HarperVoyager author Nick Cole had been writing a new dystopian SF book, Ctrl-Alt-Revolt, and one of the character motivations he had to come up with was a remotely original reason that AIs might decide humanity needed to be destroyed. He didn’t want to come off as just another Terminator knock-off. He needed the AIs to perceive humanity as a legitimate threat and act to counter it.
The idea he came up with involved the AIs seeing a reality show character decide to have an abortion because the baby wasn’t convenient, which led the AIs to realize that if humanity thought they were inconvenient, out they would go, too. Ironically, the notion of getting rid of something inconvenient apparently operated on a meta level as well—because when Nick Cole’s editor at HarperVoyager read it, the book was abruptly removed from the publication schedule without even a feedback note or suggestion to change.
So, he ended up self-publishing it instead. It’s on Amazon now, for 99 cents for Kindle or $12.99 in paperback.
In his blog post, Cole goes on for several paragraphs about how obnoxious his publisher was to try to censor the book, and concludes:
Thank God Jeff Bezos made a place where people can still publish their own ideas and thoughts regardless of how horrible our “betters” find them. If it weren’t for Amazon, they would have silenced me.
I’m certainly not going to touch the political question of abortion with a ten-foot pole. In his own comments on the matter, Passive Guy feels the same way. He just notes that “Big Publishing is extremely provincial. That’s one of its biggest weaknesses.” In some respects, it’s not even important anyway. It could have been any controversial religious or political idea that caused the publisher to want to jettison the book.
But I’m not going to go into how out-of-touch publishers are with the viewpoints of the common person, either, the way PG does.
I’m just going to point out that this post comes just a few days after Authors United and New America convened to decry the immense threat to freedom of expression Amazon represents, in the way it doesn’t knuckle under to what the traditional publishers want. And, really, that should provide the only moral you need to this story right there.