Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto: Banned In Boston
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Read the previous chapter Moonshiners, Medicine Men, and Merchants of Death
Unchaining the Human Heart
— A Revolutionary Manifesto
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 17: Banned In Boston
The leader shouted, “The motherfucker’s got one!” and scurried down the street, followed in close order by his compatriots.
Alongside Night, Crown Publishers, 1979
She smiled, continuing to match his pace. “I said that for five thousand blues, I’ll go to the bathroom in my panties. I’ve been holding it in all day. You can watch me—even feel it if you want to. I wet myself, too. How about it?”
Soon he stood at Times Square, cursing himself methodically. You fuckhead, you prick, you numbskull! … You were carrying a fucking revolver and still you were afraid….
“Oh. Okay. Why don’t we go back to your room and fuck?”
“If this is a revolution, then let’s not fuck it all up this time.”
She noticed the erection under his pants and was furious. “If the last six thousand men who fucked me didn’t make me come, what makes you think you can?”
“I won’t fuck you. I’ll lick you out.”
The Rainbow Cadenza, Simon & Schuster, 1983
The man was also looking hard, his breathing becoming rapid and irregular. He reached down to his leather pants and released his erect penis.
“As I started saying before, it is crucial to remember that the most responsive parts of the penis are the glans and the underside of the shaft. Begin by withdrawing your teeth behind your lips and take the tip of the penis in your mouth, gently massaging it with your lips.”
Joan did as she was ordered, orally massaging the head of his penis until Blaine had reached erection.
A few seconds later, there was a high-pitched scream from across the stadium. Then a second and a third.
Joan stopped. “What was that?” she asked Filcher.
“I believe Lady Moslow has brought out the whips and chains,” he said. “Go on with what you were doing.”
Joan glared at Filcher and got her first reaction out of him that night—a bulge under his leathers.
I awakened at about 3,500 feet up and about fifteen minutes away from my bedroom window to find myself naked but not cold, flying prone with the city lights of Heaven below me, two gorgeous angels as my honor guard, and my pecker pointing down like landing gear.
Escape from Heaven, Pulpless.Com, 2002
“The entire fucking idea behind creation was to fuck things up as much as possible and make everyone else’s life a living hell!”
“Who did you fuck that you rate the A list?” he asked.
“There’s no mystery why every man on earth, and half the women, want to fuck her.”
My three novels — quoted above — were published for the first time, respectively, in 1979, 1983, and 2002.
But as recently as 1966 William Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch had legally been prohibited for sale in Boston, Massachusetts — under pressure from the religiously conservative Watch and Ward Society — but it took the 1966 Supreme Court ruling in Memoirs v. Massachusetts to end the practice of local authorities banning books for their “prurient” content.
Without that ruling, I — and my publisher — could have been dragged into court to stand trial if some local official decided that any of the above quotes made us pornographers, and my novels obscene.
But just because I missed taking a bullet as a novelist doesn’t mean I haven’t had to self-censor.
When I wrote my first-draft screenplay, “Profile in Silver,” for CBS TV’s Twilight Zone TV series in 1985 — a story in which a future historian time-travels back to the JFK assassination in Dallas — I was required to write a second draft of the script removing a second gunman wearing a Dallas police uniform on the Grassy Knoll. I never saw it — but it was read to me over the phone — a memo CBS executive Tony Barr wrote to the Twilight Zone producers that said, “The CBS Television Network is not going to rewrite history.”
Nor — as President of SoftServ Publishing in 1990 — was I free from such pressures. Here’s an open message I posted on GEnie — the General Electric Network for Information Exchange — which was hosting my company’s distribution of eBooks:
Mon Mar 12, 1990 SOFTSERV [NeilSchulman] at 19:21 EST Sub: Should Books Be Banned … on GEnie?
A few weeks back I uploaded a file called SOFTSERV.LST which was a list of titles that SoftServ has under contract, at the various stages of preparation. This was only a list of book titles; there was no description or excerpts from any of the books.
Some of the titles listed were from Loompanics Unlimited, which specializes in what they themselves describe as “unusual books.”
Here is an excerpt from the introduction to the Loompanics Catalog, to give you an idea of their bookselling philosophy:
“Herein you will find controversial and unusual books on a wide variety of subjects. Most of these books cannot be found in even the largest libraries. The majority of them will never be seen in bookstores. … So controversial are the books we offer that most magazines will not allow us to advertise. Bookstores and distributors will not carry our publications. Periodicals refuse to review our books. We know where we belong: we are the lunatic fringe of the libertarian movement. Because we do not believe in limits. We do not believe in laws, rules or regulations. We have contempt for censorship, secrecy, and dogmatism. We don’t give a damn about being ‘respectable.’ We don’t give a damn about anything except your right to find out anything you want to know. Nothing is sacred to us, not even skepticism and self-reliance.”
A stronger and more unyielding defense of freedom of the press has nowhere else been seen. For their consistency of practicing what they preach, Loompanics Unlimited has been a source of endless trouble to all established institutional authority — and a source of lots of books for the 20,000 people who receive the Loompanics Unlimited Book catalog. If the contents of their books are not respectable, their sales figures are very respectable by the standards of any New York publishing house.
All of the above was why SoftServ, whose founders are likewise committed to the absolute right of people to read and write what they please, decided to become an electronic distributor for the titles Loompanics Unlimited publishes.
It has never been SoftServ’s intention to specialize in any area of publication. We are a generalist. It is our intention to build up a title list in the thousands, including classics, textbooks, fiction, nonfiction, reference works, current controversies, politics, history, and so forth, and so on, et cetera, ad nauseum.
But one of GEnie’s clients took one look at our list of upcoming books, saw some of the Loompanics titles on our list, and decided that SoftServ is some sort of sleazy, subversive, vanity-press operation, which a Respectable Company like General Electric shouldn’t have anything to do with. This person sent a letter of complaint to William Louden, the General Manager of GEnie, and got on his case. The heat was on, and in short order I was being told by GEnie to get this list of titles the hell off their system.
Let me start by saying that I value GEnie’s clients. I hope to make them SoftServ Paperless Book Club members.
But I have no bloody use for the sort of people who think they have the right to tell other people what they can and can’t read. That is freedom. If this person had written to me, rather than Mr. Louden, it is quite possible I would have told them to take their letter and put it where the sun don’t shine: I have no patience with people who think their small-minded opinions are binding on others.
If I had been temperate, I might have simply quoted Jesus and asked, “What is this to you?”
Regardless of how it started, GEnie has decided that Respectability is in fact their Guiding Light. Within contractual limits, that is their right. Since the agreement by which SoftServ is distributing our titles through GEnie was fairly informal, there arose a difference in interpretation regarding SoftServ’s right to market our titles without any blocking by GEnie.
As businesses must do if they are to remain in business, I found it necessary to reach an accommodation with GEnie. This accommodation will result in certain titles which SoftServ has under contract never being distributed on GEnie, and severe limits being placed on SoftServ’s ability even to openly mention these titles.
Such titles will be made available on the off-GEnie computer bulletin board which SoftServ will be starting in the next few months. At least until the sheriff comes after us, at which point I may have to ask Gary Hudson to give our computers a lift to Low Earth Orbit, and hook up our modems to the nearest communications satellite.
The point to all this is that, ultimately, the fight for a free press must be fought by those who wish the right to read banned books. We writers, publishers, and distributors are much too subject to economic, political, and legal pressure to be able to hold out, regardless of our beliefs or intentions. I found myself having to make a decision between not selling some books on GEnie, or not selling any books on GEnie.
And, I am ashamed to say, I found very few people who advised me to stand my ground for the sake of principle. Principles seem to have little social value these days.
Removing the list of Loompanics book titles from GEnie wasn’t even enough to mollify G.E. management. Our one-year contract with GEnie was not renewed. It took five years, the advent of the World Wide Web, and a new company before I was able to have another go at eBook publishing again.
Of course all of my experience has been with private companies exercising their contractual rights to restrict what I write or publish. That’s not actually censorship, merely editorial control.
But in countries without a First Amendment actual censorship — banning of books and arrest of authors — is quite common.
Writing a book that denies the Holocaust — or even questions historical aspects of it, such as the use of gas chambers for mass executions — can get you arrested in Canada and Europe. In 1983 Robert Faurisson was fined by a French court for his writings questioning details of the Holocaust of European Jewry. I’m Jewish. It’s still censorship. Anyone who promotes censorship — Jew or gentile — is an enemy of freedom. And the more the United States becomes subject to international law and trade agreements, the less the First Amendment means.
But we don’t have to leave the United States for actual government censorship. In 2004 59-year-old grandmother Donna Dull was arrested in Pennsylvania after the film lab at WalMart reported her to police for having dropped off film with naked pictures of her three-year-old granddaughter coming out of the bathtub. She was charged with distributing child pornography and it took fifteen months before the charges were eventually dropped. She’s now suing.
Under Sharia Law in effect in many Islamic countries — in Europe, and, believe it or not, sections of the United States — representations of Muhammad or Islam considered offensive to Muslims can get you censored … or even murdered. Novelist Salman Rushdie has had a “fatwa” — in Mafia terms a contract — put out on his life ever since his novel The Satanic Verses was published in 1988. Dutch filmmaker “Theo” van Gogh was shot eight times, stabbed in the chest, and nearly decapitated by Dutch-Moroccan Muslim, Mohammed Bouyeri, on November 2, 2004, because van Gogh’s film Submission criticized the treatment of women in Islam.
But Kevin Smith — according to DVD comments for his movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back — had to pay a “ten thousand dollar fine” because the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) disliked his comedy’s “overwhelmingly homophobic tone.”
I guess paying a little extortion is better than getting your head cut off.
I could talk endlessly about banned books — the American Library Association holds a Banned Books Week each year to celebrate books forced to be removed from school and public libraries. Classics regularly on the list include Huckleberry Finn, The Lord of the Rings, Nineteen-eighty-four, and Gone With the Wind.
Gone With the Wind also had possible censorship problems when the movie was released, because of Rhett Butler’s closing line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” The word “damn” was on a list forbidden under the Hays Code. The Motion Picture Association board passed an amendment to the Production Code on November 1, 1939 specifically so they wouldn’t have to levy a fine on the film’s powerful producer, David O. Selznick.
But you know what book gets banned more than any other? I could have listed smuggling it in my previous chapter, inasmuch as smugglers of this book have been arrested and even reported executed in countries ranging from North Korea to China to Saudi Arabia. It’s not The Anarchist Cookbook or James Joyce’s Ulysses or The Kama Sutra … and it’s certainly not anything I ever wrote.
It’s the Bible.
Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter XVIII: Wash Your Mouth Out!
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!