Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Surfing with Sluts On Amazon

She's totally into it!

So I wrote two stories recently, Tavern Slut #1: Jessica's Virgin Auction and Tavern Slut #2, Mia The Contortionist and published them on Amazon. They were both based on my interest in seeing if I could update a Gorean paga tavern to modern times, and having an equivalent of paga slaves who can be used sexually for the price of the meal. And I'm writing a third book about sluts, "Vacation in Slutaria," this one from the male dom's POV, which is working out a lot easier for me, since it's my natural POV.
I'm hoping it will work out a lot easier for my readers, too.
I'm writing about "sluts" because it's freaking DANGEROUS to write about slaves on Amazon. They have a real down on the nonconsensual on Amazon, as well as the dubcon. ("Dubcon" is a word erotica writers have coined to describe stories where the consent is dubious, an attempt to get around the Amazon block on erotica that involved nonconsensual sex. It worked, for a while, until Amazon decided it also didn't like dubcon.)
And slave sex is about as noncon/dubcon as you can get, because they are in no position to give consent, even if they are all in on the sex and really, really want it. Granted, there are a LOT of stories published on Amazon that feature slavegirls that are all-in on the slave sex from the get-go, for safety reasons.
Point is, erotica that deal with sex slaves as characters is on very thin ice on Amazon. That's why I moved all mine to Smashwords. More about that later.
If you've read the sticky For the Triggered on my Fantasy and Science Fiction Slavegirls subreddit, you'd know that I have a fundamental disagreement on this topic with Amazon. I don't think they should be censoring sexual fantasies of ANY kind, even the kind that will land you in jail if you try to act them out in real life. (Such as trying to enslave someone in real life, sexually or otherwise.) Fantasy is fantasy, reality is reality. They're different, and should be treated differently. It's sad that so many people and organizations, especially Amazon, don't grasp this.
The people who support censorship aren't just telling writes they can't write and publishers they can't publish Certain Fantasies, they are also telling readers they can't read those fantasies. And since by FAAAAR the majority of readers of erotica are women, they are telling grown women they can't have certain fantasies, or more specifically, they can't read about them.
But Amazon is a giant and I am an ant, economically speaking. I got no clout against them, so I have to go with their rules if I want to publish on their platform, by far the largest platform for indie publishers. Thus, all my slavish characters are "sluts" and all my sluts are SO TOTALLY INTO the sex they are having.
It's actually a lot easier to write about sex-crazed sluts than it is to write about actual sex slaves. A character who starts out enjoying the submissive sex and continues to enjoy it throughout the story does not have to go through any tricky transitions. For example, the high-and-mighty daughter of a wealthy Boston merchant in in my book Riverbeast: The Journey has to go through a LOT psychologically before she can handle being a sex slave, and learns to distinguish between good Masters and bad Masters.
And the President of the United States, in President Slave Girl is a moral conservatives who has many, many layers of inhibitions to overcome as she learns to cope with being a legal slave, all her civil rights removed, slowly discovering that she is a natural submission who thoroughly enjoys being fucked while bound and gagged, and who has no problem at all with having a vagina for a mouth on occasion (well .. a lot of occasions). Nanotech has so much potential in medicine!
Of course, some might say that those transitions, occurring over many, many erotic scenes, are the intellectually interesting and sexually intriguing parts of the stories. But Amazon wants none of that.
Now it's happening at Smashwords. I'vee been asked by them to categorize my books as, not just "adult" but as falling into several categories beyond adult, like stories that deal with sex slavery and things like that. I have a lot of books in that sex slavery category. Smashwords says (and I believe them) says that they aren't personally that interested doing this, it's at the request of several of the book distributors.
At the same time, I and other erotic authors have learned to be VERY cynical about this sort of thing over time. Because when they censor you, the first thing they have to do is identify you and so separate you from others. They make you the "other." Then when they have you "othered," ans stuck in your own little ghetto (yeah, the Nazi reference here is too apt to pass up) they censor you, refuse to distribute your stuff at all -- the Final Solution for those who want to keep people from reading things that are deemed Wrongthink.
It's not happening yet, and hopefully may not happen at all. In fact, my sales through Smashwords are currently enjoying a bump, I suspect because I'm doing a better job of marketing my stuff. But I don't really know. My books might be selling better for the same reason bump stocks are flying off gun store shelves in the wake of talk of outlawing them after the Las Vegas massacre -- people who like to read sex slave stories want to read them before they get banned on Smashwords, too.
Works for me!
But outright censorship isn't the only unfortunate result of Amazon's (and now, perhaps Smashwords') policies. There's also the effect it has on the stories that DON'T get censored.
And to do that properly, I'm going to have to talk about the remake of the movie Point Break. Not the whole movie, just the bit at the end with the closing credits. The movie is about a group of extreme athletes who are also a crime gang. At the closing credits, there are shots of the athletes that show show them skiing and surfing and base jumping, and as they glide down the curl of a wave or the slope of a mountain or through thin air, there's a line that projects through the athlete's body and on down the wave/slope/air that is the perfect trajectory that the athlete should follow to have a great ride as he surfs, skis or glides.
It's the trajectory that represents the perfect balance of the force and mass of the wave, the slope and the air, a trajectory that perfectly balances mass, speed, density, all the basic physical constraints that are involved in what they're doing.
When a writer writes a story, they are, whether or not they know it, trying to craft an experience that allows the reader to follow a perfect trajectory as they read. Their attention is the surfboard that cuts into the wave formed by your words, and you want them to flow down the slope of the story smoothly and easily and shoot the curl and come out of the other side of the wave with their eyes bugged out, going "Wow! What a RIDE that was!"
Because that was certainly the experience I got the first time I read "Little, Big" by John Crowley, and "Foundation" by Isaac Asimov, and "Far Tortuga" by Peter Matthieson, and "Use of Weapons" by Iain Banks, and quite few other stories. I hit that wave and rolled with it and when it was through, I felt that my life had been enriched. Certainly my mental landscape had been embiggened.
With erotica the line is a lot tighter, because we're dealing with fantasies based off physical functions, i.e., orgasms. We have to hew to the line that rewards the reader's attention with all sorts of erotic scenes and experiences, and which promises more, and delivers more, leaving the reader going, "Wow, what a SATISFYING ride that was!"
But with erotica the line's still there, determined by the forces of sexual desire, cultural responses to sexual desire, the power of the characters, the extent to which the story adds to or detracts from the sexual experiences in the story, etc. It's just a trajectory where sexual satisfaction has a lot more pull than it does in other stories, and where plot and characterization are not necessarily as important as in other stories, though they CAN be important.
For example, a story in which sexual bondage is the erotic appeal and in which no one gets tied up or gagged is going to be quite a disappointment for readers. And a gay story in which no guy has sex with another guy is going to also be very disappointing to readers. At a basic level, you have to deliver.
Now, Amazon hasn't outright BANNED stories with slavegirls as characters. You CAN have them as characters as long as the slavery isn't too oppressive and the slavegirls are into the slave sex, even if it's only because they totally dig the guy that is the main character. And in order to create such stories, writers have to deviate from the true line that would deliver the best ride for readers who want to take a ride on the slavegirl sex wave. The writer wants to find absolutely the best trajectory that balances character, plot, erotic appeal and fetish appeal for a great ride for the readers.
Instead, you've got writers making all these loops and curlecues and whatnot in order to keep the story somewhere close to the slavegirl sex line without crossing the lines that Amazon has placed on the wave with its rules about slavegirl sex, some of which, of course, block slavegirl sex entirely. 
The writers take these less-perfect lines, where they write stories about slavegirl-ish characters who are kinda sort enslaved in a legal sense but really not, and so they create these stories, some of them brilliant and ingenious in how they surf the wave, but still, they CAN'T surf that pure and natural line that the readers will find most satisfying and engaging, because Amazon has determined that it doesn't want readers to have that experience, and won't allow it.
Most readers aren't aware of Amazon censorship in this regard, because Amazon of course doesn't ADVERTISE its censorship practices. The readers just know the stories aren't really what they were after, they don't really get into the zone they were looking for even if they seem kinda like they might from the title and the teaser.
So Amazon winds up cheating its readers and nerfing its writers with its censoring ways, and the bright, pure trajectory that leads to maximum reader joy and maximum writer skill remains buried behind Amazonian censorship.
That's what's wrong with Amazon's censorship practices. It's just not the books that DON'T get published. It's the books that DO get published. And it's a damn shame.