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:




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