Gather ’round, everyone, and let me tell you a story. It’s a story full of pornography, intrigue, rumor, innuendo, misplaced credit for a massive book, and kinky sex.
Let’s go back to February of 2022, when British author and former BBC correspondent Jonathan Kent published a book on non-monogamy called A World Beyond Monogamy: How People Make Polyamory and Open Relationships Work and What We Can All Learn From Them, a lovely book that takes a global approach to polyamory.
No, wait, let’s go back further, to an orgy in Lincolnshire, England, where Eunice Hung and I started writing erotic science fiction novels together. (No, that’s not the story, though it is an interesting tale of its own).
Eunice and I started working together to set a book in a setting she’d dreamed up: the City, a far future, post-scarcity society run by benevolent AIs who were worshipped as gods, largely through ritualized group sex.
We wrote the first novel together, sent queries to a huge number of publishers, and got back fifteen rejection slips that all said basically the same thing: “Interesting book, but we don’t know how to sell it. Erotica is siloed—people who buy gay cowboy porn won’t buy gay auto mechanic porn. This novel doesn’t fit a genre, so we don’t know how to connect to an audience.”
So we were like “You know what? Let’s start a publishing company.”
We started Luminastra Press together, then looked for other authors.
Eunice suggested her friend Jonathan. He was still interviewing people for A World Beyond Monogamy—in fact, he interviewed me and a bunch of other poly folk when I was in Lincolnshire.
Jonathan is a journalist. He’s worked or reported for Reuters, the BBC, Newsweek, KQED, The Daily Telegraph and a bunch of others. He’s been a foreign correspondent and a political reporter. He thought that most writing he’d seen about polyamory was what he called the ‘me and my fifty sweeties in a flower-strewn valley in Sweden’ variety: very personal, overwhelmingly from a single viewpoint, very North American and not much use to anyone.
His book sprang from a simple proposition–approach consensual non-monogamy just as he would have if he were reporting for one of the news organizations he’d worked for, interviewing people from a wide range of backgrounds and presenting the conclusions.
His book sported interviews with sixty or so people from all over the world—one of the first rigorously researched polyamory books to take a truly global perspective ever to be written. It’s really good (I’ll likely review it later.)
Anyway, the book became the first non-fiction title published by Luminastra Press.
And all hell broke loose.
From the moment the crowdfunder for the book was announced, my ex and her circle went after it it. There were some unbelievably strange allegations, and some frankly ridiculous ones.
First, and the one that amused me most, is that I wrote it. Now, I have to admit, I’m flattered. I like my writing. But I’m not sure that I could write quite like an experienced English journalist (with references to Monty Python, and a bunch of British stuff I’ve never heard of, and all), together with a sense of humor–err, excuse me, humour— that’s very noticeably British. But hey folks, if you think I’m that good, just keep it coming. I appreciate the compliment.
And there’s also the fact that many of his interviews were conducted in person, so if I secretly wrote the book, I also have even better disguise skills than that one dude from Mission: Impossible, which is kinda cool, I guess.
I did actually have a small hand in it. I advised on the book layout and produced the eBook. I think they look pretty good, but then I would, wouldn’t I?
The other funny thing is that my ex herself clearly doesn’t believe I wrote it. She hired London libel lawyers to threaten the author with legal action, and demanded to see the book before publication, because she believed it defamed her. I mean, she hadn’t read it or anything. She just suspected it must all about her because Jonathan interviewed me. What else could I have to talk about except her, right? (That was, in case you didn’t notice, both a sarcastic and a rhetorical question. It’s alarming that I need to say that, but given recent experiences…)
Anyway, those letters were apparently the cause of much amusement in London legal circles. If Jonathan ends up posting them online somewhere, I’ll link to them. They’re great reading.
Then there are the people who have taken issue with the fact that he’s a white guy and the book includes a whole range of voices from around the world, many of whom are people of color and/or queer, quoting them extensively and discussing ENM from their perspectives.
This is exactly what Jonathan did as a correspondent. It’s called ‘journalism.’ The point with good journalism is that it collects a range of views and represents them fairly. And if someone wrote a book including voices from different parts of the world but they were all straight and white wouldn’t that be weirder? As it is, almost every book about ENM is written by middle class white people from North America talking about their own experiences. A World Beyond Monogamy set out to reach beyond that narrow focus (and, in my opinion, does it better than anything else out there).
Anyhow, perhaps the weirdest thing is that people are saying that people shouldn’t buy this book because I profit from it.
Just for the record, I stepped down from Luminastra more than a year ago, when this bizarre “Jonathan is Franklin’s catspaw, Franklin secretly wrote his book” weirdness started. I do, of course, still benefit from sales of More Than Two, and it seems passing strange to me that no one finds it odd that my ex still publishes the book we wrote together, named More Than Two after the website (or, more accurately I suppose, the website was named after the book I had started to write before I met her, based on writings on my previous website, and even now my ex is attempting to steal my trademark and take my site…but that’s another story).
But then, More Than Two makes good money. She’s certainly sending me checks (or at least, she’s legally supposed to—she doesn’t always do so in a timely manner, and we’re currently involved in a legal battle that includes, among other things, audits of the Thorntree Press financials, for reasons I’ll be talking about soon).
I’ve stopped recommending More Than Two as my first go-to suggestion for polyamory books, even though I make money from it, because changes have been made to the original text we wrote, some of which I think are potentially harmful to others. I wasn’t consulted on any of those changes, of course, otherwise I would have pointed out some of the issues I saw.
Instead, these days I recommend A World Beyond Monogamy, even though I make no money from it (unless you buyit using my Amazon affiliate code, in which case, thank you!). It’s just a more thorough, better researched book. It’s also more up to date—the world, and our community, has moved on in all those years since I first started writing More Than Two. We really need to move on with it.
Anyway, like I said, I stepped down from Luminastra last year after discussions that had run for some months. I was more interested in writing and releasing books than I was being a publisher.
Nevertheless people are still getting attacked and threatened over all this. Not just Jonathan—someone I should add that I’ve met in person precisely once—but people he knows (apparently just because he knows them), and maybe people they know too. It’s happening to other people I know as well, whether or not they’ve come out to support me.
Yes, you read that right. People not connected to me are receiving harassing and threatening emails because they know Jonathan who knows me. I’m serious.
These are the tactics of the far right. Fuck fascism.
But what I really don’t get is why some people can’t see that behavior for what it is: abuse. It’s a standard tactic of abusers to try to separate their victims from other people, to isolate them. It’s manipulative. It’s controlling. It’s about revenge. It’s certainly not about justice.
As grubby as it is, at the end of the day, to be quite honest, I think it’s about money.
When I split from my ex she went after our business and only turned on me when I refused to let her take everything we’d worked on together. She went after A World Beyond Monogamy when people started saying it was the perfect book to replace More Than Two, which is my ex’s cash cow.
Follow the money. It’s amazing how often it turns out to be all about the money, in the end.