In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at the safety and freedom of authors in the wake of the attack on Salman Rushdie.
Author Safety and Freedom in the Spotlight after Attack on Salman Rushdie
Of course, there is only one real story in the news this week. Much has been said already about the sickening attack on Salman Rushdie. And much will be said in the future. Much of that belongs in long-form journalism and opinion pieces; in industry roundtables and company boardrooms; some, perhaps, in the chambers of legislators; much in the chambers of those tasked with upholding what those legislators decide. I am sure I will have more to say in other contexts, but the present context is that of a news column for independent authors.
And it is in that role that I want to put last week’s horrific events in context.
I was at “that age” when The Satanic Verses was published–a pretentious teenager discovering high literature, and I remember being enthralled by a programme about the 1988 Booker Prize shortlist. That was my first contact with Rushdie. Shortly afterwards, of course, Rushdie was on the mainstream news, and he remained a pivotal figure for much of my decade of student life.
One of the things that can make the attack seem so shocking, and so distressing for us a writers, is that we tend to think of what we do as something inherently safe. When we use the word “dangerous” we often mean, at most, that we have pushed the rules of a genre to its limit. But the writer’s life, we imagine, is solitary and withdrawn, long since distanced from actual violence, which we can think of as something confined to the times of Caravaggio and Marlowe, or the pages of a Stephen King novel.
How widespread are concerns about author safety?
And for many of us that is true. Even in these times when we are pushed into the public eye, whether at events or online, for the sake of sales; or even into the eye of controversy for the sake of clicks, many of us move in a world that is fundamentally safe.
That said, Bookangel carried out a fascinating survey on author safety online earlier this year. You can read the analysis here. It paints a picture of abuse online. And it also outlines concerns many authors have over privacy. And the link between privacy and safety.
Many authors have found themselves saying no to opportunities because they feared the resultant loss of privacy. But many of us do not, even in highly dangerous circumstances, as the existence of organizations like PEN and the Index for Censorship attest. As writers, we are an infinitely diverse community, and our expectation of safety when we share our words varies greatly across location, across community, and across genre.
Many of us in the writing community do not live in fear because of our words. Some of us do. As a community, we can come together to expand the number of the former and decrease the latter.
I am delighted to report that ALLi has been actively working on this and is producing a guide with advice on author safety.
Gen Z Stream Culture and Listen to Lots of Podcasts
There is some other news this week. I’ll start with Mark Williams’ look at Wattpad’s insights into Gen Z habits. More than a quarter of Gen Z says they listen to podcasts every week. And they stream a lot of content. When it comes to viewing, more than half say they never watch regular, non-streamed TV at all. This comes as companies look to provide more streaming content that comes cheaper to the end user thanks to advertising revenue.
Rather fittingly, this comes as Apple looks to invest in original podcasts. And rather like Wattpad, it isn’t after leaving things with just one media form. It aims to turn successful podcasts into successful TV.
Royal Society of Literature's Literature Matters Awards Open
In the UK, the Royal Society of Literature has opened its Literature Matters Awards. The awards, which close on August 24th, provide funds to support writers’ projects that look to engage people who don’t usually read. There is nothing to stop indies from entering projects. The main criterion is that authors, however published in the past, be able to show they are likely to be able to deliver what they set out to. The total award fund is £20,000, which judges will distribute among projects they most want to bring to life. The entry form for Literature Matters Awards is here, and full entry criteria are here.Self-publishing News: Author Safety in the Spotlight after Horrifying Attack on Salman Rushdie Click To Tweet