where the writers are
A Curious Note on Censorship, Part Two

(Continued from yesterday)

So I was lying in the dark, feeling persecuted... And then it occurred to me that no way is there an actual human being over at Amazon who is reading all these manuscripts from (virtual) cover to (virtual) cover; there are simply too many manuscripts and the reply came too quickly. This isn't personal. They must have some sort of software, I realized, that screens these manuscripts for keywords that send up (virtual) flares. And excuse me if I am inadvertently insulting any other Kindle erotica authors, but this software can't possibly be scanning for story quality; it's got to be scanning for content.

So I switched my busy brainwaves from feeling persecuted, over to scanning the content of each of the stories in this particular collection myself.

It's probably not my story "Anal" that they have a problem with, I thought. Nowadays, everybody does anal. It's probably not the girl doing it to the guy while wearing a strap-on, either, because a lot of straight guys are into that nowadays, too. Hmm. Can't imagine what's the matter with the heterosexual swingers getting frisky in a Manhattan highrise. Or the guy-girl-guy threeway with light bondage on some girl's birthday. Or the two dykes doing it in a motel in the desert. Oh no -- wait, I thought. The guy in the mortuary after dark who accidentally ejaculates when he sees the nude body of the girl he loves on the slab in that refrigerator thingy that they have in mortuaries. Perhaps that was considered going too far, even for an award-winning writer of literary erotica such as myself...

But then I realized that the story wasn't depicting actual sex with dead people. It wasn't sex with corpses. It was just some guy looking at a pretty dead girl and he accidentally comes on himself. Surely I can't be the only person in all of the Kindle store who has a character uncomfortably attracted to the body of the girl he loves even though she's dead, can I?

Besides, the way I'd written it, it wouldn't have had any of the necessary keywords. "Cold body" is not a corpse. There was no intercourse -- not even close. Later on, when the guy's a lot older, he has sex with one of those fake rubber vaginas that he keeps in his refrigerator -- but that's not sex with a dead person, either. That's just sex with an icy-cold item that anyone at all -- including me, here, right now -- could buy from any mail order sex toy catalogue anywhere in the country. Surely, that is not the story that Kindle is telling me (repeatedly, as it turned out -- I submitted the manuscript two more times) that they are refusing to publish because it is pornographic and obscene...

Then I thought, No...no, no,no. It can't be. Not "Muriel" -- but what else is left but "Muriel the Magnificent"? A short story that women all over the globe have been loving now for 11 years!! A story that has been for sale on Amazon that entire time, and was carried in print in the notoriously conservative Barnes & Noble nationwide. Surely, the fact that Muriel Bing starts out that story as a seven-year-old is not what is triggering the entirety of Kindle to REJECT me??!!

One way to find out, I figured, was to revise the manuscript so that where it said Muriel was seven, I could add a "ty" and then run it up the Kindle flagpole again.

But then I thought, did I really want to do that to an unsuspecting reader who would be paying money to read that suddenly insane story -- Muriel starting out life as a seventy-year-old, her hair in two long braids as she swings high up into the sky in her backyard??? Wouldn't it make this new reader wonder not only about the voracity of my coveted reputation as an award-winning writer of literary erotica, but also wonder about the questionable tastes of any of those editors, judges, publishers who gave me so much as a kudo over the years?

Not even in my sudden quest to discover if the word "seven," when used in connection with a human being, could keep an entire, easily-obtainable-elsewhere manuscript from gaining entrance into the Kindle store, could I risk cheating a reader.

What to do, what to do... I have a career-long stance on anti-censorship. I've gone to the proverbial mat for writers and artists from all over the place; I've shown up to testify in Federal Court in the most conservative outfit I could pull together while being so terrified, I had to keep running to the bathroom; I've donated to causes, attended rallies, worked the phones and the Internet... Now, here I was at age 51, realizing that if I didn't change the word seven to seventy, I would have to delete that word altogether. That, my friends, is censorship because the story "Muriel the Magnificent" simply does not break any laws.

(Continued tomorrow, gang!!)