No Offense or Anything . . .

Gimme rage!
Like there’s tear gas in the crowd
Do you wanna live out loud?
But the air is barely breathing
Of the slums to the obsolete
The dawn of the new airwaves
For the anti-social media

Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day

I’m facing a moral dilemma, and I need your help to sort it out. So, please, if you have some insight that might help, let me know. 

For the past couple days, I’ve been reconciling the edits and notes that my editor made on my next book, a short novel about an LSUE baseball player named Colton Lacombe. The book is a kind of noir fantasy set in my hometown of Eunice, and it leans heavily on the traditions of that genre, as well as my own creative sweet spot. Which is to say, a lot of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but this time wrapped around a baseball theme. There’s a lot of baseball in this book.

But it’s not the baseball that’s gonna get me in trouble. It’s my blatant disregard for the new norms of social discourse that will surely bring the hammer down

My editor thoughtfully flagged a dozen spots in the book that run the gamut from mildly offensive to downright taboo. Sensitivities on everything from race and body type to religion, age, and gender are casually tossed aside and urinated upon. Not that the story is about any of that. I write books about interesting characters, not to stir controversy in the antisocial media

My instinct is to let every one of these offenses stand, if not because I believe they’re perfect for the character and the situation, then at least on principle. Just the thought of changing my words to avoid offending some hypothetical reader who probably wouldn’t dig my work anyway triggers strikes me as wrong. I think the road to hell is probably paved with self-censorship. 

I figure one of two things will happen soon. Either I will censor my characters–forcing them to find “nice” words they don’t really believe in–or society will find a way to punish me for refusing to play ball. 

Frankly, New Bayou Books isn’t popular enough yet to make cancellation a real threat. You have to be on the program before you can be scratched off of it. But it’s precisely that–the fact that I’m just now breaking into the game–that puts me at risk. All I have right now is a tenuous grip on the bottom rung of the publishing industry ladder. All it would take is a boot to my fingers to send me right back into the abyss. 

At the end of the day, I can’t see censoring my characters. I mean, what’s the point of inventing them if they can’t express themselves organically? But on the other hand, you can’t win the game if you refuse to play ball. What’s the point of building stories around flawed, interesting characters if the voices of those characters are essentially mute?

My instinct is to simply let the characters speak for themselves, whatever the fuck they decide to say

But the fact remains, I’m on the hunt for readers and listeners. I created New Bayou Books and started publishing these stories because I want people to discover them, not to simply fall on the deaf sword of righteousness before anyone has reached “The end.” 

It seems like a simple choice, but if that’s true, why is it that both options feel so unsettling? 

What do you think?

Published by New Bayou Books

Jason P. Reed started New Bayou Books to spark a revolution in South Louisiana literature. The goal of the company is two fold: to discover great new writers from Acadiana while building a global community of readers and listeners. Join us! Sign the enlistment form.

3 thoughts on “No Offense or Anything . . .

  1. I think your characters MUST be themselves to say and do what they will. If you cave on this issue, which seems to be a bulwark of your business ideology, then you’re just another small publisher destined to fail. And that’s not you.


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