Questions on profanity, obscenity, etc.

Created over 1 year ago by Quincy Z. Gunderson with 10 comments
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27fe5424ca07cb54a91803a77e7bbf1e Quincy Z. Gunderson · Author · edited over 1 year ago · 1 like
Thanks, Adam.  I figured as much, but I’m new here and figured it was worthwhile to be proactive, just in case.

F-bombs away!!  (I’m kidding, sorta)

P.S.  Has Inkshares had to deal with an obscenity related controversy yet?

Picture Adam Gomolin · Inksharesian · edited over 1 year ago · 2 likes
There is no bright-line rule here.  The terms are meant to enforce good judgment.

(I co-edited Tal’s book, The Punch Escrow, in which the main character drops 99 f-bombs.)


27fe5424ca07cb54a91803a77e7bbf1e Quincy Z. Gunderson · Author · edited over 1 year ago · 1 like
Thanks, Elena.  

I have read the Terms of Service, which is why I felt the need to seek clarification.  I don’t mean to be unnecessarily difficult here, but I think I have to do a bit of nitpicking.  If the Terms of Service are going to be strictly enforced, then it seems my project could be disqualified, as could any other text, script, image, etc., that contains a single curse word of the "f word" or "s word" variety.  As some of the contributors here have noted, profanity appears to have been tolerated in prior Inkshares projects, which suggests that the prohibition on profanity and obscenity is only selectively enforced, if at all, or profanity and obscenity have escaped detection.  I’ll leave aside the issue of distinguishing profanity from obscenity, because legally, they are the same thing.

I studied the legal issues around profanity, obscenity, and copyright while I was an undergraduate.  At the risk of oversimplifying, what’s profane or obscene is in the eye of the beholder, and is judged according to the amorphous notion of "prevailing community standards," which in this case would be the Inkshares editorial board, I suppose.  So let me boil it down.  Would George Carlin’s "Seven Dirty Words" pass muster with the Inkshares editorial board?  If I use, even once, the "f word" or the "s word", or one of their compound variants, in my manuscript, will my Inkshares project definitely be disqualified, or will it be left to the discretion of the editorial board on a case-by-case basis?  Is the whole, finished work judged on its "merit"?  Is there an appeal process?

Here’s the current legal standard in the U.S.:
"The Miller test for obscenity includes the following criteria: (1) whether ‘the average person, applying contemporary community standards’ would find that the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ appeals to ‘prurient interest’ (2) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (3) whether the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."  (

Personally, I would find it tragic if Inkshares took a hard line on profanity and obscenity.  Most of my favorite works of fiction include passages that some people have found profane or obscene, and have been banned at one time or another.  I suppose it’s a hill I am willing to die on, if I have to.  "Lolita," "Tropic of Cancer," "Stranger In A Strange Land," "The Catcher In The Rye," "Slaughterhouse Five," "The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn," have each faced bans due to profanity and obscenity, but I seriously doubt Inkshares would want to publicly come out against them.  Am I wrong? 

Thanks again for your attention to this matter.  It’s all because the word "obscene" is in the Terms of Service.
Screen shot 2018 10 22 at 10.04.47 am Elena Stofle · Inksharesian · edited over 1 year ago · 4 likes
Hi All! To answer your question, our official stance on this is listed in out Terms of Service. "Don’t post Content that is defamatory, discriminatory, pornographic, obscene, or incites violence. “Content” includes texts, scripts, images or any other material submitted or posted to the Service. Content includes both those materials submitted as part of a proposed project (the “Project”) and the eventual final work work published on (the “Work”). It also includes any comments (the “Comments”) submitted by any User."
27fe5424ca07cb54a91803a77e7bbf1e Quincy Z. Gunderson · Author · edited over 1 year ago · 4 likes
Thanks for the feedback, writer peeps.  I took the plunge, launched my project, and uploaded my first chapter.  Nothing has happened so far - no chastising messages, my account is still active, and there are no protesters at my door... yet.   I’ll add a comment here if something should develop.
Batten003 web400px Robert Batten · Author · edited over 1 year ago · 2 likes
There’s profanity in my book too. If you have particularly heavy profanity, or confronting scenes, you could add a heads-up to your project page.

@Thad Woodman : are there any plans to add a rating field to projects? That might make it easier for people to judge what they want to read. Could feed into search filters, and possibly preferences in terms of what story machine returns etc.
Pic222 Chris Picone · Author · edited over 1 year ago · 1 like
I’d been wondering about this also.  Not so much a problem for Kanimbla, which is quite clean and uses the Hollywood fade-to-black for "romantic" scenes.  But my second novel, Blue Eyes (not on the site yet) is a very different kettle of fish.  The sex scenes are probably closer to X-rated than R, and the book is full of swearing and drug use.   I was thinking about posting it up in the drafting state after the Kanimbla campaign is finished, but thought it might be breaching some terms of service that I somehow hadn’t noticed.  
Sci fi abides Peter Ryan · Author · edited over 1 year ago · 4 likes
People are pretty tolerant here. I had no complaints about the language in my book, Sync City, and it’s now published.
18278952 10105531439962004 7699412381249820269 o Evan Graham · Author · edited over 1 year ago · 4 likes

I’m pretty sure there is no official stance on this. It’d be entirely up to your discretion what you want to do there. I’ve read some pretty adult stuff that’s been published through Inkshares, as well as some on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. I don’t think anyone’s going to force you to change the voice of your storytelling here.

27fe5424ca07cb54a91803a77e7bbf1e Quincy Z. Gunderson · Author · edited over 1 year ago · 1 like
So I’ve read the publishing terms and the terms of service, and I want to clarify something.  I’ve got my first chapter done for my project for the current Nerdist contest, and it includes some first person narration.  This narrator uses profanity on occasion.  I’ve also got characters who are hedonistic freaks.  How far can I take descriptions and dialog/narration without going too far?  Do I have to drop asterisks into curses?  I’m not trying to write space porn, but I don’t want to needlessly censor my character’s voice, either.  Hoping to sort this out before I upload anything and get unpleasant feedback.  

I’ve looked through the forum, but did not find this topic addressed.  My apologies if I missed something that clarified this issue already.