On CleanReader: Seriously, Guys?

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So there’s an app called CleanReader out there that censors the filthy words from author’s books so that people can read them.  And a lot of authors are very upset that someone would dare to change their words before reading their book, because they put those fucks in and there they demand those fucks stay.  Those are artisanal fucks, hand-placed, meant for impact, and how dare you delete the fucks.
And speaking as a guy whose debut novel features the word “fuck” roughly once every three pages and features a lead female character who’s really into fucking pretty dudes up the ass with her strap-on, I have this to say about CleanReader:
Did you buy my book legitimately, so I get paid?
Are you presenting this bowlderized version as something I approved?
Are you posting it to a larger audience in some attempt to usurp the original content?
If the answers are “yes, no, and no,” then do whatever the fuck you want.
Mind you, it’s not that I think well of the tremulous parents who must scrub all the profanities personally from their children’s eyes.  It’s just that to my mind, when I hand you this novel of mine, it is then yours to do with personally as you please.  Wanna write fanfic where Paul Tsabo plooks a goat while filling out barnyard animal forms?  Go right ahead.  Wanna draw pictures of Valentine (who is specifically presented as a beautiful, plump woman) as some skinny anime figure?  Hey, I dropped my book into your imagination, and though I find it distasteful you’d remove a significant portion of her description, it’s yours now.  Wanna cosplay?  Sure.
Once the book’s in your hands, you can tear up the pages and use them to make a papier-mache idol of Newt Gingrich that you then marry, for all I’m concerned.  I made the words, my publisher helped put ’em out there, and now how you enjoy the book?  Is up to you.  Judging any fandom of note, “What the author wanted” becomes a shriekingly marginal portion of how the fans slice ‘n’ dice their reactions to it.
I once had a post up here where I asked, “Hey, do you read prologues to a book?”  A small minority – about 5% – said they skip all prologues because they’re boring.  Nobody got their undies in a twist over that, and they’re skipping more of my book than stripping all the profanities there.  They can read it however brings them the most enjoyment.
Read the chapters from back to front for a Memento groove.  Read every other sentence.  Gender-flip the protagonists.  Make the magic system a virus inflicted by aliens from the planet Mars.  Get creative.
Just don’t say I wanted that, is all.
And again; I swear a fucking lot in my journal, and in my fiction.  I disagree with people who think that a book is better without all those fucks.  I do, in fact, think less of you for such an opinion.  But if it makes you happy and you are not trying to say, “This is what Ferrett’s book is!” then sure, go nuts.
Now, I’ve heard some rumors that CleanReader is actually not paying all its authors for the books, in which case I’ll quote Goodfellas and say “Fuck you, pay me.”  But otherwise?  I’ve got a big “meh” there.  I think the folks at CleanReader are too Ned Flanders for me, and offensive in different ways (“bitch” to “witch”, fellas? Pagans count), but they can consume my book in different ways.
If you disagree? Well, Chuck Wendig has some instructions as to how to get your book off of CleanReader, and he really fucking hates it.  And do so if the urge strikes you.  Every author’s going to react differently.  You may disagree here, and that’s another aspect of how I approach this: I made this essay, I tossed it out there, and now y’all can tell me how I’m wrong.
Me?  I gave it to you.  I may not respect the way you read my book, in the end, but by God it’s your right.  Just as it’s my right to go, “What Star Wars prequels?” and ignore their very existence when discussing things.  It pisses off George Lucas, but it makes me so much happier.

2 Comments

  1. Els
    Mar 27, 2015

    Heh. This post only makes me want to cosplay as Valentine at the next appropriate opportunity.

  2. Mary Turzillo
    Mar 29, 2015

    So THAT’S what Valentine does? I have to say, I was really happy that you didn’t automatically decide that Paul and Valentine become a couple at the end. Thank heaven! I enjoy characters that act like real people and don’t jump in bed together just to end a novel well. The other thing I have to say is that I think the word fuck is used very artistically in Flex. Seriously, you have written a beautiful novel. I just finished it and I love it to death. You rock.

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