Sunday, March 15, 2015

Consequences of Freedom

I wasn't going to use her name because I didn't want her to get any more attention, but I feel quite strongly that if I sit here twiddling my thumbs and complaining to the couch cushions that that's the same as condoning what she's doing.

So here we go...

Until two days ago I had never heard of Jenny Trout. That's actually a lie. I had heard of her but only in the context of a blog post by Chuck Wendig a couple months ago. He mentioned how he liked her blog (but didn't agree with one of her positions). Aside from that, I couldn't have told you two things about her.

Then, two days ago Anne Rice posted a comment on Facebook and Twitter about her support for the website Stop the GR Bullies (GR refers to Goodreads). It's a website dedicated to calling out authors who bully other authors (for reasons other than a negative review, which I'll take up in a future post). Anne's comment was this:

If you click the image it will take you to Anne's original Facebook post

Attached to this post was a link to an article on STGRB on Jenny Trout, who has taken it upon herself to become the self-appointed literary moral compass of the Internet.

The summary: a (once) best selling author is actively encouraging the banning and/or pirating of another author's work.

STGRB does not link directly to Jenny's website but there is a screen grab in their post that contains the URL. I typed it in manually and read Jenny's article and two things happened:

  1. I felt sick for giving her the site traffic
  2. I gave her a very unflattering nickname. One I've been talked out of using for a variety of good reasons (as an aside, I have wonderful writer friends)

In her rant Jenny freely admits that she hasn't even read this highly-offensive-it-must-be-banned book. She claims it is about the glorification of racism and rape and how this subject matter has no business on the shelves of your local bookstore or on the hard drives of your personal e-readers. It contains BDSM erotica (because that's all the rage now, with Ms. Trout even penning titles under a pseudonym). It's also about an actual President of the United States and his actual slave mistress. Oh, and in the book the characters are vampires and/or werewolves. And one more thing: this story is just one in a series with the same underlying characteristics: #BDSM, #erotica, #POTUS, #mistress, #vampires, #werewolves. (hashtag: not my thing).

Ms. Trout rightly points out that since the offensive work is protected under the First Amendment there is no legal recourse for removing the book from shelves (digital or otherwise) so she's taken it upon herself to start a crusade.
She's demanding her fans and readers demand Amazon, B&N, Kobo and the like remove this content immediately. If that doesn't work, and you feel you absolutely must read this book, then go pirate it so at least the author and publisher don't get any money. 

Um.... excuse me?

I wonder, what would Jenny Trout's publisher think if another author from another house took issue with one of her books and started a campaign to pirate them?

Let's be perfectly clear: racism and rape are bad. Together they comprise the Daily Double of humans at their absolute worst. However, in a free society, no one person / group / organization / government gets to take away the right for someone else to write about it - and by my assessment that's exactly what Jenny is trying to do.

Express your displeasure with the book to your heart's content. Tell people it's not worth reading, that it's a glorification of All Things Terrible, that they are bad people for even reading the synopsis. But don't you dare go down the road of book banning. Book banning is half a step removed from book burning, and we all know what history (and Ray Bradbury) has to say about that, now don't we?

Free speech does not mean you are free from the consequences of saying or writing things to which others object. For the book and author Jenny Trout saw fit to attack, the consequences will be determined by the reviews it receives, the number of sales, the number of future sales or publishing deals for the author (or lack thereof), and so on... The system is already set up to self-regulate in this regard. Time and reader response will tell.

As for Jenny Trout, her consequences appear to be the ostracizing of  a whole swath of readers (and probably publishers) that aren't going to touch her books or her blog with a ten foot fishing pole - myself included.

~ Andrew

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