Monday, December 18, 2017

Absence of Net Neutrality May Mean Less Fiction Sub Genres

Last week, the FCC did something that any indie author or artist of any sort would never want to see it do: it repealed the net neutrality regulations. These regulations protected fair access to online content that wouldn’t be hindered by big companies paying for faster service. Indie authors and their readers can’t afford this repeal since it will limit access to certain websites on the internet. Doing so will limit access to niche genres of fiction.

In general, the absence of net neutrality will cause internet users to have to pay extra for faster access to websites. It will also cause many website owners to have to pay extra to make their content accessible. This puts many indie authors and their readers at a disadvantage because many indie authors don’t have the funds to pay for the faster internet service when promoting their work and many of their readers are in a similar financial situation. 

This class preference of internet access can limit the choices for consumers who have specific interests that are lesser known to the majority. These special interests include niche genres of fiction, also known as sub-genres. For example, in science fiction and fantasy there are very specific sub-genres. Some of these are steampunk, atompunk, zombie horror, vampire horror, urban fantasy, and many types of ethnic speculative fiction. While steampunk has become more or less mainstream in the last few years and so may not have an online promotion problem, atompunk and ecopunk are both very obscure and so may have a problem. And even though ethnic sci fi and fantasy, particularly by authors of color, has been more accepted it is still not supported enough by the big literary companies. Big publishers and book retailers who have the money to pay for faster internet service only promote what sells the most rather than what niche audiences are seeking. So if internet servers give these companies preference then indie and self-publishing authors will be hindered in promoting their work online. If that happens then it means less niche genres for even online stores such as Amazon.

I’ll admit, I’m not an expert on something as complex as the net neutrality issue so I cannot say a whole lot about how it works. However, Cory Doctorow has a great article out that simplifies the issue of net neutrality in general while giving more details on it. His article at is actually a summarised version of a larger one which he has the link to there. If you aren’t that familiar with net neutrality then I suggest you read the shorter version at Craphound then go to the larger one so you’ll get a better grip on the issue. Contrary to what he says in the shorter version, the issue can get very complex but he clarifies it really good.

So, what can we do now that FCC has made one of the biggest nightmares of 21st century writers and artists a reality? Many net neutrality advocate groups have been saying they will take legal action against the FCC’s decision since it is something that goes against a constitutional right, the right to distribute and access the information one wants regardless of class, a right that ties in with the First Amendment. So watch for these groups’ reactions to the issue in the upcoming weeks and support them in their mission to restore net neutrality.

All may seem lost for us writers and artists of the indie and freelance realms, but this is a time of year for celebrating hope rather than despair. The hope is that we have a gift of endless creativity, and that’s a creativity we can use to support the advocacy of net neutrality.

Until next time . . .  

A cartoon depicting a robot Santa Claus observing a Christmas tree while a robot child jumps with joy.

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