Friday, March 09, 2012

The ACLU on PayPal bullsh*t

Coming Together has co-signed this letter from the ACLU (one of Coming Together's charities, as are signatories EFF and Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance) and several other organizations to PayPal with regard to its recent moratorium on transgressive/taboo erotica:

Tell PayPal: Stop the Digital Book Bonfire

By Chris Conley (Mar 7, 2012 at 9:30 pm)

Free speech isn't so free when booksellers have to choose between hosting legitimate content and earning a living. Unfortunately, PayPal is threatening to stop doing business with several online booksellers, significantly impacting their revenue in the process, unless the booksellers agree to stop providing content that is perfectly legal but violates PayPal's policy. Please join us and tell PayPal to stop throwing books on a digital bonfire.

The ACLU of California has joined a coalition of civil liberties groups, booksellers and authors, and other organizations and individuals who care about free speech in calling on PayPal to stop this practice and encourage rather than suppress the distribution of content. We’ve written an open letter to PayPal explaining our position, which is copied below.

Please join the effort to safeguard online free speech by sending an email to PayPal telling it to reverse its policy of punishing authors, publishers, and booksellers who create and distribute legitimate content. Your voices can remind PayPal that protecting free speech everywhere is good for business.

Here's a copy of our open letter to PayPal:

PayPal, which plays a dominant role in processing online sales, has taken full advantage of the vast and open nature of the Internet for commercial purposes, but is now holding free speech hostage by clamping down on sales of certain types of erotica.  As organizations and individuals concerned with intellectual and artistic freedom and a free Internet, we strongly object to PayPal functioning as an enforcer of public morality and inhibiting the right to buy and sell constitutionally protected material.    

Recently, PayPal gave online publishers and booksellers, including Book Strand, Smashwords, and eXcessica, an ultimatum: it would close their accounts and refuse to process all payments unless they removed erotic books containing descriptions of rape, incest, and bestiality. The result would severely restrict the public's access to a wide range of legal material, could drive some companies out of business and deprive some authors of their livelihood.

Financial services providers should be neutral when it comes to lawful online speech.  PayPal’s policy underscores how vulnerable such speech can be and how important it is to stand up and protect it.

The topics PayPal would ban have been depicted in world literature since Sophocles’ Oedipus  and Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  And while the books currently affected may not appear to be in the same league, many works ultimately recognized for their literary, historical, and artistic worth were reviled when first published.  Books like Ulysses and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were banned as “obscene” in the United States because of their sexual content.  The works of Marquis de Sade, which include descriptions of incest, torture, and rape, were considered scandalous when written, although his importance in the history of literature and political and social philosophy is now widely acknowledged. 

The Internet has become an international public commons, like an enormous town square, where ideas can be freely aired, exchanged, and criticized.  That will change if private companies, which are under no legal obligation to respect free speech rights, are able to use their economic clout to dictate what people should read, write, and think.

PayPal, and the myriad other payment processors that support essential links in the free speech chain between authors and audiences, should not operate as morality police.

Signed by:

ACLU of California
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
Association of American Publishers
Authors Guild
Bytes for All, Pakistan
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
Coming Together, charity publisher
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Feminists for Free Expression
Index on Censorship
Internet Archive
National Coalition Against Censorship
Northern California Independent Booksellers Association
Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association
PEN American Center
Southern California Independent Booksellers Association
Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance
Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Exquisite Art

Coming Together Presents: Teresa Lamai
Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Coming Together has produced some of the most interesting collections of the erotic short story available. These are charity collections to raise money for various causes chosen by the author. Teresa Lamai chose Amnesty International, a cause that holds deep personal interest for her.

Editor Lisabet Sarai mentions in her forward that she first encountered Teresa Lamai on the Erotica Readers and Writers Association (ERWA) site. I also had the good fortune to read Teresa's early work there and many of her stories stay with me. Of all the erotica writers I've read, Teresa's stand out as luminescent, even though the subjects she often illuminates are the darker places in our souls. Teresa was a dancer, so many of her characters are too. But it's not the beauty that the audience sees that she portrays. It's the pain and suffering behind the art. Jealousy is a common theme. Desire, more consuming than passion, in her characters is so ravenous and destructive that it makes the reader slightly uncomfortable, yet the language is so compelling and beautiful that the reader can't look away.

I've read many of these stories before, but years ago. Teresa vanished. She became one of those memories erotica writers spoke of with wistfulness. Where did she go? Then, as time passed, we stopped asking as frequently. I never truly forgot her stories, but so many writers stop producing work for so many reasons that I regretfully accepted it. Then this collection came into my hands for review and it all came rushing back. Yes, I'd read many of these stories, and their impressions lingered, but what a delight to get to read them all over again. Words don't go stale, thankfully. Hers never lost their vibrancy.

Usually, I pick several stories to comment on, but in this case, it's better to let the writer's words speak for themselves:

From “Mirador”:
I don't bother turning away when I light my third cigarette.
By now I almost want them to see me. Or at least to suspect that someone's out here, watching.
It was surprisingly easy to get up on the warehouse roof. The rusty nitrogen tank has a nice little ladder. I can see downtown Portland from here, sparkling scarlet and sugary white across the river. The moss-scented mist settles, fine as cobwebs, over my cheeks, my hair.
I lean back and watch my old apartment.
The window glows, poppy-bright in the wet darkness. The front room is exactly the same, amps and mixing boards stacked to the ceiling. Jed sits at the tableau's center, guitar in his lap. His black eyes are trained on the music stand, his brows furrowed. He's let his hair grow out, wavier, glossier, almost long enough for a ponytail.
Fuck it. I should know by now that I'm going to cry every time I look at him. The stinging starts in my eyes and then fills my head.
My friends keep telling me how much happier I am without him. I haven't eaten in days. I live on coffee, cold air, and the anxious thrum of waiting, watching. I couldn't tell you what I'm looking for; I just find myself here every night. My life has shrunk around this bright, oblique conviction that if I wait long enough, if I watch hard enough, these barriers of glass and time will dissolve.–I'll be back inside.
The craftsmanship is enough to make another writer jealous. This is exquisite art. Like Remittance Girl, who also has a Coming Together collection, Teresa Lamai delves deep into sensuality and delivers flawlessly every time.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

ERWA Review of Presents: Robert Buckley

Coming Together Robert BuckleyComing Together Presents: Robert Buckley, Edited by Lisabet Sarai
Coming Together, March 2011

Review by Ashley Lister:

Wait for a moment whilst I climb to the top of the building.  Remain silent, please, whilst I clear my throat.  Be patient whilst I produce the sheet music and draw breath for the first note.  I am now ready to sing the praises of Robert (Bob) Buckley from the highest rooftops.  Feel free to join in with the chorus.

Buckley, as you may or may not know, has been a familiar presence at ERWA since the days before the internet was available on computer.  His standing as a celebrated author, editor and general literary jack-of-all-trades has never been in doubt.  However, for those who may have wondered about his abilities, proof of his genius is now available in the anthology: Coming Together Presents Robert Buckley.  This is Bob’s second title of collected erotica.

Those of you familiar with the Coming Together titles will be aware that, as well as showcasing the work of talented erotica authors, the series also support charitable endeavours.  Proceeds from Buckley’s title go to benefit Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (

But, as always, it’s the content of the book that is of most importance to anyone considering making a purchase, regardless of the worthiness of the recipient.  And I think it’s fair to say that the quality of the content in this title is superlative.  Buckley admits that the content is darker than his previous work – moving from erotic romance to an edgier style of erotic noir.  Nevertheless, the writing remains in the same high calibre fashion and the focus is always on well-written narratives, combined with strong characters and incredible prose.

If you’re only going to buy one anthology this year: make sure it’s Coming Together Presents Robert Buckley.

Available at: Coming Together Presents