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2014: Oct-Dec

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Offsite Article: Shoddy algorithm used to detect shoddy books...

Link Here19th December 2014
Amazon suppresses book with too many hyphens. Graeme Reynolds's novel High Moor 2: Moonstruck was withdrawn when the site decided 100 hyphenated words in 90,000 impacted the readability of the book

See article from



Update: Ruling on UK Book Censorship...

The Supreme court will rule on whether a memoir should be banned on grounds that reading it may traumatise the author's son

Link Here16th December 2014
A British performing artist who has been prevented from publishing his memoir as a result of legal action brought by his ex-wife is to ask the supreme court to overturn the ban, arguing that it poses a dangerous threat to free speech.

The artist referred to only as MLA, as a consequence of the extensive secrecy surrounding the case,  is being supported by human rights groups and a leading writers' organisation, which also believe that an injunction imposed by a lower court presents a serious risk to the right to freedom of expression.

The temporary injunction was imposed by the court of appeal last October after lawyers representing the artist's ex-wife argued that his book's descriptions of the sexual abuse that he suffered as a child were so disturbing that their son would suffer catastrophic psychological distress if he were to read it.

This claim is disputed by MLA, who also believes that it is particularly important that the voices of survivors of sexual abuse are not stifled. The book recounts the way in which the artist, who is well known in his field, suffered years of sexual abuse while at school, and found a way though his art of dealing with the trauma of his past.

The writers' association English PEN, Article 19 and Index on Censorship, which defend and promote free speech, will seek to join the supreme court hearing, to argue that the court of appeal's judgment could have a chilling effect on other writers tackling difficult subjects, should it be allowed to stand.

The supreme court agreed that it would hear the case in the new year.



Coded Outrage...

PC lynch mob sets its sights on a Barbie book

Link Here24th November 2014
Susan Marenco wrote a book titled Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer. But it didn't go down well with the PC lynch mob. On day she woke up to 146 hate mails and a call from the US TV show, Good Morning America.

The mob attacked the book after The Daily Dot picked it up. Most of the review focused on supposed sexism sending the wrong message to young girls interested in technology. One excerpt from the book reads:

I'm only creating the design ideas, Barbie says, laughing. I'll need Steven's and Brian's help to turn it into a real game!

One 'Outraged' reader whinged:

I work as a software engineer, which is a male dominated field. It is exactly these stereotypes and portrayals of girls like the one in this book that are the driving force behind the lack of girls wanting to enter these lucrative technology fields,. This book is part of the problem. I hope Random House replaces this book with something more appropriate for children.

Marenco, who wrote the Barbie book for Mattel, protests that she's a feminist. She's also a technology professional. She told KidsTech News that she tries to be politically aware in her work.

As a writer, when I write, I think about this and I try to replace the professional white males with Asian females. I try and I'm conscious of this, because it's part of my political upbringing, she says. You have to have this on the forefront of your mind or you slip back into that mindset of the traditional Barbie.

Mattel, maker of all things Barbie, quickly pulled the book from sale on Amazon.



Thailand recommends...

The book, A Kingdom in Crisis by Andrew MacGregor Marshall

Link Here14th November 2014
Full story: Lese Majeste in Thailand...Criticising the monarchy is a serious crime
Thailand's National police chief Police General Somyot Poompanmuang has banned the ordering and importation of the book A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand's Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century , claiming that it contains anti-monarchist sentiments.

The police chief issued the ban under the Printing Act of 2007. The book was written by Scottish journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a former journalist with the Thomson Reuters news agency. The book, which had not gone on sale in Thailand, was released last week by the British publishing house, Zed Books.

Somyot based the decision on articles reviewing the book that were printed in two overseas newspapers in the online edition of the South China Morning Post and the online edition of UK newspaper The Independent.

The police claimed the two articles showed that the book insulted and fomented hatred of Their Majesties the King and the Queen, the heir to the throne, and affected national security, peace and public morality.

Somyot said violators of the ban were liable to a prison term of up to three years and/or a fine of up to 60,000 baht (£1200). He also ordered the seizure and destruction of copies of the book.

Formers Reuters correspondent, Andrew MacGregor Marshall, now a freelance journalist and analyst on Thai culture and politics, expressed his delight that his book was banned.  During the last two days, the book has featured in AP , Bangkok Post , Thai PBS (English version), BBC Thai , Prachatai, and other Thai news sites .

The book, which Marshall says was partly based on information from classified US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, as well as contacts from within the royal establishment, was already an Amazon bestseller in the Asian History section. Marshall commented:

I am fundamentally opposed to the banning of books, and I don't see how Thailand can hope to solve its problems peacefully unless Thais are allowed to openly discuss and debate all aspects of their politics and history. Censorship and suppression can only make the crisis worse, and increase the risk that there will be more violence. However, I'm personally delighted that the Thai police have banned my book. I would have been very offended if they hadn't. My book is intended to challenge the myths and fairy tales of the Thai elite, and the ban shows I did my job properly.



Slightly Gayer...

Autobiography by Morrissey is re-published uncensored for paperback

Link Here2nd November 2014
Autobiography by Morrissey covers his life from his birth until the present day.

Steven Patrick Morrissey was born in Manchester on May 22nd 1959. Singer-songwriter and co-founder of the Smiths (1982--1987), Morrissey has been a solo artist for twenty-six years, during which time he has had three number 1 albums in England in three different decades.

Great news for Smiths fans who don't blush at innocuous descriptions of homosexual relationships, the uncensored version of Morrissey's Autobiography is now available in the United States.

When the memoir saw its initial U.S. release last December (less than two months after its U.K. release), three sentences detailing his relationship with Jake Walters, a British photographer, were removed from the book. Two other sentences were tweaked, and a picture of Walters was excised, too.

Penguin, the book's U.S. and U.K. publisher, declined to comment on the changes at the time.

Now, without explanation, those changes have been undone for the U.S. paperback release of Morrissey's Autobiography, which hits shelves on Nov. 4.

For reference, here are the three cut sentences:

  • I am photographed for Creem magazine with my head resting on Jake's exposed belly.
  • Indulgently Jake and I test how far each of us can go before 'being dwelt in' causes cries of intolerable struggle, but our closeness transcends such visitations.
  • 'Well,' said the woman in the British Airways lounge, 'You're either very close brothers or lovers.' 'Can't brothers be lovers?' I impudently reply.



Offsite Article: The End...

Link Here21st October 2014
Padraig Reidy: Collective outrage and imagined slights. Controversy about a short story about assassinating Thatcher

See article from



Updated: The right for the rich and powerful to censor what they don't want to hear...

Author banned from writing about his experience of child abuse lest this hurts delicate ears

Link Here 18th October 2014
Stephen Fry, David Hare and Tom Stoppard among leading writers to voice concerns over court ruling that prevents publication of memoir. They write:

The Court of Appeal's injunction last week preventing publication of a memoir poses a significant threat to freedom of expression.

The Court has ruled that the book should not be published on the grounds that it may cause psychological harm to the author's child, who suffers from disabilities, including Asperger's and ADHD.

The book is not targeted at children and will not be published in the country in which the child lives. The memoir deals with the author's past experiences of sexual abuse and explores the redemptive power of artistic expression. It has been praised, even in court, as striking prose and an insightful work.

The author's earlier public discussions of sexual abuse have previously led to the arrest of one of his abusers.  Its publication is therefore clearly in the public interest and may encourage those who have suffered abuse to speak out.

As writers, and members of English PEN, we are gravely concerned about the impact of this judgment on the freedom to read and write in the UK. The public is being denied the opportunity of reading an enlightening memoir, while publishers, authors and journalists may face censorship on similar grounds in the future.

Jeffrey Archer, William Boyd, John Carey, Jim Crace, Jonathan Dimbleby, Cory Doctorow, Michael Frayn, Maureen Freely, President, English PEN, Stephen Fry, Daisy Goodwin, David Hare, Tom Holland, Hari Kunzru, Marina Lewycka, Blake Morrison, Katharine Norbury, Will Self, Tom Stoppard, Colin Thubron, Colm Tóibín



Update: Banned Books...

China adds to the long list without providing explanations

Link Here17th October 2014
Books by a few best-selling authors were removed from stores in China over the weekend.

Taiwanese author and director Jiubadao is widely known for his novels on romance and Chinese martial art while China-born US-based academic Yu Yingshi has published books on Chinese history and democratic theories.

No reasons for the removals have been revealed but sources say China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television had ordered the ban. Ding Qizhen, a social commentator speculated on the reason for the censorship:

Some speculate that it's related to the Fourth Plenary Session of China's Communist Party. Some say the related department is presenting a gift to the top leaders by eliminating dissenting voices.

Writer Jiubadao had earlier in the year expressed his support for the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan, where students had protested against a trade agreement with China.

Publishers have also been asked to stop printing books by six other prominent Chinese writers. This includes Liang Wendao, and economist Mao Yushi.



Update: China recommends...

The Book of Sins by Chen Xiwo

Link Here10th October 2014
Chen Xiwo has spoken about how he challenged the Chinese government's decision to censor his latest book. The Book of Sins is a collection of seven novellas exploring controversial topics including rape, incest and S&M and examine the links between sexual and political deviance.

Xiwo launched a case to sue China's customs agency in an attempt to find out why his book, which was published in full in Taiwan, had been confiscated when it arrived in China in 2007.

Originally when the court hearings got underway the domestic news outlets were able to report on the progress until the propaganda ministry sent out an order forbidding further coverage.

Eventually the court ruled that Xiwo's case was a matter of national security, which ended further questions on the topic.

A heavily censored version of the book was published in China, in which parts of the text, including an entire novella, were removed. The banned story was I Love My Mum , and is about a disabled man who strikes up an incestuous relationship with his mother which ultimately ends in him murdering her. The novella is metaphorical of Chinese society and so this is presumably the reason for the ban.

Xiwo's book has now been translated into English by Nicky Harman,.

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