I'm going to ask y'all for a favor.
Please, please, please spread the word about this:Paypal Strongarms Indie Ebook Publishers Over Erotic Content
Because, y'all? I have seen zero people, zero
, on my f-list talk about it. Two people on Facebook. Granted, I've been dealing with this shit while very upset and my memory is not the greatest on the best of days, so I might have missed something, but still, this is unacceptable. Y'all care. I know you do. So please spread the word. If you can't do anything else, cut and paste and link back here.
I have been so tired, and so demoralized, and so, so hoping that someone else would have the spoons to speak up about this, to start the push back. Hoping that big-name authors would take notice, would care, would make the articulate, well-researched, exhaustively linked posts that help get people centered around an issue . . . the kind of posts that I am too busy just trying to survive to make in a timely fashion. And it's not happening. No letter-writing campaigns, no petitions, no call to arms.
Folks, that call to arms needs to happen. This is going to really hurt people like me, like my husband, who make our money writing erotica that brushes up against the bars. And by hurt, I mean this is how we pay for our heat, this is how we pay for our food, this is how we pay for my medication, this is how we scrape by
. I don't mean "This is how we pay for our research vacations to Brazil." I am talking the basics of survival, here. I am not fucking around.
And if you don't give a shit about one crazy pornographer in the middle of nowhere, well, okay, fine. Be selfish. No, really. This will affect you
. It has the potential to affect everyone
. Every reader, every writer, if their interests verge even a little bit into grey territory.
And folks? A tremendous amount of fiction goes there. Stories and novels and anthologies by popular and award-winning authors like Neil Gaiman and Terri Windling and Laurell K. Hamilton and Sarah Monette and Cat Valente and on and on A through fucking Z would be right the fuck out.
Also, the Bible. Not that I personally give a flying fuck, but it's ironically on the list of shit that you couldn't buy through PayPal, if they had to adhere to their own rules.Mark Coker's first email from Smashwords explained:
Today we are modifying our Terms of Service to clarify our policies regarding erotic fiction that contains bestiality, rape and incest. . . .
I've had multiple conversations with PayPal over the last several days to better understand their requirements. Their team has been helpful, forthcoming and supportive of the Smashwords mission. I appreciate their willingness to engage in dialogue. Although they have tried their best to delineate their policies, gray areas remain.
Their hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica.
Which all sounds pretty indefensible, but:
A) It's all ill-defined.
This applies to all incest, including step-relations, and is so ill-defined that it might apply to distant cousins. Goodbye, realistic depictions of inbreeding in noble families throughout history.
This applies to all "rape for titillation," which is so ill-defined that it might apply to romance-novel bodice-ripping, and it applies to all "non-consensual BDSM" which, while that should certainly be illegal in real life, is also ill-defined, and might be stretched to cover all sorts of situations. I'm personally into BDSM in real life and I can tell you that most people are remarkably closed-minded about BDSM and have demonstrated a particularly atrocious track record at recognizing that there even is a distinction between consensual and nonconsensual BDSM. People who don't like it don't like it in any form, and they will try to shove it all into the box marked "rape."
This applies to all "bestiality," which specifically excludes fully-shifted shapeshifters and is furthermore so ill-defined that it might apply to gorgons, centaurs, sphinxes, and other mythical beasts that possess animal or partially animal bodies and human-level consciousness.
B) We have to defend the indefensible, even if we do not like it. I don't care if it is the absolute worst and most horrible thing you have ever seen in your life, it is not PayPal's job to tell us what we can and cannot do with our money. If it is not against the law to buy or create it in the United States, i.e., if it is protected under freedom of speech, nobody has the right to tell us that we cannot create it or sell it or buy it. Not PayPal, not the banks, not Santa Claus, nobody.*
This started with Smashwords. I want to be clear, here, that Smashwords is not the villain, and Mark Coker has been working tirelessly to achieve some sort of détente
whereby we can all carry on and profit without too much disruption. He despises the idea of censorship, but severing relations with PayPal would take time, and some sort of solution must be found in the meantime so that authors, who need to get paid by Smashwords, can keep selling. He is doing exactly the right thing, and I fully support his approach.
It started with Smashwords, but it won't end with Smashwords.
True, the big-name authors that you are likely to care about far more than you care about me and the rest of my porn-spewing ilk mostly don't publish through Smashwords, though some make their backlist available there. No, you probably aren't paying through PayPal when you buy their books. But this isn't just about who-gives-a-shit indie authors writing their dirty stepdaddy porn.
It is about PayPal. PayPal says this is the banks' fault. That it's the banks putting pressure on them, so they're pressuring Smashwords and other indie outfits. And if that's true, we have a major fucking problem, because banks should not and cannot be allowed to do that. If that's true, that connection needs to be dragged into the light so that everyone can see it for what it is.
Even if it's not true and it's just some asshole at PayPal with a burr up his ass, we have a major fucking problem. PayPal is huge
, and the revenue streams for thousands of independent artists and authors get funneled through it. If they start telling us what we can and cannot put out there to sell, what we can and cannot buy, well . . . if you can't see there's a huge problem there, I honestly don't know if I can help you, and you might want to just go lie down for a while and hope the denseness passes.So I am asking you: please spread the word, please get people talking about this, please keep your readers, even if there are only two, abreast of this issue. And please, if you're an author with one of the big publishing houses, please, please post about this. In fact, if you know such an author, please ask them to post about it.
I am not advocating spamming authors. I don't want to make people mad. But I want this exposed. I want people talking about this. I want acknowledgement from big-name authors that this shit matters
, and I want to know that they are behind us, the way we have been behind them as fans and fellow authors.
I am just asking that if you have a means of politely contacting them and asking them to weigh in on the issue, you do so. Twitter is good, comments are good, emails are good. Whatever, even if it's just a retweet. Please.
This is not just about incestuous underage dog-rape porn, okay? Who the hell would rally to protect that? Nobody. Which is the problem, here. People glance at the issue and they see indefensible garbage, and they move on.
That is a smokescreen! This is not about that crap. This is about people with no familiarity with genre fiction, with erotica, with the outer boundaries of sexual fantasy, being allowed to dictate how we express ourselves. This is about those people deciding where the line gets drawn between okay and not okay. This is not a new thing, though this crackdown is new, a new push against "obscene" content that previously nobody gave a shit about. They've already proven that they decide where the line is and that they can move it anytime they like; that they are doing this represents a shifting of that line. This is about being told what we can and cannot publish, and can and cannot buy. It affects everyone.
And that should scare the shit out of you.
And while we're at it, let's discuss that indefensible incestuous underage dog-rape porn. It's sick, and I don't write it, and I don't want to read it, and if a given indie self-pub outlet wants to say "we will not allow people to publish that through us" I suppose I am very grudgingly okay with that. But if a bank
– and that is really how PayPal works, as a bank for e-commerce – wants to tell me that I cannot buy
that stuff, THAT IS NOT OKAY
. I will spend my money any goddamned fucking way I see fit. They have crossed the line. We need to unfuck this situation.
And, final note, we need to discuss how to support independent authors and artists through this, because boycotting PayPal is going to hurt us. Frankly, I have no idea how to go about this, I am barely able to keep my own head above water, let alone think long and hard about how to fix the sinking ship, but I sure as shit hope that we can. I'm willing to suffer for the cause, yes, but I am not willing to go without my drugs for however long this would take to settle out. So we need to be talking about how to take care of one another, how to support each other, while still effecting change.
I entered into the devil's bargain with PayPal because I had no other choice. No, you in the back smugly stroking your sense of superiority through your fashionably unfashionable pants, I did not have another choice.
I needed, and still need, to make money, and that means 1) getting my stuff in front of people and 2) making it easy for those people to pay me for it. That is what sites like Etsy and Smashwords do. They make it easy for me to get my stuff out there and get it sold and get myself paid. As I have said repeatedly over the past few days, I cannot afford to abstain on principle. They are a luxury I am too poor and too screwed and too uninsured and too mentally ill to afford. I don't make much off my bargain with this company, but I need every fucking penny of it. So much so that I am terrified that if I post this, PayPal will suspend my account as punishment. Because I can't afford for that to happen. I need the security they allow me to provide for myself.
What I do not need? This five-day headache with PayPal's name on it. The indifference of people – big-name, small-name, no-name – whose voices, if raised, could maybe make a difference. The assumption that indie publishing isn't important and that stuff put out through independent channels isn't any good and that I must, therefore, be trying to defend something worthless and indefensible. The assumption that this is only about indie publishing, and the assumption that this is only about porn – really sick porn at that.
This is about freedom, and for some of us, it is about survival.Paypal email addresses and phone numbers, should you wish to talk about this with someone there.
This is old info -- if anyone has anything better, I will post that instead -- but it's better than the on-site contact stuff, which is routed through overseas response centers. Please speak out, BE POLITE, be articulate, be reasonable, and be firm.
FYI, I will be moderating comments on this post with a heavy hand. I doubt it will be necessary, but I want productive conversation, not bickering. If you don't agree that this is a problem, I ask politely that you move on. We've nothing to say to one another.
Also, yes, I swear a lot. If you feel inclined to say that this is hurting my case, I invite you to think very carefully about the core of this issue, and what relevance it may have to what you are about to say.* I am not arguing with anyone about whether or not PayPal has the right, as a private company, to make up bullshit rules. They technically do, but they have a virtual monopoly on payments made through the internet, they are deeply connected to the big banks, and allowing them to do this sets a hideously dangerous precedent. If the government cannot censor or suppress "obscene" content without those uppity free-speechers getting all riled up, well, private companies can do it. Right? Yeah. I'm not on board with that.