Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Introduction: Volume 1

You are holding a book in your hands. It is of a good weight, filled with substantial word count. Those words create stories and those stories weave fantasies, experiences, hopes, dreams and even fears into a celebration of something we all too often take for granted: The Freedom of Speech.

Freedom of Speech. A deceptively simple phrase; three words filled with just as many problems as promise. Though no one can truly trace the earliest beginnings of the right to free speech, clear documentation of the right can be found as early as the 1680s, when William and Mary took the throne during the Glorious Revolution. Soon after, freedom of speech was officially granted in Parliament.

Thus, the fun – and the censorship – began.

For countless years, the right to say whatever we please has been denied, debated and attacked. Freedom of speech – or more accurately, the attempt to curtail it – has sparked wars. Men and women have died in defense of it. Those in positions of power have made a vast history of their own in trying to tame the power of free speech. Why are governments the world over so afraid of letting the citizens speak their minds? In the world of democracy and enlightenment, why do so many subjects remain taboo?

Where there is free speech, there is active freedom of thought; where there is freedom of thought, there is danger to authority. Over the vast history of nations, the written word has been the one constant. It has often been the last bastion of stubborn resistance, and history teaches us that resistance to authority is often considered unacceptable.

When the Internet came along, things got very interesting indeed.

Since before its inception, the Internet has been a source of consternation for those who despise the power of freedom of speech. The Internet reaches farther than the pages of any book and in much less time. Suddenly everyone has a voice, and that voice is free to say whatever it pleases. Someone might even be able to openly discuss something as forbidden as sexuality. My goodness–what comes next?

The desperate attempts to stem the power of the Internet march on in more than a few governments across this globe. Every day there is a new challenge. The battles rage on in the courts, in the churches and in the houses of government. Those battles are being fought in a war that will never be truly won, for as long as there is someone afraid of what free speech can do, there will be another lawsuit, another proposal, or another bill passed in an attempt to bring free speech under tight rein.

In response, there will be those who prescribe to the age-old rule concerning authority: Rules are meant to be broken.

There was a time when this book you are holding would never have been published. There was a time when this book would have been burned while onlookers cheered. There was a time when the people who wrote the stories you are about to read would have been ridiculed. Shunned. Jailed. There are still places in our modern world where those writers might be executed for daring to loudly proclaim their support of sexuality in all its forms. Hard to believe, isn’t it?

You hold in your hands more than a book. You hold a triumph. Every page is a testament to free speech. By reading the words in these pages, you are helping to ensure that book burnings continue to be relegated to the pages of history books. By purchasing this book, you have furthered the cause of those who fight to protect not only the author’s right to say what they have said, but your right to read it.

The authors in this book are spread widely across the globe. They are men and women of varying races, creeds and educations. They are single and married, young and old, dreamers and realists. Whatever they are, wherever they are, there is a part of their lives that might sound just like yours.

They have one thing in common: They are not afraid to wield the written word. They are not afraid to use it to touch parts of the human psyche–and parts of the human body–to make you think, make you feel, make you want and need and desire and dream. They have found the ability to turn black and white words on a page into a kaleidoscope of color in your mind. If there is magic to be had in this world, writers are the magicians.

Now it’s time to turn the page, reader. Time to make your way through the tales. Go ahead–no one is going to stop you. Exercise your right to read whatever you wish!

~ Gwen Masters

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