Week 159 – Censorship, Statistics and Odd-Shaped Balls

There’s been a good deal of debate around LS towers this week about censorship. Self-censorship to be slightly less vague. The conscious and unconscious decisions made by authors to tone down content to be entirely more accurate.

Swearing is the main culprit but there are others – and in most cases what it seems to come down to is the ability (or inability) to separate author and character.

What also became apparent as we discussed this is that it’s a difficult tightrope to navigate. There is nothing more annoying than encountering an oh bother when we all know a for fuck’s sake would be in keeping with the character or scene. Nothing, that is, except for a completely inappropriate dash of profanity simply for shock value and entirely inconsistent with the voice that preceded it.

It’s not always easy as a writer to build a believable character that is far removed from ourselves. I struggle to write female characters for example, and Hugh has been working very hard on a positive, teetotal, non-swearing hippy for his next novel. Both consciously and unconsciously I believe all of us strip things out and hold back to a varying degree. The nagging worry of “wow…am I really deep down somewhere an actual serial killer…?” is often compounded with feelings of “what will my wife/husband/dog/random stranger think of me if I write about x…?”.

For me, it’s all down to the editing process between first draft and submission. Editing is not just about cleaning up rogue commas, napalming adverbs and fixing spelling mistakes. It’s about absorbing a character and a scene and being completely honest about how it plays out. That’s what makes it real, believable and memorable. There are great exponents of this on LS – each of you will have your favourites and there may be some new names to add to your lists this week.

The five authors published this week have collectively submitted 93 stories and more than 120,000 words to LS – with a combined strike rate just shy of 50%. Two authors are being published here for the first time and they nicely bookend some old hands. Welcome to Robert Buckalew and Rich Ferri.

Before I launch into the roundup with the usual selected editorial comments it would be impossible for me as a Welshman not to mention that today marks the start of the emotional rollercoaster of violence and singing we know simply as Six Nations rugby. To my fellow editors I simply say, may the Welsh best team win…!

And so to the stories…

We’ve already welcomed Robert and he started things rolling this week with his original take on a familiar sci-fi theme, The Interlopers

“…the reveal about the location of the colony is a good one…makes it very original.”

“I liked the end idea… history is written by victors and the message can be altered from the true meaning.”

 

Fred Vogel will be a familiar name to many of you and he added to his growing LS collection on Tuesday with his tale of adulting woe, All The Way Home

“The fact that the MC was still as confused and hopeless at the end as he was at the beginning worked for me and it felt realistic.”

“…one of those that makes you decide differently every time you read it… I quite like that in a story.”

 

If Fred was familiar then I’ll bet our next author is a household name. Adam Kluger has been with LS for almost our entire existence and we love having him around. His characters and situations are always well-crafted and his latest piece, Everybody Drinks At Bemelmans, lit up our Wednesday

“This feels like a real departure for Adam – you can still tell it’s him but it’s so much more restrained…”

“…there’s a really good atmosphere to this and I found myself engrossed throughout.”

 

Daniel Olivieri is an equally welcome, if more recent, frequenter of these parts and he added to his growing collection of quirky and unusual stories on Thursday with An Assassin Sent Not By The Devil But By God

“I love the imagination in this piece…great opening and closing lines.”

“…there is enough theological confusion for me to say YES!”

 

Every now and then a story comes along where the editors are in total, and almost instantaneous agreement. More often than not it’s a negative rather than a positive but just sometimes you get a gem like Friday’s story from Rich Ferri, the beautifully constructed and heartbreaking End Of The Road

“Raw and believable and terribly moving”

“I think this is a cracker. It feels genuine, real and heartbreaking”

“Of the more than 2000 submissions we’ve had few can match or better this”

 

That’s it for another week folks. As always we’d love to hear your thoughts about anything we’ve raised here but, more importantly, keep supporting each other’s work, keep writing and keep submitting!

14 thoughts on “Week 159 – Censorship, Statistics and Odd-Shaped Balls

  1. Just concluded another day of work, thus I have eight hours’ less of my soul. I thought to add my thoughts on stupid acts of censorship. Some American schools have seen it fit to mess with Mark Twain. Huck Finn speaks in his own voice and comes to Realize Jim is a man. But where he without malice says”Nigger Jim,” the schools want to replace with “The Slave.” I don’t want this sort of assumed ignorance of the readership to go further. Moreover, it seems to me that most censors never read the books they ban.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Although I believe strongly that we should respect another’s feelings and avoid causing hurt or distress wherever possible I don’t think that it either possible or desirable to change history and if the vocabulary of the time is thought to be offensive the best that we can do is to thank the gods that we have moved on but changing it to suit modern sensibilities is disrespectful to the author and,, it seems to me, degrades the effort and sacrifice of those who have fought to change things. If we don’t see how it was – how can we appreciate the way it is.

      Liked by 2 people

      • A writer must honestly represent the time she lives in. Twain did this brilliantly by having Huck throw away a letter he wrote telling the whereabouts of Jim. “All right then, I’ll go to hell.” That was the crux of the thing and it would be diminished by tampering with it. Of course, we should probably keep a weighing eye on what we do today. It might be for the best not to sanitize what we write as to solicit what we think might be a favorable opinion of ourselves in the future. My contribution is to no longer use “he or she.” I figure if everyone uses just “she” for the next two-thousand years or so, then things will have evened out. Perhaps the Nobel awaits me.

        Liked by 1 person

    • It all feels a bit 1984 to me when we start rewriting literature to reflect the present rather than the period in which it was written and relevant. Stories are often a better barometer of sentiment, language and culture than many weighty historical tomes in my opinion – and as such to remove language and reference simply serves to dumb down the past and cheapens the impact that the various protagonists (and those who inspired them) felt. If a word or a phrase or a scenario is “shocking” to us through 2018’s eyes than so much the better. Thanks for giving me some more food for thought on this topic.

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      • Thank you. Please forgive my tardy acknowledgment of your thoughtful and intelligent comment. One last thing on previous topic: Among my god knows how many books, I have the Bible, the Thelema Book of the Law, Mein Kampf, all things William S. Burroughs, some Wiccan and a bunch of other odd stuff, and none of the words in any of the books have warped my mind any more than it already was. Still, I’m glad that I didn’t get caught by my mother the way she busted my brother reading “Horny Orgies” when he was in the seventh grade.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Nik!!
    It got some folks thinking.
    As you know censorship is something close to my heart.
    There is no need for profanity or taking our Good Lords name in vein. Those that do should be blinking well crucified.
    Jesus must have been a potty mouth who didn’t like his dad.
    Hugh

    Liked by 1 person

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