Last week, after an attack on the Capitol, publishing giant Simon & Schuster pulled a book contract with Senator Josh Hawley. The publishing house, often referred to as one of the ‘big five’, left this comment on Twitter:
First of all: the riot that took place in Washington, DC was not an ‘insurrection.’ From what I’ve gathered, it was a bunch of Trump supporters (a small minority of them) who got into the Capitol and were violent. Although concerning, that was not an ‘insurrection.’ An insurrection is a mutiny against the state. Unfortunately for click-bait media and the woke staff at Simon & Schuster, there is insufficent evidence for the attack on the Capitol being an ‘insurrection.’ It’s reckless how corporations will push narratives of sedition without ever understanding what went on. This is because it is more important for how the corporation appears, then how they treat authors.
Second, Josh Hawley is not responsible for the actions of the rioters. All he did was represent his constituents and lead a debate on voter fraud. All of these actions were legal. The rioters were not. Not once, did he advocate for rioting or law-breaking. Hawley explicitly said ‘the violence must end.’ How you can link his words as an endorsement or a ’cause’ of the violence is beyond me. Yes, you can argue that the rioters shared the same cause as Hawley. But that’s not sufficent evidence of Hawley being part of a ‘dangerous threat to democracy and freedom.’
Simon & Schuster are not only opting out a book contract, but are defaming Hawley. It’s not okay for corporations, with millions of followers, to spread defamatory lies about American politicans. And thus, I can only applaud Sen. Hawley’s threat against Simon & Schuster.
My reasons for supporting Hawley aren’t political. I’m not American, after all and Snowy Fictions is not a politically-charged blog. Rather, I’m absolutely disgusted at the behaviour of big name publishers and how they treat authors. In 2020, I wrote about Hachette dropping Woody Allen. Other worrying responses by the publishing industry have happened to historian David Starkey (Harper Collins), speculative fiction author Sam Sykes (Hachette) and Australian food commentator, Pete Evans (Macmillian).
And what were the ‘crimes’ of these individuals? Woody Allen has accusations against him (which of course, are always true and never wrong. Sarcasm!). David Starkey said that slavery wasn’t genocide… which a) is true and b) his opinion, which he is entitled to.
Sam Sykes was accused of harassment, and made a vague apology. The details are so vague and confusing, but nevermind. Here’s Orbit, telling us how great they are in donating profits to ‘anti-bullying’ charities. Of course, it’s not nice to sexually harass anyone. It’s never okay or acceptable, and we can’t expect apologies to instantly heal all wounds. But isn’t there any redemption, second chances or mercy? That’s what is so frightening about ‘cancel culture.’ The people who push it want to shun people out of society and suffer. Of course, a corporation sees no solution other than the harshest one available. This won’t end well for anyone.
And now onto Pete Evans. Who… er… made a meme? Oh the horror. Look at all the dead bodies. Little girls now have cancer. Actually, wait. They don’t, because you won’t die from seeing an offensive meme. Unless, of course, you live under an ISIS controlled region. But in those cases, it’s not the meme maker causing harm. It’s the offended party.
It’s clear these publishing houses are overreacting. Authors deserve better than a publishing system that treats them like female virgin K-pop stars. Just as they must prove their ‘purity’, so too, must authors. We know morality clauses are already a thing in the publishing industry. And unless the publishing industry changes, expect more authors walking on eggshells. Expect a miserable literary community. Expect more authors getting dropped. And my question is: Where does it end? This will continue. I wonder if in the future, authors must document all their prior ‘sins’ and declare them to the publishing house.
As an author who is planning to query a novel in the next few years, this is terrifying. Literature always had a rock-and-roll attitude about it: from Voltaire’s fiery writings to Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Versus. But now it’s full of corporate attitudes. You need the ‘correct’ opinions and be pure. Many complain about why literature today sucks. It’s because the candle of literature is no longer burning.
I’ve had many writers tell me how scared they are about mistreatment at the hands of a publishing house. Personally, I worry about literary agents discovering ‘the real me’: flawed like everyone else, with opinions many dislike. I’m not the only one with this fear.
Snowy Fictions supports Senator Josh Hawley in suing Simon & Schuster.