I’ve been pretty much sick to my stomach for the last two weeks. I spent over a year writing a collection of steampunk novellas, Tales from the Gunpowder Chronicles and I ended up releasing it to only about a third of my readership—if even that much.
I made the decision not to release on Amazon because of Amazon’s role in providing the technical infrastructure for our government’s inhumane and, often times, illegal efforts to imprison and deport immigrants.*
When AAR offered the opportunity for me to write a blog post explaining my decision, I definitely wanted shine more light onto the issues around family separation and the role of big tech, but putting it all together is both emotionally exhausting and time consuming so please forgive me for providing an edited version of my original notice to my readers:
For the complete original post, you can go here to my website: http://www.jeannielin.com/my-decision-no-amazon-release-for-tales-anthology/
I have made the decision to pull Tales from the Gunpowder Chronicles from Amazon.
I don’t make this decision lightly. All authors know the mantra — we don’t like how Amazon does XYZ, but we have no choice. Amazon is where most authors get a significant chunk of their digital sales. For many of us, our livelihood depends on Amazon.
Many of you may not know this, but I work in technology. I work in healthcare informatics — specifically on projects that collect identity information. I work on health systems that potentially serve areas on the southern border. Over the last three years, I have been particularly cognizant about what work I might be doing that could be aiding the government’s anti-immigration and inhumane policies towards immigrants.
I know I’m a small cog. Just a developer in a very large sphere. Any protest, any refusal I would have wouldn’t change things at all. But I don’t want to close my eyes, and I can’t say my actions won’t change “things” when the most important thing that changes is my own heart and soul.
I have complete control over how I will change. And that is, in the scheme of things, more important than what I can get some company to do or not do.
So the book. I haven’t released a new book in over two years. In part, because of the time, energy, and emotional weight of trying to reconcile my place in this country, a country that has decided it’s okay to separate children from their parents. To criminalize refugees for trying to seek a better future. I’ve joined political action groups, written articles, letters, called my representatives, gone in person to their offices to meet with aides who probably could care less.
What made me come to this decision was the “No Music for ICE” movement – a boycott of Amazon by over 200 musicians. I was already aware of the “No Tech for ICE” protests, often starting with employees of the tech companies involved in providing services and software to ICE for use in deportations. Amazon is the technological backbone for ICE, hosting Palantir, the data-mining company used by ICE to gather info for raids and deportations. In short, ICE runs on Amazon servers and Amazon gets paid a lot of money to support anti-immigration policy.
My first reaction to the notion of not providing content to Amazon was one every author has had: “But what choice do I have? I have to be on Amazon.” Amazon accounts for roughly 70% of my sales and is my main source of discoverability. And my reader base is small as it is.
I don’t judge anyone for buying or selling on Amazon. I do most of my reading on my device with Kindle books. I’ve done it because I know boosting an author’s Amazon ranking can make a significant difference in their earnings. It matters in real ways.
I haven’t decided what I’ll do with currently posted indie titles on Amazon. For now, I’m leaving everything else up. I don’t know what I’ll do with books in the future.
There are times when I literally am grief-stricken thinking of children, so afraid, torn away from their parents. There are times when I say goodbye to my daughter when going on a business trip or just sending her off on the school bus, and she clings to me. I can see in her eyes she doesn’t want to leave, even though it’s just for a few hours and I’ll be right here when she comes home.
Then I imagine a mother, desperate and hoping to find a better life for her children, having her daughter taken away. That little girl being put in a scary cell with strangers to take care of her. And our government saying that they will not and, often times, are incapable of reuniting the children they’ve taken. Because they just didn’t care enough to keep track.
Of children. Of human beings.
And the cruel irony of the situation is, ICE and CBP have the technology. Case in point: they’re using it to track and detain immigrants. And willfully NOT using it to take responsibility and ensure that families are reunited. They are not using it to make the asylum process more efficient. They are not using it for non-detention programs like the Family Case Management Program which shows that with proper management, higher than 90% of families return for their asylum hearings. These are the types of solutions that technology can and should be used for.
I might be doing something as mundane as fixing dinner, sewing a Halloween costume, trying to write — when the realization comes back that nothing has changed. Families are being mistreated. Children, children younger than my little girl and boy, are crying. And dying. And I forgot. I forgot and went on with my life for a few days, a few weeks.
For me, at this moment. With this book. I don’t need Amazon.
Not while they’re propping up ICE.
I know Amazon is not the only culprit. I’m not out to boycott the world — I am making one decision, drawn in neat lines so my heart can understand what I’m saying, to keep my soul aligned. What a sad, soul-sucking thing it’d be if I had to say my actions would make no difference now? Already? So early in this fight. On such a small hill?
I will do my best to get Tales from the Gunpowder Chronicles up on other platforms in a timely manner. I hope you’ll enjoy it. It’s the best thing I’ve written in two years. *winks* (Jeannie is giving away either an autographed copy of Gunpowder Alchemy (US only) or an ebook of Tales from the Gunpowder Chronicles. Winner’s choice–make a comment below to be entered in this drawing.)
Thank you for reading. Always.
Jeannie Lin writes historical romance and steampunk adventures set in imperial China. Find out more at: www.jeannielin.com
Tales from the Gunpowder Chronicles is currently available on these platforms: