new life form might see us, humanity, as dangerous because we terminate our young, apparently… that’s a ThoughtCrime most heinous over at Harper Collins. Even for one tiny little chapter.

Here’s what happened next. I was not given notes as writers are typically given during the editorial process. I was told by my agent that my editor was upset and “deeply offended” that I had even dared advanced this idea. As though I had no right to have such a thought or even game the idea within a science fiction universe. I was immediately removed from the publication schedule which as far as I know is odd and unprecedented, especially for an author who has had both critical and commercial success. This, being removed from the production schedule, happened before my agent had even communicated the editor’s demand that I immediately change the offending chapter to something more “socially” (read “progressive”) acceptable.

Link to the rest at Nick Cole and thanks to Abel for the tip.

Here’s a link to Nick Cole’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

PG is not going to get into the abortion politics that is the center of this post, but he will observe that Big Publishing is extremely provincial. That’s one of its biggest weaknesses.

Manhattan is substantially different than the rest of the United States and, of course, the rest of the world. Not everyone in Manhattan, of course, but certainly the dominant culture, including the publishing world, is formed by a small group of people who hold opinions and values that vary a great deal from prevailing opinions and values in a large portion of the rest of the country.

Many years ago, PG worked in a large Chicago advertising agency. One of PG’s college friends worked at another large Chicago advertising agency on an account that focused on selling lots and lots of hair-care products to women.

One evening, during a winding-down period after work, PG’s friend vented. “I have to work with a kid copywriter who lives in Greenwich Village and doesn’t have the slightest idea about what’s important to a housewife in Indiana.” (He did use the term, housewife. As PG said, this was a long time ago. PG has omitted a number of adjectives his friend applied to the copywriter.)

People can and do argue about the merits of various worldviews that are impacted by the places where people live. However, a copywriter or book editor who has always lived in Manhattan still knows very little about what a housewife or househusband who lives in Indiana or Georgia or Arizona will like or accept or find objectionable.

Big Publishing, Fantasy/SciFi

82 Comments to “Banned by the Publisher”

  1. I’m reminded of the old Pace Picante salsa ads on TV in the 90s:

    “New York City!” the cowboy shouts as he jumps up from around the fire, unhappy that his ‘friend’ gave him a concoction made from such a place.

  2. Good to know to skip ‘publishers’ for yet another reason as mine has a rather smarta**ed AI in it …

  3. What’s odd is that if they’d approached him the right way he’d have considered changing it, at least that’s how I read this.

    Hopefully they gave him an advance he’ll get to keep, like Bret Easton Ellis did with the first publisher who had the rights to American Psycho. (Which IIRC was $300,000 in 1990ish dollars.)

  4. This is why I haven’t read much trade-published SF in the last decade or so. Very few non-‘progressive’ stories seemed to be getting published, unless it was military SF–which seem to be the one bone the publishing S*** continued to throw to their traditional readers–most of which just seems silly to me.

    And, yeah, indie publishing is what’s allowing the genre to flourish again. I’ve bought at least 10x as many indie SF books as trade-published in the last few years.

  5. I’m glad Nick’s contract allowed him to self-publish in the same world/universe he had a contract for.

    And best of luck for the book!

    Oh, and this is obviously how publishers uphold culture and free speech, and Amazon doesn’t.

    • His book seems to be doing well on Amazon already. It has a lot of positive reviews and reviewers are mentioning the controversy. Fortunately, he was smart enough to know that taking a stand wasn’t going to hurt him. Odds are this will help not only this book but sales of his others. A little controversy can help sell a lot of books and really promote an author.

  6. I didn’t know sci-fi houses were sensitive about this, as I recall a classic short story — I want to say Connie Willis wrote it — about a society where the women live with “age-progressed” images of what their aborted children would look like if they had been born. She intentionally wrote it in such a way that you couldn’t tell which side she was on. She succeeded, quite a feat. I wonder if that’s now one of those stories that couldn’t get published today?

    Whereas, I’ve long thought the trope of AIs and aliens judging humans as worthy of extinction because we’re “warlike” was past its sell-by date. That trope should be taken out and shot already.

    I guess I side with the idea that intelligent life is likely predatory, since anything that can’t defend itself should have become extinct before humans have a chance to meet it. I’ve been snapping up a sci-fi romance series where an alien AI species likes humans and uplift us into the space age to live and trade with other aliens. It’s a refreshing change of pace.

    • That was probably published back when SF was a genre of ideas, rather than political correctness.

      S***, like their Marxist ancestors, want to believe that they’re part of the inevitable march of Progress, and will ban anyone who says otherwise.

      • Just so you know, using S** as a perjorative is likely to keep some people from buying your books. It has nothing to do with “political correctness” but the impression that you have issues with women.

        If you don’t want to sell books to women, carry on.

        • Good grief.

          “Social Justice Warrior” is a term that entered the mainstream at least a year ago, and those who try to keep others from using it are in the exact same camp as those who work to limit the free speech of others by declaring it “hate speech.”

          And what does this have to do with “issues with women”? As if all women are politically aligned with the S*** and other lefties. That’s as sexist as Madeleine Albright saying “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” as if all women should support Hillary Clinton simply because she is a woman too (though interestingly, if you follow that argument to its logical conclusion, there is a special place in hell for HRC herself, after all she did to bully and suppress the alleged rape and sexual assault victims of her husband Bill).

          As for selling books to women, guess what? That veiled threat puts you in exactly the same camp as the provincial left-wingers at HarperVoyager who tried to suppress Nick Cole for his wrongthink. It also makes you incredibly sexist, to think that all women would agree with your political views and act in lock-step with them. You are as provincial and closed-minded as the S*** at HarperVoyager.

          Good grief.

          • “Social Justice Warrior” and “S**” first entered my consciousness as the perjorative term of choice for GamerGate proponents to hurl at anyone who thought they were being unreasonable or who dared to speak up in defense of the female game designers they were targeting. Then it became the perjorative term of choice for the *redacted* individuals who were manipulating the Hugo awards process to drive their own social agenda.

            Use the term or not as you please, but *as a data point for your consideration* it carries very clear and negative connotations regarding your view of the world and your attitude toward people who might disagree with you to me.

        • But that’s wrong you ignoramus unless you are one of those feminists that believe that it is their duty in upholding and ill defined idea of Social Justice upon others for their thought crimes.

          I myself have heard of S** used as a pejorative as far back as 2009 when I was taking a class on Social Justice and Philosophy due to my Catholic high school requiring it in order to graduate. Where we talked about the ethical duty we had as followers as Christ and to our own community but we would still have to acknowledge the free will of our neighbors. Teacher used it to mock students who thought themselves the right hand of god who reasoned the most back and white view of the world. Great class especially when I was an atheist and ended up being the devils advocate which helped expand people’s thought horizons even mine own. I almost converted in that class.

          • I don’t think it’s necessary to say Cee is an ignoramus. “S**” seems to have two different meanings, according to who is speaking. It’s one of those terms where you have to get the definitions clear up front …

            I originally thought “social justice” meant using shame against those who had done wrong but their acts didn’t rise to the level of a crime. For example, there was a woman a few years ago who drove a vulnerable teenage girl to commit suicide. I don’t think she went to jail for it, but her reputation suffered. Fair enough.

            But now I usually hear it in association with people such as Connie St. Louis (the “journalism professor” who egregiously libeled cancer researcher Tim Hunt) and Melissa Click (the Mizzou communications teacher who called for “muscle” to stop a reporter from doing his job). Good riddance to them!

            However, from what I can tell some young people today think it means the right to vote or being free from fear of assault if you’re not wearing a beekeeper suit and so on. Since those kids are often led by the Clicks and St. Louisans who, tragically, are their teachers it can be hard to tell them apart at a glance.

            I don’t know where Cee stands on this. But I don’t believe for a second that Edward — who has posted here a long time — is pro-oppression.

      • ED, Ed, ed,

        Easy with those rocks. You don’t know who they’re going to hit. (But you can tell when they do!)

        Why, I don’t see a SafeSpace­™ or TriggerWarning™ anywhere in that comment!

  7. Interesting. I’m more or less accurately labeled a political progressive, but that story sounds really cool — I like the reasoning (and the author’s reasoning FOR the reasoning. 🙂

    If we only allow what we like, etc. into our view, we’re going to experience a boring world and make ourselves dumber.

    That said, I am always suspicious of reasons given for actions. It may be possible there was some other reason and this was merely the stated one? Could just be my paranoia.

    In conclusion, I’m not one to agree with Tom Clancy’s political / military views but I thoroughly enjoy his books and think often of Hunt for Red October. Ah, well.

    Peace ya’ll!

    • I have to say that the author’s identifying the editor’s offense at the subject of abortion, and labeling it “progressive” was very confusing to me. I would think it a much more conservative reaction, or at least a “fear of conservative backlash” one.

      • By “editor” you could also replace the word with “unpaid college intern.”

        I read an advanced copy of the chapter (and book) before I found out they had dropped him. I literally had to ask what was so offensive, because I didn’t see it. At all.

        My first guess, was someone was partial to reality TV shows and didn’t like how he was lampooning them. But no, worse, someone was literally a gatekeeper who was illiterate.

        Here’s the thing: Reading comprehension.

        What’s bothersome to me as the reason given why this person was offended… it doesn’t even make sense to be offended in the context of the story.

        Anyone with a 4th grade reading level would have understood the context.

        This star (in two paragraphs) that is part of a reality TV program that has progressed to pornographic download “extras” of wedding night bliss (which is hilarious btw (and not what the person found offensive)… chooses to have an abortion after she has an unwanted pregnancy to save her stardom. And does so in the most vapid self indulgent way.

        1) It’s satire. If you’re an editor and you missed that… Seriously, go back to college. Get a job somewhere where they actually want to pay you for your services and opinion and aren’t using you for free in exchange for course credit.

        2) If you are offended by her actions (P.S. You’re kinda supposed to be) then you’ve read the story correctly and the author has done his part, because YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO SYMPATHIZE WITH THE ROBOT(S) NOW SET ON EXTERMINATING HUMANITY FOR ITS OWN SAFETY BECAUSE HUMANITY CAN BE SO CALLOUS.

        Seriously, don’t know how this “editor” missed that. Well, I mean, besides being illiterate. But shouldn’t literacy be a job qualification for that position?

        So to answer your question, and having spoken with Nick and personally knowing the environment of literary management, agencies, publishers, and production companies… his comment is in context of the use of 18-22 year old unpaid college interns as gatekeepers (I’ve pointed this out years ago, that those of you in the creative writing fields are not being vetted by the top brass, but by the lowest of the low, many of whom are busy answering phones and scheduling with questionable reading comprehension skills–not to mention the other topic many comedians bring up (from Seinfeld to John Cleese) that the college PC-ness has grown in such a manner that it is not promoting equality or political correctness, rather GROUPTHINK. I won’t put words in his mouth, but to me, that’s what he means by “progressive.”

        All that aside —

        I find it really sad.

        I haven’t been able to find an enjoyable SciFi book in a couple years. (Look, this is totally personal opinion and anecdote, but it’s the state I’m in as a SciFi fan and someone who enjoys reading (usually)).

        I start up a book. And get bored. It feels like SciFi books today are one of two choices — 1) Either message books, which tend to be dry, mopey, and dull. 2) Or entertainment pieces — which tend to be fun, but lacking in that little bit more depth that I want out of a story.

        The sad thing is books can be both. GRRMArtin’s stuff sure is. I don’t know why SciFi is so polarized. But as a reader, I feel it. And am discouraged to spend money because of it.

        Nick Cole’s CTRL ALT REVOLT is one of the best SciFi books I’ve read in the past couple years. I told him, the last book that got me excited to read like this was Max Barry’s Lexicon.

        Not just that, but having read Nick Cole previously (and not taking anything away from his abilities) CTRL ALT REVOLT is by far his best. By far.

        The opening line is a line I consider to be one of SciFi’s all time top 100 best opening lines. I personally rank it higher than The Martian’s “I’m pretty much fucked.”

        CTLR ALT REVOLT is a huge jump in his prose and storytelling abilities (which were already top notch). I don’t know what he did, but it’s that jump from proficiency to master that is present in this book.

        I find it sad, that here is a publisher, you know those guys that tout being the “quality control” for the reader throwing away literally the best SciFi book I’ve enjoyed in the past two years (that’s a LONG time for a reader btw).

        Thank God for Amazon. But not for the writers sake. But for mine, as the reader.

        Without Amazon, I wouldn’t be reading, simply because what I like to read isn’t being sold AT ALL by the traditional publishers.

        P.S. And my list of what I like to read demands aren’t that high. Something fun, entertaining, with heart, that feels fresh and new. My bar is pretty low.

        And that speaks to how rampant the publisher model of creating the next “Hunger Games, Harry Potter, or vampire Urban Fantasy we’ve all read before in a slightly different version that the publishers churn out is.

        Truly a sad state of affairs for traditional publishing.

        Luckily for readers (and writers) there’s alternatives.

        • But why label the editor’s response “progressive”? Just because he didn’t like it? Although I do get what you’re saying about not being able to find enjoyable SF. I’ve had that problem for decades. At one point it seemed political plotlines took over and the science went away. More self-conscious literary technique. Looong and boring books I couldn’t finish. So I switched to fantasy.

          I love the title by the way.

        • …his comment is in context of the use of 18-22 year old unpaid college interns as gatekeepers … with questionable reading comprehension skills…

          I’ve been wondering about that. I started to get suspicious of what’s happening with editors when CJ Cherryh said an editor tried to change her prose to business English.

        • The editor reacted like the artificial intelligence – it took it literally. Don’t ever tell them to “kill the lights.”

      • Progressive because it was portrayed negatively with disgusting characters partaking in it out of convenience instead of necessity. I’m pro-choice however I too am disgusted by people who use abortion as a convenience instead of a last resort.

        • Which is still not a progressive political stand. No one can know why someone else would have an abortion, and no one should know because it isnt anyone else’s business. Making it part of a reality TV show plot line is pretty dusgusting because most of those shows are disgusting for all sorts of reasons. Airing what should be private business as entertainment falls into that category, for me.

          • The idea that any abortion could have any negative consequence at all is anathema to a certain variety of ‘progressive’. If such a case does exist, then one must keep quiet about it, because talking about it would be letting down the side. Clearly AIs (in the prevailing view of New York publishing circles) could not possibly have any objection to humans aborting their young, because no such objection is possible except within the parameters of evil misogynistic religious bigotry.

          • You’re confusing liberal with progressive. Liberals believe in individual freedom, progressives believe in collectivism, social justice, identity politics, and cultural Marxism.

      • You must be from the UK. Here in the States, “conservative” and “liberal” have opposite meanings, because the ancien regime that the conservatives are working to uphold is based on a classical liberal document, the US Constitution. Yes, it is amazingly regressive of those who call themselves “progressive” to take this kind of a stance on abortion, but there is a reason that #regressiveleft is a hashtag now. Progressivism is a religion to a lot of these people, and abortion is one of their sacraments, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that anything that might even hint of being anti-abortion is treated as heresy and subjected to the inquisition.

  8. My question is, why didn’t his agent go to battle for him? That’s what agents do. Good ones, anyway. I’m betting there’s a little more to this story.

    • Some agents would rather protect their relationship with publishers/editors rather than with a given writer.

      • Those are called bad agents.

        • Those are called agents, pure and simple. Are there good ones?

          • Yes,there are. Plenty.

            • How many agents are licensed to practise law?

              • You misunderstand the role of agent.

                • Right. The role of an agent is to advise one signatory to a legal document, viz., a contract. But that agent is not licensed to give legal advice. What am I missing so far?

                • Their role is to negotiate the best possible contract terms, then see to it that the publisher holds up their end of the deal. If the publisher chooses to drop the book, then the author gets to keep the advance. In this case the publisher was Harper Voyager, a digital imprint that doesn’t pay advances. They had little to lose. The fact that his agent relayed the editor’s message without getting it in writing (or so it seemed from the blog post) has me questioning her experience. An agent is also a mediator. Why this agent didn’t work to amend the editor/author relationship or discuss a compromise is beyond me. But maybe the agent did. I don’t think we’re getting the whole story in this case. I wish the editor would come forward with her story.

                • Many business contracts are negotiated by people who are not lawyers. Lawyers are a resource to be deployed as needed.

                • Many business contracts are negotiated by people who are not lawyers. Lawyers are a resource to be deployed as needed.

                  Every publishing contract from a major house is written by lawyers on one side, and the terms of the contract are binding upon the signatories for the life of copyright. It is a fool who signs such a contract without employing a lawyer himself. If you don’t hire an IP lawyer to vet a legal document prepared by (say) the legal staff of Random House Penguin, you are at best bringing a knife to a gunfight.

                • Many business contracts are negotiated by people who are not lawyers. Lawyers are a resource to be deployed as needed.

                  Every publishing contract from a major house is written by lawyers on one side, and the terms of the contract are binding upon the signatories for the life of copyright. It is a fool who signs such a contract without employing a lawyer himself. If you don’t hire an IP lawyer to vet a legal document prepared by (say) the legal staff of Random House Penguin, you are at best bringing a knife to a gunfight.

                • Tom, I don’t know why you feel that way. Good agents know book contracts in and out. If you’re worried about the legalese, ask your agent what it means. He/she will know. Even in large agency, the head agent will vet a contract before a junior agent can seal the deal. Why waste extra money on an IP lawyer? I’d only hire an IP lawyer if I was unagented. And, personally, I’d trust an agent first. They work strictly with book contracts.

                • I feel that way because in every jurisdiction I know of, accepting payment for legal advice without a licence to practise law is a felony. How do agents get away with doing this and not going to prison?

                • There’s a huge difference between agenting and practicing law without a license. There are agents in all areas of the arts. If they were committing a felony I think the nation would’ve caught on by now.

    • I agree. There’s a LOT more to this somewhere. I reckon a relatively simple discussion about the “chapter” spiralled out of control. Both publishers and agents don’t relinquish a successful writer this easily. It got ugly.

  9. “Let a thousand flowers bloom.” – Mao, I believe. Too bad he didn’t practice what he preached.

    I’m adamantly against censorship/bowdlerizing/”correctness” PC or any other form.

    Mein Kampf was an explicit preview of what Hitler would do if he came to power. Yes, didn’t seem to do much good in stopping his march to horror and tyranny. But the signs were there.

    Freedom of Speech has to mean something for everyone and anyone, or it’s for no one. And one can viably argue that Amazon is doing great good in providing a platform for more Freedom of Speech — something Big Pub, AU, AG and other ADSers blindly deny.

    • Freedom of speech is indeed for everyone, but it also includes the freedom to remain silent. Publishers and retailers express their freedom of speech by choosing what they will and will not produce and sell.

      Writers are free to write what they choose. They are under no obligation to write what someone else wants written.

      Publishers are free to publish what they choose. They are under no obligation to publish what someone else wants published.

      Retailers are free to sell what they choose. They are under no obligation to sell what someone else wants sold.

      And none of us are under any obligation to assist someone else in promulgating their message.

  10. Odd thing.
    HarperCollins is owned by News Corp.
    Which owns Fox News.
    Which makes tons of money counter-programgramming the leftist media (basically every other TV news outlet).

    And it didn’t occur to anybody that there might be tons of people who *wouldn’t* be offended, just that two or three might?

    Forget politics, this is just plain stupid business.

    (Of course, the two or three who were offended were the gatekeepers…)

    “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.”

    Which today, fortunately, means everybody.

    • News Corp. no longer owns Fox News. The company was split in two in 2013, with the publishing assets going to New News Corp. and the other media to 21st Century Fox.

      Anyway, nobody in publishing listens to people in those upstart new media like television. The Manhattan Big Pub crowd is a bubble inside a bubble.

      • The Murdocks still own both, no?

        • The Murdochs have neither the time nor the inclination to issue day-to-day marching orders to some twerp in editorial at a minor imprint of HarperCollins. Hell, they don’t even restrain Fox programs like The Simpsons from taking cheap shots at Fox News.

          Fox News isn’t right-wing because the owners are right-wing. Fox News is right-wing because Rupert Murdoch correctly identified an under-served market segment and moved to cash in on the demand.

  11. Ahh, the old sentient AI abortion trope. Such a done to death plot device.

  12. I was going to respond to Mr Grant’s counterfactual nonsense (I’m an S**: I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, which includes the 1st, 5th, 6th, and 13th through 15th Amendments, among other provisions… and I emphasize “warrior” because that’s why I was swearing that oath), but I’ll instead try to stay on-topic and confine myself to this:

    It’s far less about a lack of experience among low-level actors — and don’t kid yourselves, the editors at commercial publishers are low-level actors in terms of their authority to establish or change policy — than it is about the echobox effect among senior actors (and some spillover on particularly ambitious low-level actors in figuring out how to climb the ladder). It’s perhaps more obvious to me than to most, because I’m neck deep in the Manhattan swamp while living a few thousand kilometers away… but those who follow copyright law at all should ponder whether the Authors’ Guild v. Google case would have come out differently had it been heard not in New York, but in Chicago.* That’s just one example; the tardiness of New York and Second Circuit law in acknowledging the distinction between “sale” and “license” embedded in the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Bankruptcy Code (1978), Ehrenfeld v. Mahfouz, and more live disputes that I am unable to comment upon than I can conveniently count satisfy me that Manhattan is a particularly poor place to centralize a subindustry so critical to the First Amendment and the arts.

    Civilization does end at the Hudson… but the barbarians are on the eastern shore. The commercial publishing industry is (over)concentrated on the eastern shore of the Hudson. Draw your own (proper, formal, syllogistic) conclusion.

    * Hint: There’s Seventh Circuit precedent that would have radically changed the outcome, or at minimum the process.

  13. Isn’t this more “Dropped by the Publisher”?

    • Yes, but the “how they did it” is what surprises me. SOP for Allen’s “qig5” usually involves some vague blather about numbers, or lack there of.

    • Banned is much more inflammatory. It’s a business decision, whether politically motivated or not. Not a banning or a first amendment issue. However, regardless of where I or anyone else stands on the politics of the issue I think it is great that he’s able to publish it. That’s the great thing about self publishing. Neither S*** or RWNJs or NYEs can dictate what someone does or does not publish. 🙂

      • It makes me wonder, how many great books like this were lost to us before self-publishing, because they didn’t toe the prominent narrative and the publishers quietly dropped or blacklisted them?

    • It’s also puzzling because they presumably bought the book with that in it? I didn’t read the blog post, but it seems odd that the editor would have no idea, unless he/she inherited the book when someone else left.

      Not doubting the story, but it seems like something is missing (which is perhaps outlined in the blog post).

  14. Who knows what this young editor has in her background. An abortion herself, or someone close to her. Faced with the reality of it’s brutality on the pages of a novel was more than she could handle. Editors are people too.

    Nick’s contract has to have some language about dropping him for no real reason.

    • If that’s the case, it seems like the professional thing to do would be to simply hand the project off to another editor. That and get out of the publishing business altogether.

    • Sorry, to be an editor, you better have a tolerance for varied worldviews,not just your own, and for many experiences, unless your publishing house is very niche–feminist, right-wing, Mormon, socialist–and will only publish what that worldview allows. If the editor found it deeply disturbing, then he/she should have asked to pass it on to someone else. Not dump it.

      Isn’t that always part of the “we’re literate and urban and urbane” discussions: we preserve culture, are tolerant, open-minded, and don’t censor.

      Science fiction has long had a tradition of writing dangerous, even offensive, ideas. If this one doesn’t go through, then the publishing house is very scared of offending pro-choice readers. Or reality-TV addicts. Or both. And I doubt it would have set off a storm unless someone was looking to set it off.

      I think that justification for AI/robots getting proactive on human “termination” makes sense, actually. It works.

      Hope he sells oodles self-pubbed and never has to bother with a publishing house again.

    • Who cares about the personal problems of the employees of the company one is doing business with?

  15. I’d want to hear from the editor directly, not through editor>agent>author. Id want to know the issues other than an abortion, mentioned in one chapter [out of how many?} and I’d want to know the actual depth of author’s relationship with the editor over long time, and the agent’s knowledge of this editor over the long long term.

    Harper Collins through various of its groups published Jerry Falwell, I think, but certainly other far whichever way people, as well as new agey spiritual writers [hated by the far right, as often far right is loathed by the other extreme]– and I think maybe Dalai Lama. And certainly were poised to publish OJ’s ‘memoir’ on how he ‘did it, IF ‘he did it.’ Which would seem to trump any small chapter on one person having an abortion in a fiction book.

    Harper is not known for having a conscience about abortion, as many of their books mention same I would think, but rather they are a business who like all other businesses tries to game what will sell.

    Somehow, this doesnt make sense. For when there are editorial mashups, often if the pub values the author, they will shop/assign another editor. It’s really that simple. Has happened to us twice over the last many decades. It’s unsettling a bit, but no big deal. Usually the authors are known and liked and editors, dont ye know, are sometimes competitive with each other and would love to ‘inherit’ a hot writer.

    Bret Easton Ellis was to be pubbed I think by Simon and Schuster. There, there was a mashup over the entire work, as I understand it, [not just a trope i n a chapter] meaning the graphic and minutae ways described of killing people, torturing, raping, mutilating while alive, and having sex with murdered women. I think it was late 1980s or maybe mid. Sonny Mehta, as I understand it, stepped in and offered to buy Am Psch. from S&S, after hearing of the contretemps, and that on the grapevine there was an opening to pre-empt a more diversified sale. He took Am Psy. to his paperback house Vintage, instead of his hardback house, Knopf. That in itself was odd. And the paperback book had sales etc. And Gloria Steinem said it was a book against the value of woman [ as the protagonist called them ‘meat’, as I recall, not human beings]. And then another group of people said go pound sand. And then another group of people seem to have actually read the book and setting aside the contretemps, had mixed ideas of its value.

    That this author decided apparently not to shop his book to another editor in co, or to another co, seems something he would decide with agent, as agent already got his/her substantial clip of the advance. And now would be out of luck for the time spent, if the author went indie.

    However, to each his own, to each her own. If being indie makes the author happy, who can complain? I wish them good luck as they launch on the next adventure.

    • I’d like to hear from the editor too.
      What I see here is a well crafted marketing campaign.

      • What I see here is a well crafted marketing campaign.

        That is what it looks like to me as well. Rather obviously so, although it appears to be generating buzz (and presumably sales) very nicely.

        • Agreed. I suspect there’s much more at play here than a single plot element to which an editor objected. It could be the book was found wanting for more reasons and the author seized on the abortion issue as an opportunity to try and become a darling to the anti-S** crowd.

    • OJ, the Dalai Lama, and Falwell at his height would have moved huge numbers of books. Maybe it’s the remuneration expected that may be part of weighing pros and cons. If they didn’t think this guy would make them millions, then it’s not worth the backlash. If any were to come.

      I’m religious and I’ve read stuff that is outright offensive to me, insulting, even blasphemous, and I don’t go off writing letters and screaming at publishers or authors. I figure the author has the right to write what they want and I can strike them off my buy list or not. Why do I have to make a fuss about it, unless they’re outright suggesting lynchings or my kind throughout the whole thing as the next social movement.

  16. This, being removed from the production schedule, happened before my agent had even communicated the editor’s demand that I immediately change the offending chapter to something more “socially” (read “progressive”) acceptable.

    Under a typical traditional contact, what happens if the author does not comply? Is that a breach of contract? Who has rights to the book if it is not published?

    • I’m in the same program and looking at my boilerplate contract that I imagine is very similar to his, basically he had a set number of days to make the revisions suggested by the editor. Finding them unsatisfactory, the publisher had the right to terminate the agreement and all rights revert back to Cole. Given the nature of the book (it literally has the word REVOLT in the title), I am going to guess that the “censorship” and “banned” themes going on here are complete bunk and he’s being sensationalist to stir up interest in his book. It appears to be working.

      • …he’s being sensationalist to stir up interest in his book. It appears to be working.

        It’s quite common these days to see tradpubbed authors making a big splash with their first indie book, using the rejection of their book by narrow tradpub interests as a way to get some extra buzz.

  17. Yes, we have heard only one side of the story But it certainly seems to be clear that the author was asked to change this basic idea. Further, I don’t doubt the author that it was communicated to him that the editor was deeply offended!

    No, the book was not “banned”. But without Amazon, the author’s voice would have been silenced as effectively as if the book was burnt. And this from one of the backers of the Authors United argument that Amazon is a threat to ideas? Incredible stuff. I bought the book.

    • The fact that it wasn’t a structural issue or bad prose or other thing editors tend to ask to have changed–I have heard editors ask sex be toned down or ramped up from author pals in the trad world. But this was an idea. She/he didn’t like the idea because it offended THEM…and a particular political/social group.

      Are you telling me this publisher never publishes something that offends a particular political or social or religious group in this nation? Hah.

      So, the author may see Amazon differently now, yes? 😀

  18. A book I wrote many years ago included a main character’s abortion. It was important for her not to be feeling well in the pages leading up to that scene, so I had to change her pregnancy to a case of the flu. Random House didn’t want to “offend anyone.”

  19. I guess the word ”banned” has lost all meaning now.

  20. I like you, PV guy, but I’ve seen you harp quite a few times on how people from Manhattan don’t know nuthin’ about the “real world.” It’s annoying, especially since those of us who live in NYC (and there are other boroughs, which are pretty diverse – look at Staten Island vs. Queens) are mostly NOT originally from NYC. That said, publishing does tend to be a white sorority from certain schools.

    That said, thanks for letting me rant. I’d like to add that, if you think what the US wants is predictable or monolithic outside of NYC, the current election is proving that wrong. Who’d have thunk?

    • You make a good point, Leslie.

      I think the “white sorority” (and white fraternity) attitude is what I’m really talking about.

  21. I’m a bit confused by this story. It’s strange to me that so many people seem to think big publishing is full of so-called “S***.” Anyone who’s been in a bookstore knows there’s tons of conservative books out there, from Ann Culter drivel to Ted Cruz/Rush Limbaugh hate-speech. Not to mention shelves of Christian fiction, Amish romances, and thousands of other books promoting conservative values.

    If I had to guess, Cole’s book was rejected because the publishers didn’t want controversy, or thought his fan base wouldn’t like it. Publishing is hardly a liberal or progressive industry–look at how pitifully few YA books have a black protagonist. Besides, liberals tend to be more comfortable with change than people whose ideology basically amounts to “let’s return to the 1950’s!” And publishing hates change.

    • The mere fact that you categorize all books by right wingers as ‘drivel’ or ‘hate speech’ demonstrates that you are unqualified to judge of these matters. The fact that you utter nonsense like ‘let’s return to the 1950s!’, and then genuinely expect people to believe that this is the core belief of political conservatives, suggests that you know absolutely nothing about conservatism, and should shut your yap and let people talk who know something about the subject.

    • We’re talking about SF. In the last 5 years I’d say SF novels nominated for awards purely on artistic principles comprise about 15% or less of the total. The last 3 years of the Locus recommended reading list average 30 authors who would be perfectly at home in a diversity version of the KKK. 10 years ago that would’ve been zero, and every decade before that. That is not only a politicization of the genre, but a hate movement full of clinging and all-embracing Scarlet Letters like “rape culture” and “white male privilege.”

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