Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ideology, blacklisting and censorship

In this article I will resort to my own editorial history by means of three anecdotes. As I have published about 50 books with 37 different publishers, I have accumulated many of these anecdotes. However, these three refer to publishers with whom I have never published anything.
First anecdote: One of my first works (Krishna versus Christ, 1978) was an essay, a comparison between two religions: Hinduism and Christianity. When I finished the book, I decided to look for a publisher and went to the headquarters of one of the best known, with the book under my arm, without trying to arrange an appointment. I was greeted in the lobby by one of the employees and explained why I had come and what kind of book I was bringing. The employee asked:
“Does this book attack Christianity?”
I answered it did not.
“Then do not bother to leave it,” he said, smiling. “If it attacked Christianity, it might have a chance, but if it does not, there is no way we will publish it.”
Of course, I left without leaving the book, and have never tried to work with that publisher again.
Second anecdote: A few years ago I agreed with a publisher to publish an updated edition of one of my out-of-print books (The Fifth Level, El Quinto Nivel, 2005). The contract was signed and the imminent appearance of the book was announced on the publisher’s website. Then, the day before it was to be launched, the director called to tell me that they had decided not to publish the book, after all. The reason was that the editorial board did not agree with my ideas. 
To explain it, I will indicate that in the penultimate chapter of the book I declare myself against abortion and offer scientific reasons which can be found in another post in this blog. Apparently, the editorial board did not notice it until the last moment. The delay was not my fault, as the complete text of the book had been in their hands for several months. When I consulted the contract, I discovered that this possibility had been taken into account, as one of the clauses specified that the publishers reserve the right not to publish the book if they do not agree with the author’s ideas. Their decision, therefore, was legal, and I could do nothing but accept it.
But the conversation did not end there, because the director continued:
“As for the other books we had in progress, their publication is cancelled. We will not publish anything that you have written.”
I must clarify that I had two other books in process of publication with that publisher, an essay (still unpublished) and a mystery novel that has now been published somewhere else (Quetzalcoatl’s Zahir, 2014-2017). But in neither case had any contracts been signed.
With regard to these two anecdotes, I must say the following:
  • In my opinion, publishers have the right to refuse to publish a book if it does not agree with their ideology. Similarly, a Catholic publisher -for instance- will usually refuse to publish a book that attacks Christianity. However, stating that they will never publish anything written by me, now or in the future, is something quite different, for they do not know if those books will contain something contrary to their ideology. This decision smells of blacklisting.
Third anecdote: A few years ago I sent one of my science fiction novels (The history of the Earth-9 Colony, 2014) to a publishing house belonging to a Catholic religious order, specialized in children and young adult literature. After some time, the director called to inform me that the book had been rejected.
“Because,” she added, “the reader has told us that your novel is sexist.”
“Why is it sexist?” I asked.
“Because of the two characters that cause the initial catastrophe, the woman is worse than the man.”

The thing is clear: even some Catholic publishers have fallen under the control of the dominant ideology. The bad guy in a novel must never be a woman, a black man, a Jew or a homosexual. Well, I’m not so sure about Jews, as the dominant ideology is pro-Arab and anti-Israeli. In another post I have explained that, to make matters worse, the accusation is undeserved. To prove that my novels are sexist, reading one is not enough; one must do a study of all my books and count how many of my bad guys are men and how many are women. When I did the calculation I discovered that 93% of my bad guys are men, just 7% are women. I could be accused of sexism, but against men. Anyway, rejecting a book just for this reason is a clear sign of censorship.

Manuel Alfonseca

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