June 11, 2013
Court affirms prisoner’s right to read werewolf erotica
by Ariel Bogle
The right of all men and women to read werewolf erotica in jail has been affirmed by a California court.
Inmate Andres Martinez, currently residing in Pelican Bay State Prison, had ordered Mathilde Madden‘s The Silver Crown, a book whose Amazon page calls it a tale of “lycanthropy” (!), with the scintillating description: “Every full moon, Iris kills werewolves. It’s what she’s good at; it’s what she’s trained for. She’s never imagined doing anything else…until she falls in love with one.”
According to Benjamin Mueller in the Los Angeles Times, prison guards examined the book for sexual content, and finding plenty, removed it from Mr Martinez’s possession. Wrote Mueller, “Martinez is a convicted attempted murderer and an associate of the Mexican Mafia prison gang. Guards called the book obscene and likely to incite violence.”
Martinez appealed the decision for two years, and has finally had his right to read werewolf fantasy upheld by the San Francisco Court of Appeal. The court ruled that the guards failed to use the proper rules when judging the book to be obscene, and furthermore, found The Silver Crown to have genuine literary value.
The judgment is worth reading, if only to contend with judges examining the ins and outs of the plot — apparently there are “themes of love, divided loyalty, destiny, transformation, betrayal, and revenge run through the novel ” — and assessing Madden’s literary skill — “we too note that Madden‟s book employs techniques recognized as literary devices.” They conclude that The Silver Crown has literary value and is unlikely to incite violence.
For civil rights activists, the court’s decision is a good one. Mueller writes the California penal system has a bad record in censorship.
“Censoring furry ménage à trois is actually only the latest of California’s restrictions on sex-related material in prisons…Lawyers warned that California’s 2002 restriction on porn portended a more expansive book ban. “This is like banning ‘Catcher in the Rye’ because it might induce a prisoner to say something disrespectful,” David Fathi, an attorney with the ACLU’s National Prison Project, told the L.A. Times of the porn ban. “They’re using this as a backdoor way to ban publications that don’t cause any risk to prison security.” The real goal wasn’t safety but control over prisoners’ access to ideas.”
Mr Martinez is lucky his right to paranormal erotic has been upheld, after all, The Silver Crown is a series, and there’s not much to do in prison.
Ariel Bogle is a former publicist at Melville House.