Monday, March 30, 2015

Squeaky Fucking Clean

Alright, so I've been keeping up on the Clean Reader app controversy raging in the writing world right now, and at this point, I'm ready to thrown in my opinion. The Clean Reader app, for those who haven't heard (and what rock have you been under?), is an app that people can download to selectively edit swear words and other terms (like penis, vagina, and so forth) into "clean" words ("damn" to "darn," for instance). There are several levels of "clean" the reader can choose, and this app is ostensibly to protect a reader's delicate sensibilities from having to see words that offend them.

Motherfucker, please.

Ok, before I dive into what I think of the premise of the whole thing, let me address the controversy. I have seen some authors screaming that this is just the first step toward complete censorship and, of all things, book burnings. Yes, you read that right--book burnings.

To that, I say: That escalated quickly. And that's a mighty slippery slope we're getting all worked up over.

I don't think an independently-created app is going to be the ultimate cause of outright censorship or book burnings. Especially not book burnings. You see, book burnings are generally orchestrated and carried out by ignorant religious zealots who think they are protecting themselves from the evils of said book, while in reality fueling the intrigue and interest in the content of said book, leading their precious speshul snowflakes to sneaking off and enjoying Harry Potter despite the zealots' overwhelming misplaced hate of the book in question.

This app is not going to cause that. The zealots' inherent idiocy will accomplish that just fine all on its own.

That's akin to saying since gay people can get married, we will now start seeing people marrying cars or dogs. While this belief is ludicrous in so many ways, for this blog post, the point is that it's not ever going to come true. Ever. Never ever, not in a million years.

Same with Clean Reader. The logical fallacies inherent in believing it's going to result in the censoring of books and setting books afire is a stretch. Please see the failed Tipper Gore vendetta against metal music in the '80's if you need reassurance about this.

Now, onto Clean Reader itself.

Clean Reader is dancing on the fine line of copyright infringement. By essentially editing a work to be "cleaner," it is not only altering how the story is read, but the depth of context the "unclean" words provide. This changes the story in many ways, including nerfing a character (if you're a gamer, you know what "nerfing" means. If you're not a gamer, it essentially means making something easier so all the wusses stop complaining about how hard it is to beat a boss or level up or whatever), to easing the gloom of a particular scene, to removing all sexiness from an erotic scene.

It doesn't just change the words, it changes the entire read. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is what we should be focusing on. Not non-existent never-to-occur-but-highly-inflammatory imaginary catastrophes.

Clean Reader apparently started as a result of the creators' daughter reading a book she enjoyed, but found the swear words in the book made her uncomfortable. Instead of having a conversation with their daughter about the swear words, their place in the story, and why they made her uncomfortable--you know, parenting--they decided their speshul snowflake should be shielded from such words. The creators took this idea further by realizing that there were other speshul snowflakes in the world who might be traumatized by "unclean" words, and in order to help these speshul snowflakes hide from reality, they invented Clean Reader. That way, all these speshul snowflakes could read any story in the way they would see it written.

And that's the crux of it, right there. They are reading the story the way they want it written. Not the way the author wrote it. And that's bullshit.

An author paints with words. Every word, every sentence, every paragraph is crafted as carefully as a sculptor shapes his/her work. We don't just throw in swear words for the shock value--they are an integral part of the story, whether it's to convey strong emotion, or it's part of a character's personality, or because the scene is meant to be so fucking smoking hot that we're looking for our significant others, naked, by the end of it.

Clean Reader takes all that away. By changing words into something the creators of the app consider "clean," they are removing that emotion, that personality, that undeniable hotness, and that changes the story.

And changing the story is fucking horseshit.

My main character, Sanaan, is foul-mouthed. Not all the time foul-mouthed, but she swears. A lot. Is her swearing absolutely necessary? I suppose in the grand scheme of life, it isn't. But then Sanaan wouldn't be who she is. 

Sanaan is volatile, temperamental, and has a hard time controlling her temper. Scratch that, she rarely, if ever, controls her temper. She lets that motherfucker loose like a crossbow bolt to the heart, hurling that temper--and the resulting words--at her target with the precision of a martial artist's punches. And that is who she is.

Having her say, "OH MY GOODNESS, you've got to be fudging shooing me!" has a much different feel than "OH MY GOD, you've got to be fucking shitting me!" With the first sentence, you've taken away her explosiveness, the punch of her response. You don't get to feel her incredulity or her volatile reaction, and you've lessened the impact of her words in the scene. In other words, you've effectively castrated my character.

And castrating my character is a huge fucking NOPE.

As I've said before--if a book isn't written the way you want it written, tough shit. Write your own goddamn book the way you want to write it and leave mine alone. Clean Reader has just taken this to a whole new level, by actually altering my story so some wussy speshul snowflake can feel good about themselves reading the word "bottom" instead of "penis" (I am not joking here--from what I understand, all genitalia is replaced by "bottom" with this app. Let's digress for a moment--"Her bottom was hot, wet, ready to be impaled by his throbbing bottom." After you're done laughing, take a moment to let the implications of that soak in).

To the creators of Clean Reader, I have this to say: You don't have the right. You don't have the right to change a story because you--and ostensibly others--can't be bothered to actually parent your children, or because you believe you are too goddamned wholesome to see such words. It is not up to the authors to allow a complete change of their stories in order for others to feel comfortable reading them, it is up to YOU, the consumer, to decide whether or not to read a book based on your personal preferences. It is not your right to castrate a work because your tender sensibilities can't handle it. If that's the case, read something else. Or write your own fucking book the way you want it written, and leave everyone else's works alone.

My writing does not cater to tender speshul snowflakes, nor will it ever. And the fact that you think you have the right to alter my story so that it does cater to tender speshul snowflakes is unacceptable and infuriating. It's MY STORY, not yours, and if you can't handle my story as it is, you can go fuck yourself.

That's right, you can go fuck yourself. Here's a handy meme I suggest you save for reference, and any time you think about editing out a swear or other "objectionable" word from someone's writing that you have no business fucking with, follow the instructions in this meme:

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Human Rainbow--Video Edition

I did not make this video, the lovely people from did. But it is a beautiful and touching way to express the same things I wrote about.

Give it a watch, you'll love it.

"Say What?" Chaotic Stinking

(Seen in actual published novels. !!!)

"She entered the fray, reeking havoc all over the place."

Who knew chaos and ass-whipping smelled so damn bad? And to think one person could be the cause of all the foul odors is, well astounding. Perhaps our character ate a ton of garlic, or eggs, or onions, or asparagus. Perhaps she was sprayed by a skunk before doing battle.

Or maybe, just maybe, she hasn't showered in a couple weeks. 

Regardless, we all know that nothing clears a room faster than the arrival of a potent stench, so +10 points to our heroine for discovering the most efficient way to defeat her enemies--by releasing that onion-garlic-egg silent-but-deadly right in the nick of time.

*Wreak, and you're welcome.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Human Rainbow

The human rainbow; that glorious world of the diversity of the human race. I'm talking about more than just skin color here--religion, culture, style, all of it. The many different ways in which we express ourselves, keep our faith (or lack of, in the case of atheists), celebrate important occasions, all of it. It's truly a wonderful thing to behold.

Most of the time. It becomes ugly when one group seeks to inflict misery on another group simply because they are different.

I don't understand why some groups feel threatened by another group's differences. Let's look at skin color, for instance. Being a particular shade isn't inherently better or worse than being some other shade. And, as you can see in the picture below, we come in varying shades of "tan," for lack of a better word, ranging from a beautiful ebony-black to a pale white.

That picture is beautiful. In it, we can literally see the human rainbow, and all the gorgeous shades that comprise it.

Hating someone simply because their shade of tan is different than yours is, well, idiotic. That's like hating a cat because it has white fur with gray patches instead of orange patches. The different colored fur does not indicate one of the cats is better than the other. It is just different, and they are both beautiful.

Same with people. But skin tone isn't the only thing some people get in a tizzy of hate over.

Religion is another biggie, and it's equally as absurd a thing to hate an entire population for as skin color. Yes, there are religious extremists who do horrible things. NO, they are NOT indicative of the entirety of the population that follows that religion. No one religion is better than another--all have their strengths, their faults, and their nutjobs. ALL of them. Saying all Christians are X, and all Muslims are Y, and all Hindus are Z is evidence of very limited, very basic, and very wrong thinking.

Let's take Christianity, for example. There are so many variations of the religion that there's no way you can actually lump all of the people that follow them into one gigantic whole. We have the Westboro Baptist Church, whom most other Christians decry as not being "true" Christians (whatever that means), to much more moderate and accepting branches. But they're all Christians.

Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Paganism, to name just a few other religions (there's loads more out there) are just as varied and different within their umbrella designation. There are, believe it or not, extreme Buddhists. There are fundamentalist Pagans (how that even happened, I don't know, because Paganism IS so very diverse, but whatever). You can't judge the followers of these religions based on the actions of a few, because those few do not represent the whole. 

But as a whole, these religions are beautiful. Even atheism is beautiful, because the atheists' lack of belief provides a great counter-balance to the influence of religion in our society. Atheism reminds us that the laws and the world aren't all about what your particular religion believes--it's about everyone

I don't know what's so threatening about your neighbor being a Muslim when you're a Pagan. I don't know why we can't accept that someone having different beliefs doesn't make them wrong, it just makes them different. If we can accept that we all have varying ways to express ourselves--through style, clothing, house decor, etc., then why can't we accept religious differences the same way? My spirituality is not your spirituality. The way I express my spirituality is different from how you express yours, and that's ok. We're neither of us right or wrong--what applies to me does not necessarily apply to you. We simply are who we are.

Which leads me to the debate about gay marriage and related issues. Gays and lesbians, queers and transgendereds, are simply being who they are. They are not threatening anyone; their existence doesn't somehow invalidate your own existence. They love who they love, they live how they live, and that's ok. Hating them for being their authentic selves makes no sense. They aren't hurting you and they aren't bringing about the apocalypse (it's amazing the powers some fundamentalists believe the LGBQT community possess. You're apparently superheroes, all of you). They simply are, and they add to the beauty of the human rainbow.

And that's what this all boils down to--diversity. It is a most fantastic thing, when you sit down and really think about it. The infinite variety of ways the human race expresses itself, invents itself, and is their authentic selves is truly amazing. We are on a (relatively) small ball of rock on the outermost arm of our galaxy, around a not-so-unusual sun, suspended in the vast void of space, and we are alive.

We are alive and we thrive and we grow. We learn and we advance. Yes, we have our flaws, but the fact we even exist is almost miraculous. And the fact that we exist in such a beautiful spectrum of culture, color, religion, language, and love is even more amazing.

So stop the hate. In the grand scheme of things, we humans, collectively, are a torch in the night. We should be aiming to light the way, not burning down all that makes us so unique.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Freedom of Speech Does Not Equal Freedom From Consequences

If you haven't heard, Elton John and Dolce & Gabbana are having a bit of a feud. This is because Dolce & Gabbana publicly stated that they didn't believe in "synthetic" children produced by IVF, and further stated that gay people shouldn't raise kids. Elton John took exception to this (after all, he has two children conceived by IVF), and started a boycott of Dolce & Gabbana. Dolce & Gabbana also tried to institute their own boycott of Elton John, but so far, Sir Elton is way ahead in the boycott race.

Now, Dolce & Gabbana are confused, and their supporters are confused. What are they confused about? They are wondering why Dolce & Gabbana don't have the right to say what they want. This keeps cropping up, with people simply appalled that Dolce & Gabbana can't freely espouse their feelings about a given subject.

But there shouldn't be any confusion here. You see, Dolce & Gabbana most surely did freely espouse their views. What they don't get is that, once they've freely shared those views, everyone else on the planet is free to share theirs in response.

That's right, Dolce & Gabbana--freedom of speech does not protect you against the words of the masses who were angered and offended by your speech.

And we see this all the time, especially with celebrities and government officials. They say something the general public takes serious exception to, and then are surprised when the general public buries them under a flood of fiery replies. The supporters of these people are always crying about freedom of speech and how everyone has a right to say what they want. Literally, they are blown away that so much anger and vitriol is lobbed at someone who, say, thinks women shouldn't be allowed to work, and their standard tactic is claiming a violation of the freedom of speech.

But, you see, freedom of speech does not mean you can say something, and everyone else is forced to simply accept what you said without comment. Everyone else has a right to free speech too, and they have the right to call you a blithering idiot for whatever it was you just said.

People collectively need to stop thinking that the right to say a thing protects them from any potential backlash once that thing is said. It doesn't. Just like having the right to jump off a bridge does not protect you from the consequences of dying when you slam into the ground below, the right to open your mouth and spew forth bullshit does not protect you from the fury incited in others by said bullshit.

So, if you've the balls to say something idiotic, especially if you're a celebrity, government official, or hell, just on the interwebs, then you'd best have the balls to deal with the consequences. If "your mouth is writing checks your body can't cash" applies to you, then you'd be better off sitting down and shutting the fuck up.

Be an adult and own your words. If you believe that strongly in whatever you said, then you should be strong enough to withstand any hate thrown your way. Can't handle the hate? Then keep your trap shut.

Or, better yet, DON'T BE A BACKWARDS, IGNORANT ASSHOLE, Dolce & Gabbana. When you aren't a backwards, ignorant asshole, things you say are more likely to not incite the rage of the masses, and you're much more likely to feel the love and support of the people. That's also a fairly simple concept to grasp--DON'T BE A DICK, and hate will tend to stay away.