I wish the following story was fiction. I’d hoped it was no more than a dystopian vision of the future of the United States of America. Then, I wanted it to be a publicity stunt for the author to sell more books. Unfortunately, it was none of those. This is what it’s come to and it paints a terrifying picture for every writer.
On September 1, 2014, The Atlantic published an article titled, “In Maryland, a Soviet-Style Punishment for a Novelist.” For anyone who reads or writes, it’s worth taking a look at, and includes links to the disturbing original reports from local media. For now, let me just give you the highlights.
A twenty-three year old Language Arts teacher has been ‘disappeared’. He was never arrested, no charges have been filed, he’s not allowed to leave, and the police will not reveal his location. Before he was spirited away, he was forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and his home was searched for weapons and explosives – none were found.
Because he self-published a book depicting the most tragic school shooting to ever happen – 900 years in the future. That’s right, he wrote a sci-fi story someone in the Sherriff’s Department and on the School Board, didn’t like and poof he’s gone. No charges. No trial. No … what was it called? Oh, yeah, that pesky little right guaranteed to every American Citizen – habeas corpus.
If that doesn’t send a shiver through your muse, the spin by the local media will. You see, he used an alias on the cover of his book. Not a pen name, pseudonym or nom de plume: an alias, as in “using a false name with the intent to conceal one’s identity in performance of a criminal act”. In addition, his photo is being circulated around the community, through law enforcement circles, and the throughout the school system to make everyone aware that he is prohibited from being on school grounds.
So basically, because he wrote a book, his life is ruined. When he’s released from wherever he’s being held, he’ll probably have a hard time finding another teaching position, (at this time, he’s been placed on administrative leave). I’m sure his neighbors think he’s a psycho by now. I can only imagine what must be going through the minds of his friends, family, and students. The one bright spot is that the article in The Atlantic includes a link to his book on Amazon, and apparently the news coverage has increased the sale of his books. Good thing: if he ever gets a trial, he’ll probably need those royalties to pay legal expenses.
After reading this, I’m hesitant to publish my newest book, Pangaea. There’s sure to be someone in law enforcement who will take issue with my utopian vision of a world without gods, government, or gold. Will police raid my home, search through my things, and then lock me up in a psych ward for writing it?
I’m hoping there is more to this story. At least, some type of threat or credible reason to detain this man besides the fact that, like most writers, he has an overactive imagination. Otherwise, this does not bode well for the future of fiction.
I’m also surprised, I’m not seeing this play out more on social media. I posted a link to the story on my Facebook page, but haven’t seen anything else about it. Coverage is also glaringly absent from major news media, and I find that a bit disconcerting.