Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Semi-Annual "Swearing Is Bad But Killing People Is Fine!" Email Exchange With A Burn Notice Fan

(From Tod Goldberg's blog)
As the title of this post suggests, I tend to get at least one email every time a new Burn Notice book comes out regarding the use of swear words in my Burn Notice books. Now, mind you, it's not as if I have Michael Westen calling everyone he meets a dirty cunt or a dripping cum slut or anything like that. In my current book, the word fuck is used five times, all in dialog. The word shit is used 10 times, also all in dialog. Keep that in mind as you read the following exchange:

I very much wanted to enjoy your latest book, The Giveaway, but all of the swear words were really objectionable to me. Why did you feel like you needed to use the f-word and the s-word? They never say those words on the show and it doesn't add anything to the realism for you to have them saying it in your books, plus it turns a lot of people off. I won't be reading your Burn Notice books if you continue to have swear words in them.

Normally, I try not to respond to emails like this unless it is late at night and I've had a bad time writing, because if I do it in the daylight hours, it feels like a waste of my nominal creative talents. But, well, I had to ask this person a very important question:

I understand that you might find swearing offensive, but you do realize that, say, a member of a biker gang might have somewhat salty language? (Never mind a former spy, a former Navy SEAL and a gun runner.) But I have to know: Did you find it offensive that Fiona essentially paralyzed a guy in the book by beating him with a bat? Did you find it offensive when all those bikers were murdered? How about when one of the characters was found dead in his bathtub covered in acid? I guess what I'm asking is: You find the word fuck more offensive than wholesale violence and murder? So will you continue to read my books if I keep up the same level of death and destruction provided no one says the word shit? Is a word somehow worse than a dead human being? How about the fact that Michael and Fiona have pre-marital sex? What's the worse sin here?

The reply came this morning:

The death and murder are for entertainment purposes only. It's not real. So it's not the same thing. Everything that happens on the show is fake so it's not the same effect as reading those words. That's why it's worse to have swearing. Reading those words and hearing them in my own head is not pleasurable for me.

To which I replied:

You're aware the books are fake, too, right? And only for entertainment purposes, too. So basically what you're telling me is that if you hear swearing on television or in a movie, and presumably if you witness murders, it's okay because it's not in your voice in your head? That's fucking crazy.

...and I've surprisingly not received a response yet.

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