Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Banned In The SCA

Added for clarity: It's not my book itself that's been banned, it's just any advertising for it. (Just in case any lawyers are reading this). Draw your own conclusions as to what that really means.

Once upon a time, book publishers would splash "BANNED IN BOSTON" across book covers as a selling point. The same thing was done by Broadway show producers, when it was common to pre-screen new plays in Boston before opening them on the Great White Way---it was also common for the Watch And Ward Society, a powerful group made up of a few of the most powerful of those strait-laced Irish-Catholic Bostonians, to object to books', movies', and stage shows' "immoral" content, and to subsequently have the offending material banned (for more information about the history behind this, check out this book).

Yep, banned. As in, shut down the shows, burn the books, close the bookstores that sold the books. (Of course, all this accomplished was making the books/movies/plays that much more popular everywhere else.)

What sorts of things got Banned In Boston, you ask? Here's a few examples of such notorious smut that posed a dangerously subversive moral risk to the Boston community:

  • The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
  • Oil!, by Upton Sinclair (recently made into the film There Will Be Blood)
  • Elmer Gantry, by Sinclair Lewis (made into an Oscar-winning film in the 1950s)
  • Most of the works of William Faulkner (seriously)
  • The Atlantic Monthly magazine and the entire Alfred Knopf publishing house were also frequent targets of the Watch and Ward Society. (Because everybody knows what kind of immoral smut they put out, right?)
  • Also burlesque stage shows and even straight dramatic plays, like the works of Eugene O'Neill (!)
You might wonder what Banned In Boston has to do with me. Well, it seems that I've managed to get one of my own books banned. My novel TENDER IS THE KNIGHT, a sweet, Cinderella-story/comic romance novel set in the SCA, recently spurred the creation of a Draconian (or dare I say, Orwellian) across-the-board SCA corporate policy banning the advertising of any work of fiction from appearing in any official SCA publication----from Tournaments Illuminated all the way down to one-page local shire newsletters.

This policy was instituted in direct response to my publisher's requests to purchase display advertising in several SCA publications. Rather than accept the ad dollars for my apparently very controversial book, the SCA banned these types of ads from appearing altogether. Even better, SCA turned those ad dollars away at the same time that they're jacking up SCA membership dues due to "difficult financial circumstances." (Huh?)

The reason given for the policy? "Because advertising works of fiction is contrary to the SCA's educational mission."

Again, I say, Huh? (Oh, right, I forgot. Reading works of fiction is in no way educational. Can I get an amen?)

You might remember my post of a couple weeks ago about the hate mail my book TENDER IS THE KNIGHT has generated. Well, suffice to say, I think it's pretty obvious these two incidents are directly related.

In response to this, I've decided not to renew my SCA member dues until further notice (which will also entail me resigning my local herald's office). Sorry, but I can't send my hard-earned dollars to any organization that institutes authoritarian, across-the-board Orwellian book-suppression policies that smack of hysterical censorship. If you're an SCA member I suggest you do the same. Even better, write a letter to the SCA Board of Directors protesting this decision. They won't listen to me (I've already been told as much by Those In Power) but they might listen to you.

In the meantime, buy my book. It's Banned In The SCA, after all---so it has to be good.

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