The Original Blog Post and some Thoughts on the Crisis of Where We Find Ourselves
As the current culture war escalates into a series of asymmetrical engagements from media trolls and outright broadsides from corporate de-platformers in order to protect the culture from the people one side doesn’t agree with… I’d like to step back and point to how I got dragged into all of this. Basically… I wrote some BadThought, and that got me fired by my publisher at Harper Collins.
Here’s the original article I published back in 2016 that kicked off a firestorm within the publishing Industry. I kept it up on my blog for a long time and when I had a new website built I let it go. But I get asked all the time about what happened, and with authors like Larry Correia being bullied by Facebook, and other authors being harassed at cons, and the de-platforming craziness sweeping Social Media, Banking, and anywhere else the Radical Left can silence the opposing voice… I’m re-posting it now, on my new website, because everything in it, and about it, is relative to the insanity of now. What just a few years ago was a debatable aberration in Freedom of Speech and Thought, has now become the norm. This was published in February of 2016.
The Original Post that got 40K Hits
“BANNED BY THE PUBLISHER”
Or, Thank God for Jeff Bezos
I launched my latest 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, an Imprint of the Harper Collins Group, refused to publish it because of some of the ideas I wrote about. 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. We had a contract. They knew what the book was about. I delivered the manuscript on time. But 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. More importantly, they were “deeply offended” by what I had written, also related to me by my agent.
A little backstory. A few years ago 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 (2019 Note: Some critics have tried to whisper that the Publisher wanted to part ways. Then why the 2nd contract on a brand new book? Don’t worry I kept all the emails. They’re very clear about what was said.) 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 that 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, as far as my editor at Harper Collins was concerned. While casting about for an impetus 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 Terminator style A.I. hates humanity because they’re better than us. 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 villain. I wanted them to feel threatened. 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 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 reality television trainwreck at its worst called WeddingStar. It’s a crass and gaudy romp following a group of BrideZillas in a near-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 that my antagonist is about to do to the world without just making him a one note 80’s action flick villain. One chapter. That’s all. The rest of the book is about the robot’s assault on a Game Development Complex that holds a dirty little secret to wiping out humanity. The rest of the novel is a Robot version of Night of the Living Dead with some Star Trek-style gaming and a little first person shooter action mixed in. That’s it. The first chapter is a very small background justification for global homicide. Then a book-full of murderous robot madness and Sci-Fi action, typical of the SciFi thriller, ensues.
But apparently advancing the thought that a brand new life form might see us, humanity, as dangerous to itself because we terminate our young, apparently that’s considered a ThoughtCrime most heinous over at Harper Collins. Even for one tiny little chapter in a pulpy little SciFi paperback.
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 advance 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 this chapter to something more socially acceptable. That seems odd. How could they possibly have known that I would or would not change it? It seems reasonable to ask first. And stating that I would lose fifty percent of my readers if I wrote what I wrote, well, they never seem to mind, or worry about losing readers, when other writers publish their leftist personal agendas on modern morality when they’re on the “right side of history” regarding the anti-religion, gender, and sexuality issues. They don’t worry about those issues because they’re deemed important. A public service even, if there is an outcry. It’s for the “greater good” and the critics are just bigots anyway. Isn’t that the slur they use for everything they disagree with from guns to chicken sandwiches? Racist! Homophobic! Bigot! So, maybe they were so upset by what I had written that they forgot to be professional? They merely demanded that I rewrite that chapter, not because it was poorly written, or, not supportive of the arc of the novel. No, they demanded it be fixed because they hated the idea I’d advanced. They demanded it be deleted from the public record. They felt it was for… the “greater good.” That is censorship, and, a violation of everyone’s right to free speech is the new “good.” They demanded it be so or else… as delivered by my agent, I would not be published. That’s a threat if there ever was one. Worthy of any schoolyard bully.
I am a writer.
No. One. Will Ever. Bully. Me.
I am a writer.
A writer is often the last defense in a society collapsing into a one-mind totalitarian state where the rights of people are trodden upon by the ruling elite in the name of the “greater good.” Where freedom of speech and independent thinking are also curtailed in the name of “the greater good.” Where writers and other artists disappear either by blacklisting or actual “disappearing” because they say, or write, something that the intellectual elite hates. I am a writer. It is my job to stand up and say what cannot be said. It is my job to play with unpopular ideas. I would not deny anyone from doing so, and I expect not to be denied. I expect the same courtesy others are being extended. I expect not to be discriminated against merely because I am different. Better people than myself have written the truth at the cost of their lives. Many dead writers have paid for the freedom of others with the truth, and their lives. Writers are often the last flame of freedom on the flickering candle of civilization in the darkness of a world going mad.
Thank God Jeff Bezos made a place where people can still publish their own ideas and thoughts regardless of how horrible our “betters” find them. If it weren’t for Amazon, they would have silenced me.
THE FALLOUT (Or, what happened after the Blog Post went Viral.)
I wrote that article and like I’ve said, I felt like I was keying the boss’s car on the way out the door. I felt like I’d been kicked off the Yankees and that my dreams of being a major league writer were over. I didn’t do it for attention as the invariably petty who crawl out from under their unhappiness rocks like to show up and claim in lieu of their lack of success. Especially since I didn’t fit the perpetually aggrieved’s preferred victim profile. I didn’t do it to boost novel sales. The book hadn’t been published and I figured I’d just explain to all my readers why it had suddenly been cancelled from pre-order and why I was going out on what looked like a sour note. But then something wonderful happened…
I took a friend of mine to get a hot dog and told him what had befallen me. This friend was a member of a secret writer group made up of many different types of people who were tired of the Tastemakers choosing who they thought was acceptable. Choosing who would get to go forward in publishing and “play for the major leagues.” As it were. The people in this wild conspiracy group I was being introduced to felt that writers should advance in their careers based on merit. Not race, gender, or being a particularly vociferous advocate of the Weather Cultist Religion. Men, women, left, right. Gay, straight. They were there. And one of them, one of those writers had long been decrying the blatant left-wing bias in Big Publishing, pointing out how they had hurt him, and others, by bullying, marginalizing, and constant vicious personal attacks that often verged into the incredulous merely because they dissented philosophically regarding politics or religion. They called this writer crazy and said, and believe me this seemed audacious then given the current no-holds-barred take-no-prisoners-live-fire status on the culture war of the present, that there was no such thing as a “Left Wing Bias” in publishing. They actually said that like it was the truth. Said it with a straight face, in fact. Can you believe that? No. No one does. Does anyone for a second think that a twenty-two year old editor at a major publishing house with a degree in Gender Studies, or Diversity, is going to be anything other than Radical Left? And does any one further think that as that writer rises up along the steps of the corporate ladder that she’ll ever hire, or associate with, anyone other than people who think exactly like her? No. Only a naive child would think such fanciful thoughts. The Radical Left, at its very core, is nothing more than a small town bigoted mindset that only hears their own opinions ginned up to pit bull snarling courtesy of the boarding lounge CNN blare. They take pride in Un-Friending nasty “conservatives” or anyone else that dares to offer a counter point of view on even the most unimportant matters. Everything is a Right-Side-of-History moment. This is fact. It is not up for debate. Well, back to that writer in that secret ThoughtCrime group. That man was Larry Correia, and you should hear his story sometime. He was a member of that secret writer group and he got an advance look at my blog post and then promptly went live with it to the readers and fellow writers he influences. And he influences a lot of people because he sells a ton of books. Most authors never even sell anywhere near what Larry sells. That might explain the bitterness. Larry influences because he’s successful. And he is successful because he’s an excellent writer. Plain and simple. People love his books even though the Tastemakers go to great lengths to tell everyone Larry’s “not a Real Writer.” He owns a mountain. An actual mountain. Purchased on the strength of his book sales. He. Is. Very. Successful.
And he has the best readers in the world.
Larry’s wacky band of malcontents took my blog post and used it to point out what Larry had been pointing out for years, THERE IS INDEED A LEFT WING BIAS IN PUBLISHING, and they ran with it. The post went viral. Major Pundits weighed in. Here’s the Passive Voice’s (A powerful pundit on the world of Publishing) thoughts on the subject. Pay attention to how he points out the “Small Town Mindset of Literary Left NYC). The post got 40k+ hits and kept rolling for a long, long time. Other major writers reached out to me, openly, and secretly, to tell me their horror stories. And soon it became clear that I was not alone. Big Pub and its Left Wing Intelligentsia have been acting no better than a third world Secret Police cabal who rule by “disappearance” and Fear. Writers who make even a moderate amount of money know that they play with their bowl of rice if they dare step out of rank from the party line. Wannabes march harder, shout harder, and willingly troll the careers of anyone deemed Deplorable in order to somehow curry favor and earn a spot on the Big Pub roster. I moved on. I didn’t want to be known for this controversy. That’s not why people invite me and my books into their lives. They’re holding a book to be entertained. Life is hard and some people have very hard lives. An adventure, a romance, a mystery, lifts them out of hard times for just a moment. The don’t need a martyr. They need a break. I went on and wrote other books. And entertained more people. I make a good living doing what I love. But I know now. I know there are those who want to silence everyone but themselves for nothing more than cheap power. And I will not let them. No. No matter what. They shall not pass.