In the community/nation/country I am to be living, mentioning some themes is the best way to be ostracised for life (or for a very long time). Talking about not being published or read, not being mentioned, completely ignored.

Is someone experiencing similar dilemma - choosing between self-censorship (and confessing non-irrelevant level of cowardice/sense of caution) and de-facto social suicide (but being daring and honest)?

(From those considering themselves anonymous enough, I'd welcome more specific examples of any unchallengeable taboos. Thanks.)


The question is: how to deal with the following dilemma

  • write and trying to publish -> social suicide (loss of friends, literary agent - if any, publisher, job, probably own family - I didn't try that). No formal charges or persecution.
  • staying silent -> long-lasting unbearable pain and (later) a bitter taste of being coward

Both results are bad. How to choose? How to avoid or minimise unwanted consequences? (If I was a courageous man, I'd not be trying to write my thoughts down. That's the truth.)

Edited, again:

How can author conceal her/his identity while displaying the work? (Fame, money, copyright and other stuff is irrelevant for her/him.)

  • Still, I've found answers to the question I didn't ask. So I'm putting a bounty here.
    – Nerevar
    Commented Mar 15, 2011 at 18:54
  • Vote to close. This is a "poll the community" type question asking if anyone else is in the same position. Also, apparently I can't actually vote to close it because of the bounty. Commented Mar 15, 2011 at 18:59
  • can you please edit this question to fit within the guidelines?
    – justkt
    Commented Mar 16, 2011 at 0:21
  • reading your edit, I'm still confused as to what the question is. The best I can find is an open-ended, fairly hypothetical "What if I publish? But what if I don't? What would you do?" This still needs massaging. Then it will get better answers.
    – justkt
    Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 11:52

6 Answers 6


Publish online.

Start an anonymous blog, and if you're really worried about your name getting out, see what you can do about uploading from public computers. If you really don't care about personal rewards and only want the work to be out there, the internet is a good outlet.

Granted, that doesn't guarantee it will be read, and considering you're going to want to distance yourself from it, it probably won't be read by very many people. But it will be out there. And maybe you can publicize it anonymously on websites and forums that would go for the sort of thing you wrote.

I should say, though, that this kind of sounds like the sort of thing that you're writing for a very specific and very small audience. Consider who you really want to read this, and if it's just a handful of people that you personally know, consider writing it with the end-goal in mind of only showing it to those people.

  • Thank you for your advice. Although it summons a lot of other questions I think it is what I was looking for. May nobody get anger when I will post those summoned questions here.
    – Nerevar
    Commented Mar 18, 2011 at 18:01

Publish under a pseudonym.

In addition, you might want to consider targeting a market other than your own community. If your country does not approve of literature on certain topics, it may be difficult to find an audience willing to read your work. Aim for foreign markets.

  • What if I didn't want to provoke anybody. Just wondering whether any "target audience" exists.
    – Nerevar
    Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 9:49
  • At least, publishers and and agents do know author's real identity. And they can feel offended, too.
    – Nerevar
    Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 11:30
  • If they're going to be offended, they're not going to publish it and will move on. Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 13:38

Recode as science fiction.

Dune was about the battles over a large deserted area in which were the largest (in fact sole) deposits of a resource vital to the transportation logistics of an entire civilisation. There are many people who love that series that still don't get the relevance.

In fact almost everything that could be considered science fiction is really just lateral social commentary. Science is humanity's method for measuring reality and our tool for attempting to change it to suit ourselves. Whatever issues are prevalent can be extrapolated, placed into a futuristic or imaginary setting and discussed at length. Often, the people you are trying to reach with your communication will receive, decode, understand what you're trying ot say. People who would silence you if you spoke directly will not even know that you spoke.

Just stay away from children's fantasy cf. The Pope first condemning Harry Potter and then supporting it in preference to His Dark Materials.

Adult oriented science fiction can dramatise your message, deliver it in an exciting form to open minded individuals and hide itself from those who would seek to suppress commentary.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not in a position to have to resort to these tactics. I speak as someone who has observed the effect only.

  • Good idea. But when the message is too cryptic, it is writer's failure. Publishers are not dumb, likely, they will understand, if the message is not cryptic enough.
    – Nerevar
    Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 13:26
  • 3
    I suppose that a sympathetic/disinterested publisher is something of a must e.g. in my Dune example I don't think his publisher particularly cared about the politics. You seem to be fearful that you are the only person in your society who feels as you feel about the issues and has the courage to publish an elegantly obfuscated message. If so, you really are screwed, no amount of writing will do the slightest bit of good. If not, your first problem: encoding to avoid broad criticism, is solved. You now have a new problem, how to hook up with a subculture that will support your efforts.
    – One Monkey
    Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 13:34

In Israel (where I live in), I cannot think of any "unchallangeable taboos" (other than Pedophelia or something along those lines) that will prevent me from writing.

If I wanted to write something while making sure I will not suffer any consequences, I will probably be using a different name, avoiding any issues with my locality.

Nobody has to know you wrote it, at least not until it's a best-seller :-)

  • I don't think even pedophilia is particularly taboo in Israeli literature... OTOH, there are certain political and religious stances one can take to become extremely unpopular on one side or the other.
    – Standback
    Commented Feb 24, 2011 at 11:57
  • Exactly my point. Publishing can get you in trouble with certain parts of the population, but nothing to prevent you from publishing. Certainly the best solution will be to use an alias in certain locals.
    – Ido Tamir
    Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 10:26
  • In Germany, hate speech (particularly Nazism), and the production of pro-hate materials is illegal.
  • In many areas of the world (especially Africa and the Middle East), pro-homosexual or pro-LGBT sentiment is heavily frowned upon or outright illegal.
  • Even under hard dictatorship it is possible to question usefulness of laws, although this is very risky (e. g. Weisse Rose). But I meant the feeling "it must be written" - even if it would result "damnatio memoriae" likely. I consider this worse than capital punishment.
    – Nerevar
    Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 9:44

I just want to recommend a really amazing book that addresses this fear (among every other kind of fear writers feel throughout the entire process from blank page to published work): The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear

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