Since having this absurd idea of creating a graphic novel I’ve had the flu twice, suspected shingles, a panic attack and a nasty facial virus that left me looking like I’d gone a few rounds with Bendigo. This is inevitable with the start-up of any project but now that the main framework is in place things are starting to calm down and I’m making it to bed before 1am.
One reason for my stress is the delay of the App and iPad versions of Dawn of the Unread. This has now been put back to 8 May. Paul Fillingham, who deals with the digital side of any project I run, has had to make quite a lot of coding revisions after working with actual content. Consequently we’ve been unable to re-use web-content and instead had to programme everything into Apple’s Native iOS code for things such as gestures to control page-turns (left/right swipes). This is time consuming.
An apple a day may keep the doctor away but working with Apple is not good for your health. Paul has found it increasingly difficult to get content through their gatekeepers with recent projects and is cautious to the point of paranoia in complying with the Apple Human Interface Guidelines. And he has good reason to feel like this. One App he recently put together for a WWII project took two months to get approval due to references to the Holocaust. It is frightening how fearful organisations have become about broaching complex sensitive subjects. This is no doubt a fear of being sued and as a result, certain words must get flagged up on their database.
I mention this because our front cover has a picture of DH Lawrence stumbling about muttering ‘f*ck’. This is of course a reference to the acquittal of Penguin Books in the Lady Chatterley trial. Writing in the Guardian, Geoffrey Robertson QC said: “The Old Bailey has, for centuries, provided the ultimate arena for challenging the state. But of all its trials – for murder and mayhem, for treason and sedition – none has had such profound social and political consequences as the trial.” So basically, a Nottingham man made it possible for everyone to swear more freely.
Fast forward 54 years and Paul Fillingham is advising me that we cut the ‘F*ck’ from the front cover for our iPad and iPhone versions because this will be the main landing page for the App and consequently the first thing Apple will focus on. The DH Lawrence trial may have ‘provided the ultimate arena for challenging the state’ but it’s a very different arena when submitting work to Apple as if they don’t like something it simply won’t happen. ComiXology recently decided to bar a SAGA issue from the App Store to second-guess approval policy.
All of which raises the issue of censorship, because this is what we’re really talking about. And should Apple be dictating content to creators? Surely their only concern should be that the technical aspects of production and industry standards are met. I appreciate there will always be some form of regulation, and rightly so, but not to the detriment of legitimate educational content.
I love words. They are the most important thing in the world to me and when someone steals one it is like sending your dog to be castrated. But in a project of this size and scale you have to concentrate on the battles you can win. The main issue is to get it through Apple’s stringent vetting process so that schools can start downloading it. If that means losing a f*ck’ then fuck it. We can always resubmit the cover at a later date. And I have an obligation to reclaim my ‘f*ck’ for DH Lawrence. For as he once wrote: “Do not allow to slip away from you freedoms the people who came before you won with such hard knocks.”
- Trail and Eros(theamericanscholar.org)
- Defending Apple’s App Store Censorship (computerworld.com)
- Censorship at Apple (lj.libraryjournal.com/blogs/annoyedlibrarian)
- Saga ban raises questions of censorship, homophobia in comics (thepopcultist.com)
- Aviation Lincolnshire App Launch (thinkamigo.com)