This post by Chuck Wendig originally appeared on his terribleminds site on 3/25/15. Note that it contains a lot of strong language, but as strong language and authorial consent are at the heart of this post we have not censored any of it in the title or excerpt here.
There exists a new app called Clean Reader.
The function of Clean Reader is to scrub the profanity from e-books.
Their tagline: “Read books. Not profanity.“
You can dial in how much of the profanity you want gone from the books.
Author Joanne Harris has roundly (and to my mind, correctly) condemned the app, and I would recommend you read about her and condemnation. I would further suggest you go on and read the email she received from the Clean Reader people and, more importantly, her response to that email. (Oh, also: check her tweets, too: @JoanneChocolat.)
I am an author where much of my work utilizes profanity. Because fuck yeah, profanity. Profanity is a circus of language. It’s a drunken trapeze act. It’s clowns on fire. And let’s be clear up front: profanity is not separate from language. It is not lazy language. It is language. Just another part of it. Vulgarity has merit. It is expressive. It is emotive. It is metaphor.
So, as someone with a whole pig wagon full of fucks at stake, let be be clear:
Fuck you, Clean Reader.
*cups hand to mouth*
*fuckecho through the canyon of fucks*
Please let me condemn your app in whatever obscene gesture you find most obscene.
Let me unpack this a little.
When I write a book, I write it a certain way. I paint with words. Those words are chosen. They do not happen randomly. The words and sentences and paragraphs are the threads of the story, and when you pluck one thread from the sweater, the whole thing threatens to unravel — or, at least, becomes damaged. You may say, Well, Mister Wendig, surely your books do not require the profanity, to which I say, fuck you for thinking that they don’t. If I chose it, and the editor and I agree to keep it, then damn right it’s required. It’s no less required than a line of dialogue, or a scene of action, or a description of a goddamn motherfucking lamp. Sure, my book could exist without that dialogue, that action, that goddamn motherfucking lamp.
But I don’t want it to. That’s your book, not my book.