Dear Clean Reader, Fuck Yourself.

censorship Chuck Wendig recently posted on Clean Reader, which I had not heard of before today, but which has seriously rankled my nerves and got my blood boiling. Let me put this simply - I fucking hate censorship.

Here's another simple thought for you - if you don't like swearing in my books, don't fucking buy them. Don't purchase them and then twist my authorial intent and manipulate the words I have chosen with some pathetic thought-policing app.

I am ridiculously livid right now. So, again, for the record - fuck you, Clean Reader.

Here's the background:

First, check out Joanne Harris's blogs:

Harris' initial post sparked this article from The Telegraph, Joanne Harris condemns Clean Reader app for replacing swear words in novels, where the columnist writes:

The app, entitled Clean Reader, has been designed to take explicit words out of any book printed in electronic format - with or without permission from its author - to swap them with child-friendly versions.

The technology works on a scale from "clean" - removing the "worst" swear words such as f*** - to "superclean", which will substitute words including damn.

And who fucking told them they could do that? If I wanted to write a clean, swear-word free novel, then I could. But I deliberately choose not to. I write for adults, not children; my books are not "child-friendly." And if you use this app to alter my intent, then be aware that you are not getting the proper story the way I have intended it be told. You're getting an ineffectual, piecemeal bit of shit.

Swearing is an integral part of language, it's a form of communication, a method of expression. When I write an intense and emotional scene, would you rather I write the most impactful way I know how, or water it down to appease the thin-skinned, hand-wringing thought-police? Should I have a sentence that runs along the lines of, "He was trapped, his skin boiling, guns pointed at him from all directions. There was no way out of this, and death was certain. He muttered, "Gosh fudge darn Popsicle," and readied for the end." because some self-imposed censor think that's a cleaner, nicer way of writing?

Fuck that. Who are the app developers, these Maughan's and the developers at Page Foundry, to determine what's obscene, what's moral, what's good and pure, what is or isn't?

Harris notes,

First, what counts as “profanity”? Close inspection of the “acceptable alternatives” suggests a very strong Christian bias. Therefore, “Oh my God!” becomes “oh my goodness!” “Jesus Christ” becomes “geez” and so on. “Bitch” becomes “witch” (bad news for modern pagans), and by now we’re already beginning to see some obvious problems emerging.

We've seen Harry Potter books burned out of fear, we've seen cartoonists murdered, and now these religious zealots are embracing the digital age in order to assault our written words, our very means of expression.

As Harris writes,

Apps like Clean Reader change the text without the author’s permission. They take the author’s words and replace them – sometimes very clumsily – on the basis of some perceived idea of “bad words” versus “good words”. No permission is sought, or granted. There is no opt-out clause for authors or publishers. This is censorship, not by the State, but by a religious minority, and if you think it sounds trivial, take a moment to think about this:

The Reformation brought about the destruction of over 90% of our country’s art heritage, including music, books and paintings.

The Nazis burnt countless works of art judged to be “degenerate”; including an estimated 45% of all existing Polish artwork.

ISIS are currently destroying antiquities and historical sites in the Middle East, including the ancient city of Nimrud, the walls of Nineveh and statues up to 8000 years old.

The Victorians bowdlerized and rewrote Classical myths and literature out of all recognition (they also converted hundreds of thousands of Egyptian mummies into fertilizer, having judged them of “no historical value”).

And all in the name of purity, morality and good taste.

Fuck you, Clean Reader.

And if you, as a reader, are so afraid of what words I am deliberately and purposefully choosing to articulate myself with in my novels and stories, then do not fucking buy them. If you're offended by the choice of words I make in my work, that's your problem, not mine. And my solution is pretty simple. Don't buy them, and don't read them. Stay away from this blog. Because my material is very clearly not for you.

Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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