7/21/08

Hornet's Nest #1: Books Posted on the LDS Fiction Blog

Dear LDS Publisher,

I don't want to stir up a hornet's nest, but. . . I noticed that Angel Falling Softly is a current sponsor for your blog. I have some real issues with this book and its portrayal of LDS theology. It angers me that it's being billed as an "LDS" book when it clearly would be offensive to most LDS readers. Do you have a problem with this book sponsoring you, since you label yourself as an LDS publisher? How do you feel about this?

Also, I noticed that a couple of books on your LDS Fiction blog have content warning labels, but this book doesn't. Why not? And why do you post books with content warning labels anyway? If the books are antagonistic to LDS teachings, and therefore not really LDS fiction, why not delete them from the blog entirely, especially since you're calling your other blog "LDS Fiction"? It would seem that a book with explicit s*x scenes or promoting behaviors that aren't in line with LDS teachings shouldn't be called LDS fiction.

I don't mean to offend here. Just want to understand.

A
hornet's nest? You've got a whole slew of nests here. That's okay. I can handle hornets.

As I see it, the issues you've raised are:
  1. Books posted on the LDS Fiction blog that not may uphold LDS standards.

  2. Sponsors of this blog and the LDS Fiction blog that may not uphold LDS standards.

  3. LDS authors that write books that may not uphold LDS standards.

  4. Books marketed to LDS readers and promoted as LDS fiction that may not uphold LDS standards.

  5. Angel Falling Softly, as a specific example of the above.

Did I miss any? Let's separate these issues and deal with them one at a time, starting with today's issue.


Books on the LDS Fiction Blog:
When I started the LDS Fiction blog, my intent was to inform LDS readers of newly published fiction books written by LDS authors. The only conditions I set for books finding a spot on that blog were that 1) they be fiction, 2) they be published (not just e-books), and 3) the authors be LDS. Even though I've personally encountered books by LDS authors that made me uncomfortable, it never crossed my mind that I might need some provision for LDS authors publishing books with highly offensive content on the blog. Silly me.

I have not read every book listed over on the LDS Fiction blog. I haven't even read a majority of them. While I wish I could, I don't have the time or money required to purchase and read every book published by every LDS author in any given year. If someone would like to pay me a salary to do this and provide me with the books, I'd be happy to quit my day job and start a book review blog and give you my completely unbiased and highly educated opinion on each and every one of these books, but until then, I count on you, my blog readers, to help me out.

And you've been great about this. I appreciate that you send me e-mails suggesting titles to add and tell me about LDS authors who publish nationally or who self-publish in small niche markets. I count on your input and I couldn't maintain that blog without it.

I also count on you to comment about these books. Just because someone is LDS does not mean they write books with characters who adhere to or promote LDS standards of living. Nor does it mean they use language (descriptive or dialog) with which the average LDS reader would be comfortable. Not only can we, as fiction readers, help each other find great books by leaving positive comments on the LDS Fiction blog about the books we read, but we also owe it to each other to comment when we find something offensive.

The first time I got an e-mail about a book containing offensive content, I spent some time thinking about how to handle it. I admit that my first knee-jerk reaction was to take the book post down because I don't want to offend. I want to uplift and enlighten and entertain. But then I talked to quite a few people about it—readers, authors and publishers. Is there a line that I, as blog owner, need to define and draw? Where is that line? Is it only for sexually related content? Do I include violence and gritty real-life issues? What about swearing—are certain words okay, but others not? Whose sensibilities do I honor or protect? How many people need to be offended before I take a book off the blog?

After lots of thought and prayer on the matter, I decided that if a book met my original criteria—published fiction by an LDS author, I would give it a place on the blog. However, if I read a book that I think will be offensive to others, or a reader makes a comment or sends an e-mail about offensive material in a book, I will put a warning on the post.

Hopefully, you will put your own warnings on such posts, as this commenter did. Don't just say, "This book was offensive." Tell us in general terms what was offensive, such as, "This book had more swearing than I'm comfortable with."

If we post our honest opinions, feelings, and reactions to the books we're reading, then others who read our comments will be able to make an educated decision about whether or not they want to read the book.

What do you think?



(We'll tackle hornet's nest #2 tomorrow.)

17 comments:

Michael A. Cleverly said...

Reading your post I'm reminded of a talk Orson Scott Card gave 28 years ago(!): A Mormon Writer Looks at the Problem of Evil in Fiction. It is worth reading if you haven't read it before.

Anonymous said...

This isn't a church sponsored site and I think that means you're free to determine what you want within the dictates of your own conscience. I could tell just from the back copy that Angel Falling Softly would be problematic for me so that was all the warning I really required. But I do appreciate a head's up on possibly objectionable content so I don't go wandering into an "offensive" novel by an LDS writer unsuspectingly if I'm expecting only to be uplifted. In general, I have a pretty high threshold before something gets to me, but I'd still much rather know what to expect. If an LDS writer is dabbling in questionable waters, I think they're accountable for what they write. You at most are accountable for a gentle warning, as any of us would be in handing such a book to someone.

Anonymous said...

Ly here:

LDS Publisher, I really like the way you logically sort out the nuances of each question and then go after eacy one. Systematic. Clear. Precise. Sometimes witty. Always balanced.

Well done. You deserve the Whitney Award for Publishing advice. Or at least a life time achievement award. But sadly, they only give those out to people who are real, with real names, real lives and real faces.

Ly


PS: Did I make you want to shed your anonymousness, just a tinsy, weensy bit?

Danyelle Ferguson said...

LDSP -

I like that your guidelines are simple and clear.

As a reader, LDS fiction isn't the only thing you may find in my hands. (shocking, I know!). I've been known to pick up some romance novels (and skip pages when it gets too intense). And quite frankly, most LDS readers do the same. As much as we'd love to have everyone who's LDS only read good, quality LDS or christian fiction - it's just not realistic.

So it's not surprising that there are LDS national market writers who include swearing or intimate scenes in their writing. Do I include that in my writing? No way. But each person has different writing standards.

I, for one, love to scroll through the LDS Fiction blog to see the diversity of what's being published by members of the LDS church. I've been surprised on occasion, but not necessarily in a bad way. I do appreciate the warnings you attach to books with questionable content. I didn't know we could email that info to you. I'll be sure to do so in the future.

Thanks for two fabulous blogs!

LDS Publisher said...

LY,

Yes. Inspired by the thought of me, on the red carpet, accepting a Whitney award... yes, I actually thought about revealing my secret identity for about three seconds there.

But then I remembered the scene from Batman, The Dark Knight, and I've chosen to be the "hero you need". (laughs hysterically)

Jennie said...

I think you have to be non-judgemental in your position, but I think some of us, your readers, have dropped the ball. We should be posting more comments and stating precisely why we like or dislike a particular book. Many of us have a high tolerance for material that is offensive to others, others don't want our minds cluttered up with crude language, gritty sex scenes, etc. Books such as the specific title mentioned by the person who submitted the question are deeply offensive in an entirely different way(though it contains a graphic sex scene) as it has a heroine who chooses to thwart the plan of salvation by choosing eternal damnation for her daughter. It twists Church doctrine and left this reader feeling like I'd touched something dirty and evil. I personally would prefer this book not be accepted as a sponsor, but it is by an LDS author and fits your other criteria so I suppose it has a right to be a sponsor even though I see a limited demand in the LDS market for a lesbian vampire book, but please stick a warning label on it.

Sandra said...

I agree with Jennie about this book needing a warning placed on it. I did a post on my blog with most of my objections to this book (I quit listing them as it was turning into a shred fest and I didn't think that was fair)

storyengineer said...

I think your method of posting books on the LDS Fiction blog is the best way to go about things. People have varying sensitivities, so I think it's fair to put up pretty much everything with a warning for those books that might be iffy. And your way of getting those warnings is perfectly reasonable.

Along with that, there is the fact that LDS authors does not mean that they will write with LDS standards. That is their choice. I would rather they not do it, but as readers, it is important to make that distinction.

Tristi Pinkston said...

As always, LDSP is very wise. The fiction blog is merely a list. The comments and the ratings are up to us. So let's all get over there and do our jobs, folks, and let others know what we think.

LDSP, if I've done a review on Families.com about one of the books on the list, do you mind if I link the review in the comment section on the fiction blog?

Anonymous said...

Ly Here again:

LDSP, keep up the good work and don't let any difficult decisions like this deter you from your course. The night is darkest just before the dawn.

And here we...............go.

Why? Because you either die a hero and live long enough to see yourself become the villian.

Let's put a smile on that face.

Ly

MoJo said...

it has a heroine who chooses to thwart the plan of salvation by choosing eternal damnation for her daughter.

Pardon, but who made the determination the daughter was damned? I didn't see God coming down out of the machine to say, "You are damned."

The vampire assumed she was damned, but why? Because that's vampire lore? Because someone MADE her that way? Why is she then any less in need of Christ's atonement than any human?

IMO, the heroine did nothing wrong by asking Milada to save her child except POSSIBLY not having enough faith in our doctrine of the afterlife.

But I don't really want to discuss the book. I'm taking the road that we do not know if the vampire is actually damned; therefore, we don't know if the child is damned.

As I wrote in my review, the WHOLE THEME of the book is where the vampire says, “Christians claim to believe in eternal life. So why are you so afraid of death, Rachel?”

Show me where Rachel sinned, please.

Christopher Bigelow said...

Many readers seem to be jumping to conclusions about the theology of ANGEL FALLING SOFTLY, but most of these conclusions are not justified. The book leaves the reader to wrestle with how it all fits theologically together; even the main characters in the book don't know. Someone said that the Mormon protagonist Rachel makes a deal with the devil, but that's not supported by the actual story.

We are a religion that believes that an evil immortal embodied being named Cain walks the earth, and perhaps Lameth as well and others. This speculative novel takes things perhaps a step beyond that, but not as far afield as some seem to think. There has been some interesting speculation tying vampire and werewolf legends to the realities of Cain, and although this novel doesn't specifically mention Cain, it is in that same mode.

And the few sex scenes are VERY tame, compared to what they could have been. And, of course, they are integral to the plot, since they are connected with how the vampire survives. In editing the book, I felt that I turned the sex scenes into mere summaries instead of detailed scenes.

Sheesh, some people's definition of "Mormon literature" is pretty narrow, I guess. But as publisher I proudly hold a temple recommend and count the tithing every sabbath, and from what I know the author is similarly faithful. So that makes this book "LDS fiction" whether you like it or agree with it or not.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that if an author writes erotica and is a temple-going member, the book is LDS fiction? I think not.

What's the old saying, "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear?"

Eugene said...

As Inigo Montoya says to Vizzini in The Princess Bride, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Christopher Bigelow said...

If a book is about MORMON erotica, then yes, it IS a form of LDS fiction, even if the writer doesn't hold a temple recommend. (I was being halfway facetious in my remark, just trying to make a point that I have as much right to define and claim the term "LDS fiction" as anyone else. As far as I know, no one has this term trademarked.)

Yup, it's getting to be a pretty pointless argument, isn't it.

MoJo said...

Oh, I don't know, Chris. I mean, the comment was made in one of these four threads that perception is reality and I think that's valid. I think it's almost analogous to saying Steeple Hill, which is a Harlequin imprint for inspirational romance and has very stringent submission specifications. The problem with "LDS Fiction" is that, as you say, no one has it trademarked, so it's been coopted by the reader.

I personally don't have a problem letting the reader keep it. Now, if, as I suggested before, that all the LDS publishers got together and formed some sort of LDS-genre specification list or worked up some crude criteria to be shared amongst them, you could get a handle on this.

Mormon erotica? Eh. No such animal exists. Yet. And if it did, it wouldn't be making the rounds around here, so while a label would be a moot point, it would help protect those readers who ran across it accidentally.

A. Morgan said...

Thank you LDSP!

If we post our honest opinions, feelings, and reactions to the books we're reading, then others who read our comments will be able to make an educated decision about whether or not they want to read the book.

So right of you to do that. It really IS important for readers of the blog to say something and explain why, some of us may have a larger tolerance than others. I personally have a pretty large tolerance, but I'm always the first to say what I found "shady" to someone who may be wanting to avoid shady things.