Monday, July 22, 2019


Recently, I was approached by a podcast that records audio versions of the first chapter of books, with the author's permission, of course. They expressed an interest in Chaser, the first book in my Jinx Ballou bounty hunter series.

I said, "Sure, sounds great." I'm already planning to do the full audiobook later this year, so I thought it would be great.

A little while letter, I received a followup email. The podcast was concerned about maintaining it's non-explicit rating with Apple, etc. And well, my writing has a healthy dose of profanity. They wanted to know if it would be okay to cut out or substitute the naughty bits.

I have to admit, it gave me pause. And here is why.

For starters, I have a storied past. I'm a recovering alcoholic. I grew up being bullied, abused, and harassed for being different. For being transgender. For being gay. I am the outsider. We use profanity. A lot. Because when you have to put up with so much bullshit in life, you learn to use the words that fit. To people who've been where I've been, words like fuck and shit and goddammit are just words used to express emotion. And using euphemisms just seems silly.

I write gritty crime fiction. It's full of obscenities. I'm not talking about curse words. Sure, my work has those too, but they're not obscene. Shit and poop mean the exact same thing. Poop doesn't smell any better than shit. It's the same shit. Neither word is obscene.

Is gosh darn any less profane than goddamn? You're cursing either way. The intent is the same. Is motherhumper any less profane than motherfucker? The meaning is the same. You can get just as pregnant by humping as you can fucking because it's the same act.

But my work is full of obscenity. Chaser starts with the obscenity of a man beating his wife. The story moves onto the obscenity of murder and the obscenity of child abuse. My work also references such obscenities as sexual assault, human trafficking, hate crimes, corruption, racism, misogyny, queerphobia.

It amazes me how some readers will read about murder and cruelty without batting an eye. But have a character say fuck--or actually have two characters fuck--and suddenly readers get their bloomers in a twist.

And portraying queer characters in a positive light, showing the realities of the oppression they face, oh dear heavens! Oh, the humanity! I've had reviews that say "I loved this book, but why does there have to be so many gay and trans characters?" Maybe because I'm gay and trans and that's what I write about.

 Honestly, most of the readers who object to curse words or sex on the page are the same ones who attend churches where children get raped or queer people are treated like abominations or who support locking immigrants in cages. These are the real obscenities.

One of my concerns about this podcast creating an abridged audio version of the first chapter of Chaser is that listeners might then go and buy the book and SURPRISE! Naughty words. I don't need any negative reviews from readers who are okay with child abuse but give me a one-star review for the occasional use of the word fuck.

We eventually came to an agreement. The producer of the podcast would put a notice on the podcast and in the show notes advising listeners that some words have been changed for sensitive listeners. Personally, those sensitive listeners can go fuck off for all I care.

1 comment:

Dana King said...

This has been a pet (more than) peeve of mine for years, for the same reasons you noted here. The currently disgraced Louis CK did a brilliant bit about the "N-word" once that took all this polite bullshit down by reminding us that every time someone uses that substitution, what they're really trying to do is put the word "nigger" in our heads, and that's what words are for, to put ideas in heads. Don't act superior because you found a euphemism that means the exact same thing just so you can feel superior. (Not you you, obviously. Other people.)

I recently read a Chester Himes novel, written back when "motherfucker" was a non-starter;" the chosen replacement was "mother raper." I'm willing to wait as long as it takes for someone to explain to me how that's less offensive.