Posted by Mercy
Per the news this week of yet another author suffering at his “day” job for the content he published, BiblioCrunch’s weekly Twitter chat #indiechat focused yesterday on authors’ experiences with facing discrimination either at work or in their personal relationships. Several attendees shared news of having faced everything from awkward explanations to their parents, to actually being called in by a superior to explain themselves.
This week’s news of author Patrick McLaw and his subsequent legal and suspension issues made headlines because it focused on the books he’d written and published under a pen name, and not on the four-page letter he allegedly submitted to the school board over the middle school where he teaches. According to some reports, the author’s books had nothing to do with the police bringing him in for a mental health evaluation and the school being swept with bomb dogs, even though two of McLaw’s books involve terrorist acts against schools.
First, what does the scope of the law say about someone in any given profession writing and publishing a work of fiction, and then facing consequences for that content? These issues are not always protected under freedom of speech, especially when the specific career field is one that relates in some way to the questionable content.
But more importantly, if the author in this scenario was not in any trouble for the content of his books, why did it even come up? Is it because society expects authors to police themselves and not publish anything that can make others uncomfortable?
Finally, the #indiechat discussion explored the safety–or lack of personal safety–involved in using a pen name. In the case of McLaw, some of the reports allege that his pen name actually contributed to the question of his mental health since some saw it as a form of multiple personality concerns; given the wide variety of authors who use pen names, that theory seems very far fetched in this case.
But there were questions raised about how much protection a pen name provides, since news headlines from around the country would demonstrate that pen names aren’t enough to save an author if his true identity and his content are discovered, as in the case of a number of teachers who’ve been suspended after outsiders discovered their erotica titles.
All in all, the tone and this week’s news story would speak to the need for caution where authors and their books are concerned. Until there is definite legislation that protects an author should his books or his identity be discovered, there is no verified safety net in place that will protect an author’s income and employment.