Harper Collins bans a sci-fi book because it isn’t sufficiently liberal

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Fascists: A science fiction author had his book removed from the publication schedule, effectively banning it, because his editor didn’t like the conservative leanings of one chapter.

[A]pparently advancing the thought that a brand new life form might see us, humanity, as dangerous because we terminate our young, apparently… that’s a ThoughtCrime most heinous over at Harper Collins. Even for one tiny little chapter.

Here’s what happened next. I was not given notes as writers are typically given during the editorial process. I was told by my agent that my editor was upset and “deeply offended” that I had even dared advanced this idea. As though I had no right to have such a thought or even game the idea within a science fiction universe. I was immediately removed from the publication schedule which as far as I know is odd and unprecedented, especially for an author who has had both critical and commercial success. This, being removed from the production schedule, happened before my agent had even communicated the editor’s demand that I immediately change the offending chapter to something more “socially” (read “progressive”) acceptable. That seemed odd. How could they possibly have known that I would or would not change it? It seems reasonable to ask first. … They merely demanded that I rewrite that chapter not because it was poorly written, or, not supportive of the arc of the novel. No, they demanded it be struck from the record because they hate the idea I’d advanced. They demanded it be deleted without discussion. They felt it was for… the “greater good.” That is censorship, and a violation of everyone’s right to free speech. They demanded it be so or else… I wouldn’t be published. That’s how they threatened a writer with a signed contract.

He refused, and has made his book available by publishing it himself as an ebook. Go and buy it!

I should note that his experience matches exactly with my own experience as a nonfiction writer as well as with other authors I have known in the past two decades. Book editors have become exceedingly oppressive, and now routinely demand that your work conform to their political beliefs (always liberal) or they will make your life hell, or get the book squelched.

It is this reason I now focus my writing on BtB, as I grew really really tired in the past five years having book proposal after book proposal blacklisted because editors were offended I did not kowtow to their left wing orthodoxies.


  • Edward

    Hmm. Isn’t the squelching of certain ideas the kind of behavior that we saw in other countries in the 20th century?

    What countries were those again?

    This story reminds me of the book “Dr. Zhivago” which was written in the Soviet Union and first published in Italy after being smuggled out of the country that didn’t want it published.

  • chris l

    The book itself is a lot of fun and the .99 cent price tag is irresistible. Harper Collins blew it big time.

  • wodun

    “It is this reason I now focus my writing on BtB, as I grew really really tired in the past five years having book proposal after book proposal blacklisted because editors were offended I did not kowtow to their left wing orthodoxies.”

    Please consider the option of writing the stories that you want to tell and self publishing as an ebook. I am sure you can find affordable, editing, artists, and formatters. Self-marketing is a little harder but you already get a lot of exposure. From what I understand of the industry, having a growing catalog is very beneficial for a number of reasons.

    Fiction books would reach out to a different audience and possibly generate interest in your other works and vis versa.

    I don’t know if the costs are prohibitive but it depends on what you want to do. If telling stories is an activity you enjoy, maybe it is worth the cost, like driving someplace to go hiking is worth the cost. You have already demonstrated that you can write books so please consider it :)

  • If you look at my book list at the top of the webpage, you will see two books that are now ebooks, one entirely self-published by myself. I regained full rights to Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8 three years ago and immediately got it out as an ebook. In those three years I have sold more books than I had in the previous ten while under the control of disinterested publishers who didn’t like the fact that the book made mention of the Bible and the religious beliefs of the astronauts.

    Also, last year I wrote and published a hiking guidebook for southern Arizona, mostly as a test case for doing exactly what you suggest. Diane and I were doing the hikes anyway, so Circuit Hikes of Southern Arizona was one of the easiest books I have ever written. It also has sold very well, making its money back in no time.

    I am not interested in fiction (though I could publish as an ebook my first sci-fi book, never published, just for fun. It is dated today, having been written in the 1990s, but still maybe.)

    Doing another space book is definitely a possibility, but part of the problem is that such a book involves cost. To do it right I need to travel to interview people. If I was to do one I probably would consider doing a kickstarter campaign first to see if I could raise the capital to pay those expenses. Right now, however, I am focused on other work, so this will have to wait.

    Either way, thank you for the kind words. I will think about it.

  • Wayne DeVette

    Mr. Z:
    Would love to read something about your adventures in low-budget films! And, definitely think about self-publishing your S-F story.
    This situation with Harper Collins is disturbing. On the upside however, writer’s now have the means, in part, to bypass “big media” & go directly to their audience.

  • Jim Davis

    Mr. Zimmerman, I think you are overreacting more than a little.

    Firstly, Harper Collins didn’t ban his book as you claim. They declined to publish it. That’s a big difference, wouldn’t you say?

    Secondly, although Harper Collins decision is petty and arbitrary, as a private entity they have the right to make decisions for petty and arbitrary reasons. Some months ago you were (properly) defending the right of Christian caterers who refused to cater gay weddings because such weddings conflicted with their religious beliefs. I don’t see there is any difference in principle here. Harper Collins objects to publishing books with anti-abortion themes so they don’t. That may be bad for business but so is refusing to cater gay weddings.

  • Edward


    I believe that you missed a couple of important points. Robert said “effectively banning it,” because most contracts with publishers give the publisher exclusive rights to an author’s publications, preventing him from using any other publisher during the term of the contract. When you bought or sold a house, you probably signed a similar contract with an agent or broker, potentially sticking you with an inattentive agent for 60 days. Since Mr. Cole did a self publication, it would seem that his contract has such a limiting clause.

    Second, you seem to suggest a hypocrisy, however both of Robert’s positions are consistent with the US Constitution and our god given (natural) rights as living beings. Although Harper Collins has every right to effectively ban works that they disagree with, to do so is not in the spirit of liberty, and looks like tyranny. It has long been tradition in the US that publishers would fight do the death the right of their authors to say what they wished, despite disapproving of it, to paraphrase a quote that is often misattributed to Voltair ( http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/331.html ). That right and that tradition are what Robert and I were referencing in our opinions.

    The right of association is also what Robert and I have referenced in our opinions on catering, decorating, hosting, or otherwise associating with events that violate religious — or even personal — values. In this latter case, government, which is charged by the US Constitution to protect our rights, have created statutory or case law that violate our rights to freely practice our religions, just as had been done in the authoritarian states that our ancestors fled.

    The principle is actually the same. Certain enumerated rights reign supreme, in the US. Or they are supposed to. It is when we lose our rights that we fall into tyranny, as we have done with our new healthcare regime. We no longer have the right to choose whether to, individually, expend our hard-earned productivity on healthcare insurance or whether we would be better off being “self insured.” We are now mandated to purchase such a product “for the greater good.” What other tyranny in all of history has ever had the audacity to determine how its subjects were to spend their own money? (As I have said in the past: I truly want an answer, if anyone has one.)

    Our liberties are now under attack from all sides: government, industry, society, culture. Traditions that have protected our liberties are falling, and we are now subject to thought control and discouraged from questioning authority. The peoples who have lived in similar cultures, societies, or countries have suffered from economic and cultural stagnation, with governments that have ruled with iron fists and reeducation camps. That Harper Collins is toeing the line of tyranny is — or should be — a great disappointment to all freedom-loving humans worldwide.

    The very basic purpose of the US Constitution is rapidly being lost. The preamble states it clearly and concisely, especially with this phrase: “and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”. Rather than securing the blessings of liberty we are losing them, not just for ourselves but also for our posterity. It is a disturbing trend, as we are the first and last best hope for earth. To paraphrase Lincoln: shall we nobly save it or meanly lose it?

  • You are absolutely correct. Harper Collins as a private entity has the right to reject a book, for any reason. You are absolutely wrong, however, if you think they have any moral standing in their actions here.

    They didn’t reject a book that was submitted on spec. They had a contract with the author, and when an author submits a manuscript it is proper that an editor suggest changes and revisions in order to make the book better and more salable. If the editor wants to also censor the content of the book because of his or her own political beliefs, that is wrong (though perfectly legal). Remember, the book is not being written by the editor. Such tactics are essentially McCarthyite in nature.

    A more correct action for this editor to have taken would have been to simple refuse to edit the book.This would have been the moral approach for this editor to take, instead of rejecting the book outright because he or she disagrees with it. However, when a publishing company already has a contract with an author, it is then legally obliged to provide a different editor. If it too rejects the book for political reasons that are irrelevant to the contract, then it too is taking a morally offensive position.

    More importantly, for this situation to be truly comparable with the homosexual wedding cases, the author would have had to go to court or to the government to enforce his will on the editor and publisher. That is what the homosexual fascists did, with the clear intent of destroying the Christian wedding companies. In this situation, however, the author didn’t go to court, he walked away from the publisher, self-published, and then publicized their fascist behavior. The difference is quite significant.

    My criteria in these cases is to find the person who is trying to impose their will on others, through force. In the case of the homosexuals/Christians, it was the homosexuals. In the case of Harper Collins and this author, it was Harper Collins. And in both cases, the use of force when it comes to speech is offensive to me, and always morally wrong.

    One last thing: I think freedom is dying in the United States, and it is dying because too many people fail to see my point in this. They instead see nothing wrong with someone stamping their boot into the face of those they disagree with, merely because they disagree.

  • Cotour

    I don’t quite follow the writers interpretation of the editors reasoning here. If it is “progressivism” that is being offended here, don’t progressives promote abortion upon demand at any point in a pregnancy, what could he or she be so upset about to the point of killing the book? I could see the point if the publisher was a printer of more conservative or religious material and the editor was offended from that point of view.

    What am I missing here in what really set this off?

    Maybe this book being published as an ebook will achieve a similar success like this ebook originally was published. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the publishers / editors ass.


    I wonder if the same editor or publisher would find this material about the sadistic and sexual abuse of women offensive?

  • Wodun

    The publisher has the right to refuse to publish, depending on the specifics of the contract, but doing so goes against the ethics drummed into English students for generations. Freedom of speech is an ideal and not just a law to restrict the actions of government.

    The industry can’t just champion freedom of speech for socialists and others expressing leftist ideologies. The publishing industry vigorously defended leftists to express their points of views and to have the ability to participate in the industry when those views were not popular with society as a whole. They didn’t do it by claiming tribalism but by speaking to the ideal of freedom of speech.

    Now that leftists are firmly in control of publishing, film making, TV, news, education, and other industries, the ideal of freedom of speech is being tossed aside. They deserve to be called out. People need to stand up to this nonsense and leftists who actually have ideals should too because we have seen that while they are OK with persecuting the other, they too can be turned on and deemed an unhuman other to be destroyed at any time.

  • PeterF

    Here we have a classic example of how leftists advance their agenda. A single “editor”(try reading it as “censor”) is “deeply offended”. The “publisher” doesn’t want to “offend” anyone (its bad for business) so they squelch the work. Shazaam! The evil conservative is stymied! All it takes is a strategically placed true believer. with proper pressure applied at the choke points almost any organization can become a bastion of progressivism. This has happened in many union-controlled school systems (both primary and secondary) as well as newspapers and television networks. But what they don’t understand is that this is no longer the seventies. Through the magic of AlGore’s interwebs, limitless new avenues for expression are available to anyone with a marketable product!
    The silent majority DOES exist.
    They are tired of progressive censorship through feigned offense by otherwise offensive ideologues. (This also explains the popularity of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, on the conservative side and Bernie Sanders on the progressive side.) Most people are too polite to tell the A-holes that they are A-holes, but that doesn’t mean that they’re stupid. America will soon reject progressivism and all it stands for. The leftists will be dismayed.
    call it – Karma

  • Fred k

    Purchased. One small Amazon purchase for me, on giant f@ck you to Harper Collins

  • pzatchok


    The chapter in question uses mans willingness to abort its own children because of their inconvenience as one of the reasons the intelligent robots view man as a threat to their own robot existence, and then use it as an excuse to attack first before man decides to ‘abort’ the robots.

    The author needed a reason for his robot uprising and chose that simple political point.

    I bet if he changed it to the robots attacked man for having genders and not being gender fluid or gender neutral like robots are, the editor would have gushed over the progressive forward thinking stand he took.

  • Ben K

    Also purchased. A few chapters in. Its light, enjoyable soft scifi. I wonder though if the abortion issue is the only reason for the decision not to publish.

    A couple of characters by both thought and action demonstrate the fallacies and destructive potential of socialism. Liberals know they cannot argue these issues on the facts with anyone capable of critical thought. I could see an editor preferring that the issues simply not be raised.

  • Cotour

    Thanks to Pzat and Ben:

    Judging by Bens actual reading of the book it does seem that there is a general theme that is offensive to the “progressive” minded / movement / Harper / Collins being promoted. This book may have to be taken up and promoted in a more anti progressive American, pro American type venues.

    This may be a tremendous marketing opportunity.

  • Steve Earle

    February 17, 2016 at 11:16 pm

    “….The author needed a reason for his robot uprising and chose that simple political point.

    I bet if he changed it to the robots attacked man for having genders and not being gender fluid or gender neutral like robots are, the editor would have gushed over the progressive forward thinking stand he took….”


    What a great point. I agree, he or she would have fallen over themselves to publish.

    Just as the government has refused to fine homosexual owned bakeries for refusing to bake cakes that THEY find offensive….. (and the mainstream media has given those cases a good thorough ignoring)

    I also purchased the book on Kindle. Thanks Bob for putting this story up. If I find it to be a good read I will be buying other books from this same author.

  • TimArth

    I think it is a safe bet that Heinlein’s Starship Troopers among many others would also have been effectively banned by Harper Collins had they been written today.

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