The Thing About Censorship

Just for the record, I’m against censorship. Sure, some nasty things get printed in pursuit of this cause, some of them downright irresponsible. But better to live in a society that promotes freedom of thought than one that doesn’t.

When you really get down to it, words are just words. We give them as much power as we choose. It’s the ideas behind the words that can cause hurt and mayhem. Writing a book about blowing up a major U.S. city is one thing, doing it quite another.

And having thus overstated the obvious, let me share my thoughts on some of the outmoded points of view exhibited in some of the books that Stark House publishes. I firmly believe that once you take it upon yourself to reprint a book, you should reprint the whole book, not just the parts you agree with. In some of the books we’ve published, I have encountered misogynist heroes, gay villains, rape disguised as consensual sex, underage sex, outmoded language, alcohol abuse, cigarette abuse, spousal abuse, teenage temptresses, and denigrated lifestyles of every type you can imagine.

Does that mean when I encounter the word “fag” that I throw the book across the room? When the too-young “kitten with a whip” finagles the respectable hero who is twice her age into bed, do I flip out and say, “no way I’m going to reprint THAT one.” When the hero in The Persian Cat hears “no” and assumes that means, “try harder,” do I grit my teeth and say, “THAT’s not PC, how can I reprint this one?”

No, I don’t. I assume that the sexual and social mores of the 1950s are different than the mores of 2015. Hell, coffee was a nickel back then, and pie was a dime. And there was a time when men really did think that “no” meant “yes.” There was also a time when gays and lesbians and transsexuals weren’t generally respected for their lifestyle. Dark days, those were. Thank goodness that’s changing, one generation at a time. Thank goodness that we’re making progress along the road to tolerance and understanding.

But when I pick up a book from 1950, I don’t assume that it will reflect the mores of my time. And I leave those words alone, whether I agree with them or not. I ask myself, is there a good story here? Does the author keep me reading? Or does the point of view really get in the way? I’ve passed on some vintage books that really did offend me, and some modern manuscripts that turned me off a lot more than the 65-year-old words of a 50s paperback—manuscripts that read like nihilistic testaments of pain and death. That kind of stuff just doesn’t appeal to me. I’d rather read from an outdated macho point of view that I know is outdated than dip my psyche in some of the violent fantasies that pass for entertainment today. But, hey, that’s just me.

Still, I get to choose what Stark House publishes, and I like the good old stuff, PC or not. Hopefully the Stark House readers are on the same page as I am, because we’ve got more great un-PC books coming from Gil Brewer, John Flagg, Lionel White and a host of others.

–Greg Shepard


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