Thursday, February 15, 2007

Victor Hugo Meets a CBA Publisher

You'll want to drop by NIGHT VISION, where Suzan posted a sadly too-true-to-life, yet humorous encounter between the author of Les Miserables and the fictional editor of a fictional Christian publishing house:

Finney: We all have good intentions, Mr. Hugo. But showing sin in our novels is simply not something we do here at GMP Publishing. We don’t want people to be offended, or cause them to sin. Now, let’s get to the Bishop. He allows Valjean to keep the silver, and then he lies to the police to protect Valjean. We have a policy about using clergy titles like Priest, Bishop, etc. It might offend someone of a different denomination. We like to keep it generic. We’re all Christians, right?

Hugo: I…I see. He reaches for the bottled water, but withdraws his hand.

Finney: In any event, whatever we allow you to call him, the Bishop can’t lie to the police. And he cannot let Valjean get away with committing a crime. That might cause clergy everywhere to think it’s okay to lie.

Hugo: It’s symbolism. You see, the Bishop was a type of Christ, and he allowed Valjean to keep the silver to show how God is merciful, even to sinners. Years earlier, Valjean was destitute and starving, so he stole a loaf of bread and was imprisoned for many years. He’s released, but has no food, no money. He accepts the Bishop’s kindness, then steals the Bishop’s silver. But the Bishop shows him mercy. He’s given Valjean an unmerited gift. Do you see?

Finney: Shakes his head. Sort of, but you can’t show stealing and other sins. You’ll also have to take out all that beer and wine drinking, too.

There's more. And, yes, I can vouch for the fact that I've heard these sort of restrictions talked about in various CF writing groups, lists, and even from editors themselves in workshops and interviews. And the infamous list of taboo words and terms that made the rounds a few years ago--a real list from a real publisher, not an writer's urban legend.

It's sorta horrifying, but absurdly funny. And totally frustrating.

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